"We have met the enemy and he is us!" This great line from an old Pogo comic strip aptly describes one of the major problems I have seen at the majority of the HVACR companies I have observed or consulted with: failure to properly communicate with employees (co-workers) on a consistent and timely basis.
It is one of the biggest causes of the inability to achieve growth, profitability, and stability and is a much larger impediment to these than external factors such as a poor economy, competition, labor shortages, or weather.
To improve your internal communications, first ask yourself: Do co-workers truly understand my company's business and its goals? Make sure these are crystal clear. For example:
What business are we in? "We are in the business of delivering the highest quality indoor comfort and indoor air quality products and services to our valued customers on a consistent, convenient, efficient, and timely basis."
What are our goals? "While conducting our business in an ethical and professional manner, we will build a dynamic, well respected, highly profitable, and stable company that customers will want to do business with, refer others to, and where co-workers will enjoy working together in an energetic and positive environment while taking care of customers and achieving their career goals and personal gratification."
Next, ask: Do your co-workers fully understand their jobs, including what is expected of them, what activities are being tracked and measured, and how and when their performances will be reviewed, evaluated and rewarded?
Do you have the following things in place for all of your co-workers and are they fully understood by all co-workers and used on a consistent and timely basis?
- Job descriptions for all co-workers
- Job rating system for hourly co-workers
- Pay ranges for hourly co-workers
- Job rating system for supervisors and managers
- Pay ranges for supervisors and managers personnel
- Incentive plans (bonuses, spiffs, etc.) for all co-workers
- Performance review process for all co-workersNote: Refer to my August article (Establish the Appropriate Culture) for an effective job rating, performance review, and hourly pay system for service and installation technicians.
An effective way to ensure internal communication is to have regularly scheduled communications meetings with effective agendas. Consider having weekly departmental meetings, monthly management meetings, and monthly company-wide meetings.
I am firmly against "meetings for the sake of having meetings." There should be a valid need for a meeting and a well-planned agenda in advance of any meeting. Be certain managers, supervisors, and others who will be conducting or contributing to the meeting have a copy of the agenda well in advance.
At our company, we found the most effective time for our departmental or management meetings was around one hour before the beginning of our normal work day or perhaps with a salad or sandwich "working lunch hour" in our meeting room. Our monthly company-wide meetings were conducted from 7 a.m. until 8 a.m. on the third Thursday each month.
Note: Refer to my August article (Establish the Appropriate Culture) for agenda items during our monthly company wide communications meetings.
Three Other Points to Remember
Catch someone doing something right: Nothing motivates people more than the expression of sincere appreciation for a job well done. This should be an important part of all supervisors' and managers' daily responsibilities, and rewards and recognition should be included as a major part of all monthly company-wide meetings.
Communicate with co-workers' families: I found that our most positive and productive co-workers in our company had the strong career support of their spouse or "significant other." We had two company family get-togethers (picnics or a parties) each year, and we always included an agenda for discussing our company's progress and recognizing our co-workers achievements.
Cool Hand Luke: A great line from this classic Paul Newman movie was "What we have here is a failure to communicate!" Don't allow poor internal communications to be part of your company culture. It's a killer!