Offering better working conditions makes an ideal employer

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Do you think there's any correlation between that fact and that the airline continues to perform well in an industry plagued by bankruptcies, downsizings and labor woes?

Southwest Airlines pays employees a competitive salary, offers its share of advancement opportunities and has a line of benefits like most other companies. Yet, the company continually shows up on the lists of the best companies to work for because its employees enjoy their work conditions and work hard for the company.

There is no magical formula here. Southwest Airlines has simply found a way to tap into employees that most other companies don't even realize exists. And, it shows up in the bottom line.

But most of us don't work for Southwest Airlines, or a company that seems anything like it. We often go to work because we have to, not because we enjoy it. We want our supervisors to see what we have accomplished and tell us our work is appreciated.

But when that doesn't happen, our spirits sink and that is reflected in our work.

Then, in words of consultants Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, we become "The Invisible Employee."

In their book of that name, Gostick and Elton contend that there is little worse in the corporate world than invisible employees who bring their bodies to work day after day, but are not engaged in their jobs.

In consulting circles, this is known as "presenteeism," or being there when you aren't really there.

The easiest thing for supervisors to do when they run across these individuals would be to fire them and find another employee who will be more interested in their work. But it isn't that easy. The loss of productivity due to presenteeism is estimated as high as $150 billion a year, which suggests the problem is far more pervasive than a bad employee here or there.

In actuality, you can probably spot at least several of these individuals in your own workplace.

"The sad thing is most leaders of people have no idea about the unhealthy state of their workplaces," they say. "They have a pretty darn clear idea what their bosses want. They know quite a bit about their customers and their needs. They can recite by heart their product lists. But what do they really know about the needs of the people who actually get the work done for them?"

This is even more tragic when you see what happens because of this.

When workers don't feel connected to the company and an integral part of it, they will either leave for a new job, or, stay and put in time, but not the energy or creativity that helps make companies better.

What employees want is recognition that their work is valued. They want it more than a pay raise, or any other thing the company has to offer. If they know that their work is appreciated and valued, they'll be much more likely to be engaged in their jobs, creating a winning formula for their employer.

There are some basics of employee recognition that Gostick and Elton point out: celebrate worker accomplishments, be specific in where you found value, be sincere in your praise, and make sure everyone in the work unit knows that an individual's work has been praised.

Bob Nelson, a motivational speaker and rewards expert in Southern California, has been preaching this for years. Nelson understands that employee recognition is the top driver of human performance.

"There's a difference between getting people to come to work and getting them to do their best work," Nelson says, indicating the recognition often has little or no cost to the employer. "Recognize people for good work and they'll be more likely to do more of it; others will notice and emulate that success. Consistent recognition helps you keep important ideas and goals in front of people. It leads to higher performance and morale, lower turnover and an enhanced ability to attract talent."

The Society for Human Resources Management reports that lack of recognition for their efforts is cited by 79 percent of employees as the reason they seek other jobs. It seems like figuring out a way to communicate to your employees that they are valued can pay steep dividends.

So why isn't it more common?

© Copley News Service

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