Satisfying Subordinates

If your employees seem dissatisfied with work, you don’t have to cross your fingers and hope they change their attitudes. We asked three human resources leaders at companies recently named to the Best Places to Work in Indiana list how to boost employee productivity, increase innovative risks, and gain a competitive edge.

Recruit. Almost as important as a person’s skill set is personality. “It starts with recruiting,” says Deb Shokouhzadeh, the human resources director at Bernardin, Lochmueller & Associates Inc. When BLA — a planning, engineering, and environmental firm — interviews a potential hire, Shokouhzadeh introduces the candidate to other employees. “It’s important to make sure they’ll feel comfortable,” she says: Will this person make friends in this company?

Decorate. Find pictures that reflect the work of your office, says Shokouhzadeh. For BLA, that includes highways, subdivisions, and bridges the engineering firm’s designed. At Tucker Publishing Group, we showcase our covers. Think about images that create a source of pride in employees and surround them with those pictures as a constant reminder.

Communicate. Open dialogue among co-workers, says Terry Farmer, managing partner at the law firm Bamberger, Foreman, Oswald & Hahn. This encourages innovation and problem-solving. “The doors here are open. People don’t work in closed offices,” says Farmer. “There’s a lot of give and take and a lot of sharing, but you wouldn’t make that work if you didn’t have the culture that creates that.”

Celebrate. Business owners shouldn’t get down to business all the time, says Farmer. At Bamberger, employees have celebrated September’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, which — aye, aye, matey — is exactly what it sounds like. When Bamberger paid off a big bank loan a few years ago, the frim held a mortgage-burning party, complete with a lederhosen-clad accordion player. These events “create a sense of family and community. These people, by and large, really care about each other deeply,” Farmer says.

Energy Systems Group, an energy services company, has operations in 18 states, and every year, ESG executives gather nearly 200 employees for an annual meeting to network. “As the president of our company, Jim Adams, always says, ‘Happy employees are productive employees,’” says Meram El Ramahi, the ESG marketing communications manager. “They get a great sense of motivation (from the meeting).”

Recognize achievements. Recent news stories have documented Gen Y workers’ need for approval, but any generation enjoys being honored, says Shokouhzadeh. Reward the successes. She suggests having an annual awards recognition ceremony or celebrating milestones such as an employee’s 10th year at the company.

Encourage. If employees have a work-life balance, the employer benefits, says El Ramahi. Leaders at ESG encourage employees to take vacation days, and advanced communication technology allows employees to work from home, if needed. “It enhances productivity,” says El Ramahi. “Employees can go away without worrying about what will happen while they’re out.”

A job is an opportunity for professional and personal growth, says El Ramahi. “The company highly encourages our employees,” she says, “to continue to seek training and education.” Bonus: Pursuits like that can be embedded in a company’s benefits package.

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