Your biggest investment

Many businesses say it’s their employees, but do they really treat them as such?

A friend recently shared his tale of woe.

His washing machine suddenly died. There are four people living in the house, so it’s a necessity, especially since they live in an upscale neighborhood with no laundromats around.

All his appliances are made by the same company, and he has a repair insurance policy that covers all of them. He pays $50 a month for supposedly trouble-free operations and repairs if they ever become necessary.

One would think “lucky guy, nothing to worry about,” but that’s not the case. It took three weeks to get the washer fixed. It seems they were “waiting for parts.” When the parts finally arrived, a technician came at 5 p.m. on a Saturday. It took him about an hour, and he had four other calls to make after that.

Offhand, I’d say this process is overcapacity. My friend thinks he will drop the insurance and simply buy a new appliance the next time one breaks. In fact, it probably cost the company more to repair this unit than it would have cost them to replace it.

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common story in many industries. There seem to be several problems here.

To begin with, it sounds like the supply chain problem is still with us, despite what everyone wants to believe. And of course, when there’s a shortage, companies would much rather ship completed products for sale rather than just repair parts. Since this is a well-known reality, many repair companies stock commonly failing parts to ensure they can take care of their customers right away. If the shortage is so bad, they can’t do that; it’s time to find another supplier.

Secondly, the repair tech is working on a Saturday night. He may be making a lot of money on overtime, but how long can he keep this up before he gets sick of it? This process is not sustainable.

Admittedly, there is a “worker shortage,” and repair techs need certain skills and a fair amount of training before you can send them out. Hanging a “Now Hiring All Positions” sign on the door doesn’t seem to be working for a lot of companies.

Have you ever wondered why some companies are desperate to get help and other companies have a line of people waiting and hoping to get in? The answer doesn’t seem to be just paying more money. How we treat people seems to be far more important.

Are we considered a great place to work? Do our employees and customers speak well of us? The pandemic was tough on everybody, and it’s really difficult to outlive the reputations we built during and even before the pandemic.

No doubt, part of the problem is many people got used to staying home and getting paid to do nothing. Whether that was a good idea or not, we have to live with the consequences. Complaining doesn’t solve the problem. We can struggle along, hoping we don’t lose too many customers or find ways to satisfy our customers in a timely manner.

If our reputation is the problem, the sooner we take positive steps to fix it, the better off we’ll be. Consider visiting a school that educates and/or trains the kind of people you want to hire. Is there something you can do for recent grads? Get a list with phone numbers and start calling.

You might also want to talk to some seniors. Yes, you might have to wait until June to get them full time, but could they work part time and during school vacations? If so, treat them well; this is your chance to train them the way you want and hopefully make them want to stay for the long term. They’re auditioning for you, but you’re also auditioning for them.

Many companies claim their employees are their biggest investment, but they seldom treat them as well as their other investments. Treating employees well often puts us head and shoulders above the competition. Everyone wants to get ahead. Helping them develop makes them more valuable. You don’t want to wait until a competitor recognizes their value and hires them away.

None of this is easy, but it sure beats going out of business.

Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Salem, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or

Categories: Business Advice, Workplace Advice