In today´s Wall Street Journal there´s an excellent story about what happened when one small business owner decided to tackle the problem of high insurance premiums and the escalating costs of health care for his employees. One of the most interesting aspects of the story is the way the head honcho of this company, which remanufactures automatic transmissions, has gotten involved. Instead of hiring someone to examine the buying behavior (of health care services and medicines) of his employees he sat down, sequestered himself and his assistant and really taught himself about what was going on.
It was only after he understood the motivation behind how people were purchasing their health care that he could help them change their behavior. It took time and it was frustrating, but ultimately the exercise (an understatement, right?) saved his company money and helped educate his staff so that they could become knowledgeable consumers. Remember that old commercial for Sims when Marcy Sims used to look into the camera and say, " An informed consumer is our best customer"? I think that line from TV was my introduction to good marketing and great advertising. It can also remind us that employees are not just workers employed by a company to deliver a service; they´re customers, too, and the more we treat them that way-with respect-the more engaged they may become-in their jobs, in each other, and in the company they work for.
Treating our employees like customers has another advantage: it give them some tools to use as they become better at serving your customers. It´s easier to adapt certain strategies when you know how well they work in your own life. We sort of become our own testimonials. So if we can show employees how to better take care of themselves they may take better care of the company´s customers.
It´s not always so easy though and sometimes, especially where health care is concerned, certain privacy issues arise and then what? Good judgment comes in handy, but mostly it is hard, hard work. Something usually has to give if you´re going to squirrel yourself away to examine how a program is really working in your company.
Instead of abandoning the problem of higher health care costs, this owner of the company I mentioned earlier saw an opportunity for education. By reviewing the buying behaviors of his employees he became privy to some information that he was always comfortable with. But he maintained his respect for people and stuck with his originally intention of lowering costs and teaching people how to be better shoppers of health care. I wouldn´t be surprised if many of them have begun to adopt some of those buying strategies in other parts of their lives.