The end of 2022 is within sight, and that’s always a good time to reflect on what happened within the past year and to look ahead at what we expect the next year will hold. Some annual predictions are more accurate than others; for instance, in December 2019, who would have predicted a worldwide pandemic in 2020. Over these next four columns this December, we will do that review and preview and get you ready for 2023 by focusing on the big projects, events and happenings in the region.

This week, however, I have some ideas that have been rattling around in my brain that I just want to get out. I may go more in-depth on any of these issues in the future — and likely will — but where that may be months from now, I wanted to throw them out for early consideration, because I do believe they’re important.

All of these ideas are loosely tied together by a common thread of change and our acceptance of change, tips to do so, and why the most successful businesses are usually the ones who are willing to change. These ideas are important for this moment, because just as I will be reviewing the past year and what the year to come will bring, we all do that, too. Keeping some of these thoughts in mind while you assess your situation may be helpful.

The tight labor market will reward those who change

You should never make change just so you can say, “We made change” — there needs to be a focused reason behind why you’re making that change and it needs to fit with your company beliefs and expectations. With that being said, the companies that are adapting quickly to requested changes are finding success.

If your employees want flexible scheduling but you prefer to be inflexible, there are other employers who may offer them that flexibility. If some of your non-service employees want to work from home one day per week, but you require everyone in the office to be in their cubicle every day, I assure you some other company will accommodate that request to get that person’s skill set.

Those first two examples may seem obvious, but what if your employees are interested in a specific health benefit that you don’t currently offer? What if that change is more costly than you can afford —what then? That brings me to my second point …


Be more transparent with your employees

My friends over at the Maine Tourism Association reminded me of this concept several months ago when they began promoting a business practice called Open Book Management. There are several pieces to it and loads of great examples, but essentially, the idea is to open up your books and show your employees how they fit into the system and the bottom line. Let them know why you charge what you do for certain products or services.

This brought me back to my first small business experience as our owner made it a point to break down the numbers with each employee about expenses and profits so they could see how they fit into the bottom line. From this mindset, we actually created an incentive program for on-site projects where the teams got rewarded if they packed the trucks correctly and didn’t need to come back to the office (at an additional expense) to grab more tools or product. It became a profitable, friendly competition.

Transparency for your employees, especially younger ones, is very important. I’ve read several reports on employees under 30 that say a key piece for retaining those employees is seeing where their work fits into the bigger picture.

Someone lost their keys

Have you ever been to an event and someone lost their keys? Or you saw a set of keys on the ground and said, “Yikes, someone’s lost their keys. They are going to need those to get home! I hope someone gives the keys back to them.” If so, then congratulations, you have all of the necessary experience to use the pronouns “they” and “them” when you’re unsure of what someone’s preferred pronouns are.

For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, some forward-thinking companies have invited their employees to add their preferred pronouns to their email signatures. During introductions for face-to-face meetings, some companies ask everyone to share their preferred pronouns.

Some business leaders have been resistant to this change, but as described above, you have already done it hundreds of times when you weren’t sure who was driving that car or who dropped their keys or when you weren’t sure who was picking up the order at the store. You’ve used they and them hundreds of times without giving it a thought. Maybe instead of fighting it, you could just keep doing that. Again, your younger employees will notice.

Stop sharing secondhand stories you didn’t witness

Throughout this political season, I heard about “some schools teaching wrong things” and “litter boxes for students” and other such stories, yet when I press these people on which schools have the litter boxes that the school janitors clean out, they don’t have an answer. When I ask them which specific teachers are teaching things that “shouldn’t be taught” and I ask what those things are, they don’t have an answer — they just say, “It’s happening though, because Such-And-Such told me.” Ask yourself, wouldn’t there be pictures of the litter boxes? Wouldn’t the janitors be interviewed and outraged if this were true?

At that point, you’re not sharing a fact, you’re sharing a rumor. You are putting your good name and reputation behind something you have not witnessed. At best, you’re hearing one person’s story from their side without the other side’s view of what happened — unless it’s something your friend heard vaguely about on the news. Stop putting your reputation on hearsay — again, your employees can hear you and they notice.

Cory King is executive director of the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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