I recently had a conversation with a concerned friend, an entrepreneur who owns a multimillion-dollar manufacturing company in New England. Since he bought the company two years ago, orders have gone through the roof, and revenue is way up — but he's having trouble keeping employees. Fall and winter are his busiest seasons, and some key positions at the company are vacant. Looking for help, he joined a CEO networking group, where he found that among most of his peers, staffing was the single biggest concern.

As we spoke, I found that my friend (we'll call him Tom) knew nothing of people performance management, an emerging field that is centered around the direct connection among motivated, high-performing employees, customer service, and the bottom line. He had never heard of CMI's columnist, Bob Nelson, PhD, a pioneer in the field of recognition and motivation, and had never read Bob's book 1001 Ways to Reward Employees. He hardly reads anything anymore — he is too busy growing his business. He doesn't “do” incentives for the same reason: time.

The point at which a business goes from small to significant can be a dangerous time. Where leaders like Tom used to know everyone by name, now they don't. Long-term employees can feel less connected and lose their sense of investment in the company's future, and new employees may assume that they've joined just another impersonal organization.

During this period in a company's evolution, the smartest thing a CEO can do is make his or her company an innovator when it comes to motivating employees.

Some of the best ideas for how to do this come from medium-size, growing businesses. Take Firmani and Associates, for example. This Seattle-based public-relations firm shuts down four times a year to treat employees to a matinee. Or Boston-based Eze Castle Corp., a tech company that started apple pie, cookie, and milk breaks for employees each afternoon. Or the esteemed Springfield Remanufacturing Corp. in Springfield, Mo., which created an employee satisfaction panel of 18 people from different areas of the company to make sure it was serving employees' needs.

Our cover story this month (starting on page 12) deals with many very real concerns for the coming year. But we might have missed the biggest one of all. Regardless of rising costs, challenging contracts, air travel hassles, the seller's market, or any other issues you're dealing with, finding the right employees — and keeping them motivated (and keeping them, period) should be one of your top concerns in 2007 — and every New Year.
Barbara Scofidio
Editor

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CMI welcomes letters. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. Please send comments to bscofidio@meetingsnet.com.

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