Businesses need to improve the tools employees use to get their jobs done, if they want to keep employees satisfied & productive.
I recently took part in a trade group panel discussing a variety of business topics. At one point I mentioned my thoughts on email: it won't be around forever and, frankly, it’s already on its way out. (See Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack for $27B.) There were some pretty stunned looks in the audience… but I’ll get back to that in a second.
As well, there was a resounding concern among the group members about staff retention. How do you keep your staff happy, aside from a hearty slap on the back and occasional “Good job!”?
Today’s labor force wants a process, a visible system, where they know what needs to be done, what’s complete, and what comes next.
Well as it turns out, staff retention and tedious email threads are related.
And this isn’t just about email (even though it really is horrible). It’s about all of the technology and tools used by your staff and how it affects their job satisfaction. Today’s labor force wants a process, a visible system, where they know what needs to be done, what’s complete, and what comes next. Where their accomplishments can be easily seen by others (namely management). This is especially true of skilled staff.
As an example, we at Sepialine have moved to process-based tools for all of our departments. Our development team uses Jira to plan future work and keep everyone up to date on current activity. Our support team uses Zendesk for all customer interactions. Sales and marketing use HubSpot to track leads and follow up with existing customers. In all of these tools, it is incredibly easy for managers and coworkers to see what everyone is working on and how they are progressing. I am sure many of you have implemented similar systems. Of course, we still have some tasks that crop up outside of those systems, but folding those rogue tasks into a formal process is a key responsibility of management.
Prior to the recent leap in process management, an “all hands on deck” approach was the norm. And it’s easy to see how this approach can initially give staff members a sense of value and a rush of satisfaction. They are expected to act on their own to solve problems quickly. Often using nothing more than a Microsoft Toolkit consisting of docs, spreadsheets, powerpoints and email. When they succeed at solving the problem at hand, it feels good. They came up with a new spreadsheet macro, or widget downloaded from the internet that accomplishes the task. Plus, their coworkers think they’re smart.
Unfortunately, this toolkit will meet its limits. I can think of countless times early in my career when I was pleased to have learned something new and solved a business problem. Yet years later, I would still be using that once fresh trick with mind-numbing disappointment.
[Skilled staff] require formal processes for planning, managing and distributing their work.
This is especially important because many print companies are moving towards services that require more skilled employees. These employees will require formal processes for planning, managing and distributing their work. They will quickly grow tired of an ‘all hands on deck!’ culture and the subsequent pat on the back. Here is where email (or any subpar tool) and employee retention overlap. Sure, email works just fine for sending out a quick message. But when you need to convey even the slightest abstract or technical concept, especially to a group, email falls flat while whittling away at job satisfaction. Skilled workers in every industry expect management to continually create efficient ways for the employees to succeed at their jobs. They will thank you for it.
This obsession with process is what drove us to create Printerpoint – a workflow tool designed to liberate print equipment providers whose employees are oppressed by spreadsheets and email.
When you implemented modern workflow software, did you see a positive (or negative) change in staff morale because of it?
If you have any comments or want to talk further, just email me (see what I did there?).