WIIFM: Getting the Best Out of Your Employee

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It’s no secret that in the travel industry, focused and engaged employees are the most productive. It’s also no secret that engaging employees is one of the biggest challenges a leader faces.

Many leaders intuitively know that employees are their number one asset, yet have no data to prove that it’s worth their time to invest in their employees. Here’s some numbers that may change your mind: Research by academics at the University of Alberta has argued that encouraging employees to rethink their jobs and get back the sense of purpose so easily lost in the day-to-day grind of meetings, projects and deadlines can significantly improve how they work. In fact, employers that successfully encouraged employees to change their mind-set in this way reported a 60 per cent improvement in attendance and a massive 75 per cent increase in staff retention.

Got that? If you help your employees find their purpose at work, not only will your bottom-line profits, productivity and morale increase, but your absenteeism may also drop, saving you more money. So how to do it? One of the most recent business books about this topic is The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. This simple, short book, written in the style of The One Minute Manager, gives managers tools to help employees find their purpose. I recommend the same concept with my clients, but use a slightly different approach called WIIFM, which stands for “What’s In It For Me?”. Although WIIFM can sound selfish, it’s actually one of the best tools to motivate an employee, because if you know what an employee is hoping to get out of work, you can help your employee reach that goal. And if that employee knows that you are supporting his goals, he’ll be focused and motivated to engage fully at work. Here’s an example of how WIIFM can work in your office:

Malia, the director of Travel Star Unlimited, has given her top sales person, Shantay, a new product line to launch: biking in Kathmandu. Shantay knows that she will need to create a powerful team to help launch this product. So she brings Mel and Michelle to the team. In her first meeting with them, she explains the goals, objectives, timeline, roles and marketing plan. She then turns to Mel and asks, “Why are you here today? What’s your WIIFM?” Mel replies, “I want to be promoted in the next 6 months. I’m hoping that working with you will help me learn the skills I need to move up in marketing. Also, since you’re so close to Malia, I’m also hoping that you’ll give Malia a good recommendation for me at the end of this project.” Shantay notes down Mel’s WIIFM. She then asks Michelle for her WIIFM, which is very different. “On the weekends, I’m a freelance travel writer. I’m hoping this project will allow me to travel to Kathmandu, or at least interview people from there for my articles.” Shantay then notes down Michelle’s WIIFM. Shantay then lets Mel and Michelle know that her WIIFM is to help Travel Star Unlimited receive the prestigious “Innovator of the Year” award for this product, which will give her a chance to position herself at the company as the “go-to” gal for new products.

Shantay cannot promise Mel or Michelle that their WIIFMs will be achieved. Yet she knows that helping Michelle and Mel achieve their personal goals will motivate them to focus and commit 100% to the project. Maybe she can’t get Michelle to Kathmandu, but she can let Michelle be the Kathmandu contact, so Michelle meets people to interview at a later time. And while she can’t promise Mel a promotion, she can be sure to teach her new skills that will eventually help her grow and develop into a new position. And Michelle and Mel can help Shantay by thinking out of the box, so that the product can be as innovative as possible.

Stating their WIIFM’s helped create a team mentality, where everyone was looking out for the rest of the team. It cost nothing, yet is one of the most important motivators a leader can use. So how can you start using this tool?

1. Explain WIIFM in various meetings, so that everyone understands what it means.

2. Start asking for people’s WIIFM’s…both long term and short term.

3. Do your best to help your employees achieve their WIIFMs. It may be as simple as having Bernie work with Mary instead of Tom. Tom may be a good at what he does, but Mary has a special skill that will help Bernie achieve his WIIFM.

4. Assess the outcome on a regular basis to ensure that the WIIFM is being achieved. This doesn’t have to be a long talk; 5 min. by the water cooler is all you need to track the progress and re-direct, if necessary.

Remember, if you help your employees find their purpose at work, not only will your bottom-line profits, productivity and morale increase, but your absenteeism may also drop, saving you more money. That’s good news for anyone in today’s economy! So get started now!

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