Don’t you just love employees who show up every day, post strong numbers and rarely bother you about anything? They are completely self-sufficient and the foundation of your business. Well, get ready to see them walk out the door.
The number one reason why most Americans leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated. A Gallup survey found that 65% of people reported they get no recognition for good work. A 2012 Deloitte study found that nearly 75% of organizations have recognition programs, but 45% of their employees don’t know they exist. The same survey found that companies with effective recognition programs have 31% lower voluntary turnover than organizations with ineffective recognition programs. A Society for Human Resource Management/Globoforce survey found that firms with strategic recognition have 23.4% less turnover overall than firms without them.
Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who, in 1954, developed a model for understanding human motivation. In Maslow’s hierarchy, two of the most valuable human needs are to be appreciated and to have a sense of belonging. In a decorative plumbing and hardware showroom, meeting the need for appreciation and belonging requires having a peer-to-peer recognition program and constantly saying thank you for jobs well done.
The evidence is overwhelming of the benefits of retaining best-in-class team members, and attracting them as well. As Maslow surmised, recognition is a fundamental human need. Employees, especially Millennials, want to believe that what they do is important and that they are employed in a meaningful profession. The return on investment for offering a recognition program in your showroom includes:
Increased employee productivity
Increased employee satisfaction and workplace enjoyment that results in more time focused on the job and less time complaining
Greater customer loyalty and satisfaction
Less employee absenteeism
Decorative plumbing and hardware professionals often quip that they sell toilets. Technically, that is correct; however, using the self-deprecating moniker of toilet seller dismisses the value that sales professionals bring to their clients, their showrooms and themselves. Decorative plumbing and hardware professionals enrich their customers’ lives. While one professional may describe what they do as selling toilets, another may state that they make their customers’ lives better and more stylish. Which employee do you believe gets more satisfaction from their job? Who will be more productive and loyal?
Sales training guru Gerry Layo argues that you can’t grow sales without growing your sales team. That requires developing systems that engage staff. Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter found three keys to effective employee engagement.
The first is mastery. Showroom managers and owners need to help people develop their skill sets. Doing so makes the statement to your staff that they can shape their futures instead of being victimized by circumstances and events beyond their control. It also makes a statement to your customers that DPHA 2015 Conference Keynoter Steve Brazelle (The Hitman, Inc.) described as the law of trust. Customers trust experts.
Next is membership: Managers and owners who honor individuality make a statement that their employees are important to the overall success of the showroom. To make that statement meaningful and credible, owners and managers need to learn what their team members truly care about.
Kanter’s third component of effective engagement is meaning, emphasizing and reinforcing that what each member of your team does is important and meaningful.
Mastery, membership and meaning are the reasons why the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association (DPHA) created a groundbreaking recognition program. DPHA’s Recognition Program includes a series of exams based on a showroom professional’s understanding of different products and product categories and their ability to explain the technical, functional and aesthetic differences of products sold in showrooms and those that can be found elsewhere. Examples of questions on the Recognition Program exams include:
Which multipoint configuration is best matched to typical American locking hardware?
Your client would like to mount a vessel sink on top of the vanity. What height vanity should you recommend?
What are some of the issues a showroom sales professional should consider when assisting a client with kitchen sink choices?
The test questions have been developed from content found in the DPHA Education Program manuals. Currently, there are 21 different tests included in the Recognition Program. A 22nd on lighting is under development. There are tests focusing exclusively on hardware, plumbing and general industry knowledge.
The plumbing tests include:
Supplies and Waste Assemblies
Toilets and Bidets
Hardware tests include:
Adorning the Door
Locks and Latch Sets
Protecting the Door
General knowledge tests include:
Care and Maintenance
Greening the Bath
Participants must answer 100% of the questions correctly to pass the test. When they do, a profile page is created on the DPHA Web site. When DPHA’s new site is developed, the profile page will also be on the public side of the site. The profile page identifies the product and content areas that each showroom professional has successfully completed. Additionally, those who successfully pass the Recognition Program tests receive a certificate. Many are displaying the certificates in their work areas at their showrooms, and displaying their credentials on their business cards.
Nearly 125 showroom professionals have participated in the testing. Belmont Hardware has embraced the program for its seven Northern California showrooms. According to Richard Campbell, Belmont’s operations manager, “The Recognition Program creates competitive advantages. We are modifying our Web site to include a profile of sales professionals in each branch. Each profile will identify the sales professionals’ strengths, areas of expertise and the credentials they have earned. When customers visit our Web site, they will see a company dedicated to professional development with an experienced, credentialed team that most other competitors do not have.”
Campbell added that the program has boosted staff morale and reinforced that the decorative plumbing and hardware industry is one that is constantly changing. That means sales professionals need to leave their comfort zones and learn about new products, technologies and applications. “Our team realized that there is always something new to learn. The recognition program has prompted my sales team to think differently and challenged our team to expand their knowledge base,” Campbell said.
At Chown Hardware’s two showrooms in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA, the experienced showroom professionals were asking for a type of credential that would demonstrate to customers that they are knowledgeable, experienced and trustworthy. “When DPHA announced the Recognition Program, we jumped in head first,” Chown V.P. Kaye Powell said.
“Our staff embraced the program,” Powell added. “Becoming recognized for their knowledge and expertise is essential to helping customers with their projects, and earning their trust is priceless.”
At Chown and at ProSource’s five showrooms in the Carolinas, management is using the recognition program to help train those new to their showrooms and the industry, as well as obtaining credentials for experienced staff. ProSource Principal Tonya Martin explained why she made program participation mandatory for every staff member. “I want ProSource to be known as an industry leader. Having every member of our team earn credentials makes a statement about who we are and what we value.”
The DPH industry has become increasingly complicated. For both experienced professionals and newcomers, having a recognition program available to them provides opportunities to expand skill sets. Martin said, “The program has given every member of our team confidence to sell every product that we show on the sales floor. We know that if our sales professionals are not familiar with a product category, they will not gravitate toward those products. We recently added lighting and door hardware to our merchandise mix and hired staff with expertise in both product categories. However, they are not always available. Now, thanks to the readily available DPHA training tools and the Recognition Program, every sales professional has the knowledge and confidence to sell not only plumbing, but also door hardware and lighting.”
The benefits of having a formalized recognition program are not limited to showrooms. Fred Felder, who owns the four Simon’s Bath Showrooms in New England, is encouraging representatives and manufacturer customer service personnel to participate, in addition to his staff. “Participating not only makes a statement about a representative’s knowledge, it also provides insight into the products and challenges that showrooms face daily. Participating gives a hands-on feeling without having to be hands on,” Felder said.
DPHA’s long-term goal is to create a showroom professional certification. For now, however, the industry has an easily accessible, cost-effective resource that can train new hires and provide a source of continuing education and professional development for newcomers and experienced professionals. Most importantly, it recognizes who we are, what we do and the value we bring to our clients and their projects.
Jerry Williams is the owner of WMS Decorative Resource, a representative agency based in Vacaville, CA. He is also a member of the DPHA Board of Directors.