Thursday, July 23, 2009

Long term, Employee Empowerment Yeilds 10,000 Times the Return

I recently reviewed the Pursuit of Something Better. One of two powerful concepts I took from the book was this:

#1) (Relentlessly) Focusing on the employee is a valid business strategy to positively effect the bottom line.

I haven't been able to escape this idea. A friend gave me The Last Lecture book by Randy Pausch. Randy recalled a story of seeing employee empowerment in action - and it having a huge impact translatable into dollars. I'll paraphrase ...

As a twelve year old, Randy needed the perfect gift to thank his parents for allowing he and his sister to roam Disney World on their own. They identified a ceramic salt and pepper shaker for $10, featuring bears hanging from a tree, and then left gift shop. Skipping down Main Street to the next ride, Randy says the shakers shattered on the ground when they slipped from his hand.

Upon the advice an adult guest in the park, Randy and his sister took the salt and pepper shakers back to the gift shop. "It was my fault, I dropped it," Randy admitted. The employees in the store listened, and smiled ... and said it was their fault they hadn't wrapped it well enough!

Randy and his sister were high on Disney. They would return to Disney World often and talk about Disney for the rest of their lives (and here I am talking about Disney). Randy's parents' appreciation went further. In their volunteer work, they would take dozens of kids to Disney World - over a 20 year period. Spending more than $100,000.

It's a simple illustration. One that likely wouldn't impress financial analysts. But also, on the other hand, one that doesn't factor in the cost of PR or likely word of mouth sales. Oh, only if it were always so easy to see the ROI in an HR cost. Especially when it's $10 associated with empowering employees that turns into $100,000 in revenue!

Would the Disney gift shop employees be empowered today to replace the salt and pepper shakers? Are your employees empowered to do the equivalent?

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