ACHIEVING EXCELLENCE THROUGH TOTAL COMMITMENT

Excellence is an excellent word and excellent companies strive for achieving it. Many factors contribute to the excellence of companies chief among them is employee’s commitment. Without commitment no company can think of achieving excellence. Commitment is rather a key ingredient for improving quality and productivity, reducing defects, increasing profitability and decreasing costs.

However these days one of the major problems by all companies is the lack of total commitment from their employees. In Malaysia it is a common complaint that employees are no more loyal as they used to be in the past. As a result of lower commitment employees leave their companies for slightly higher pay. Some manager’s joke that today’s employees will leave their company even for a 50 cents increased salary offered by other companies.

Lack of loyalty is not only faced by Malaysian companies but in other countries, companies also complain of this problem. And to cope with this problem they have adopted many programmes and strategies, which tries to restore employees’ commitment. For example, Xerox is now spending US $400 million a year on management programs and consultants to retrain its employees what they call “focus on commitment to the organization”

DEFINITION OF COMMITMENT:-

Commitment may be simply defined as, “ an attitude of people for deploying their total resources towards the achievement of certain goals”.

From this definition we can pick up certain elements which lead to people’s commitment. These elements are:-

1. Commitment is an attitude:-

Commitment is an attitude a psychological frame of mind which motivate people to work towards certain goals. So for a commitment to exist in a person they must have a positive attitude. Negative attitude is one of the major reasons for non-committal approach. It will be necessary to mention here that one of the toughest jobs is to change people’s attitude. Managers can train employees with new skills and impart them with new knowledge but quite often than not they find it extremely difficult to effect changes in people’s attitude.

2. Use of resources:-

Committed people commit their total resources, which include going extra mile for achieving goals assigned to them. According to Dennis G. MacCarthy the author of the best seller book” The Loyalty Link” most employees give 60 percent of their time and attention for their jobs. It is enough to do what must be done in most cases. But to achieve excellence employees need to give 100% commitment. For example, if an employee who drives a delivery truck, all that he ought to know the customer address and the number of the cartons for delivery. An ordinary driver will deliver it at the doorstep. However committed drivers will not just dump them at the door step, rather they will go an extra mile of helping the customer to take it inside the store. That extra 40 percent effort is called discretionary effort, which can be called commitment.

3. Achievement of goals:-

The third dimension of commitment is goal orientation. Committed people not only work hard but also are also smart enough to know the ultimate results, which are expected of them. Commitment thus means striving till the achievement of ultimate goals.

OTHER QUALITIES OF COMMITTED EMPLOYEES:

In addition to the three major elements that account for employees’ commitment the following other qualities are commonly found in committed employees.

1. Understanding and total support to the company’s vision and goals:-

Committed employees understand, share and support the company’s vision and goals and consistently try towards achieving them. It will be a mistake to call a person committed just because the person is staying in the company. If the same person does not share the company’s aspirations and goals, he can not be called a committed person. In fact it will be good for the company that he leaves the company, so that the company will be a able to replace him and hire a better person.

2. Consider their company as a good place to work in:-

Another criteria for employees’ commitment are their perception of the company they work for. If they find their company as one of the best places to work in they will be urged to work longer and stay in the company.

3. Positive and “can do” attitude:-

Positive attitude is one of the greatest qualities of people as it inspires them to work harder and smarter. Positive attitude towards one’s company’s goals, bosses, fellow employees can also enhance a person’s commitment.

4. Customers focus:-

Customers are the most important people who should be the priority of everyone in the organization. Employees must do everything to serve customers, which in turn will lead to satisfied customers. At the end of the day customers satisfaction counts more than any other thing and by focusing their efforts towards customers satisfaction employees can accomplish this goal. In essence real commitment means having a customer focus, which include producing goods and services which meet or exceed customer’s satisfaction.

5. Seeking continuos improvement:-

Lastly, another factor which entitle employees to be called “committed” is their desire to seek new knowledge, skills and attitudes which help them and their companies in getting excellent results. An organization consists of its people and if people do not renew their capabilities it can lead to their demise.

BENEFITS OF COMMITMENTS:-

1. The key to excellence:-

Commitment is the key for achieving excellence. In fact with commitment excellence is predictable in business, personal and other areas and without it failure and mediocrity is predictable. No business, organization or person can dream of excellence without total commitment. So to inspire people to achieve excellence we have to fist gain their total commitment. I would say that ten committed persons are better than having hundred non-committed persons.

2. Make things happen:-

The hardest step in achieving excellence is commitment, without which nothing can happen. So to make things happen a company needs employees who are committed and loyal.

3. Leads to loyalty:-

Committed employees will stay loyal with the companies than those who are not committed. The main reason is their desire to complete the things they start and grow along with the company. Non-committed people on the other hand are just killing time and the moment they spot a better opportunity elsewhere they would quit the existing company.

4. Job satisfaction:-

One of the major dissatisfiers for people is not achieving result they work for. And no one can achieve any good result without total commitment. So when a person is committed he/she achieves better results which in then positively reinforces their ego and thus leads to job satisfaction. And job satisfaction is one of the key drivers for people to work harder and stay longer in their companies.

5. Commitment leads to better customer satisfaction:-

Committed employees go the extra mile to satisfy customers. This leads to loyal customers and loyal customers means good business. In fact according to a research loyal customers are more profitable than new customers.

WHY PEOPLE LACK COMMITMENT:-

Before we suggest how to gain commitment from employees we should identify the roadblocks which hamper employees commitment. The following are some of the factors which retard employees’ commitment. These are:

1. Poor reward and recognition:-

People will not feel like doing their best and will settle for mediocrity when they feel that their employers’ commitment in terms of reward and recognition is lacking. Commitment is a mutual phenomenon when employers what to get the best from their employees and do not reciprocate it with proper reward and recognition people will not give their commitment.

2. Dead-end jobs:-

Work, which does not offer opportunities for growth and promotion, is one of the greatest reasons for employees’ de-motivation and non-commitment. A recent study carried out by “ The Loyalty Institute “ of AON consulting in USA found out that jobs which deprive employees from self development and growth opportunities leads to high dissatisfaction and employees disloyalty.

3. Managing by intimidation:-

Mistreating people, and managing them by threats, screams and embarrassment also leads to employee’s dissatisfaction, which in turn weaken their commitment. In a best seller book “ The Loyalty Link” Dennis G. McCarthty has identified managing by intimidation as one of the seven ways which undermine employees loyalty.

4. Negative working environment:-

Non-acceptance by colleagues, poor cooperation too much politics, and other negative behaviors by colleagues, supervisors and other people in the company can also hamper commitment. At the end of the day people want piece of mind, which if not available in the work environment will discourage them to show total support to its company.

5. No job security:-

One of the major needs of employees is job security. If the employee feels that he/she can lose his/her job anytime then they would not be committed towards the achievement of the company.

6. Negative attitude:-

Some people by nature are not committed to anything and anyone and as such they would not be committed to their employer. Commitment is an attitude and those who lack it will find it difficult to totally commit themselves to their jobs.

STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVING COMMITMENT:
One of the main reasons why many companies have miserably failed in their improvement programmes and wasted millions of dollars is their fallacy to discount the importance of human resources. Programmes like Reengineering, TQM, Cost reduction etc have miserable failed because they overlooked the importance which people can play in the success or failure of any improvement programme. No amount of computerization, automation, standardization or re-organisation effort can get any result if people are not committed to make it succeed. If employees’ commitment play such pivotal role in the success or failure of an organisation then managers must make all out effort to gain it. I have developed a 10 points strategy which could result in the improvement of employees commitment. These points are:

1. REWARD AND RECOGNITION:
Top on the list of strategies for gaining total commitment from employees will be a proper reward and recognition system. The system should include both material as well as psychological rewards. Reward begets commitment and the bottom-line for any employee to work is to earn proper reward and recognition. This is the main why everyone works and once this is properly given to an employee he will be motivated to invest more in his/her job. Employee’s perception of the reward and recognition can also affect their commitment. Genghis Khan one of the greatest emperors in the history is well known for effectively using this strategy even for gaining loyalty from defeated enemies. Genghis Khan’s army in addition to Mongols also included Chinese, Indians and other ethnic races. After defeating them he would assimilate them into his army. However never ever these people revolted against him, one of the main reasons being his policy to positively reward and publicly recognize those who showed better results. As a result the empire created by Genghis Khan was the largest Land Empire ever created by anyone in the history of mankind. This proves that a barbarian and brutal person like Chenghis Khan also knew the importance of reward and recognition as one of the key factors for winning commitment and loyalty from others.

2. PROVIDE GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES:
Another powerful weapon, which can cause deeper commitment among employees, is the growth opportunities provided by the company. Growth and development is an inborn need of human beings and reaching there is everyone’s desire. How can companies provide growth opportunities for their employee? There are many ways, which a company can adopt to help its employees grow. Providing opportunities for assuming greater responsibility, promotion, value-added job, meaningful and worthwhile job, and learning culture enable employees to grow and develop. Once they recognize that the growth of the company will result in their own growth they will be more than willing to put in committed efforts.

3. RESPECT AND BOOSTING SELF ESTEEM:
Whether a person is a sweeper or a chairman they equally need respect. A good manager respects people at all levels and this respect communicates to them that the manager has a high opinion of them and their potential. In turn they will always try to prove him right by doing whatever is necessary. In 1989 on a consultancy assignment I was attached to Medtronic’s International Holland, a pacemaker manufacturing company. That time the company had initiated a major organisational improvement programme involving quality teams. In one of the meetings while talking to the factory workers who were involved as teams, the general manager Mr. Frank Sprenger addressed them and said “We are very lucky to have you in this factory paying only for your two hands, and using your brains for free. You are very capable people because each one of you has this excellent asset. We would highly appreciate if from today onwards in addition to your hands you also use this greatest asset for bringing new ideas and suggestions on how we could improve our performance” I could see the light of joy and pride in their eyes. They really felt great and respected. As a result they committed with their hearts and souls and did make the project a total success. The company achieved enormous results. This experience exemplifies the fact that people when respected will do their best to attain success for any project or company plan.

4. PROVIDE VISION AND GET IT SUPPORTED:
Commitment can not be achieved from people if they do not know the answer to the basic question “Commitment towards what?”. In view organisations and its leaders must provide a compelling vision of the future for its employees. People will act if they know and can visualize what they are supposed to achieve. An effective leader will motivate people by giving them a vision of what they can become, and how they can transform their organisations. During some of the training programmes I conduct an exercise called “Vision 2000 for my company”. The exercise requires the participants to write in their own words what they would like their organisation and department to become in year 2000. They are also required to describe how they would commit themselves towards the achievement of these visions. It is amazing to note that most of the times, not only senior managers but also employees at supervisory levels come up with excellent visions and ideas. They also sincerely want to achieve the attainment of the visions. It could be due to the fact that people are vision directed. As such every organisation must provide a clear vision to its people. Additionally employees must be also helped to align their actions towards the achievement of the vision. A good vision should be challenging, meaning something worth the extra effort and sacrifice. Challenging your employees to create new standards of excellence produces powerful and positive results. A vision should also be articulated in simple and easy to understand language. Writing a vision, incomprehensible by a common person is good as a showpiece on the wall, but if the achievement of results is aimed the vision should be articulated in simple terms and layman terminology.
It is necessary to note that a vision is a group effort and it must be communicated, shared and supported by everyone in the company. Towards this end a good manager will also try to make the company vision compatible with the employees’ individual visions and dreams in life. It could be done through showing employees how the achievement of the organisation will contribute to their lives in the form of increased salaries, better working conditions, career advancement or shareholdings. People will give their best shots once they are clear about rewards-as they say people work for their reasons not ours.

5. MUTUAL COMMITMENT:
The only way to restore employees’ commitment is to restore employers’ commitment. This means that employers in order to expect support from employees should first initiate it in terms of leadership by example or self-commitment, being responsible to employees needs and sharing the benefits. This also means providing proper tools and equipment, adequate training and other inputs needed by the people for successfully performing their jobs.

6. PROVIDE GOOD WORKING ENVIRONMENT:
Today most of the working people spend their major portion of time at work. From morning to late evening people late evening people work in their workplaces and when return to their houses they feel dead tired. One major factor which employees would highly appreciate is the existence of a congenial working environment, where they are happy to work with others. Teamwork, cooperation, friendship with colleagues and bosses, and mutual respect are some of the signs of a good working environment which attract employees and retain them to stay longer with a company. In contrast, too much politicking, back biting, turf wars, and other negative practices discourage people to work with a company unless they have no other place to work in. As such good working environment will serves as the mortar, which binds employees together and with the organization.

7. EMPOWERMENNT:
Empowerment means giving people the power, authority, freedom and responsibility to carry out their jobs. This gives them a sense of control over their work and makes them feel worthy of doing things on their own. Empowerment leads to greater job satisfaction and sense of control, which can result in better commitment and loyalty.

8. HIRING THE RIGHT PEOPLE:
One of the worst mistakes companies make is hiring wrong people. Wrong people include people possess negative attitudes, lack job competence, and do not meet the requirements of the jobs they are hired for. To sustain a good pool of committed employees companies need to give due diligence to recruiting new people.

9. WORK/LIFE BALANCE:
Helping employees to achieve a better balance between their work and personal lives is another key factor most likely to encourage people to stay with an organisaiton. Many studies have revealed that work life balance is one of the main concerns of employees. Organizations, which enable employees for balancing, work and family responsibilities have a positive impact on employees’ decision to stay with them. Hoechst Celanes USA an affiliate of the Hoechst Group one of the largest producers of pharmaceuticals have started a programme, which aims at achieving this objective. In order to gauge the effectiveness of such programme Hoechst carried out a survey of more than 3000 employees. The study clearly revealed that the Hoechst programme was highly appreciated and well received by the employees and served as one of the major factors for employees to continue working with the company. Many other identical studies have also confirmed the importance of work life balance as a factor to enhance employees’ loyalty.

10. OUT OF THE WAY HELP:
One of the highly appreciated things especially in eastern culture is the out of the way help people receive from their employers and managers. Like they say “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. Depending on situations things like visiting employees when they are sick, attending their relatives’ weddings and funerals, or support through depression etc. are some of the out of the way things which managers could do for their employees. These gestures will normally be reciprocated by employees in the form of enhanced commitment to their employers.

CONCLUSION:
Commitment of employees plays a key role in helping organizations achieving excellence. On the other hand non-committed and disloyal employees can ruin grand plans and hamper strategies for achieving excellence. It is thus extremely important that companies give more attention to fostering commitment in their employees. By removing roadblocks which retard employees’ commitment and incorporating conditions and adopting positive strategies for instilling commitment companies can achieve great results. The ten points strategy proposed in this presentation if properly implemented and honestly deployed could prove a very powerful weapon for achieving excellence.

Author's Bio: 

EDUCATION:
o Doctor OF Business Administration-DBA, American University
of Hawaii-USA.
o M.B.A. and BBA, Peshawar University, Pakistan.
o LLB, Karachi University, Pakistan.
o Post graduate diploma in Management The Netherlands.
o Post Graduate Diploma in Banking, PIDB, Pakistan.
TEACHING AND PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE:
He is a visiting professor to the American Central University, USA and have taught various courses such as Project Management, management, leadership, communication, strategic management etc. He has provided consultancies to Medtronics International (Holland) the biggest pace making company in the world in their switch over to Japanese style of management, German Agency for development Co-operation (GTZ) for designing and conducting Entrepreneurship training, the Swiss Government for developing policy for the promotion of small and medium scale industries. He is the director of MINA RESOURCE, a leading Malaysian Management consultancy and educational organisation. He is an internationally renowned trainer and consultant, registered on the roasters of ILO United Nations, The Asian Development Bank and The Commonwealth Secretariat.
Dr. Adalat has also helped many companies in their improvement programmes like, BPR, OD, Business revivals and has also conducted training programmes for many organisations and trained hundreds of people both in Malaysia and overseas. He has conducted many programmes for Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA), Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), and International Youth Centre (IYC). He has also spoken to international conferences like Trainers Meets Trainers 95, organised by SMR. The response and feed back received confirms his excellent and results oriented training approaches. His focus on achieving both qualitative and quantitative results has helped many organisations save and earn huge financial gains.
Additionally he has also attended various prestigious short terms training programmes, ISO Lead Assessors course conducted by NEVILLE CLARK, Project appraisal techniques by World Bank, Entrepreneurship development by MSI USA starting your own business, USAID, Certified trainer by GTZ Germany, certified trainer by The Institute for Supervision and Management (ISM) UK, and numerous other organisations. During the past 15 years he has worked, trained and consulted with manufacturers, Government agencies, Banks, Insurance companies, and International agencies.

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIP AND CERTIFICATIONS:
o Certified trainer- The Department of Occupational Safety and Health, Malaysia.
o certified trainer by The Institute for Supervision and Management (ISM) UK,
o Certified trainer- German Agency for development Co-operation (GTZ)
o Certified trainer by The American Academy of Education, AED-USAID.
o Member of United States Distance Learning Association-USDLA,
o The Planning Forum USA.
o MALAYSIAN SOCIETY FOR TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT, NED United Nations.
o Able Toast Masters, Toast Masters International-USA.
o Written several publications, which are published in United Nation's publications, international magazines, WORLD EXECUTIVE DIGEST, and Management Times etc.