Articles Tagged with employees

Public sector dehumanising language

In a newspaper article about council refuse collection the other day, the featured council’s representative referred to employees as ‘operatives’. For me, this word represents all that is wrong with literary cleansing for political purposes.

I see the people who collect our refuse as ‘people’; operatives makes them sound like machines and dehumanises them. We used to call them dustmen or bin men, because they were predominantly men, but I see nothing wrong with using dustwoman.

Our dustmen are very helpful and cheery, as are our posties, both men and women, and I think of them as individuals: real people. ‘Operatives’ suggests they are cold, unthinking, mechanical, inhuman and unable to take pride in helping the community.

No doubt, many councils and public sector organisations trot out the old cliché that ‘our people are our most valuable asset’. Well, if that’s true, treat them like people and show them some respect when talking about them.

The dustmen and women and all the people who actually provide services are the public face of councils and public sector organisations and often create much better PR for them than any good-news glossy magazine, press release or damaging comment by a representative in a newspaper.

After our last blog, are you cutting out unnecessary words?

 

Starting conversations

So much can start with a conversation. In fact, no business can survive without conversations to communicate with its suppliers, employees and customers.

Communication is the basis of all business.

Whatever your business does, you have to communicate with banks or lenders to obtain finance, with staff to enable your business processes to operate smoothly and with customers so that they buy your product. A conversation ensures communication is two-way, enabling you to receive feedback from the other person, which can help you to improve what you do. One-way communication, when you tell people whatever you want, can risk deterring supporters and suppliers, upsetting staff and driving customers away.

z2zine today looks at a different aspect of communication every day to see what businesses can do to converse more effectively. Better communications can lead to better business, so there’s a big incentive for us all to develop and improve our conversations.

But where do we start?

Take André Preneur, an imaginary business owner, whose company is stagnating. He’s got a stationery cupboard full of brochures designed and printed six months ago, a web site that was launched two years ago and an order book that’s not very full. What can André do instead of sitting in his office with his door closed, worrying about how to get new orders to pay his suppliers’ invoice and his employees’ wages? He doesn’t have much of a marketing budget and he’s already placed adverts in local directories. What else is there?

The answer is: a lot.

And it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Just updating the web site is a start. Is the information current? Are prices correct? And what about those brochures? Do they promote products or services new to customers? When was the last time customers were contacted? Could they be sent a brochure to jog their memories, excite their interest and continue the customer conversation?

Simple examples, perhaps, but there are many things that every business can do to keep conversations flowing.

And it’s not just with customers. Conversations with employees need to continue as well. When markets are challenging, businesses depend on their people more than ever before, so treating them well is important, especially if additional flexibility and co-operation are needed.

What can I do today?

Conversations require effort to develop over the long term, but there are also quick, easy actions we can take every day. One thing we can do straight away is to make sure everything is up to date. So how about looking over your web site, deleting expired offers and old events, checking prices and current offers? And how about your printed material and stationary? Are addresses, prices, offers all current? Do you have new products you’re not promoting, but need to promote? And if you have boxes of brochures doing nothing, how about distributing them, either by mail or by your sales people or customer service staff?

All these actions are a start. Once begun, it’s much easier to continue conversing.

 

Talking is a tool to help weather the economic storm

Even without the BBC’s financial crisis logo, it’s easy to see that conditions are challenging for many sectors. With Vodafone reported as looking to make £1 billion in cutbacks and BT reported to be making 10,000 redundancies, the fallout will start hitting the wider community now and in early 2009, as it impacts on the suppliers of these big companies. From there it will spread to shops and other service providers of the people made redundant.

This scenario looks pretty bleak when transferred to other big companies and we must take it seriously. But is there anything else businesses can do to weather the storm? Of course, there is.

Communication, as ever, is the key. Companies must not only communicate more effectively with their customers to maintain sales, but they must talk internally. People get worried and want to be reassured. Executives can probably do most to improve performance by getting out there and talking to their employees. Tell them what’s happening. Listen to what employees say. Start to work together.

It doesn’t have to cost anything; the best communication is face-to-face. 

By coincidence, on the 25th anniversary of when I joined British Airways telephone sales, today brings back the memory of when, because there were very heavy call volumes on a Monday, the management asked us to give up our Monday morning tea break in return for free tea and doughnuts. These refreshments were served to us by managers and supervisors pushing trolleys round the reservations floor. It felt a bit like the war spirit: there was a problem and everyone chipped in to solve it. It also led me to say that I’d do anything for a cup of tea and a doughnut.

Anyway, it was a department of some 600 people. Now, say that 200 were manning the phones at that specific time and the tea break was 10 minutes long (from my memory), that’s over 33 extra productive hours available to BA on those mornings. It also meant happy customers, who didn’t have to hang on the phone to get through, and more sales. And all for the cost of some doughnuts and tea. How many companies these days would waste those 33 hours in meetings, agonising over what to do?

So businesses need to respond to their people. Get them on board and who knows what you’ll be capable of achieving? It need not take more than a bit of effort to achieve incredible results. What is there to lose?

It all starts with communication.

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