Message: Take Time to Listen to Workers

Nov. 1, 1999
It's going to take a little time. That's one message to companies that want to improve employee job satisfaction. While finding time to listen to employees

It's going to take a little time. That's one message to companies that want to improve employee job satisfaction. While finding time to listen to employees may be difficult for many employers, it is necessary if the company is going to reap the rewards of a stable workforce, said James McSherry, president and chief executive officer of the Workplace Helpline, Boston, Massachusetts.

"The greatest motivational act one person can do for another is listen," he said. "Money is not the reason people are leaving their jobs. Compensation is a right. Recognition is a gift. People get paid for doing their job, but money doesn't motivate creativity and hard work." McSherry offered advice on employment issues at the National Association of Chemical Distributors Association (NACD) operations seminar September 15-17 in Kansas City, Missouri.

He quoted statistics based on nationwide employee surveys that indicated 63% see a "pat on the back" as a meaningful incentive. Sixty-eight percent of employees surveyed said it was important to believe that their work was appreciated. And, if managers are thinking of rewarding women by sending them flowers, they might like to know that 45% of those surveyed said they would prefer a letter of appreciation. Only 7% said they have ever received a letter of appreciation.

Employees also should be told about recognition that may have come from their colleagues or from others outside the company. And companies must realize that people have a life beyond work.

Managerial Philosophies However, several managerial philosophies often exist to present obstacles to improving employee/employer relationships. In many cases, top management believes employees are being paid to do a job, so why should they expect anything extra. Others are concerned that if they recognize one person, another will complain about the recognition. But the most often presented obstacle is that managers just don't take the time to listen to employees, McSherry said.

"It is incumbent to find the time," he added.

If companies want the best performance from their employees, they must decide what it is they expect. If what they expect from employees is commitment to the company, the department, to the job itself, and sustained levels of high performance, then employee needs must be met.

McSherry suggested that employees need to know exactly what their job is, how they are performing, how the company is performing, the company's mission, and how the employee can help improve the company's performance. They should be recognized for doing well.

At the same time, for employees to accept responsibility and accountability, they must be properly trained and supported, he said. However, McSherry pointed out that recognition and reward are not the same thing. "A reward is something given for a special service," he said. "Recognition is attention, favorable notice, an acknowledgment, approval, or appreciation for a favorable event."

Expense Concerns And for managers concerned with expenses, some recognition can be presented at no cost - such as including a note of praise with an employee's paycheck; sending a note home to the family, thanking them for the employee's overtime on a project; naming a day care room, hall, or other area after a high performer; handing out a business card with a quick note when good performance is recognized; and sending an e-mail or voice-mail thank you.

Low-cost recognition can include: a magazine subscription for an employee's hobby or interest, or gift certificates for a movie, manicure, pedicure, round of golf, or car wash. Recognize worthy suggestions in a newsletter, host a bowling outing, or send employees to an appropriate conference.

While rewards, recognition, and money are powerful motivators, McSherry emphasized that the most positive action a company can take is for people to sincerely listen to one another and share ideas.

"Share ideas on what motivates and generates organizational commitment from employees," he said. "Share ideas on how to successfully recognize, reward, and motivate people at work. Provide real-life discussion and ideas for implementation."

Keeping up with the latest medium truck developments has been made easier by commercial truck builders web sites. These sites are filled with information for people who are considering fleet additions. For the fleet operator who dreads going through the new-vehicle-purchase stress, taking time to view some of these web sites may be a way to ameliorate the process. It's hard to imagine many questions will remain unanswered after having a look at what has been posted. By the time the research has been completed, it seems likely that the only thing left on the buy list would be negotiating a price.

Following are samples of medium truck web sites, including Bering, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Hino, Isuzu, Mitsubishi Fuso, and UD Trucks. All sites have links to dealers for contact information. Bering Truck Corporation gets down to business on the home page by offering pictures of its three types of trucks - light duty, medium duty, and heavy duty. Those products are described individually, including engine, class, chassis, or category (light, medium, and heavy duty).

If the interest is in medium duty, this site offers a look at the MD23M weighing in at 23,000 pounds with a manual transmission and cab chassis. A second choice is the MD26M. Gross vehicle weight (GVW) is 29,950 pounds.

General specifications include information on engines, transmission, suspension, and brakes. Specifications are available for all truck categories. Engine specifications are listed for Detroit Diesel, Caterpillar, and Cummins.

Bering dealers can be contacted through the site's e-mail form. Dealers have entry to the site through a password program. The Chevrolet web site provides information about the company's commercial trucks as well as other vehicles. In the commercial truck section can be found information on warranties, parts and service, and special offers. Featured are descriptions of the T-Series medium tilt cab, C-Series medium duty conventional, and W-4 Series low cab forward. Specifications for the commercial trucks include exterior dimensions, power/drivetrain, transmissions, and frame/axle. Information for parts and service links to General Motor's web site. A commercial truck dealer locator will search for contact information by name of dealer, city, zip code, or area and prefix telephone number. If the dealer has a web site, it can be accessed with a click. The Ford web site includes information about its super duty 2000 trucks, Class 6/7. The trucks vary in size from 5,600 GVW to 33,000 GVW and include regular cabs, super cabs, and crew cabs.

The F-450 Super Duty Chassis Cabs have a GVW of 15,000 pounds. The Super Duty F-550 Chassis Cabs 7,500-pound capability is the highest standard GVW in its class, according to Ford. A 19,000-pound rating is available. The 2000 Ford Super Duty F-650/750 is discussed. The GVW is up to 33,000 pounds.

Like all the truck sites, Ford offers plenty of specifications for its models. Information is divided by GVW, powerteams, clutches, steering, tires/wheels, dimensions, frames, and axle/springs. Many topics are available. For example, the subject of configurations includes information on regular cabs, super cabs, crew cabs, wheelbases, and cab-to-axle lengths.

More topics include utility, engines, transmissions, and chassis. A list of dealers is also provided by a locator. The GMC web site leads easily to the commercial home page where medium duty C-, T-, and W-Series trucks are shown. Both tilt-cab and conventional-designed cabs are presented. Clicking on any of the three trucks pictured will get to detailed descriptions, features, and specifications. The specifications pages are so concise that information is presented for everything from the engine to cup holders in the cab.

The W-Series introduction covers the tilt cab model and touts the truck's shorter overall length for giving drivers better visibility and providing a tighter turning radius for greater maneuverability.

Offering a range of tilt cabs from Class Three to Class Five, GMC lists the specifications for gasoline or diesel engines and varying wheelbases.

At the top of the model introductory page are buttons for specifications, vocations, advantages, interior, chassis, warranty, service, and maintenance. Hino Diesel Trucks USA Inc web site information covers products, company profile, Hino news, testimonials, warranty information, dealer locations, employment, and contact information.

Eight of the company's model series are presented. Within the product information are in-depth specifications, including schematic drawings of chassis. The drawings can be enlarged for greater detail. The specification list covers all models.

Warranty information includes a discussion of basic specifications, including engine, corrosion, frame, and emission.

Hino dealers in the United States and Puerto Rico are listed. Links are provided to the dealers' web sites as well as usual contact information.

Not relying totally on its own advertising, the company posts testimonials from companies that operate Hino trucks. Comments come from industries such as leasing, laundry, furniture rental/delivery, wholesale florist, beverage, landscaping, food, automotive, and postal. American Isuzu Motors Inc presents medium size truck specifications for four models. They vary from the FRR 18,000 GVW model to the 33,000 GVW FVR. On the specification page, you can see the engine types, displacement, horsepower, and torque information. A link is also available to the engine division at The power line-up is displayed by series. Warranty, service, and parts are discussed as are specifications. On the site, the Get a Quote from a Dealer's button provides an e-mail form to submit. If finding a local dealer's contact information is the goal, type in a zip code and the names of the nearest dealers will pop up on the screen. Although a mailing address is not listed on the web site, there is a toll-free telephone number. An e-mail form also is posted. For information about other Isuzu vehicles, links are provided by model name. Finding specification information on the Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America web site is simple, but if more in-hand information is desired, there is an e-mail form to order video and/or brochures. Just click on the button on the home page, and presto, the request is off to the company.

On line, however, is plenty of information about the manufacturer's products. The home page has photographs of trucks representing the various models that act as buttons for access. Vocational descriptions include refrigerated distribution, furniture delivery, route delivery, utility, full-service vending, vehicle recovery, and grounds maintenance.

Among the subjects on the specification list are measurements for wheelbase, and truck length, width, and height. More information is posted for the brake system, transmission, and engine horsepower/torque. A summary of truck performance and application follows specifications.

Finding a dealer's address is easy. Just search the state and city index to obtain contact information and a map to the location. Nissan Diesel America Inc provides a complete specification list for the company's medium duty trucks. Included is information on wheelbases, engines, emissions, clutches, front axle, steering, rear axle, wheel and tires, transmission, brake, exhaust brake, chassis frame, cab, and electrical instruments. Options also are listed. Similar information abounds for the light duty trucks.

Although the parts pages are under construction, information is still available for the various items. On another page, a summary of the extended protection plan is presented.

For lining up dealers, a search by state quickly accesses a contact list. More information can be obtained by e-mailing a brochure and specification form request. This source, as are most of the others, is available from the home page.