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I recently had the opportunity to visit with some construction employees and it struck me that they didn’t know much about the company they worked for. They didn’t know what its goals were or even why the company was in business. They were there for a paycheck, nothing else really mattered.

Let me offer a quote from Lee J. Colan: “Without a compelling cause, our employees are just putting in time. Their minds might be engaged, but their hearts are not. Meaning precedes motivation.”

Right on the nose. I remember working in a variety of trades during my younger years and rarely did any of my fellow employees think about the business: what it did, for whom, and how they could make it better. Their focus was on what was in their lunch pail, what toy or gadget they were going to buy next, problems with their vehicles and the best watering hole for Friday night when we got paid. Have things changed?

If you want your employees to be motivated, you need to give their jobs meaning.

Schedule a meeting to bring everyone up to speed. Have a written agenda so that you stick to the subject. An agenda keeps a meeting short and productive, which is important because no one wants to be punished with a long, rambling meeting. Since you’ll probably be paying for their time, you don’t want to waste it.

The purpose of the meeting is to outline how you see your company. Who is your ideal customer? What type of work do you prefer to do? Where do you want the company to go, what do you want to see happening in five years? Explain how they fit into the whole picture and why they’re important.

It would also be good to go over the basics of profitability. I don’t agree with opening your company books to employees. That’s proprietary information. But they need to know that selling a job for $100,000 doesn’t mean you get to put $100,000 in your pocket.

Tim Faller has a great video available on the topic of employees and profitability. He explains what profitability is and why employees should care about it. You might want to review the video and even consider showing it to your employees.

My father was a business owner and that might be the case with many of you. We grew up understanding business and it was discussed at the dinner table regularly. But there are a lot of young people today who don’t understand what business is about. They’ve heard profit is a dirty word, corporations are bad, employers only care about themselves. They don’t realize that if the company they work for isn’t profitable, their job won’t be around for long.

This is a good chance to go over the basic expectations you have:

  • showing up on time
  • keeping the job clean
  • being polite to everyone
  • no loud radios

I think special attention should also be paid to showing how each of them can promote the company. Have personalized business cards printed for each of your employees and ask them to hand out one card a day. Offer a bonus if a job sells from a business card they’ve handed out or a lead they’ve generated. And for heaven’s sake, if they generate a lead, pay the bonus. Whatever gets rewarded, gets repeated.

Will everyone buy in? No. But some will, and that makes it worth trying. Give your employees a purpose and a cause. Both your bottom line and your employee morale will improve, more than offsetting the cost of your effort.

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