During a recent dinner with some former colleagues, I was early so I got us a good table and waited for their arrival. I was seated comfortably and a friendly waitress took my drink order. While waiting, a couple walked in and they were directed to a table in front of ours. Always being someone curious about human behaviour, I, pleasantly was observing them. The man was busy with his mobile phone and so his partner placed all the orders including drinks. The partner started communicating with a smile and I could notice that the man was just nodding his head away and being busy with something on his cell phone. Moments later, the pleasantry on the partners face disappeared even though she was still keeping a conversation. The man was oblivion to what was happening around him. Let’s look at a business situation. Do we have leaders who are adorned with such behaviour? What would be the outcome if our leader’s communication style reflects the above incident? The communication is lopsided. Listening has been ignored. Relationships are damaged. What ever happened to believing in the great advice from Dr. John Maxwell who said “Everybody communicates but few connect.” When we are connected with the people we communicate with, there will NOT be hindrances that are stopping us from attentive listening and that the person who is speaking is important to us. When we practice this on a daily basis, we can be connected. Here is how the dinner for the couple went on. The dinner arrived and the man started eating with a sour face because he did not like what was ordered. Is it the fault of his partner? How much he could have enjoyed that dinner in the company of his loved one without being busy with his mobile phone? None of us are perfect and we are guilty of such behaviour. Let all our communication dilemmas be a lesson for improvement.
During my recent flight from Frankfurt to Manila I read in the German newspaper “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” of January 5 and 6, 2013 an interesting interview with Ulrich Weber, the Member of the Management Board of Deutsche Bahn AG responsible for human resources. Deutsche Bahn AG is the German national railway company, a private joint-stock company with the German Federal Government being its majority shareholder. It is the second-largest transport company in the world. Weber mentioned that Deutsche Bahn AG has carried out in October 2012 an employee satisfaction survey among 300,000 employees worldwide. The survey was done in 45 countries in 33 languages. 61.4% of Deutsche Bahn AG employees participated in it. The results will be available by middle of January 2013. The survey is scheduled to be repeated every two years. You might wonder why Deutsche Bahn AG is putting so much effort to find out about the satisfaction level of its employees and what is going well and not so well at the company. Weber states that employee satisfaction is a strategic key success factor. He emphasizes that strategies and plans can be implemented only with the help of satisfied employees. Therefore, Deutsche Bahn AG intends to conduct 7,500 workshops to improve the culture and the work processes at the company. Deutsche Bahn AG has an ambitious strategic goal. By 2020, they want to be among the top 10 best companies to work for in Germany. That is on one side because of the future potential lack of qualified people and on the other side because the Board of Management of Deutsche Bahn AG is convinced that long-term only satisfied employees will do a good job. The fact that the new compensation plan for their senior executives is based on the outcome of the companywide employee satisfaction survey shows that Deutsche Bahn AG is serious about the topic. For example, for members of the Board of Management, 50% of their bonus is based on employee satisfaction and on customer satisfaction. That is quite a substantial amount of their income, since the bonus represents two-thirds of the total income of the members of the board. Only one-third of their income is fixed. From now on, also on the management levels below the board, part of the annual bonus of the leaders will depend on employee satisfaction. Deutsche Bahn AG’s approach to put a strong strategic focus on employee satisfaction is fully in line with my own philosophy to put employees first. My own decades-long work experience has shown that it pays to take good care of your employees. They in turn will take good care of your customers. And happy customers that buy again and again will generate profits for your shareholders who will return part of their profits to society. That is the essence of the so-called “4 Stakeholders Approach” of which I am a strong devotee. Living it vigorously has brought me lots of success in my career and has led to sustainable outstanding results for all four stakeholders (employees, customers, shareholders and society). And it all starts with “Employees First”. So what about you and your company? Are you as advanced as Deutsche Bahn AG and do you have employee satisfaction as a strategic goal with all consequences (tying it even to the compensation of your leaders)? It’s surely worth a thought, if you want to achieve long-term success!
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