Guest Columnist

Column: Build healthy employee relationships

Guest columnistJuly 1, 2013 

Guest columnist Sheon Wilson

Small-business owners are plenty worried about health costs these days, but many are neglecting a more important measure: How healthy is your company?

Do employees like coming to work? Does your culture bring out their best work? Are people in the right jobs for their skills? Why do you produce what you produce? Do employees like making it?

Raleigh business consultants, Jeff Karges and Rick Pfeiffer, ask these questions and more to figure out how well equipped a small business is to prosper. In their words, healthy relationships mean profits.

“We use ‘organizational health’ to look at the overall health of a company, not just ‘Did they make money?’ but rather the bigger picture,” said Karges, co-owner of Relationship Matters, a Morrisville company which specializes in sorting out the messy, uncomfortable problems in a company’s daily life.

Once they identify areas that need tweaks, they work with strategic partners to address issues that can trip up the company.

Karges gives the example of a family business run by a son with a drinking problem. His father, blinded by love, overlooks how his son’s lax leadership is running the company into the ground.

“Employees can’t tell the owner when something is wrong, because they have mortgages to pay, they have kids,” Karges said. “But that’s why you bring someone from the outside.”

Employees may leave rather than watch the ship sink, which is costly. The partners call employee turnover “the silent profit killer.”

When you consider the cost of employees’ time to fill in until someone else is hired, a job search, interviews and training costs, it typically ends up costing 1.5 times a person’s salary to replace him or her.

Karges and Pfeiffer, childhood friends, created Relationship Matters about 18 months ago by combining their expertise. Pfeiffer worked in human resources leadership and business development and Karges attended seminary and became a psychotherapist.

Karges also has expertise in family business, having grown up and worked in one.

To figure out where a company stands, Karges and Pfeiffer use their Organizational Health Index, which asks these questions to get employees to open up about how a company works (or doesn’t).

Do you agree or disagree:

• My boss can recite my career goals.

• When something is not working properly, I can discuss it openly and know it will be addressed.

And this open-ended question:

• Imagine the company were to sell overnight. The new owners promote three people and let three go. Tell us who those six would be and why.

“We provide the owner/manager with … a photograph of the business with no filters from their employees,” Pfeiffer said, “enabling the owner to understand and get in front of the issues and to more effectively lead their organization.”

Sheon Wilson (@SheonWilson) is a writer and style expert in Durham who does The N&O’s Refresh Your Style makeovers.

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