ROI 2012

This month, with the end of the Mayan calendar, humanity will experience a “shift” and the rise in our vibrational energy will allow us to realize untapped abilities. However you interpret this idea, you already know that you have to change your way of doing business. In the first decade of the 21st century, keeping pace with the moving train of technology became very difficult. Thinking outside the box lost all meaning; like Neo in “The Matrix,” we struggle to understand that there is no box. You will need to expand your left-brain, logical thinking to include your right-brain capacity for creativity, or you’ll be left behind as your competitors figure out the need for new paradigms.

It won’t be enough to continually train employees and partner with new suppliers to understand and use their products. Financial thinking also is changing, now that traditional analysis methods are no longer sufficient to predict success, so you will be evaluating your progress in ways that are difficult to quantify. For example, return on investment (ROI) traditionally measures the relationship of money invested to profits earned. For 2013, consider redefining ROI in the following ways.

Return on information

The Internet has made it possible for your customers to obtain more information than they can possibly understand and for disgruntled employees or unhappy clients to instantly tarnish your reputation. Like the physician who is bombarded with diagnoses and treatments found on WebMD by patients who have no medical background, you are also confronted by online “research” that shapes customer expectations. You are forced to allocate more resources to educating customers, monitor and respond to Tweets by the public, and maintain your Facebook presence. If you’re smart, you have also learned to control your image through the preemptive use of social media and become adept at search engine optimization to improve your marketing impact.

Your electricians must continually upgrade their own technical knowledge and communicate from the job site using devices that are obsolete almost before they are unwrapped. No matter what niche you choose, the acquisition of new information takes a lot more of your limited resources than ever before.

Return on involvement

According to John Stahl-Wert, the author of “Ten Thousand Horses: How Leaders Harness Raw Potential for Extraordinary Results,” only 29 percent of people are actually “engaged” at work. Another 54 percent are “checked out” or “sleepwalking” through the day, and the remaining 17 percent are not only actively disengaged, but are busy “acting out” their unhappiness.

If more than two-thirds of your employees are not actively involved in helping your company move forward, how much is it costing you in lost efficiency, and what is the effect on your reputation and profitability? Before you decide that your company is different, follow Stahl-Wert’s advice and take a hard look at your company values and how well your employees communicate and live those values each day.

As a high-school teacher, I witnessed the shift in educational theory from traditional teacher-led lessons to more “engaging” formats designed to keep students involved in learning. These students enter the work force expecting their work to be engaging. As an employer, you can choose to invest in keeping employees involved or cling wistfully to the hope that, “We just need to get them to understand what we need them to do.”

The game has changed. Employees not only want to be engaged and challenged but recognized and rewarded immediately for their efforts. During my decades of employment, my employers missed many chances to use my skills and knowledge to create value for their companies, and I undoubtedly squandered the same opportunities with my own employees. Are you getting a positive return on involvement, or are most of your employees sleepwalking through the day?

Return on innovation

Is your company innovative? When you receive the plans and specifications for your next project, do you accept and follow them as drawn and written? Why not demonstrate your creativity and become the preferred electrical contractor for your most profitable customers? Invest in creativity training for your company, and inject fun into your corporate culture. Companies that make these investments experience increased vitality, creativity and productivity.

Whether you suggest better ways of designing systems or simply give your employees the chance to rethink the way they accomplish each task, you are encouraging continuous improvement. Every month, I see the hints in this magazine from electricians who have found more efficient, safer ways to work. Are you making it possible for your employees to be innovative, or are you imprisoning them with procedures and rules?

ROI for 2013 and beyond requires a willingness to redefine your paradigms. If you are ready, you can quit chasing the 21st century train and jump on board. Or, you can sit on the bench and watch it pass.

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