We heard a great analogy the other day. A Second Wind member was driving to a client meeting with three employees when, as he tells it, he had an epiphany. While driving, he was talking to the person in the front seat. He suddenly realized the two people in the back seat were traveling to the same destination, but had no idea what he was saying to the employee in the front seat, and no idea of where the car was going at the moment.
“This is like my agency,” he thought to himself. “We are speeding down the road to success, and not everyone in the agency understands what’s happening on a daily basis. I’ve got to change that.”
This member recognized one of the most important business issues ever in relation to people-driven organizations. In the 19th century, when machines were more important than people, it did not matter what employees knew. Management hired people to be “engines,” not drivers. That’s why the union movement grew so rapidly—protection of employee rights was needed. But in the 21st century, where the most important business assets are people, it is imperative that owners keep everyone fully informed. Here are a few ways we have seen it work in agencies.
Whenever you post a list of what’s happening in your agency in terms of daily projects, add general information to the top of the list. Who’s in, who’s out, who’s on vacation; what clients are visiting and when; who are hot new prospects, etc. We have a member who includes “nice gossip” and recipes, too.
Install an agency bulletin board in a strategic location. While this may seem redundant in the age of Facebook, Twitter, etc., there is something about having an actual non-virtual space to post notes, images and news. Bonus: It’s entertaining. You never know what silliness may turn up.
Don’t forget the old-school “interoffice memo.” Email blasts may be annoying at times, but this is preferable to having some people in the know and others in the dark.
Have a monthly, all-employees meeting. Distribute an agenda in advance (print and email) so everyone can come prepared. Make sure the agenda allots time for not only the things you want to present as an employer, but also an open period for employees to ask questions and share ideas.
Make absolutely sure you keep employees informed about all agency new business activities. It is difficult enough to convince employees that speculative work to win accounts is valuable, especially if they are overloaded with current work. Keeping them totally informed—and excited—about who the agency is pitching is invaluable.
If you have the confidence, it is important to begin sharing financial information with your employees. Most employees want to understand how their efforts affect the agency. You don’t have to show every line item, but a summary of sales, costs and expenses is helpful. Some members do this by using percentages instead of actual numbers, but sharing actual dollar amounts has a greater impact. Regardless, most employees appreciate learning something of the financial position of the agency.
You know the old saw about most employees feeling like mushrooms —kept in the dark and fed a lot of BS. Do them and yourself a favor and put employees in the front seat in your agency.