Framing Job Value

Job satisfaction is often talked about in terms of what the company needs to do to make the job more rewarding and satisfying for the employee. The company has basic obligations to provide a reasonable and competitive work environment, effective tools and systems, training and compensation. Intangibles such as motivation programs, social opportunities to develop work relationships and teamwork add to a positive work environment.

Even if the company excels at all of these efforts, employees (owners included) can still struggle with job satisfaction. Why? Why does a company have a poor to mediocre attitude on the part of its employees when they appear to be doing all the right things. What are high performing companies doing to create a highly motivated work environment for their employees?

I recently heard a story about Bill Pollard, now the retired Chairman of ServiceMaster, who had to deal with a work performance issue at a hospital where the cleaning crew (janitors) had a morale problem toward their work duties resulting in a customer satisfaction problem. The crew seemed to be above average individuals and well qualified to do the work but they viewed themselves at the bottom of the pecking order in the hospital and this translated to the attitude and self image that they carried into their daily routine. They did not feel that what they did on a daily basis – clean floors, restrooms, hallways, etc. – had any value.

ServiceMaster took the novel approach of “framing” the job that the janitors were doing into an integral role in joining the healthcare professionals to improve the healthcare delivery and treatment of the patients. Turning their focus from cleaning floors to providing a “clean” facility where people could be treated better changed the value that the janitors placed on their jobs. Consequently the floors were cleaner, the restrooms regularly serviced and cleaned and job satisfaction improved significantly leading to a satisfied customer.

Are other companies helping their employees frame their jobs into one that has high value?

  • Toro (lawn mowers) sent manufacturing employees to customer locations during slack production cycles – high quality golf courses such as Augusta – to work alongside the users of the equipment that they assembled and rarely had a chance to use or see in use. Result: These employees came back with recommendations on how to improve the product and produce a quality product.
  • Disneyland has for years used the approach in training employees that they are actors providing entertainment for visitors – guests. They each have a role to play and are conditioned to be in character when in the presence of guests to create a high quality customer experience.
  • Les Schwab sells tires but when you enter the parking lot and park your car you are often greeted at the car by an eager employee to respond to your needs. They don’t just shuffle over to the car since it is rare for them to not run over to you and present a professional appearance – clean uniform, recent haircut, and upbeat greeting.

There are many other examples but the common practice observed is the intentional effort to focus the employee on a role of value that they are satisfied with that will best serve the customer. Is this the practice at your company? Is this how you approach your job, how you interact with your employees and most importantly how this carries out to the customer.

Establishing a company signature culture such as Disneyland or Les Schwab can rarely be implemented without the full endorsement and “walk-the-talk” attitude from the owner or leadership team. This is something that is not someone else’s job and if you want to do it right, needs to permeate all that you and the rest of your company does on a daily basis. Inconsistencies will be quickly recognized and will erode all of the good efforts that others may do and you will come short of your objective.

Take a look at how your employees approach their jobs. Do they see value or drudgery? Come alongside them and redefine and “frame” what they see in their jobs into one that has value. You will be amazed at the impact this will have in their work life, personal life and the customers impression of your company.


  1. Anonymous says

    Impressive blog, Mike !!
    Hope all is well 'down south' … things are improving quickly up here (ha ha … we have sensible 'regulation' to keep the 'greed barons' honest.
    Fahreed Z. had a good article on your 'Northern Brethren' recently –

  2. Anonymous says

    The above was from Tom R. in Vancouver – 'eh'?

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