Helping Employees Dream: Taking Care of Your People

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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“We take care of our people first. If we take care of our people, our people will take care of our customers. And if our people take care of our customers, our customers will pretty much take care of everything else.”

That is what I heard one of the founders of The Container Store say was the company’s business strategy.

To that end, the retailer with about 70 stores nationwide doesn’t just “hire and hope everything works out.” It spends enormous time qualifying candidates to find out how they would perform if hired. Once hired, the company devotes about fifty times more hours per year than is standard in the retail sector to train and develop each employee. The Container Store takes seriously the notion that most workers genuinely want to give their best effort and that their personhood has to be taken seriously to get that.

What is your organization’s “bottom line”? Whatever it is, you have to achieve it through people. There’s no other way. Only people can create value.

That’s how God set up the world. From the outset, he intended people to create value. Indeed, the very first words God spoke to humans were: “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it” (Genesis 1:28, NLT).

On its own, the earth is not fruitful. It can’t achieve your bottom line. It offers the raw materials, but only people make those materials “fruitful” or valuable.

So any strategy for adding to the bottom line has to start with this fundamental question: How is each individual in my organization designed by God to add value?

As a leader, don’t assume people know how to answer that question. Most people have, at best, a very rudimentary understanding of their giftedness—the way God has designed them.

The burden is on leaders to help people to dream about how their work matters and to discover their giftedness in order to fulfill those dreams.

There are numerous tools available today to help with that. Regardless of the approach used, leaders have to get an objective appraisal of how God has designed each person and what each one needs to develop those gifts. Then they have to position each person in a job that fits, resourced by an environment that optimizes who he or she is.

Easier said than done. But it can be and is being done. Here are a couple more examples.

Hawaiian Falls operates five waterparks in Texas. It employs mostly 15- to 20-year-olds during its summer season. CEO Dave Busch explained to me that his real reason for being in business is to build into the lives of those young adults: to develop maturity, a good work ethic, and valuable experience. He believes that if he cultivates the gifts of his staff, they will create an outstanding customer experience. If that happens, more families will come through the turnstiles, and more often.

That’s why Hawaiian Falls has full-time staff for employee development, professional coaches to provide leadership training, and chaplains at each park to attend to the personal and spiritual needs of both patrons and staff.

ServiceMaster oversees seven brands in the service industry, such as Terminex and Merry Maids. It has 13,000 corporate employees, and a network of 7,000 franchisees employing another 33,000. Giving workers an opportunity to dream is a challenge on that scale. Nevertheless, part of the company's mission is "to be a great place to work."

To that end, ServiceMaster puts prospective hires through a rigorous screening process that gauges their fit with service-oriented work. Once hired, new recruits are given 12 hours of initial training, followed by site- and job- specific orientation, on-the-job coaching, weekly team huddles, monthly training seminars on practical topics, and access to ServiceMaster University, an on-line resource for leadership development and resourcing.

"By motivating our people to fulfill their own potential and by treating them with respect, we develop their confidence and their ability to contribute to the community, as well as enhancing the quality of their professional performance," a company representative explains.

Does it work? Indeed it does: "Your ability to learn is seemingly limitless as long as one is willing to put in the work," reports an everyday employee.

Whatever the nature of your enterprise, you can take it to the bank that your people long to make a difference. God put a dream in each one of their hearts. There’s some unique way that they can make the world fruitful. Help them discover what that is, then set up a system that allows them to express it.

So take care of your people, and, well, your satisfied customers will pretty much take care of everything else!


Helping Employees Fulfill Their Dreams

The TV show Undercover Boss gives employers a unique opportunity to spend a few days in their employees' shoes. CEOs and Presidents of large and successful companies go undercover and do the work of people who work on the front line every day. Through this experience, the employer often gets the chance to hear the dreams of their employees firsthand. Hearing the hopes and dreams those employees have for their families, their futures, and themselves often becomes the catalyst for the employer to help make those dreams come true.

Not every employer gets a chance to spend a day in an employee's shoes, but each employer/employee relationship is worthy of faithful and compassionate stewardship. Every interaction is an opportunity to lead from the soul. In this series, Helping Employees Fulfill Their Dreams, we'll explore what it means to lead from the soul in our relationships with our employees, even if we never make it on a television reality show.