Monday, July 28, 2008

What do your employees really want?

Article by Pam Pumarino, regular contributor to our blog. She holds degrees in business & psychology, and has an extensive background in Customer Service training.

For a while I worked at a Fortune500 HR call center where they did a big hoopla about motivating employees. One of their last attempts was their ‘Fall Challenge.’

Let me say that again, Fall Challenge. Yes, the name alone destined the festivities to the land of despair.

The rules where rather simple, do something right (aka do what you are being paid for at least some of the time) and you’ll get a ticket for a raffle at the end of the busy season.

Great idea, right? Not so fast. The bottom line was that attendance during busy periods did not increase. Morale did not increase. Productivity did not increase. Instead, resentment grew like rampant summer weeds, as good employees watched others--who did one thing right one time--walk away with big prizes.

Why didn’t it work? Well, employees were not asked what they wanted as a reward. Employees were not asked for input for establishing the guidelines. There was a lack of flexibility…one reward seldom fits all—for me it might be money, for you time off might be as good as gold. It created resentment amongst coworkers. It did not take into consideration people who missed work due to important circumstances (kid got chickenpox and husband got foot stuck in the toilet, dog ate shoes, lost both ears rendering self unable to listen to phone calls, etc.).

So what is the lesson learned? Don’t waste valuable time at a corporate table with other managers to figure out what banana you’ll throw your monkeys. Instead, talk with your people, treat them like people, and most importantly LISTEN to what they have to say, as well as what they are not saying. There is no other way for you to find out their wants, needs and motivational hooks. You’ll find that, often, the mere fact of having you truly listen to them might just be what they wanted all along.


Listening is the one activity you do more in life than any other activity except to breathe. How much time and energy do you exert in developing the communication skill that has been with you since birth. Self-leaders capitalize on the power of listening. They listen for what people say, what they don't say, and what they would like to say but don't know how to put into words. When is the last time that you were either involved in or observed a situation in which their was a cost due to a listening breakdown? Most people can identify several recent examples in their own life. The costs can be staggering. SELF-LEADERS LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN.

Excerpt from Dr. Bommelje’s Listening Leaders’ website.

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