"Every single employee is someone's son or someone's daughter. Like a parent, a leader of a company (or team) is responsible for their precious lives." Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't

In my last column in the July/August digital-only edition, I dealt with the importance of treating our employees like adults, not children (if you missed the column go to MailingSystemsTechnology.com under Digital Magazine or my personal website wesfriesen.com under Articles). I want to go beyond the last column and talk about the importance of treating our employees like valued sons and daughters (i.e. family members).

I have been inspired to explore this concept after interacting with my good friend Mark Fallon, who is the CEO of The Berkshire Company (Berkshire-Company.com), and reading the book he recommended called Leaders Eat Last. Mark and I had the privilege of being featured speakers at the recent NACUMS annual conference (nacums.org). In one of my presentations I discussed the concept of treating employees like adults, and in one of Mark's he discussed the idea of treating employees like valued sons and daughters. As we discussed afterwards we realized these two concepts go hand-in-hand. Let me share the importance and value of treating employees like valued family members and then share some ideas on the "how."

Why Is It Important to Treat Employees Like Valued Family Members?
When employees are not treated like trusted and valued members of a family, a number of negative consequences follow. The Deloitte Shift Index found that 80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs. A recent Gallup poll showed only 30% are actively engaged on the job. There is an obvious correlation between job satisfaction and job engagement.

In addition, the landmark Whitehall studies showed that job stress was largely driven by the degree of control workers feel that have throughout their day. In a nutshell - less control, more stress. More job stress leads to higher levels of physical and mental illness. And studies show that a child's sense of well being is affected primarily not by the hours that their parents put in at work but the moods they are in when they arrive at home. By not adequately caring for our employees we are harming them - and their children!

In contrast, the organizations that do treat their employees like valued family members develop a culture of empathy and mutual trust. A sense of family is developed where employees feel like they belong and feel valued and cared for. This caring environment allows people to fully engage their heads and their hearts. The good news is that there are organizations that set good examples for us in treating employees like valued family members - such as Costco, Southwest Airlines, Nordstroms, Bob's Red Mill, Barry-Wehmiller and many others.

Treating employees like valued family members leads to higher levels of employee engagement. What is the impact on the organization's performance? Gallup research showed that work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed the bottom quartile units by:

10% in Customer Ratings
22% in Profitability
21% in Productivity
25% lower turnover
37% less absenteeism
48% fewer safety incidents
41% less quality defects

How Do We Treat Employees Like Valued Family Members?
Following are eight guidelines that can help us treat our employees like valued family members (by the way - these are also great parenting tips for raising our kids!).
1) Avoid dehumanization - treat like people. The employees that work on our teams are people - not numbers on a spreadsheet or machines that make widgets! As people they are created body, soul and spirit and have many roles, relationships and responsibilities - some involving their occupation and many more non-work related.

One of the most respected CEOs within the communication industry understood this concept well. Anne Mulcahy was the CEO who positively led Xerox from a place of weakness to a place of strength. Her following quote reveals a key to her successful philosophy: "Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person - not just an employee - are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability."

2) Treat with respect. Every person that works on our teams craves to be treated with respect - and deserves respect. I resonate with Albert Einstein when he said, "Everyone should be respected as an individual" and also when he said "I speak to everyone the same, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university." One of the most practical ways to show respect to our employees is to listen as this Bryant McGill quote emphasizes: "One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say."
Listening to and respecting our employees leads to people naturally working together to help each other and to advance the organization. Working with a sense of obligation is replaced with working with a sense of pride and teamwork.

3) Provide protection. One of the roles of parents is to help protect our children from the dangers lurking inside and outside the home. Likewise, a caring leader will do what she can to protect her employees from the dangers lurking in the work place - such as unnecessary micro-management, unreasonable job requirements or negative work conditions. A caring leader will also try and provide protection from external dangers - such as over reaction to adverse economic conditions or unfair outsourcing attempts.

4) Clarify expectations and provide guidance. People need to know what the rules are - and what results are expected. We all need clarity on expectations - and need feedback when we are on course and when we are heading in the wrong direction.

5) Balance care and accountability. Just like we care for our real life family members, we should showing caring towards our employees. Showing consistent caring will help develop the family environment we should crave. At the same time, just as we hold our real life family members accountable for following our rules, values and goals - we need to do the same with our employees. When the caring is present, the accountability will be well received and help us maximize performance.

6) Reinforce and reward positive behaviors and results. Research has led to the development of what some have called the "Greatest Management Principle in the World" - you get what you reward. Sincere, regular and positive recognition and rewarding of desired behaviors is common sense - but not common practice. A Gallup poll of thousands of employees found that 65% claimed to have received no praise or recognition the past year!

7) Be flexible and willing to adjust your style. I have two daughters. They have the same parents and grew up in the same home - yet that have a significant number of personality, behavior and style differences. Our employees also have differences - and we should try and communicate and connect in ways that best suits their individual differences and preferences.

8) Focus on "positive leading" over "controlling managing." Bob Chapman is the CEO of Barry-Wehmiller who led the company in a remarkably positive turnaround. His main strategy was to treat employees like valued family members and develop a culture of empathy, caring and trust. The following quote of his really resonates with most people: "No one wakes up in the morning to go to work with the hope that someone will manage us. We wake up with the hope that someone will lead us!"

Treating employees like valued family members is a great example of the "win-win" that Stephen Covey always emphasized. Employees that are treated like valued family members will have better morale, stronger motivation, higher productivity and will be more loyal to the organization. Our teams will be stronger and our personal sense of accomplishment will be higher. I wish you success in striving for the worthy ideal of treating your employees like valued family members!

Wes Friesen, MBA, CMDSM, MDC, EMCM, MCOM, CBA, CBF, ICP, CCM,CMA, CM, CFM, APP, PHR is the Manager of Billing, Credit and Special Attention Operations for Portland General Electric, a utility in Portland, Oregon that serves over 830,000 customers. Wes leads his teams with the able assistance of Supervisors Allison Rowden, Jan DeMeire, Heidi Fouts and Matt McHill. Wes teaches university classes and is a featured speaker at national Conferences like MAILCOM, National Postal Forum, NACUMS, and other regional and local events. Check out his personal we-site for free information (www.wesfriesen.com). He can be contacted at pchefdebi@comcast.net.