The Missing Dots After the Kudos

Yesterday I visited A.R Rahman’s K M College of Music a few hours before it was inaugurated by Mukesh Ambani. Our house keeping team was working there for 2 nights and 4 days to give the new premises a clean, decent look. The place was crowded with students, vendors trying to put the last finishing touches and consultants from India and abroad going about their work. I saw A.R Rahman a few times, clad fully in white, walking around in a serious and anxious, yet unassuming demeanor.

I spent some time watching our team members work. When I reached there around 1.30 pm, they hadn’t taken their breakfast or lunch. They looked disheveled, unshaven, wearing soiled clothes and very tired. They hadn’t slept a wink the whole of previous night. Yet, here they were, going about their work, composed and showing no trace of wanting to give their tiring limbs some rest.

The organizers were racing against time in order to complete a huge chunk of work at the eleventh hour. So, during the 2 nights and 4 days our team worked – sometimes without sleeping a wink the previous night – they had to put up with workers of other vendors messing up with the places they had already cleaned. They had to redo the work two or three times for no fault of theirs. I was very upset about this when I heard about it. But Mathan and his team took this in their stride, with a smile.

My heart went out to them. These are the people who bring credit to Service Square every time they provide our service at a customer’s place. Very often they go out of their way to provide exceptional service. Even staying back late, they oblige customers when they ask them to do some extra, unscheduled work. The most beautiful thing about them is that they have a smile on their face all the time.

Before I left the music college, Mathan introduced me to the lady architect who coordinated the works of various vendors. She thanked me for the excellent work done by our team. She spoke about them in glowing terms, using words like – patient, hard working and courteous – to express what she felt within. I could see she was very, very happy.

I asked myself on the way back – how do we show our appreciation and gratitude for the fantastic work they do. We pay them much better than the industry standards and they get good incentives. Yet I know this is not good enough. There should be some way of engaging with them and making them feel that their work is very valuable.

I had written elsewhere about valuing the customers we have before wanting those we do not have yet. The same holds true for the people who make Service Square proud. We have great people working for us and I am very grateful that we have them. By valuing them, they will learn to value our customers. And their continued presence will mean that we spend less on regular advertisements intended to recruit people into our ranks.

Retaining staff house keeping staff is not very easy. Though the money we pay them is very good, the work they do is not very easy. Organizations across the world have good HR practices – celebrating birthdays, having food together or going out together on a picnic etc – to create a sense of bonding to buy employee loyalty.

When we systematically put in place some or all of these HR practices out of genuine gratitude, I know the trickle of people leaving us will stop. We owe it to them, their presence means a lot to Service Square.

Beyond introducing good HR practices, I wonder about the career progression for our employees. What is their future going to be? What do they see ahead of them a few years down the line? Is it going to be more house keeping, done in the same way? I wish we could help them ease into some leadership roles. I also wish that we teach them other skills or take steps to develop their talents. I feel responsible for them and we need to do something to give them hope which alone will make them to strive and stretch for higher levels of living.

Service Square logo captures the spirit of what we ought to be – the smile of the employees percolating to envelope our customers outside with happiness, and our eye inside the square recognising and greeting customers’ eye outside. Without happy employees, we cannot hope to have happy customers. And we can look customers in the eye because we give them great value, higher than the price they pay.

There are ideas aplenty. The important thing is to breathe life into them by taking action.

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