It should be no surprise then, that the ones who take a positive approach often pay close attention to employee satisfaction, not just the running results but also new ideas or initiatives that could enhance overall employee satisfaction. I have participated in employee BBQ’s, holiday gift giving, raffles, lunch and learns to name a few. Often times, the best ideas come from others, especially those outside of HR.
One such idea came to me a couple years ago, coincidentally the current rampant hoarding of toilet paper in North America reminded me of this example, well intentioned as an initiative yet destined to fail. A senior manager from a guest department approached me with an idea he put in place at a previous work location. He thought it was brilliant! For context, on ships, employees work and live onboard. The majority of whom are responsible to clean and maintain their assigned cabin, this includes retrieving fresh bed linens, towels and toilet paper from a central crew pick up location near the ships main laundry facility.
I quickly learned from this senior manager that this was not an idea but an expectation he had of my team, that we would do it no matter what. I shared all of my objective concerns but said we would try, and do our best. That I would monitor and bring forward my feedback.
My brilliant team, working with our onboard carpenters designed and built a very simple yet functional, gravity fed toilet paper dispenser out of plexiglass. It looked great and could easily be mounted outside of the HR office. It could hold 50 rolls when fully stocked. When it was installed the senior manager was very proud and made sure to ask crew if they were using it, indeed they were.
Knowing this was a priority for the senior manager, I made sure to keep an extra eye on it every time I passed by from meeting to meeting etc. I often found it empty! (panic!). I would peak my head into the HR office and ask my team the last time someone had stocked it? I often received faces of disappointment from my team as they would tell me, “20 minutes ago” or “omg only 10 minutes ago”. How could this be true? I wondered.
One of my secondary concerns was where to store the main re-supply boxes of toilet paper to stock the dispenser outside the office? The HR office is tight with not a square inch to spare. We ended up having to have a tower of boxes containing hundreds of rolls of toilet paper on the floor of the employee side of the HR office. On several occasions, when I noticed the dispenser was empty I would quickly restock it myself and make note of the time. I quickly learned first hand that the dispenser would be emptied of its contents sometimes within just 5 minutes. My first concern confirmed. I prefer not to conduct employee satisfaction initiatives that could create more disappointment than satisfaction.
We quickly learned that the majority of crew members opinions of this dispenser was, “it was always empty/never stocked” or “the HR team never stock it” or “other crew are hoarding the supplies”. Where any of these sentiments actually true? No, but that is not the point. This is how the employees felt and their feelings were neither right nor wrong, yet they were their actual feelings and they matter.
I feared disappointing the employees overall, I also feared that my hard working HR team would be blamed/shamed for results less than perfection. My team was demoralized because they really wanted it to work and they do want to do whatever it takes to enhance employee satisfaction. Simply, sometimes the best laid planes do not work out.
I declared deafest on the initiative. Not everything is going to succeed or work out. I did really want this idea to work because at a simple level I got why the convenience of it to the crew made so much sense. I made an executive decision and had it removed after we gave it a solid 3 month effort. Instead we replaced it with a professional placard that reminded all crew where they could retrieve any convenience items. I was new once and a ship can be a confusing place to navigate.
The senior manager who brought the idea forward has moved on to a new work location and I wonder if he has tried to implement the same idea? I reached out to my colleague at the previous location he said it worked so well. My colleague told me she had it removed as soon as he had left to join my work location.
Have you ever seen an employee satisfaction idea implemented that did not work out? Comment below.
Don’t run out of TP.