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If you value communication like we do within our organization, then you need to know what your employees think. Ask them for their feedback about the company. This exercise needs to include your whole company, including your process, marketing, training, facilities, your command structure, and even your clients. If you engage them on these topics they’ll probably enlighten you on a lot of things you’re probably not thinking about or even realize were issues.

Every now and then we need to take our businesses and see them through a new set of glasses. The best way to hold them up in the mirror and see what they look like is by asking employees what they think. When doing so, at the very least…

Look at the basics. Don’t overwhelm yourself and your employees with too complex of an evaluation. Keep it simple, especially at first.

Find opportunities for improvement. Just like no idea is a bad idea, no feedback is bad feedback. Consider all input as point for improvement.

Confirm everyone is ready for the challenges ahead. Plan for manageable successes and accomplishments, then work up to more complex goals.

So when looking at employee empowerment in the perception of the company, the feedback will vary from the viewpoint of the owner versus the viewpoint of the employee. As an owner, you might feel that where you work and what you’re offering for your stuff is exciting or inviting, but you may get something very different from your team.

To really understand empowerment within your culture, you need to be willing as a leader to solicit feedback from your staff and everyone else in the company. When you measure these perceptions against those of your own, you’ll find out pretty quickly if this is a culture that you want.

As leaders, we are all looking to make a difference in our snow and ice management operations, but we often tire of spinning our wheels trying to figure out what exactly is missing or what we should be doing next. More vexing is determining your employees’ viewpoints about the business and whether they align with yours.

It’s time your employees take a SWOT Analysis on your company, and maybe even on you as the principal leader or owner. A SWOT analysis is a simple framework to capture perspectives on a company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The SWOT analysis is helpful in guiding a structured conversation that allows for customer and client facing staff to provide input into the strategic direction of the company.

Recently, we took a cross-section of our field staff and our key leaders and had them meet separately at an off-site location. Our field staff performed a planned Q and A on the company. Our managers performed a planned SWOT analysis.

Here are questions to start the process of preparation for your field-staff meeting:

  • What is one thing that we do really well?
  • What is one thing we really need to improve on?
  • We talk about our brand promise. Do we understand it as a company? And our individual role and opportunity in the process?
  • What are our company standards? Are we achieving them?
  • Are we organized? Where can we improve?
  • Training. Is our current training program effective? How can we do better?

Using the above questions, break down the following categories:

COMPANY
  • Who are we?
  • Who are we to you as an employee?
  • Who are we to our customers?

PEOPLE

  • Is our current training program effective?
  • How can we do better?
  • How can we help you with your professional development?

MANAGEMENT

  • Do you feel supported in your role at the company?
  • Does management listen to your suggestions?
  • Do you feel you have a voice?

OPERATIONS

  • Are we organized?
  • Do you have the tools you need to efficiently and safely execute your day-to-day duties?
  • CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
  • How can we better serve our clients?
  • Do you feel empowered to solve small problems or to deal with the day-to-day needs of our client properties?
  • Are we living our brand promise?

Don’t be surprised by the feedback. Your staff will tell you like it is. If you’re serious about change, and moving things to the next level, you will not be afraid of this key step.

Following this key time of reviewing the results will help determine what you need to start looking at working on. You will hear everything from experience to people, systems, working together as a team, goal setting, reputation, leadership, certification, open-door culture, training, and even wages. Consider the following:

  • Are you prepared to discuss wages and seasonal wage scale strategies with your staff?
  • Has new technology been implemented?
  • What type of priority is safety?
  • How clean and in good working order is your fleet?
  • What is the perception of the company’s reputation?

Ask and they will tell, but don’t be afraid or surprised by the results these questions yield. The key impact for your overall business is following through with the suggestions and information you receive. Increased productivity and customer satisfaction will result in bottom-line gains for your organization and grant you a competitive edge that your competition will not understand, and quite frankly will catch them off-guard.

David Lammers is the president of Garden Grove Landscaping in Toronto, a 2016 Leadership Award recipient, and a frequent Snow Magazine contributor.