“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
In this world of high technology, it’s important to give employees and customers what they want: High Touch! It’s all very simple. For some reason, we all insist on being human, and I (for one) think that’s great. I don’t want to be a robot–plugged into a computer and expected to act like an extension of some high-tech gadget. Oh, don’t get me wrong: I like high-tech. I have a car, home, and workplace full of the latest. I may not understand the complexities of each device–for example, my seven-year old grandson recently pointed out that my DVD player was monotonously blinking twelve o’clock–but I enjoy them. I surely appreciate the marvels that high tech can provide–the comforts, service and fun treatment. I’m smart enough to realize that the variety of entertainment I enjoy and participate in are electronically-driven. So, a grand hurrah for high tech!
But, I’m also smart enough to realize that high-tech can sneakily remove or diminish high-touch feeling, the human interaction so abundant prior to the button-pushing invasion. Unfortunately, the majority of our population has never experienced a telephone party-line, a neighborhood ice-cream social, an ear glued to the family radio waiting for Fibber McGee to open his closet, or a magic decoder ring obtained with “a thin dime and two Wheaties box-tops.” No, I’m not suggesting we return to those “good old days” before the electronic age. I’m simply saying that the basic motivational factors that worked then are still in style today: Recognition, Pride, Responsibility, Importance, Love, and Caring… Communicating.” I have not found a high-tech device that can provide the pleasure of a warm hug or replace the thrill of hearing a four-year-old giggle as you romp on the floor in a tickling exhibition.
High Tech vs High Touch
Do you know of someone who is weird? Sure you do, because there are a lot of them in our midst. I’m convinced that what will induce weirdness quicker than anything is too much high-tech and not enough high-touch. I’ve heard that three or four hugs a day will prevent ulcers.
Explain to me why residences for Senior Citizens permit and encourage pets and children to visit and why Aunt Mildred eats and sleeps better following that episode of touch. While you’re explaining, explain personalized license plates, pet rocks, messages on T-shirts and car bumpers, human interest talk shows on TV, potted plants, and monogrammed memo pads in work areas. Is it obvious to you, too? We insist on being individuals, on being human…and I applaud.
Now, if we can educate management on this phenomenon, we can make the work unit more productive, more motivated and more fun!
“If you are doing these things, you’re showing high touch. They are human-oriented, interactive actions that make your workers realize they are more than an appendage to a high-tech gadget.”
This transition statement is very important, so permit my redundancy. I insist you continue buying the gadgetry. Plug it in, get all excited, watch it wink and blink. It’s great! Just provide and introduce appropriate human interactive balance at the same time. If you do, you may not have to use your surreptitious surveillance devices to monitor your employees’ keystrokes and telephone conversations. For goodness sake, some of you managers have become more autocratic than my old, tobacco-chewin’ first Sergeant in the post WW-II days! The sad part is, this practice of checking on the workers will continue until worker rebellion reaches the peak it did in the 50’s and 60’s when labor unions mustered to combat authoritarianism.
No, I don’t see resurgence in union activity; the workers of today are more sophisticated than that. They are now able to undermine productivity and quality service in more subtle, undetected ways.
It All Begins With Who You Hire
So, boss, the next move is yours. Almost every business in America now has high tech, but not every business has high productivity, high morale, and employee motivation. It should be obvious that technological gadgetry is not eh panacea that many believed it to be. What is the answer?
As I see it, it’s all rather basic and elementary. The answer lies in a sequence of events, and realistically, it actually occurs in a sequence. It all begins with who you hire. Hire the most knowledgeable, experienced, motivated, enthusiastic, service oriented person you can find. A blend of those talents is much better than any single one by itself.
Believe me, there are a lot of credentialed people out there doing a horrible job and providing terrible service. If I was interviewing you, I wouldn’t focus on your educational level until the 2nd or 3rd question. My first question to you would be, “How do you feel about service to the customer?” And don’t forget, everyone has a customer—a person receiving your service or product. I was an Air Force cop for 17-years; everyone living on that airbase was my customer.
Once you’ve hired that potential peak performer, agree on the expectation and the standards of the job. Give them an oar and invite them into the organizational rowboat so they can help row. Train them in the skills they’ll need, listen to their ideas and suggestions, give them ongoing feedback—all those things that good leaders have been doing for years. If you’re not doing the good things already, it’s senseless for me to repeat them; you wouldn’t practice them anyway. But workers deserve to leave work with a feeling of contribution, importance and pride. If they are not, they are probably singing “You load 16 tons and what do you get, etc.”
Meanwhile, just as important are environmental things like company policies, benefit packages, pay, health and fitness facilities—all those “things” that cause an employee to feel “this is a nice place to work.” Realize the importance of these factors, but also realize they are minimally motivational. Please don’t try to convince me I should work hard because you modernized the restrooms. The two actions are totally unrelated.
By now, you should be asking, “Where does high touch come in?” The answer is: If you are doing these things, you’re showing high touch. They are human-oriented, interactive actions that make your workers realize they are more than an appendage to a high-tech gadget.
The payoff? Fame, success and glory for your firm. Why? The workers will ensure it by meeting the customer’s needs, by seeing the business through the customer’s eyes, by delivering more than has been promised, and by being committed to quality because “that’s just the way we do our job!” If it doesn’t work, I’ll give you your money back.
Speed And Service For Free!
I offer a closing example that will put all these thoughts into a neat package. True story, witnessed by me. There is a sandwich stand on a street corner in Laredo, Texas where the owner has been dispensing hamburgers and fries for years. At one time, he hired an 11-year-old boy to deliver the food within the downtown radius. I saw the man hand the lad a sack of food; I watched in amazement as the youngster ran full-speed down the street. I stood there and waited for his return. He returned full-speed, and breathless.
Talk about motivation! I struck up a conversation with him as a lead-up to my most probing question. WHY? Why did he run so fast? The facial response was one of surprise, his response was priceless: “Because,” he said, “people like hot french fries!”
This would be a good time for us all to reflect on whether or not our firm is delivering hot french fries and, if not…why? At this moment, when the words quality, productivity, and empowerment are bouncing off of seminar walls all over America, we would be smart to realize that these things are by-products of a properly trained and motivated workforce. There are no shortcuts; there is not magic.
How are you encouraging your team to deliver Hot French Fries? Share your thoughts on Twitter at @GenLeadBlog with hashtag #GeneralLeadership!