Having a staff of satisfied employees is more important than ever in today's franchise marketplace. Experts say a happy staff is bound to produce satisfied customers. There are other benefits as well, such as increased productivity and morale, better staff cohesiveness, and less employee turnover-all of which help boost a franchisor's bottom line.
That's why human resources experts say it's important to do what it takes to motivate employees at both the franchisor and franchisee levels. Individuals, including employees, are looking for a direct impact on matters that touch their lives, according to the new business book, The Support Economy: Why Corporations are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism, by Shoshana Zuboff and James Maxmin.
According to the authors, "The new individuals seek true voice, direct participation, unmediated influence, and identity-based community."
How do you spell Respect?
Linda Burzynski, chief executive officer of Computer Mentors Information Technology Solutions (CM IT Solutions), for example, finds that treating employees with respect and not merely as a number or "payroll burden" is an important first step in helping to motivate employees. CM IT Solutions' mission is to provide outsourced IT solutions worldwide. The company, headquartered in Austin, Texas, has 110 franchises and 91 franchisees.
"Everyone says they value employees, but putting words into actions and being accountable for those actions are where the rubber meets the road," she contends.
It's important to remember that franchise owners can only grow their businesses to the point that they can attract good people to do the work.
Harvey H. Homsey, vice president of franchise systems for Express Personnel Services in Oklahoma City, agrees with Burzynski's approach. "Over and over we hear that the main reason employees stay with Express is not the pay or benefits, but how employees are treated as people. Being part of a company or 'family,' as some of them say, is why they stay. Thus, we strive to treat each person with dignity, respect, and ensure they feel good about themselves when they come into Express," he says.
Express has more than 430 franchise locations in the U.S., Canada, and South Africa. It offers full service staffing solutions ranging from professional to office services to industrial work. All three lines are offered as a temporary/contract, evaluation hire or direct hire.
Burzynski believes it often helps to ask yourself how you would want a boss to treat your mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter. "This gets to the heart of the matter and helps direct both formal and informal policies," she says. In addition, it's important to make sure that employees know what is expected of them. Minimal performance frequently results from employees not knowing what you really want them to accomplish.
As far as formal policies are concerned, providing essential employee benefits gives employees an important stake in a company. Human resources experts point out that once workers find a company that offers the benefit package most suited to their needs they are more likely to stick with those companies.
Burzynski says that while health care costs have accelerated at an unbelievable rate, CM IT Solutions is trying very hard not to charge employees for their coverage. "Employees appreciate this," she says.
Offering a 401(k) retirement plan, ample vacation time, and an opportunity to qualify for stock options also are important benefits to help attract and keep employees motivated.
Express has a similar package of medical, dental, vacation, and holiday benefits in place. In addition to a 401(k) program, it has arrangements with national childcare facilities that offer discounts to employees. Homsey says pay remains an "excellent motivator in this day and age and we offer competitive and in most cases higher wages." It also offers pay increases for good attendance, safety records, and excellent performance.
Competition as a Motivator
Burzynski knows it is important to make jobs rewarding by offering friendly competition and training opportunities. Giving employees a chance to be involved in direct participation of the company involves setting specific goals that need to be achieved, she says. This not only encourages employees to do their jobs well, but it helps achieve franchise success.
To that end, Burzynski's company hosts regular contests in which everyone works as a team. "The goals are always a combination of helping to see franchisees successfully grow their business and to reach goals in new franchise awards as well."
When employees and franchisees surpass their combined goals in any given month, every team member gets two days off as a reward. One example of the goals set by the company is that 10 franchisees must reach their best month in sales.
As part of this effort, CM IT makes sure the days off are connected to a weekend so employees can enjoy a four-day break. Monthly goals help everyone focus as a team. "We are all in this together and everyone's role is important," she points out. While a boost in salary can be a motivator for many employees, Burzynski believes that "nothing replaces complete freedom of having extra days to enjoy any way an employee chooses."
Express also provides incentives to motivate its franchisees. "We have magnificent trips set up for top-producing franchisees," says Homsey. At the very top level, the franchisee wins a first class luxury vacation for two. Trips have been awarded to Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, Australia and Greece.
Human resources experts say that investing in training and educating employees not only increases a worker's value to the company, but also sparks their own drive to learn and achieve more.
Burzynski says CM IT is trying to consistently improve as a team with ongoing training. "This effort includes everything from sales training to having the Red Cross teach our entire team CPR," she explains.
Another important motivator is cross training. "It not only helps to better support our franchisees, but when employees are learning new skills, it keeps their outlook fresh," she explains. "Further, it strengthens the company and gives employees better respect for what it takes to truly be a team."
As CM IT and Express Personnel have found, keeping employees happy helps franchise companies achieve success. If you haven't already put some motivational programs into place, now may be the right time to launch such an effort.
Joan Szabo is a Virginia freelance writer who specializes in finance.