How To Improve Customer Retention

How To Improve Customer Retention

This week, guest writers Steve Clegg and Debbie Frakes talk with readers about how to improve customer retention. This is one of the best ways to build successes: keep the customers you already have!

Retention is critical for the long-term success of any business. It’s crucial because it is far less expensive to keep your existing customers than to acquire new ones, and customers will buy more products and purchase more often from you the longer they work with you. Zintoro business analytics will tell you what your overall retention rate is and if you are in danger of losing specific at-risk customers. Armed with that information, you can take the right steps to ensure they keep working with you. 

Why customers leave you. 

Customers will stop working with you for any number of different reasons. But the primary cause is mismanaging their expectations and not keeping them proactively informed of good and bad news. The second most common reason that a customer leaves a business is a change in the employee contact or the customer contact. The third cause is having employees that are not adequately trained or knowledgeable of your products and services. Despite popular belief, price is not typically the thing that drives customers away. In fact, on the list of most common reasons, price is usually fifth or sixth. 

There are several strategies you can implement to retain more customers over the long term. In this article, we’ll look at what they are and how Zintoro helps you put them into practice.

Retain more customers with Zintoro and their partners. 

Offer exceptional customers service. 

The key to providing excellent service is understanding customer expectations and being responsive to their questions and concerns. Your team should be proactive and reach out to customers before they contact you in order to answer the questions you anticipate them asking. 

Zintoro uses Winsby Inc.’s customer satisfaction and benchmark survey programs to determine your customers’ expectations and any issues they are having. Your team can then act on this information. For employee customer service training, Zintoro relies on Ron Slee’s Learning without Scars’ online and in person training programs.

Personalize the customer experience. 

Zintoro AI tracks each customer to determine their next purchase, what industry, and market they are in, and whether they are at risk of being lost. Using that information, your sales team can personalize customer interactions and tailor offers and recommend services to meet their needs, based on their past purchases and preferences. Zintoro also works with Winsby Inc. to keep your master lists up to date with the correct contacts, phone numbers, and email addresses, as well as to segment your lists and tailor messaging to specific groups. 

Build strong relationships with consistent communication. 

Improving customer retention depends on engaging with your customers and supporting them beyond the point of sale. Zintoro can help in several different ways: 

  • Provide the customer purchase data you need to reward long term customers with discounts, exclusive offers, or special access. 
  • Create and distribute high engagement emails, blogs, newsletters, and social media content through our partner, Winsby Inc. 
  • Zintoro works with most CRM systems to integrate analytics data with your sales and marketing messaging. They have found that Constant Contact’s Sharpspring CRM program supported by ClearTail marketing is one of the best because it is easy to use, automates much of the sales and email process, tracks customized information to help the customer experience and sends scored sales leads to your sales team. 

Collect and act on feedback!

The key to understanding your customer expectations and issues is to regularly ask for feedback. Implementing customer satisfaction surveys from our partner, Winsby Inc., provides insights into how customers feel about your company and how well you provide for their needs. You’ll discover issues with your sales process, products, and other aspects of your business before they turn into major problems and customers leave you for the competition. 

Know the signs that a customer may leave. 

Zintoro tracks the products, frequency, and consistency of customer purchases to identify who is at risk. Your sales team can then act on that information and reach out to those customers, ask about their needs, and even provide a special offer or other incentive to encourage them to stay with you. 

Highlight social proof and testimonials. 

Showcasing positive customer experiences in your emails and on your website helps you convert more prospects and keep your existing customers. Zintoro AI tracks the online customer satisfaction scores, and Winsby Inc. posts your verified customer reviews online and on your website.

Zintoro is the key piece of the puzzle for customer retention. 

Increasing retention is an ongoing process. By consistently providing value, personalization, and outstanding service, you can build long lasting relationships with your customers and increase their loyalty to your brand. Zintoro provides the data and information you need to understand your customers, and our partners give you the tools required to retain them and grow your sales. 

Schedule a Zintoro demo to find out how they boost your customer retention, track, and accurately forecast business performance, and determine the ROI for your marketing and customer satisfaction efforts.

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Hiring for Skills VS. Experience: A Contemporary Approach

Hiring for Skills VS. Experience: A Contemporary Approach

This week, our guest writer Sara Hanks tackles some of the ways in which we shortchange candidates and ourselves in the hiring process with, “Hiring for Skills VS. Experience: A Contemporary Approach.”

On September 26, 2023, it happened; I was asked a question while on stage for a panel discussion that I was not prepared to answer. I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on productivity in the workplace through digital transformation, only 2 weeks before the event. When approached, I was provided a brief description of the panel and thought to myself, “I’m very qualified to talk about this topic. I have a completed digital transformation of the quality processes, from the shop floor to the top floor and out into the supply chain.” What I didn’t understand until an hour before was that the panel was specifically geared towards the human resource experience, a topic in which I didn’t have much exposure to. After confidently introducing myself, I was left to answer the question, “What trends am I seeing in the area of skills?”

Cue awkward pause and racing mind to even recall the question, let alone respond.

After a few seconds, I decided that I had something to say about the subject. The biggest recognizable trend that I’m seeing around skills is that there is a lack of emphasis on them, and companies are stuck hiring for experience vs. skills. Unfortunately, I had been passed up for promotion based on lack of experience in the role, even though their main objective was to enable the organization with technology and data. It was a tough pill to swallow, and I’m still convinced that I’m the best fit. Lately, I’ve had several conversations with job seekers that find themselves in the same position.

For highly skilled professions such as a brain surgeon, experience matters. I would prefer to be patient one thousand vs. the first patient after completing education. For other industries, many roles could be filled by looking at the skills required for a job and finding a person with those skills. 

In an article published by the Harvard Business Review1 there has been a shift in companies requiring a college degree to perform a job. Between 2017 and 2019, employers reduced degree requirements by 46% for two-year degrees or certifications and 31% for high-skill positions. However, 37% of companies still require degrees and certifications, even with the shortages of qualified candidates. However, limitations exist beyond the qualification of a degree or no degree. You can have the proper degree, but have experience in a different industry, or the work history is less aligned with the work history sought by employers. My recent conversations show a problem with the latter.

The lack of adoption of skills-based hiring concerns me for two reasons:

  1. Hiring Bias – Let’s say that a company needs to find a replacement for Joe. He’s a middle-manager in a service department. Joe has 15 years of experience, has several technical certifications, and turned wrenches while obtaining his certifications. When we talk about “finding a replacement for Joe,” our natural tendency is to replace him with the same experience vs. finding a candidate with the skills needed to perform the job well, creating a hiring bias. I have seen this repeatedly – the look-alike gets hired and the opportunity to have diversity is lost.
  2. Significant Talent Gap – As AI and technology becomes more prevalent in business, the candidate pool of experienced people goes down significantly. Again, by understanding what skills are necessary to fill new positions such as an automation engineer, you can find a candidate that can cross train into that role. Over the years, several people who worked for me learned skills required in AI or software. They smoothly transitioned into roles in those spaces with a distinct advantage: they understood the business they were serving and produced solutions faster than experienced software developers and data scientists. Unfortunately, if they had not already established the network and credibility, they would not have likely been interviewed.

If companies want to keep up in today’s environment, traditional approaches to hiring need to be re-evaluated.

Here are a few suggestions to start transitioning to skills-based hiring:

  1. Evaluate current job descriptions. Specifically, evaluate the qualifications section of the job description. Focus on the skills and competencies that are essential for the role vs specifying specific years of experience. Consider both technical and soft skills. When I’ve created job postings, I create a small list of qualifications and expand the nice to haves in a section called “Desired Characteristics.” Human Resource professionals or organizational development consultants can provide guidance and insights.
  2. Introduce Assessments during Interviews. Improve the hiring process by introducing assessments. When I ran a test area in manufacturing, it was important that people had basic electrical knowledge to do the job safely. A 10-question assessment was provided to evaluate the employees to determine if they had the basic skills required for the job. Similarly, when I was hiring data scientists, we provided a scenario with incomplete data to see if the candidate had curiosity to find the missing information.
  3. Unconscious bias training. Recently, I have attended several unconscious bias training sessions. While I like to think I am open minded to differences, I realized that we all possess unconscious bias. With awareness, you can course correct and be more objective. Going back to the Joe example above, hiring managers can talk about the skills they need for the job vs. finding Joe’s replacement. Simply using words like, “I’m looking for a leader who can coach service technicians into reaching their potential, with strong technical acumen and good communication skills,” can tamper the bias.

The suggestions above are those I have practiced doing. In doing some research on the topic, 

I’ve learned that blind hiring is a widespread practice. By removing names and other identifying information, you can avoid unconscious bias. Diverse hiring panels can provide multiple perspectives, ensuring that a candidate’s skills are evaluated holistically rather than through a singular lens. The last suggestion that sounded intriguing was to introduce feedback mechanisms. Obtain feedback from people hired and managers to get perspective on the skills-based hiring process as it matures.

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The Four “R’s” Within a Talent Management Strategy

The Four “R’s” Within a Talent Management Strategy

Guest writer Ron Wilson writes about one of the critical focus points of a business plan: the employees. Here he shares “The Four ‘Rs’ Within a Talent Management Strategy.”

Many years ago, we were developing business plans for the year and one of the critical areas of focus was Employee Retention and Recruitment. Retention and recruitment have been a challenge throughout our leadership roles, regardless of the department we lead, or the industry we are a participant in.

Within Employee Retention and Recruitment there are four areas of focus:

  • Recruitment
  • Retention
  • Relationships
  • Respect

Focusing on the four areas above will improve employee retention and attract the new talent needed for the future.

Recruitment– This “R” focuses on recruitment of talent from outside the organization. Recruiting to fill the immediate and long term needs for skilled talent in our industry will continue to be an obstacle to business growth potential. Therefore, out of the box creative approaches are necessary to recruit talent.

  • Recruitment of talent from outside the organization should include a variety of approaches. There is no one successful approach in finding skilled talent and it’s important to continually evaluate what is working and seeking innovative approaches. Look at what other companies are doing (inside and outside the industry).
  • Advertisements will take a focus on what the organization has to offer as a career and a long-term employer with very competitive wages and benefits, seeking employees that will take the company into the future. 
  • Special events utilized to identify skilled talent. Some examples are rodeos, racecar and motor cross events, trade shows, and vocational schools. The intent is to reach communities where potential employees live their daily lives outside of work.
  • Apprenticeship programs will be utilized to “grow” the needed talent from within and outside the organization. Participating in community college and high school technical skills education provides a wonderful opportunity to expose the company to individuals that are seeking a company that is not only a place to work, but also build a career.
  • Shorten the time between posting a position and providing a job offer. Individuals applying for a position are ready to move forward with a new opportunity, and most likely are applying for several positions at other companies. Let’s not delay in reviewing the applications, scheduling interviews, and providing job offers. Develop a metric to measure the amount of time it takes to hire a new employee. It may be surprising the amount of time it takes to recruit, interview, and hire someone,
  • If the applicant does not match the needs of the position being applied for, is there a role that may be a better fit within your organization? 

Retention– This “R” places a great deal of emphasis on developing the talent within the organization to meet the immediate and long-term skill set needed to take the organization into the future. 

  • Development of internal talent will include the skill sets for technicians and non-technicians. 
    • The priority will include developing the skills in the basic skills needed to accomplish the individual’s current job responsibility.
    • Skills needed to prepare the employee for the next level in their career path. 
    • There should be a “building block” approach with career path options. For example, technical level 1-4 starts with the basic skill set needs of a technician to advanced troubleshooting and diagnostics. Additional advanced levels for a technician can include Technical Communicators, Service Department Supervisors/Managers, Product Support Sales Representatives, and Training Instructors. 

Respect for dealing with each other leads us through the challenges that will occur. There will not always be an agreement in everything we do, but everything we do can be managed in a manner of respect. The issues should be addressed based on the issue, and not on the person. 

Relationships that are positive between employees encourage an environment that allows growth and development as individuals and as teams. 

  • Through positive relationships the organization will recognize the needs of the marketplace and introduce competitive products and services that add value to our customers. 
  • Strong internal relationships encourage strong relationships with our customers.
  • Recognition is important to all of us. It is important we seek the opportunities to recognize individuals and teams of employees on their successes and contributions to the organization. Each supervisor should develop their own way of providing employee recognition for their areas of responsibilities. The types of recognition will vary based on the event, the location, and the employees.

The Four “R’s” play a significant role within our talent management strategy of taking care of the current employees and seeking the employees needed for the future.

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How to Avoid Losing At-Risk Customers

How to Avoid Losing At-Risk Customers

Guest writer Debbie Frakes returns with practical, step-by-step guidance in “How to Avoid Losing At-Risk Customers.”

How to Avoid Losing at Risk Customers: Recognize the Warning Signs

At-risk customers are the ones that you are in danger of losing to the competition. These are current customers who start purchasing less and less from you and eventually go somewhere else to get what they need. Preventing at-risk customers from leaving you requires two steps: first, you must identify who they are, and second, you must fix whatever is driving them away. In this article, we’ll cover how to do both.

  • Understand the key metrics for your business.

The only way to identify who your at-risk customers are is to look at the key metrics. In particular, you want to look at their purchase frequency. If the interval between purchases is longer than usual for a specific customer, it may indicate that they are beginning to work with a competitor instead of you. 

If you recognize that a customer’s purchase frequency is consistently decreasing, then you want your sales team to contact them. Most people will not tell you if your company is not meeting their needs. They will just leave you after a certain amount of time. Knowing their purchasing behavior will give you important insights into what they are feeling and how things are going. 

Monitoring key metrics like purchase frequency is critical for preventing the loss of customers who are at risk. 

  • Customer satisfaction surveys are critical. 

Once you understand which customers are thinking of leaving, you can take the necessary action to keep them working with your company. The best way to boost customer retention and ensure people stay with you is by conducting customer satisfaction surveys. They help you recognize any issues that people are having with your company before they turn into bigger problems. If you catch the issue early and fix it, then you are showing at risk customers that you care about them, and the odds are that they will stay with you.

Retaining customers is important, because acquiring new ones can cost up to five times more than working with current ones. Immediate profits and long-term growth depend on avoiding the loss of at-risk customers. 

  • Listen to what your customers have to say. 

Once you find out who your at-risk customers are and determine what the issues are that are driving them away, you need to act on that information. When you receive feedback from an unsatisfied customer, you’ll have the chance to contact them and make things right by addressing their concerns. Nothing tells customers you care like giving them your time and attention.

If you actually listen to what your at-risk customers are saying and take the time and effort to fix what they tell you is wrong, then they typically will no longer be at risk. In fact, these formerly at-risk customers tend to become your most loyal and dependable customers going forward. 

If you want to know who your at-risk customers are by reviewing your key metrics, so you can prevent them from leaving, you need to begin conducting customer satisfaction surveys. Contact our partner, Winsby Inc. They will conduct effective surveys on your behalf and arm you with the information you need to retain more customers. 

Contact Winsby Today

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Utilizing a Personalized Employee Benefit Statement as Part of the Employee Retention Plan

Utilizing a Personalized Employee Benefit Statement as Part of the Employee Retention Plan

Guest writer Ron Wilson offers insight into employee benefits tonight in, “Utilizing a Personalized Employee Benefit Statement as Part of the Employee Retention Plan.”

Employee retention plans have become an important part of the organization’s overall recruitment process. As we know the cost to recruit, hire, and train a new employee can exceed the cost of investing in the current employee, especially when we include the revenue lost while we are trying to fill the position.

Although effective Retention Plans have many elements, it is worth our time to focus on one specific element, a Personalized Employee Benefit Statement. Below is an example of how a Personalized Employee Benefit Statement was utilized in retaining a key employee.

A highly productive Product Support Sales Representative scheduled a meeting with me and during the meeting he presented a letter of resignation. We spent some time reviewing the reasons for wanting to leave the company, where he was going, and reemphasizing the importance of his role within our organization. As we were wrapping up our discussion, I gave the letter of resignation back to the employee explaining that I would not accept the resignation at this time and asked that he compare the benefits his “new” employer would be providing as to what he was currently receiving. 

 We would review what he found out the following day and at that point if he still wanted to resign, I would accept his letter of resignation.

Later that evening the employee called me and asked if he could withdraw his letter of resignation. During his review of the “new” employer’s benefits, he discovered their medical coverage was insufficient to what he was currently receiving and his accrued time off was far less than what he was currently receiving.

The Personalized Employee Benefit Statement played a key role in the retention of this key employee. There was work to be done to address some other issues, but we now had some time and an open dialogue to continue strengthening our relationship.

Content of a Personalized Employee Benefit Statement

There can be many elements within a Personalized Employee Benefit Statement, but we will review only a few:

    • Employee Information- Name, employee number, years of service, job title
    • Company Information- Vision, Mission, Values
    • Salary Information- Including base salary, bonus, commissions, overtime.
    • Benefits Summary- This is the most important piece of the statement. Most employees do not see, and may not fully understand, some of these benefits and the cost.
      • Health Insurance- including premiums, deductible, and coverage, along with Wellness programs that are available. (Dental, vision, prescription drugs, etc.)
      • Retirement Benefits/Stock Options- This would include 401(k) match and other retirement plan information.
  • Life insurance and Disability insurance coverage
    • Paid time off (vacation, sick days, holidays)
  • Tuition Reimbursement and Training that has been provided to the employee.

There is no doubt many other examples you can recommend be added to a personalized employee benefits statement based on your organization’s information.

There were two key elements that contributed to the employee deciding not to resign. The medical insurance coverage provided by the new employer was insufficient due to some family medical needs and the new employer’s time off was insufficient to what the employee was accustomed to receiving.

The ability to quickly access this information and spend time with the employee to ensure their understanding of what is included within the current plan, what they may be giving up provided an environment of transparency and building trust. 

This discussion may also identify areas the current employer may need to address as it relates to a competitive benefit package.

To effectively build a Personalized Benefit Statement requires:

  • Information pulled together from payroll, benefits, training, and other key databases to consolidate into an individual employee statement.
  • Supervisors and Human Resources personnel being comfortable discussing the information and listening to the employees as they identify the areas of most importance to them.
  • Provide the personalized employee benefit at least once a year and be accessible to address the immediate situations that arise.

What would you include in a Personalized Benefit Statement? Have you had similar situations and were able to retain an employee that was resigning?

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A Changing Mindset on Training: Activate the “Hidden Workforce”

A Changing Mindset on Training: Activate the “Hidden Workforce”

Guest writer Ed Gordon comes back this week with valuable advice on employee development in, “A Changing Mindset on Training: Activate the ‘Hidden Workforce.'”

At long last, there are signs that companies are increasing employee training and participating in talent development programs. Why is this finally happening?

 A recent Federal Reserve program held in Chicago focused on how companies in four Midwestern states are partnering with their local communities to upskill younger entry-level workers. Companies from many businesses sectors are collaborating with K-12 and post-secondary institutions to offer both career information and educational programs aligned with current job requirements.

 This program also included a public high school graduate who told the audience how mentorships and a career exploration program interested him in pursuing a STEM career. He is now eager to begin post-secondary education that will qualify him for a career in information technology.

 A barrier that discourages publicly traded corporations from developing human capital is now being challenged. Arcane financial accounting rules currently classify employees of these companies as costs rather than assets. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is now considering proposals to require publicly listed companies to report spending on training and other human capital outlays. This may be a step toward moving the Financial Standards Accounting Board (FASB) to change accounting rules thereby giving companies the option of capitalizing and depreciating employee development as an investment, rather than expensing it as a cost that reduces earnings.

The Current U.S. Labor Market

Employer job training is also growing as an answer to the unprecedented demographic meltdown. Over this decade 10,000 workers are retiring each year (approximately 3.6 million workers annually). This will continue into the 2030s. Up to 66 percent of job openings are to replace these retirees.

 A recent National Federation of Independent Business survey reported that 42 percent of their members (companies with 500 or fewer workers) had vacancies they cannot fill. The number-one problem facing members of the Association of General Contractors is the shortage of skilled labor. Contractors are reporting that this is causing them to turn down new construction projects.

 In 2021 U.S. business experienced over 8 million job vacancies that resulted in a profit and productivity loss of over $1 trillion. By 2022 this had risen to over 12 million jobs and a $2 trillion loss. This trend seems to have abated somewhat this year. However, labor cost per unit rose to 6 percent in 2023. Average hourly earnings have increased 4.3 percent above last year as employers have raised wages to find qualified workers. Wage inflation is likely to continue unless businesses begin to enlarge the pool of skilled workers.

But where can this “hidden workforce” be found? According to U.S. Department of Labor reports, about 100 million Americans of working age are not participating in the labor force. Our research shows that at least 20 million of these workers have given up looking for employment because they lack some of the specific skills a job requires. They can fill such job vacancies if employers offer the job training needed to mobilize these skilled workers.

 As many other nations are dealing with a declining working-age population and significant skills shortages, it is important to develop all our own resources. There are hidden workers in our midst who could become productive employees if their skills are updated. Are U.S. businesses now beginning to realize that persistent job vacancies cost them more than it would to start entry-level skills training or to participate in community partnerships that are renewing local talent pipelines?

 Edward E. Gordon is the founder and president of Imperial Consulting Corporation in Chicago. His firm’s clients have included companies of all sizes from small businesses to Fortune 500 corporations, U.S. government agencies, state governments, and professional/trade associations. He taught in higher education for 20 years and is the author of numerous books and articles. More information on his background can be found at As a professional speaker, he is available to provide customized presentations on contemporary workforce issues.

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How Do Employee Engagement Strategies Combat Quiet Quitting?

How Do Employee Engagement Strategies Combat Quiet Quitting?

Guest writer Ed Wallace returns this week with a blog post on building the kind of environment that fosters employee satisfaction in, “How Do Employee Engagement Strategies Combat Quiet Quitting?”

The term “quiet quitting” describes the phenomenon whereby employees become disengaged and disinterested in their work, but instead of leaving the company, they work less productively. One of the best ways to counter quiet quitting is by implementing employee engagement strategies. According to a recent Gallup poll, “quiet quitters” make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce. In addition, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is now 1.8 to 1, the lowest in almost a decade.  

Quiet quitting is a significant challenge for leaders, as it can cause long-term damage to company culture, morale, and business outcomes. Read on to learn about employee engagement best practices. 

What is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement is the level of commitment an individual has to their work and the company they work for. 

Countering quiet quitting requires an initiative-taking approach to employee engagement, which can help to boost motivation, job satisfaction, and productivity. 

Engaged employees are more likely to be enthusiastic about their work, more committed to their employers, and more willing to go the extra mile to achieve company goals. This is crucial because it can impact employee retention, customer satisfaction, and business performance. Companies with the highest rates of employee engagement are 21% more profitable and 17% more productive than those with a more disengaged staff.

How to Use Employee Engagement to Increase Motivation.

To combat quiet quitting, business leaders must invest in employee engagement best practices. Here’s how. 

Cultivate a Positive Company Culture 

Company culture is the attitude or environment within an organization. Businesses with positive cultures value diversity, inclusivity, open communication, encourage collaboration, and have higher rates of employee satisfaction. They also ensure employees don’t feel like they don’t matter or are replaceable. 

Positive company culture is one of the most critical employee engagement strategies because it helps employees feel more connected to their work, team, and the company’s mission. 

Promote Employee Well-Being

Workplace initiatives, such as wellness programs, flexible working arrangements, health screenings, and mental health resources show employees that their well-being is a priority. In addition, a more positive environment that rewards employees who perform well can help reduce burnout and anxiety. When they feel supported and cared for, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged at work.

Provide Growth Opportunities

Providing growth opportunities is one of the key employee engagement best practices. When employees see a future for themselves within their company, they are more likely to stay engaged and motivated. Invest in employee training and development opportunities to inspire them to learn new skills, take on challenges, and progress in their careers

Foster Meaningful Relationships 

Strong relationships among team members create a more supportive and collaborative work environment. When employees feel personally connected to their colleagues, they are more likely to be engaged and more committed and loyal to their work and team. 

Recognize and Reward Employee Contributions

Rewarding employee contributions is among the top employee engagement best practices. Acknowledging splendid work also boosts morale, increases confidence, and encourages employees to perform their best. 

Employee Engagement Examples.

Here are some tangible actions to boost employee engagement within your organization. 

Conduct a Survey 

An anonymous employee survey helps you gauge your baseline. You can structure the survey with a rating scale, open-ended questions, or multiple-choice questions. Consider topics such as employee and management interaction and overall company mission. The survey results will help you identify areas that require the biggest boost.

Pay Employees to Volunteer 

Paying employees to volunteer shows them that your company has a greater purpose beyond its bottom line and is making a positive contribution to society. Choose nonprofit organizations that align with your company’s mission and area of focus such as homelessness, books for underserved kids, or veterans. 

Create a Mentoring Program 

Mentorship supports employees as they progress in their careers by supporting them so they can identify their goals and overcome challenges. They also provide guidance and are particularly beneficial for underrepresented groups. A study from the University of California Haas School of Business found that mentoring programs are especially important for young women. 

To design a mentoring program, create a clear structure that addresses key components such as how long it will last and how mentees will connect with and pair with their mentors. Lastly, provide an opportunity for mentors and mentees to give insight into their experience.

The Bottom Line: How to Use Employee Engagement to Increase Motivation.

Business leaders must prioritize employee well-being, foster positive company culture, provide development opportunities, foster meaningful relationships, and recognize and reward employee contributions. By implementing these strategies, leaders can create a more engaging and supportive workplace, ultimately improving employee retention, productivity, and overall enterprise success.

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Lessons from Honeybees

Lessons from Honeybees

Guest writer Alex Weaver continues with his theme of lessons to be learned with this week’s blog, “Lessons from Honeybees.”

My most recent blog “Three Lessons from Dad,” I listed some of Dad’s interests and work. Beekeeping was on the list.

For my dad, bees and beekeeping were a labor of love, respect, and business. My Dad, his dad and a brother kept and tended several “apiaries,” or groups of hives. Maximizing production by moving them from SW Missouri to Iowa in the summer for Alfalfa pollination. Alfalfa produces great tasting honey. They produced and sold honey all year. There is a seasonal focus on beekeeping depending on what plant is blooming. A bee yard was fifty to several hundred hives. Not in one location but scattered across several locations, usually farms in southwest Missouri or southern Iowa. My Dad became a bit of a “Bee Whisperer” and often discussed his observations that became life lessons. He was very observant as he worked with the bees. 

Honeybees are essential in our lives. Honeybees are big money makers for U.S. agriculture. These social and hardworking insects produce six hive products – honey, pollen, royal jelly, beeswax, propolis, and venom – all collected and used by people for various nutritional and m medicinal purposes. Honeybees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops in the United States each year, including more than 130 types of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Honeybees also produce honey, worth about $3.2 million in 2017 according to USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Why is learning from Honeybees important? Because they have been successful for a long time.

“Bees lived during the time of the dinosaurs. During the Mesozoic era on earth, the earliest dinosaurs appeared about 245 million years ago and disappeared after an asteroid hit earth around sixty-five million years ago. The oldest fossil bees are from circa one hundred million years ago, found in Myanmar.” – Mann Lake LTD

So, what can we learn from Honeybees that apply in our workplace and our homes?

My comments here echo information available in many books today about honeybees. Scientists have studied and continue to study these hardworking and extremely focused insects. But I also include some of my dad’s comments. 

Teamwork –

“Honeybees are nature’s ultimate team-players. They cooperate in everything they do. They also behave as if it were an individual matter, while at the same time keeping the common good of the hive as their priority. If one bee is suffering or falling behind, the others step up and do the work, making sure that collective productivity is never reduced.” – 

Using teamwork, they produce honey. It is the only food that includes everything that is necessary to sustain life – water, minerals, enzymes, and vitamins. Honey also contains pinocembrin, an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning. 

Without teamwork, the honeybee ecosystem could not achieve its goals.

Roles and Responsibilities – 

Every member of the hive population has a job to do. The queen is dedicated to reproducing, repopulating the population. The queen can lay as many as 2,000 eggs per day. Drones give up their lives to mate with the queens and contribute to succession. Worker bees can serve multiple roles. Scout bees are on the lookout for the next area to harvest pollen. They escort forager bees and soon a “pipeline” is formed. Forager bees haul pollen to the hive and return “empty” for the next load. Guard bees provide security.

Clearly Defined Roles and Responsibilities drive increased production and success.

Efficient – 

“Honeybees don’t multitask. Instead, they focus only on the top priority. They each have different jobs and they stick to them. This is how they are efficient, wasting no time on anything other than living their purpose and contributing where they are most capable.”

You have heard the expression, “Busy as a Bee – because they work hard every day. “It takes three hundred bees visiting two million flowers to make one pound of honey. Rest is part of being efficient. Honeybees spend two-thirds of their time resting. Bees need five to eight hours rest. Or they become inefficient.” – Paul Rigby

Work hard, but rest is important.

Process – 

Honeybees can be fun to observe. My Dad taught me this. Air Traffic Control. If you observe closely, there is no traffic jam around the entrance to the beehive. Bees that are inbound with pollen approach the hive at about 45 degrees, on the left side of the entrance, and once they have deposited their load, they depart, at about 45 degrees on the right side of the hive entrance, as you face the hive. Other bees flying around or near the hive can be on “orientation” flights, which is how recently hatched bees learn   which hive is their home and how to fly in and out.

Process defines productivity.

Communication – 

Scout bees find forage and flowers to harvest. A scout bee can waggle its body to send out the scent of the flower and this permeates the hive. The foragers know what flower to harvest.

Constant, clear communication improves productivity.

Security – 

Ten to Twenty guard bees remain airborne, near the entrance to the hive watching for predators. Bears, skunks, hive beetles, raccoons, and opossums seek Honeybee hives to raid for the honey and the bees. The bees defend their hive by stinging the predator in groups. The larger the predator, the more bees join in to sting and thwart the invader. Honeybees understand they face threats and are prepared to defend their hive, their factory and home. 

Lately Honeybees have come under attack by a “disease” called Colony Collapse Disorder. Much research is being done to identify the cause and protect the bees.

Without vigilant security, the Hive (Enterprise) won’t survive.

Interesting Next Step – 

As mentioned above, the Honeybee population is declining. One industry pundit has suggested that the decline could be slowed if there were more “Hobby” beekeepers. Maybe, many households could each set up and manage two honeybee hives. It is more work than a cat or dog, but extremely rewarding. The first time you remove a full frame of honey from a hive, cut the honey from the frame, and put it in a bowl, your kitchen is changed forever. Honey and honeycomb, fresh from your hive, is wonderful. Honey can be used to flavor recipes, spread on baked goods, base for sauces, including baked Salmon. 

Beehives are a good teaching venue for teenagers and family members. Several years ago, my younger sister and young adult daughter kept two hives in their backyard. Also, I helped my neighbors set up two hives. The hives flourished and they grew to five hives and produced enough honey for their own consumption, and some left to sell. In both instances the hives resided in suburban backyards.

In many communities there is a Beekeeper’s Club. Such clubs offer help to newcomers wanting to get started. There are hundreds of books available in print and online. I will list a few below.

The time is now. Why not give two beehives a chance? You and your family can be successful and help our honeybee population grow. And enjoy your fresh “Honey from the Hive.”

Books for your consideration:

“The Five Habits of Highly Effective Bees” – Thomas R. Seeley

“The Wisdom of Bees” – Michael O’Malley, PHD

What The Hive can teach business about leadership, efficiency, and growth

“Honeybee Democracy” – Thomas R. Seeley

“A Book of Bees” – Sue Hubbell

“Honeybee:  Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper” – C. Marina Marchese

Books currently in my library:

“The Beekeeper’s Handbook – Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile

“The Backyard Beekeeper” – Kim Flottum

“Keeping Bees and Making Honey” – Alison Benjamin and Bran McCallum

“Natural Beekeeping” – Ross Conrad

Honeybees have been around for one hundred million years – as quoted above. They have a proven successful operating model. We can learn a lot from these little insects.

Credit where credit is due:  There is text in the above document highlighted by parenthesis. If I knew the author, their name follows the text. Some I did not have, so understand, these are not my words, and I don’t take credit, but agree with the message.

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Skilled Labor Jobs Provide Great Opportunities for Students

Skilled Labor Jobs Provide Great Opportunities for Students

Guest writer Steve Johnson shares a blog post this week on a topic that has been of great interest to our industry: Skilled Labor Jobs Provide Great Opportunities for Students.

The need for more workers in the skilled trades is not a new topic. I have been writing about this subject for at least twenty years. There has been some progress in recruiting more young people for these great job opportunities. That being said, Kristin Altus reports in on August 4, 2023, “Job expert pushes back on cultural ‘stigma’ having a ‘disturbing’ impact on skilled work, generational handoff.” Also that, “Blue collar jobs see double-digit demand as industries try to integrate US supply chain.” The need for workers in the skilled trades remains a big issue.  

In talking with my industry contacts, I still hear much the same. The dealer recruitment needs for highly-qualified technicians in automotive, construction equipment, agriculture equipment and heavy truck remain unfulfilled. It’s still a challenge to interest students to explore these jobs and make the commitment to attend a high-quality two-year program in equipment technology. 

Obstacles to becoming an equipment technician are not what you might think. Consider this: 

  • Technician demand is still high, and has been for a number of years. In talking with school instructors, many new technician graduates have multiple job offers. These offers typically come from companies in a student’s local area, where studies have shown they prefer to be employed.  
  • Gaining the necessary education isn’t the obstacle one might think. Career and technical colleges are looking for graduating high school students with good communication and speaking skills who have done well in mathematics and science classes. Finding those schools is not difficult. Well-established trade organizations such as The AED Foundation (Associated Equipment Distributors) provide search tools for excellent academic institutions. Other local technical school options are easily searched on the internet. 
  • College scholarships and loans are available in the equipment industry. Many equipment dealers provide this type of assistance to help the students go from college student to dealer employed technician as quickly as possible. Tools scholarships and/or financial assistance from dealers and manufacturers are common. It’s not uncommon for those studying equipment technology to graduate debt free. Trade organizations such as IEDA, The Independent Equipment Dealers Association, also provide scholarship opportunities. Individual association members can also provide much information and welcome the opportunity to talk with students about careers in their industry. 
  • Looking online, the issue is not pay. I have observed that many newly graduated technicians from two-year technician programs start with a salary in the range of $35,000 – $45,000. Looking online, shows that the average salary for a Heavy Equipment Field Service Technician in the US in $66,000, with a range from $45,749 to $91,791. With overtime, pay can be even higher. With many dealers, the benefits are also excellent.

So, what’s the largest obstacle when it comes to increasing the supply of qualified technicians? Ms. Altus at Fox Business hit the nail on the head when she states, “A cultural stigma around traditional “blue collar” jobs runs alive and well.” In that article, she cites Mr. Andrew Crapuchettes, CEO of RedBalloon who speaks about this stigma. “Unfortunately, we have this cultural issue where a lot of the baby boomers, which are one of the wealthiest generations ever, is they’ve passed (this stigma) down to the next generation, they said, ‘I worked really hard in a factory, or I worked really hard early on, and then I was able to build a career, and I don’t want that for my kids or my grandkids,’” the CEO explained. “And so there’s this cultural stigma associated with those blue-collar, mixed-collar jobs,” he added. “There are lots of opportunities to work hard, not build $200,000 of school debt, and still be able to support a family and live a really good life. But there’s a stigma associated with this.”

Unfortunately, the old stereotype image of the “grease monkey” lingers; despite the fact that technicians today are highly skilled and are working on highly sophisticated, computer controlled heavy equipment. This includes not only many parents, but also decision influencers like high school and college career counselors. To meet today’s demand for technicians, the equipment industry, and other industries that depend on skilled trade workers, need to focus even more on getting the word out as to the great job opportunities that are available in the skilled trades.

  • Connect with your local college and high school career counselors. Introduce yourself to faculty and staff at middle schools and high schools. Ask for opportunities to visit with groups of students and introduce the technician career. Tailor you presentations to the different age groups you address. Explain to them how technicians today are working with advanced technology in industries that are literally building the future. Show them the variety of career possibilities from the standpoint of salaries, benefits, career growth and career stability. 
  • For those schools with technical programs, also ask faculty how you can support those programs and become active on their Advisory Boards. Provide them with technical information, as well as equipment and parts needed for instruction. Have your technicians provide information to students, and provide learning opportunities for faculty. Participate in career day events. Perhaps you can start a diesel club at your local high school. Develop the long-term relationships that will benefit you in your future recruiting efforts.
  • Develop informational materials that will help show decision-influencers the great career opportunity you can offer students. These can be brochures, videos and information about technical college programs. Look for opportunities to meet with students and their parents. I have always said that workforce development is local. For example, career days at your dealership offer an opportunity for decision-influencers and students to see the “iron” and have individual conversations about career options. Provide opportunities for students to visit and follow a technician for a day, and see firsthand what the job is. Be sure to talk about how you can help students as they prepare for a technician career with assistance in buying tools, summer employment, work-study, scholarships, loans and career advice.

Successful recruitment strategy is a long-term commitment to developing a sustainable technician “pipeline” that meets your needs as your company grows. Take time to lay out a strategy for working with middle schools, high schools and technical colleges and review that plan annually. Talk to the schools and get their ideas for action items to include.  Build a strategy that connects with your decision-influencers multiple times during the year. Some people at dealers will say recruitment is the job of the high schools and colleges. Trust me, as a dealership your success in recruiting is up to you. 

Safety Lessons: From Social Media and Complacency

Safety Lessons: From Social Media and Complacency

Guest writer Bill Pyles joins us this week with a blog that doubles as an OSHA Consultation in “Safety Lessons: From Social Media and Complacency.”

In my opinion, there are two serious threats to the safety of workers regardless of the industry you’re in. They are social media and complacency. Many people, me included, will refer to social media when working on something I’m not familiar with. However, the issue with social media is it’s not regulated, or reviewed by professionals and is not always compliant with basic safety standards.


For example, I was online reading one of my favorite car guy sites. The article was about jack stands and the correct way of blocking up a car before anything is done underneath the car. The article did stress that your jack stands are no place to try and save on expenses. But in the comments section, there was a raging debate regarding the use of cinder blocks to block up a car (or truck). One person rationalized that his house was built with cinderblocks, and it held up just fine. I was stunned to hear many others agree that cinder blocks work great for blocking up cars. The truth is that they are not designed to or rated to be used as blocking stands. Lay a cinder block on its side and you can break it with a small hammer. A cinder block will fall under a car or truck without warning and with deadly consequences.


Another example was when I was watching one of my car guy’s TV shows. I really enjoy the car show where they drag a rusted heap out of the forest and 60 minutes later it looks better than new! But they are still fun to watch. Recently a car was pulled out of a garage and the rescuers were trying to get it started. The car would crank over, but not start. Then one of the rescuers had a bottle of gas and proceeded to pour gas into the carburetor while his buddy cranked the starter. I was shocked again to see this because if the car backfired, (and they always do when an unregulated amount of gas is put into a cranking engine) it could cause significant injury to the guy pouring in the gas. All I could think of was how many others were watching this show and the next time an old car would not start, they’d grab a bottle of gas! Recently, I became another victim of both items mentioned above and it got me an ambulance ride and an overnight stay at the Loyola Burn Center just outside of Chicago, but more on this later.


First, I want to share with you a wonderful way to help your business avoid the hazards of social media safety and complacency.  I believe the following comments are attributed to President Ronald Regan. “The most terrifying words are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Many of you reading this may feel the same way and, in some areas, I’d have to agree. But what does this have to do with safety?


The thought of inviting an OSHA representative may send chills down the backs of some business owners and their managers. However, this government agency works hard to protect workers and their families. OSHA has an outstanding program called On-Site Consultation. It’s primarily for smaller businesses that do not have the on-staff resources for safety programs and compliance. 


OSHA’s on-site consulting program is at no cost to the business. It offers small businesses confidential occupational safety and health services. Works with employers to help find and eliminate workplace hazards, gives advice regarding complying with OSHA standards, and most importantly, helps establish and improve safety and health programs and train employees. Safety does not stop at the shop door. Your warehouse, break room, customer and vendor areas, and yard area are all areas to be reviewed.


During my career, I worked for a small company that was expanding rapidly. The expansion often included purchasing other dealerships that would expand the dealer’s territory and inherit many past practices of the purchased dealer that were unsafe work environments. The company was operating in the hands of many different supervisors and managers who had conflicting ideas regarding safety. Sometimes safety took a back seat to production. And too many times this mindset has caused a significant injury to an employee. The company took OSHA’s offer of its free consultation program. The results were almost immediate. The program follows OSHA’s guidelines for record-keeping, including three hundred reports, accident reporting, and my personal favorite, on-site inspections. It was an extremely enlightening experience. During all aspects of the consultation, the company must agree to address all out-of-compliance issues in a timely manner. If your company qualifies for this consultation program, I highly recommend looking into it or emailing me if you have questions or concerns. I’d be happy to share my experiences. For more information go to


As one of the managers responsible for safety, I would always do a brief walk-around inspection of our shops and yards. Occasionally I would take several techs, parts, and office employees on these walkarounds. It’s important for everyone to know and understand why the bench grinder is unsafe to use (a number one violation in most shops). Why? Too often no one takes responsibility for a shop tool. Everyone uses it so it’s “assumed” the next person will correctly adjust the grinding wheel to the tool rest. And are you doing the “ring” test when replacing the grinding wheel?? 


If it’s a pedestal grinder, can I easily push the grinder over, is it secure? All owners, managers, supervisors, and employees must understand the reason there is a safety violation to become real believers in safety compliance.


Are your full oxygen, nitrogen, and acetylene bottles secured, capped, and clearly marked? When you are out in your shop or warehouse, see how your oxygen and acetylene bottles are secured, then Google “oxygen bottle missile.” This YouTube video should make you a believer in compressed gas bottle safety!


I’ve been personally involved in accidental death investigations on the job site and serious injuries in the shop or yard. It’s very emotional when too often the accident could have been avoided. Too many accidents are the result of lack of experience (or too much experience, more on this later), lack of the proper tools, poor conditions; too hot, too cold, too cluttered, etc. 

Many years ago, a study was done to review why pilot error was a leading cause of airplane disasters. Briefly, the findings were that new pilots tended to make errors due to a lack of experience or training. As time on the job increased, errors due to lack of experience and/or training decreased. But oddly enough as the pilots became more experienced and highly trained, the errors began to reappear. The study found that as we become more experienced, we sometimes begin to take shortcuts and pay less attention to policy and procedure. They became complacent, a recipe for disaster. 


Ensure your team is trained regarding hazard identification issues. A hazard is any behavior or condition which increases the likelihood of an incident. An incident is an undesired event that could, or does, result in injury, illness, or property damage. Examples include poor lighting in the shop, warehouse, or even the office area. Trips and falls are still frequently happening due to hazardous conditions. Good stewards of safety eliminate hazardous conditions before an incident occurs.


Now, to address how I succumbed to complacency resulting in serious burns to my hand. I was collaborating with a friend trying to get an old car started. My friend was younger, and I did mention more than once that pouring gas into a carburetor while cranking the engine was dangerous. While the engine was cranking, it was hitting a couple of cylinders. So, I took a small bottle of gas and poured the gas directly into the carb. The last thing I remember was a huge fireball erupting under the hood with me in the middle of it. My hand was on fire as well as my tee shirt and the pants I was wearing. I quickly dove into a stack of tee shirts, rolling around and trying to get the fire out. Complacency got to me that day, and it could have been a lot worse. The car had burnt damage and the drywall in front of the car was burnt from my throwing the exploding gas bottle. And you can only imagine how I felt when someone on TV with thousands of viewers saw a bottle of gas being poured into a cranking engine! Fortunately, I’ve healed with no lasting issues other than a grim reminder of what being complacent can result in.

Remember social media has its place but safety is up to you! 

Listen to your instincts, I wish I did and would have avoided a trip to the hospital!

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