Reaching employees

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Brian A. Miller takes pride in the fact that the majority of his 29 employees have been with the company for more than a decade, and some have been there more than two.

For Miller, president and co-owner of electrical contracting company West Electric Inc., showing appreciation for employees is everything, and it pays off in achieving that longevity.

“You’re only as successful as your people that support you, so you’ve got to reward them,” says Miller, whose company posted revenue of $6.4 million in 2008.

Smart Business spoke with Miller about how to make employees feel appreciated by building them up, rewarding them and listening to their needs.

Q. What are the keys to making employees feel appreciated?

It’s about human relations. If you treat people well, that goes a long way in them wanting to work harder for you. If you treat them like they’re not important, they’re going to find a way to either make it rough on you or go somewhere else.

As far as making people feel wanted, build them up. Let’s say our purchasing agent works hard and finds materials at a very good market, and we’re able to bring that in at high levels. Then, two months later, we find out that the prices went way up on a material, and since he bought it at a low end, that really gave us an advantage that this was purchased at a lower price.

When you’ve got an employee that’s done things like that, you need to let them know, ‘Hey, great job on that, you’re really thinking ahead and looking for the good of the company.’

You build them up not only with praise, but you also either give them a paid vacation or a couple days off. With the way the economy is right now, these things are going to be tough to do.

Q. How do you reward employees during a tough economy?

You’ve got to communicate. Everybody watches the news and the economy. They know what’s going on out there. It’s tough. The human element is still important.

You’ve got to build them up. You’ve got to say, ‘Hey, it’s tough right now.’ You have to communicate to them, ‘Hey, we need to buckle down even tighter. Let’s just try to make it through this tough time and then hopefully, there will be some things we can do later on.’

Q. How else can you reward employees?

A ‘that a boy’ and a pat on the back goes a long way in the process of when you’re really pushing and shoving and trying to get accomplished what your goal is for a specific project.

We try to communicate with our lead people and tell them when they’re doing a good job out there. And a small monetary bonus is important, but we don’t think that’s the total answer to it.

Just treating people with respect and letting them know they’re doing a real good job out there is a positive thing.