Most people think of the Army and their own business as two entirely separate entities. The fact is that the Army is in the business of protecting our country, with a workforce of thousands and processes in place for getting the job done in many different situations. Have you ever thought about how your business can benefit from what the Army already does well? The answers may surprise you.
1. Help your employees deal with business travel challenges: Do your employees travel to meet with clients and customers, forcing them to spend long hours away from their families? When they worry about how their families are coping with the latest business trip, they are less focused on the job. In today’s climate, soldiers are deployed more than ever, and that puts a strain on them and their families. The Army has seen how the distraction of separations can affect a soldier’s job performance, so they provide programs and resources to make family connections a priority. While your employees’ lack of focus may not be life-threatening, it certainly can and probably does cost you money. Try providing flex schedules, comp time off and employee/family recreation activities. When they know you respect the balance between their work and family life, it will result in increased productivity while “on the road”.
2. Focus on resilient behavior: Resiliency is the ability to accept the reality of a situation or assignment as it is initially given, take responsibility for making it work, and be innovative enough to improvise a solution as you continue to move forward. Resiliency can help keep employees focused and steady, especially when the economy seems so unstable.
3. Retain current customers: The Army has learned that retention saves money. It’s important to keep a soldier because it costs more to recruit and train new soldiers than to retain those they have. It’s the same with your customers. It costs more to “recruit” new customers than to retain the ones you have and keep them happy. When was the last time you saw an ad that featured discounted services for only current customers? Never! Most ads say something like “discounts for new customers only.” Customer loyalty is extremely important in these economic times. Try a promotion that focuses on your current customers. Make them feel special with retention bonuses or loyalty discounts. A strong customer base is the foundation of your business.
4. Respect leadership: The Army respects experience and leadership. Can you imagine a platoon of soldiers, all of the same rank, being tasked with an important mission? Of course not. Immediate critical decisions are made by individuals who have experienced the situation before. Leadership and experience should be important to your company, too. It seems that in a time of budget cuts, the first employees to be laid off are those who have been in their positions the longest because they probably have the largest salaries. If you are constantly lopping off the top, you will always be suffering the loss of your company’s most experienced experts. Show that you respect experience as a core value, because as you grow, your current leaders will train your leaders of tomorrow.
4. Go to your employees and customers and ask “How are we doing?”: Military families are the customers of the armed forces. They yield amazing influence over the retention of their service members (the army’s employees). By taking care of them and checking in regularly, the military gets feedback it can use. They create family readiness groups, support resources, and opportunities for families to be heard and provided for. The Army invests in this “feedback”, and your business has the same responsibility to its customers and employees. If you want to know what new products to produce, what trainings to provide and what will create a better work environment, then go directly to the source and ask!
5. Provide resources and training: The first priority of the Army is to have a well-trained force, and they provide what’s necessary to get the job done. When the military has a budget cut, training doesn’t take a hit. Lives rely on that well-trained military.
Most businesses don’t acknowledge the importance of training. When the economy suffers and belts need to be tightened, the first thing eliminated is training. How is that productive? You are trusting the future of your company to individuals who aren’t properly prepared to work in your best interest. A manager once remarked: “In today’s workforce, no one stays in a job very long, so why should I invest money to train them if they’re just going to leave anyway?”The response to that is: “What will it do to your company if you don’t train them and they decide to stay?”
The Army has been a functioning workforce for 234 years and is built on sound practices, strong employees and the ability to be resilient in times of stress. Can you build your business on the same foundation?
About the author:
Elaine Dumler is an author, speaker and “separations expert” who helps military families stay connected throughout the deployment process. Through her current book, “I’m Already Home … Again”, and her newest release “The Road Home”, she provides resources and connection strategies for deployments and reunions, and shows how communities and companies can help. For more information on her books, or to find out about sponsorships and training, call 303-430-0592 or visit www.imalreadyhome.com.