Do people's attitude to work make a difference?

Monday 6th June 2011 - Posted in Business
By Ajaz Ahmed, Founder of Freeserve

Tata, a multi-billion dollar Indian conglomerate that owns amongst other things the old British steel and Jaguar-Range Rover cars, recently announced they are closing parts of their UK steel factories that will lead to 1500 job loses. Its always sad to hear about job loses especially as the majority of those jobs loses will be right here in Yorkshire, but what was a surprise were comments made by Tata boss Ratan Tata, he said that he noticed a difference in British workers when compared to other countries where Tata have operations. He said that British workers are lazy and unwilling to go the extra mile “It’s a work-ethic issue. In my experience, in both Corus and Jaguar-Land Rover nobody is willing to go the extra mile”. So the question is, is the Tata boss right? I think there’s an awful lot of truth in what he says, we live in and work in a global economy and countries that we once considered as developing countries are no longer developing countries, they’re bigger and better than us.

But does people’s attitude to work make a difference? During my working life I observed so many people who put the minimum onto their work and expect be rewarded automatically just because they’ve put the years in. I read something in a management book that stuck with me as I worked my way up the management ladder and that was “always put in more than you get out” and I’m sure some of my colleagues thought I must have been mad when I would work unpaid hours or volunteer for projects that they didn’t want to do, we have too many people that put the minimum in. At Freeserve I never told anyone what their working hours were, I told them that as long as they got the job done they could start and stop as they please, I figured it was easier to take any person abusing this rule to one side than to have a rigid set of rules for everyone (I realise this won’t work in larger companies or every type of company). The result was that people worked harder and they where happier, I would urge anyone who can to try this, the results may surprise you.

But how do you get people to change their behaviour? Well it has to start at the top, the attitude at the top filters down to all levels but only if you focus on it and it will make a difference to your business. When I worked in retail I would take over an under-performing store and turn it around with the same stock, in the same location, with the same customers and the same staff. How? By focusing on the staff, changing their attitude, making coming working something that they wanted to do rather than something they had to do to pay the bills and this positive attitude and energy is then passed onto customers. You can sometimes very quickly tell when dealing with a company which engage positively with their staff, the telltale sign could be something as simple as the staff smiling and not looking glum.

A lot of small businesses have gone out of business because they have not learnt this lesson and they haven’t taken a good long outside look at their business. I often ask people how business is and a lot of people say it’s tough and blame the recession and not themselves. Mary Portas has been asked by the government to look at the state of our high streets and what can be done about all those empty shops. I would argue that a lot of small shops have gone out of business because they provided poor service and they didn’t keep up with the times. I’ve been to Japan and the one thing that struck me when I walked into any shop was the greeting, I’ve never been greeted so warmly anywhere in the world, that simply doesn’t happen in many shops here.

People do business with people and a positive attitude is infectious, it’s that simple.

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