19 to 25 September
In week one we looked at how we are doing now. In week two we look at how courtesy works at the most basic level – when we recognise and acknowledge people – and if there are any aspects we can improve on.
Does the feeling that you are part of a family or team make you feel better? Does a feeling of belonging make you consider your work colleagues and customers more? How do you feel when your boss or manager walks past without saying hello? And what relevance is this to business?
The relevance is that businesses are people. From a sole trader or to a multinational employer of thousands, it’s people who do the work and make businesses work.
Is there a difference in performance between people who are happy at work and those who would rather be somewhere else? The former are probably more likely to turn up for work early, not watch the clock and stay to complete a job. The latter could be more likely to arrive late, take time off work and rush out of the door as soon as they can. It’s likely that a motivated person with a good attendance record will be more productive.
If that’s the case, what can businesses do about it? Recently, PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that absenteeism costs UK businesses £32 billion a year. So if a business has a high absenteeism rate, looking into the reason for it and eliminating it could be very worthwhile.
At a very basic level, courtesy can play a big part in motivating people. It costs nothing. Just saying “hello” to a receptionist or cleaner or “thank you” to a delivery person lets that person know that you recognise their role. There’s nothing worse than feeling invisible. Why bother to do anything if nobody notices your efforts?
There are many opportunities for this in large organisations where directors and senior managers are unlikely to know many junior employees, but that’s no excuse. A delivery person is an ambassador for a business and should be as motivated as the managing director. That means recognising and acknowledging people at every level – always.
In small businesses and for sole traders this is easier, but they still have suppliers and business associates. They still need to use cleaners, delivery people and many of the services that big organisations use, even if not directly employed by them.
Many people are polite by default, but many of us are also very busy. There are few employees today who are not under pressure to accomplish more with less support. And that’s when courtesy often gets forgotten. People under stress can develop tunnel vision and ignore everything – and everyone – not directly relevant to their current problem. They may seem rude by ignoring others when perhaps they don’t mean to, but the damage is still done in the eyes of other people.
Pressure and deadlines also mean that people sometimes forget to say “thank you” as they complete one task and rush to the next one. Again, it’s not that they mean to be rude, but their long ‘to do’ list means they are struggling to cope.
This week let’s focus on how we recognise and acknowledge people: employees, colleagues, suppliers and customers. We have prepared a polite prompt with some ideas to think about, but please comment below with your own ideas and suggestions. What do you do that you find works? Do you have tips for other businesses?