'Our employees are our greatest asset' is one of the most repeated and probably hypocritical comments in 'corporate promotion-speak'. Employees are many organisations greatest cost and employers need to maximise the return from such investment. Thus, items covered in FAMILIARISATION, TRAINING, COMMUNICATION and KEEPING THE TEAM sections are essential concomitants towards achieving this end and maximising the capability of employees. Employers may also have to deal with those lacking capability.

In FAMILIARISATION, it is suggested that a process as long as a year should be utilised to ensure newcomers find their feet and are properly assimilated into the Organisation. Similar support may be needed with longer service employees, particularly when they are affected by change. The process is ongoing and essential - and the investment may be swiftly repaid.

Complacency is a danger here and the answers to certain key questions may need to be checked. Whilst this could be conducted by their own managers, it may be preferable to use external consultants and to offer confidentiality and anonymity to respondents. In this way responses are more likely to be truthful and open.

Example of 'employees attitude' audit:

1. Are our plans discussed with employees so that the employees themselves 'own' the plans to gain their active commitment to them?

2. Do we encourage employees to make SUGGESTIONS and constructive criticism about the company, its products, procedures and endeavours?

3. Is there mutual respect between management and employees and are the pressures on employees in terms of working and private lives balanced?

4. Do we listen actively to our employees' ideas and concerns so that the full facts and implications of all matters are exposed?

5. Are initiatives introduced via consultation and agreement, thereby generating a 'yes' reaction and a genuine commitment?

6. Does everyone involved realise that as part of a single team their objective is to satisfy their customers in order to achieve the aims of the Organisation?

7. Is training provided and are employees encouraged to develop their skills and talents at all times, with active support from management?

8. Do managers and employees work in job-related teams mutually helping solve problems, meeting output targets that they have agreed?

9. Does information flow both ways, thus generating genuine two way communication - and is this belief confirmed by the employees?

10. Do managers 'walk the job', are they approachable and do they listen to ideas, suggestions, complaints etc.?

11. Are employees proud to state that they work for the Organisation?

The Downside

Almost inevitably some employees will be unable to perform to the standard required of them - for a variety of reasons. The difficulty may be one of personal problems or one of outright lack of skill. The problems must be identified, although motivating such employees may not work since it may appear that there is a barrier through which messages, invitations and exhortations cannot pass. Answers to the following non-exhaustive list of questions will try to build an information source which might help demonstrate areas where attention could be directed and/or problems removed, in case this can assist. Capability problems are often related to newcomers or those new to a job and thus background information is essential.

1. The Employee
a. Is person new to job?

b. Is person new to type of work?

c. Is person new to country/part of country?

d. Has person adequate reading/speaking skills:

in native language?

in language used at workplace?

Is person under stress or suffering from personal problems?

Is person under medical supervision?

Are there any housing/travel difficulties?

Is there any evidence of disaffection regarding the department, employer, etc. (for example, the employee could be annoyed at being passed over for promotion, or at not gaining a pay rise, or at a lack of recognition for a valuable suggestion implemented, and so on)?

2. Training
a. Has person been present at training courses?

b. Has there been any apparent problem in acceptability on course?

c. Is training undertaken willingly or with resentment?

d. Have courses been assessed for validity and effectiveness?

3. Relationships
a. Is person a loner?

b. Do they have problems inter-relating to other employees?

c. Is there any evidence of harassment, discrimination, victimisation?

d. Has management/supervision changed recently?

e. Does employee seem to have workplace friends?

4. Position
a. Is position appropriate to person's skills, experience, and capability?

b. Is task boring or repetitive (if so, is it possible to rotate employees so that all share in this task and others which are more interesting)?

c. Are working conditions poor?

d. Are working hours unsocial or difficult?

e. Are rewards reasonable compared to other jobs in workplace, in neighbouring employers?