David McKinnon: Against the current Featured

8:01pm EDT June 30, 2012
David McKinnon David McKinnon

A shared pain among business leaders during economic downturns is motivating your internal teams to remain loyal to your company when annual salary increases are not realistic. In addition to managing expenses and generating revenue, weathering financial fluctuations also requires finding creative solutions to attract, retain and motivate top talent.

Whether recovering from a seasonal downturn in sales or a full recession, returning to aggressive growth plans as soon as possible is the No. 1 priority. The upswing can also bring new challenges if preventive steps haven’t been taken — specifically, employee turnover. Once companies in your area begin to ramp up for growth, hiring freezes are lifted and recruitment efforts typically accelerate.

To reduce workforce attrition, continue focusing on employee engagement as a key strategy to strengthening your bottom line.

Rewards, appreciation and recognition programs play a critical role in demonstrating your commitment to your team. Here are seven ways you can inspire, challenge and communicate with employees to strengthen their connection with your company in good times, or bad:

1. During 2010, we launched the Innovision Project at Service Brands International. Hosted on our existing intranet site, it is a program that allows team members to submit solutions to improve morale, reduce expenses or build sales. With this kind of program, your employees’ ideas are visible for all team members to comment on, and if an idea is instituted, the team member receives companywide recognition and a financial reward.

2. The window between Memorial Day and Labor Day is highly motivating to most Michiganders as we finally forget those winter commutes that begin and end in the dark. Offering summer hours to the office team is a great way to let your employees take advantage of the warm weather.

3. Part of our financial success is bringing on new business partners and selling franchises. To tap into our employee and existing franchise owner networks, we reworked our referral bonus program. If a referral results in a new business opening, home office team members will earn $15,000 and franchise owners can earn up to $30,000 by mentoring their referral over a three-year period.

4. In 2009, an internal, recognition program called “You Make a Difference” was introduced. Each month, nominations were submitted and one employee would be recognized. Earlier this year, the program was enhanced to empower department managers to acknowledge and reward their team members for a job well done. This new approach gives managers the autonomy they desire and continues to show appreciation for excellence.

5. Quarterly profit-sharing bonus checks can be disappointing if companies do not achieve budget goals. I recommend that you evaluate your program and introduce an upward payout. Having a motivated team without a ceiling is a good thing for your people and your business.

6. Keep the lines of communication open. Continue holding company-wide meetings and share business trends and actions being taken to improve performance. A transparent approach builds trust among your employees. If your managers are not already conducting one-on-one meetings with their direct reports, start immediately.

7. Show that you care. When a team member was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, our company rallied to support the family. When the battle was lost, we wanted to continue to help and offered employee deduction options so team members could help the family. With a company match, we were proud to make a significant contribution to his daughter’s college fund.

After leading companies for nearly 30 years, you can lessen your losses from an economic downturn by focusing on employees. When consumer confidence returns, having an experienced, loyal team makes all the difference.

David McKinnon is the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Service Brands International, an umbrella organization that oversees home services brands, including Molly Maid, Mr. Handyman, 1-800-DryClean and ProTect Painters. To contact David, send him an e-mail at davidm@servicebrands.com.