Tuesday, February 10, 2015

3 Sure-Fire ways to Increase Employee Buy-In

In recent years perhaps no other American industry has taken a bigger hit than the auto industry. Yes, construction and banking were damaged by the subprime lending fiasco and the subsequent foreclosure epidemic. But in the middle of all of that, two of the big three American automakers had to go to Uncle Sam with their hands out. Then, after they were given a ton of money, they followed that up with a series of devastating public relations gaffes involving unreported issues and late recalls, some of which led to deaths.

Bad just kept getting worse. Japanese automakers surged in the American market, as did their Korean counterparts. Market share was there for the taking. U.S. automakers needed to step it up, and they knew just where to start.

A century ago, automobile pioneer Henry Ford made what he called the “best business decision” he could by doubling his employees’ wages. At the time, $5 an hour was unheard of, but Ford paid it, and gladly. He knew his workers would earn that money, just as he understood they would want to keep those jobs, no matter what.

Now, Ford’s successors are making a very similar decision. Ford workers are about to receive a substantial raise. Some media outlets are reporting a nearly $8 per hour boost for many Ford workers. The increase will be funded by recent profits Ford has accrued after a string of very difficult years. Instead of stacking up raises and bonuses for the brass, Ford wisely chose to reward their human resources for their success. As the only major American automaker not to take a bailout, they had much to be thankful for.

Ford was not the only one. GM and Chrysler have also opted to share the wealth. Chrysler reports they will be increasing employee benefits, and GM is planning to share their profits as well. This move is likely calculated to encourage more of a connection with a disaffected workforce while also building the trust they will need going forward.

One of the most difficult issues for the top brass at these automakers to deal with is who got the blame for the lack of production and the recall issues. The executives could have chosen to take their bonuses and let the employees eat the financial burden of these missteps. Instead, they chose to do the opposite. Employees received increased benefits while executives will be taking a cut in order to pay for the mistakes that happened on their watch. This shows the employees not only that they matter to the decision makers but also that said decision makers are willing to own up and admit their mistakes rather than shift the blame and the consequences.

Gennady Barsky is an entrepreneur, CFO of JetSmarter and an auto enthusiast.

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