By ‘Lola Thompson Makinde
When you walk into one of John Lewis’ 46 stores in England, you will be served by a genuine stakeholder of the company, not just a committed employee. John Lewis has adopted a unique business model that ensures that every employee is not just a unit’s manager, but a partner of the business. A partner who has a right, once he gets employed by the organization, to knowledge, power and profit sharing. This ‘Out-of-the-Box’ model, might be extreme to most Nigerian companies, but it is noteworthy that a store which is only 10 years old, has a turnover of over a hundred million pounds and is favorably competing with brands like Marks and Spencer that have been around since 1884.
What can we learn from John Lewis’ culture about a well-disposed employee who is not only engaged but adequately empowered?
Let us look at the 3 key rights given to the John Lewis team members (partners) that make their business outstanding:
Several studies have shown that, where clear-cut information has been exposed to team members about the state of a business or key reasons why decisions have been made, productivity of employees improves. In addition, there is improved quality as employees see the need to improve. Secondly, there is an increased respect for management’s decision as they are aware of the reasons behind such decisions. Thirdly, knowledge promotes a work environment filled with trust, which reduces staff turnover.
An organization with the culture of providing autonomy to employees encourages them to take ownership of their work, know that they are valued and also empowers them to make an impact. This in turn positively affects productivity. You can empower your team by:
Communicate when they are not meeting expectations. To maintain accountability you must ensure they understand the consequences of failure. You need to be consistent and ensure you use the same standards and rewards for yourself as a leader, as well as, all employees. For effective results, as the leader, you need to be seen as accountable to your employees as much as they are accountable to you.
Conclusively, in answering the question, “Would you rather have people work for salary or work to contribute? “ think of how big you want your business to grow and how important your employees are towards achieving that vision.
Employee engagement is having employees who are not just disposed to their employers, but who feel like partners in the business and are therefore willing to ‘contribute’. In the end, achieving employee engagement is never a quick fix, but it’s worth the efforts.
By Eyitayo Ogunyemi
Has it happened that you intended to communicate a point but your client interpreted your message wrongly? This usually happens when written business communications are vague, morose and without a sense of simplicity. The end result, more often than not, is that potential clients “move on” to the next service provider. To take your business to a bigger level, you must write with clarity in such a way that your potential clients easily get your point. When you achieve this, your clients become happy to engage you, because they understand your terms and their own obligations. Below are five hints to write to win both existing and potential clients:
1. See your words as PRECIOUS GEMS, you won’t give them out carelessly, so write what you mean and mean what you write.
2. Prefer the positive expressions to the negative expressions. I like the way Deborah S. Bosley gives the picture of how our brain reacts to words we read in her article Positive language makes our brains happier
Your selling point may be connected to the use of certain negative words (drug industries for example capitalises on the use of negative words and then tell potential clients how their drugs cure those negative vices), one of the solutions in such instance is to use as few negative words as is possible.
Another arm of this lesson is to avoid using double negatives because they make the readers engage in “mental gymnastics”. See for instance the following statement:
“You may not disengage from the terms of this Agreement unless….”
The challenge with the above example is that, like the rule in mathematics, two negatives make a positive, so where you have “not” as the first negative and “dis” (from the word “disengage”) as the second negative, you have a positive statement which will communicate a wrong intention. It could have therefore been put this way:
“You may disengage from the terms of this Agreement if…”
To conclude on this, greater chances are that when you write in the positive sense, you will use fewer words.
3. Your choice of words should be determined by your likely readership. For instance, your colleagues will probably not patronise your business because they are your competitors, so why write as if you are addressing a colleague?
Potential clients easily get worn out trying to know what you mean when you use technical words (which only your colleagues are licensed to understand). What you must therefore do, is to put the technical words in simple contexts.
One last note- if you must use technical words, make sure that you create a portion to interpret those words in the plain English sense. If you are preparing an online article, link those tech words to other sites where they are exhaustively interpreted.
4. Avoid the repetition game. Many people do this because they are afraid that they have not been heard. For whatever reasons, the thing about repeating yourself is that you become boring.
Here is an example from my archive:
“ON no ground whatsoever or howsoever shall we be liable….”
You will notice that one of “howsoever” or “whatsoever” could have been sufficient, or a more simple word could have fit in perfectly.
5. Engage your clients in the active voice:
“Active voice” is when the subject of a sentence performs the action in the verb, while “passive voice” is when the subject has the action performed on it.
In elementary school, we were taught that when the passive voice is used, it means something is being done for the actor, but active voice puts the actor in charge. When you apply that explanation to your business, you will realise that passive written expressions make you look frail, while active expressions give a sense to your clients that you are in charge.
You don’t say: “The account will be audited by us”
You should say: “We will audit the account”
Communicating in the active sense helps you to be clear on your thoughts and also clear on who should do what, and what is to be done.
Investing time to communicate to your clients with clarity and simplicity is an act that should be taken serious when preparing your marketing strategies. The Businessperson that engages his/her clients with simple written expressions has a good chance to have the most clients (observe the trend for instance in Insurance companies). The days are gone therefore, when it is assumed that the black man appreciates the content of a book by its cover.