Are your people problems really the issue?

I’ve discovered an interesting phenomenon when organizations
bring me in to help "motivate their people."  They may be suffering from customer complaints, staff
turnover, or a lack of teamwork. At first glance, these appear to be front line
people problems. What we frequently find however is that most problems
involving attitudes and teamwork are actually just symptoms of flawed
infrastructures. Let’s see if this could be true in your organization.

Check off any of these people problems occurring in your

 Employees are
not getting along with each other. Individually, each person appears to be hard
working and capable enough, but when working together their personalities

  • Conflicts
    exist between departments. One group blames another for foul-ups. They are
    unwilling to share information, key people, or resources.
  • Employee
    turnover is an ongoing challenge.
  • Employee
    theft is an ongoing challenge.
  • People
    are complaining about certain employee behaviors.
  • Your
    team’s service has been good, but you are having difficulty taking their
    service to the next level.

If your organization has none of the preceding issues, then
either a) you are already your industry’s Service Icon or b) you have so few
employees that no changes are needed (providing you plan on staying small). If
however, you have checked one or more of the preceding scenarios, then you know
you have a problem. The question is what’s the real problem? Frequently,
managers conclude that they have a personnel problem. What often lies beneath
this tip-of-the-iceberg, however, is a flawed infrastructure. These underlying
systems not only affect morale but also impact productivity, customer
satisfaction, and profits.

To see if your infrastructure may be causing the people
problems, score your organization with a 0, 1, or 2 as follows:

0 = That’s exactly what’s happening in our organization.

1 = We are not as badly off as that, but there is room for

2 = Statement does not apply to us. We have formal systems
and processes that have addressed this issue.

  1. Customer
    service training consists of a job orientation, then learn as you go.
  2. Either no
    corporate mission statement exists, or there is one but no one refers to it or
    uses it in a meaningful way.
  3. You either
    have no written service standards or you do have service standards but they are
    all focused on speed and fast turnaround times.
  4. Employee and
    customer feedback goes to managers, but there is no formal system for
    converting feedback into product and service improvements.
  5. There is no
    formal employee recognition system.
  6. When it comes
    to developing employee skills, managers do more correcting and reacting than
    proactive coaching.
  7. Training
    events and team-building events appear to improve productivity and morale
    momentarily, but eventually people revert back to the old ways interacting with
    each other.

  Your Score
(Maximum is 14)

What your Score Means

12-14 Congratulations! You have the systems in place to
become your industry’s Service Icon.

8-11 There is room for improvement with your infrastructure.

0-7 Your organization is vulnerable to employees and
customers leaving. Time to focus on your infrastructure.

The bad news

If you scored less than 12, chances are that your people
issues are actually just symptoms of deeper problems with your infrastructure.
By infrastructure I’m referring to your formal systems for customer service
training, service standards, customer feedback and implementation, and employee
recognition. You can waste a lot of energy trying to fix the people problems,
but unless you fix the underlying infrastructure, you are just painting over
rust – the problems keep resurfacing.

The good news

Most managers think that fixing their infrastructure takes a
huge amount of time and resources. That’s a myth. Working with dozens of
organizations over the years, we’ve found the solutions to be surprisingly
easy. We developed a process for making slight adjustments to the
organization’s existing practices that creates substantial results.

One client for example, a government crown corporation,
found that within six months of making the adjustments … "employee morale
improved significantly… employee productivity improved by 34 percent … and
public complaints decreased fourfold" The bonus is the process can be conducted
in-house by your own staff in just 90 minutes a month. So much for the idea
that this requires an onerous commitment of time and resources!

Bottom line

If you are suffering from people problems make sure you’re
not expending time, money, and management focus treating the symptoms of
instead of addressing the underlying cause.

Jeff Mowatt is a corporate trainer, business author and
intarnational speaker.1-800-JMOWATT