Work from home success is made out of people!
Back in the 1990s and 2000’s the craze in management was something called Six Sigma. The six sigma warriors’ battle cry was, “It’s the process, not the people!” The Six-Sigma Grand Poo-Bahs’ goal was to get product defects below 6.9 per thousand, but in 2008, it was found that there was a sixty percent long term failure rate on Six Sigma (Del Angel & Froelich, 2008).
When some brilliant researchers chased this down, they found that although Six Sigma is very useful in measuring quality using statistical analysis, it comes up short for behavioral factors (Del Angel & Froelich, 2008). I have found this to be especially true in a work from home paradigm; Work from Home Success is made out of people.
The focus of this methodology, developed by Motorola, is to limit the process variation, in other words, to fix the process, not the people (Crouch, 2012). A 60% success rate shows that neither the products, process, people, or the company are being fixed. Perhaps what is missing regarding long-term sustainability is people, not process; I’m talking about the workplace’s qualitative stuff: the “soft stuff” that builds employee morale. Increasing the attention on these matters could perhaps add workability to a company’s strategic initiatives.
It doesn’t take a doctorate to increase efficiency, at least in the short term. It is quite simple to yell at the employees to work faster, have endless overtime, and threaten people’s jobs. Eventually, however, that will backfire. Businesses did that sort of stuff and worse during America’s gilded age. Ultimately, the workers demanded unionization. There was government action to reign in the management abuses that increased workers’ happiness but decreased short term efficiency. Let’s say that one is riding a horse cross country. The horse is whipped the whole way, and it gallops full speed. The horse is never fed or watered so that you will make great time in the short term.
Still, sooner or later, the dehydrated, hungry horse is going to drop dead from exhaustion, leaving the rider in the desert to die. Long term, that strategy can prove to be very inefficient. An example of this is companies that will place productivity over safety. Although this may seem expedient, productivity will eventually be compromised due to accidents on the job and employee absenteeism, which can cost a company quite a bit in lost production.
These days, based on the penchant for companies to put short-term profits ahead of long-term gains, Companies can lose sight of this and end up dying alone in the desert. In contrast, the company that takes qualitative factors into account will make it to the finish line and eat its desert. It is often thought that employee morale and efficiency were mutually exclusive (Sirota & Wolfson, 1972).
The thought was that by making things more efficient, morale would suffer. Sirota & Wolfson (1972) had found that this is not necessarily the case. What is important is that employees are heard. Their input is received on any changes needed to increase efficiency. If employees have input and a grievance channel, they can have high morale and be efficient (Sirota & Wolfson, 1972). Company stakeholders are an essential part of the change. Per Kotter and Cohen (2006), Communicating for the buy-in is sharing the vision so that the employees make it their own vision.
Employee Morale and Customer Satisfaction
Happy employees also mean happy customers—high employee morale results in increased productivity and customer satisfaction. According to Andy Denka (2009), the key to keeping employee morale high is communication and training. This fact is especially true during times when business is not what one would like it to be. No matter what the budget, management can communicate with its employees about what is being done to increase business and contribute to the action.
There are also low-cost training options available such as mentoring programs to keep the employees trained. Recognition of accomplishments also boosts morale in any economic situation ( Denka, 2009). Having a talented staff will help retain employees, which will help provide better service for the companies situation ( Denka, 2009).
Remember that hard economic times and pushes to increase production can be quite stressful for everyone, so to keep morale up, the company will want to relieve that stress. Stressed-out employees make mistakes and are more prone to illness, and can cost the company money and business.
Upon Steve Job’s return to Apple in 1996, the company was just a few weeks away from bankruptcy. Despite the company pushing production and efficiency, employee morale was very low(Isaacson, 2011). The employees had gone from being totally complacent about the situation to having a false sense of urgency, not knowing what to do (Kotter, 2008). When Jobs took over as CEO, he immediately fired the board of directors, condensed the product line, and most importantly, communicated his vision with a sense of urgency.
Employee creativity and an excellent customer experience were stressed. Morale picked up significantly, followed by a significant increase in production. During this era, Apple released the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iTunes, and iPad.
At the time of Jobs’s death in October 2011, Apple was the most valuable company on earth by capitalization, at one point having more cash on reserve than the United States government (Isaacson, 2011). Once Jobs had given up some initial emphasis on productivity to work on the company vision and morale, profitability for Apple increased exponentially.
(note: Jobs did not waltz into the company and say, “Ok guys, what we are going to do to turn this company around is put in Six Sigma and Lean; we have 100 Six Sigma Black Belts coming in to improve the processes so that there are only three errors per million”).
Jobs concentrated on people, not the processes. Remember, Managers love stability, but leaders love change (Lawler & Worley, 2006).
Get your damned dirty hand off of me you Stinking Black Belt
The most important point is, Work from Home Success is Made out of People! If someone tells you otherise you can Damm them all to hell! (I promise, no more Charlton Heston references). Processes are not the only thing that needs attention in a business; despite Six Sigma’s promises, you do need to focus on people, not just processes (Crouch, 2012).
It is the people who are, in fact, running the processes, and attention must be paid to those people, especially to their morale and wellbeing. I can help you integrate the processes but Work from Home success is made out of people!
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