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Leaders Energize and Engage the Workforce

Employees at PeopleSoft, Inc. remember the day that CEO

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David Duffield danced the Macarena in front of 500 happy coworkers.

Over at Odetics, Inc., they still talking about the time the chief technology officer took over duty on the cafeteria cash register on St. Patrick Day as a leprechaun!

And then there John Briggs, director of production at Yahoo! In early 1997, Briggs promised salespeople that he would have the Web directory logo tattooed on his posterior when the stock passed $50 a share. To show he had kept his promise, he modeled the new tattoo in front of everyone in the company.

Finally, there something called with Turkeys. Hotel tradition calls for employees at the Hyatt Regency (Lexington, Kentucky) to wrap a 12pound frozen turkey with electrical tape, then roll it 50 feet down the loading dock and try to turn over as many wine bottle pins as possible. Winners get a pumpkin pie.

After a professional lifetime identifying what it takes to transform ordinary organizations into extraordinary organizations, I know work can be awfully boring unless someone at the top shakes everything up!

The leaders and organizations I just mentioned know it is important to engage, energize and involve people about their work. You need to lighten up and have some fun every now and then.

It isn hard to dress up as a leprechaun, sponsor a company contest, ask people for their ideas and maybe even throw a party. And the payoff for an energized work environment is enormous: improved retention and productivity and reduced turnover.

We can merely employ someone hands and tell them to leave their hearts, minds and spirits at home. Today workers are looking for many things in an employment relationship. They want a meaningful partnership with their workplaces. Workplaces that provide meaning and purpose and are fun, engaging, and energizing will enjoy greater retention, higher productivity and lower turnover.

Remember Abraham Maslow? His wellknown hierarchy of needs theory said all people strive for selfactualization,

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which is the need for innovation and creativity. When people can reach this higher level on the job they gain greater personal fulfillment, which improves job satisfaction. Yes, you still have to pay well, but an organization can create an energized, calling environment will have higher retention and greater productivity.

Jobs and work environments using highinvolvement activities provide people with autonomy, learning opportunities, meaning, purpose, and a way to grow and get ahead, not to mention a host of benefits to the company as well. Highinvolvement activities include, but are not limited to, the use of selfmanaging teams, information sharing, shared goal setting, suggestion programs, brainstorming sessions, Kaizen, idea campaigns and motivational meetings.

Most noteworthy were the improvements in the areas of customer service and quality of

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the products and services. Furthermore, I would be so bold as to estimate that the biggest changes were not measured directly, but more implicitly. Although the survey did not measure the improvement of attitudes, retention rates, and feelings of the workforce, I sure they improved as well. As Abraham Maslow indicated in his theory of motivation, the more ability and freedom people have to use their thinking ability the more satisfaction they receive on the job, and the higher they move up the pyramid of needs. People do not respond favorably to overly restrictive work environments. Highinvolvement activities help people reach higher levels. These places engage and energize their workforce.

Greg Smith’s cuttingedge keynotes, consulting and training programs have helped businesses accelerate organizational performance, reduce turnover, increase sales, hire better people and deliver better customer service.

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As President and Lead Navigator of Chart Your Course International he has implemented professional development programs for thousands of organizations globally. He lives in Conyers, Georgia.

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