Maintaining High Morale

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My shop is in Alaska, where the winters can be rough. Despite that fact, we look at the dead of winter like it’s a football game that you practice, practice, practice for, leading up to a Sunday game.

Probably the biggest single thing we do is make sure that employees know the score, all the time. That means they have to have objectives. Just like in football, how your goal is to beat the other team, in order to achieve certain things within a shop, employees have to have it up on the board.

So, our staff always knows the score of the game—of how they’re doing, and where they’re at. And that helps them know whether they’re winning, or losing, or if they need to play harder. I don’t want a situation where employees don’t know the score until they get their paycheck.

I think it’s important to celebrate any wins that you have. You know, we’re a fairly negative industry. Especially when it comes to DRPs, the busier you get, the more your performance shows what the problems are.

So, even in the toughest, most drawn-out times, it’s important to celebrate wins. And that may mean buying pizza for the staff, and saying, “Hey, everyone, kick your feet up for a bit and enjoy it.” Sometimes it’s just going around and giving high-fives and recognizing them. Sometimes it’s just having a quick meeting, saying, “Hey, you guys are killing it.” We tie it into the performance that our customers want.

I feel we should celebrate those wins, and I think it can happen in lots of different ways, and sometimes you need to mix it up.

If, on the other hand, an employee is negatively impacting our shop’s morale and needs an adjustment, we will do individual coaching sessions. We would pull somebody in and talk to them about their behavior.

We can give them the guidelines, but, at the end of the day, they have to make that choice. And we tell them that, “the choice is yours; we’re giving you this environment to work under and if it’s not for you, that’s OK.”  

We’ll say, “Here’s the course that we’ve chosen. Here’s where you were out of line; we need to rein it back in.” And we ask them, “What do you need from us?” Because maybe it’s something the company’s doing that’s causing that. Maybe the employee feels like we failed to live up to a promise to them.

So, we always ask them what they need from us. And then we tell them, “ultimately, the choice is yours—you can choose to fit, or you can choose not to.”

And then we evaluate them. And it’s not a one-and-done type of thing; this is something where we decide that we’re going to touch base again on a certain date and see where we’re at and see where the employee needs to be. As long as they’re making forward progress, they’re OK.

We don’t expect any drastic changes overnight. But, we do expect every employee—always—to be working to be a better person, a better employee, a better technician. We’re always looking to become better.

And, we also maintain this mentality: If employees are down and causing a problem long-term, they’ll be voted off the island, so to speak. And they know that.

For us, a goal is that it’s never a surprise to an employee if they’re being let go. If you’ve already had that personal coaching, and then you get pulled into my office, by then they already know what’s going to happen. And, because of that, I don’t even remember the last time I had to say “you’re fired.” If an employee gets pulled into my office for the last time, usually their response is something like, “I’m not cutting it here; I get it.”

So, that has worked well for us: it’s almost the peer pressure of trying to be an employee that other people want to be around—otherwise, they’re going to vote you off the island.

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