From the Editor’s Desk: How strong is your team?
November 2nd, 2007

by Janet Arden, Editor

November-December 2007

One of the continuing challenges across the tile industry is staffing. Genuinely good employees—team players who support other employees and their employers—are hard to come by but invaluable. Delivering the industry education to make them tile professionals adds yet another dimension to the problem. Here are some easy, accessible solutions.
I recently came across an interesting bit of management advice to help you address part one of this dilemma. It’s from Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden of Contented Cow Partners, LLC, who help business leaders produce better results through a focused, fired-up and capably led workforce.

You don’t need to implement all of these actions or spend a lot of money to see results.

Conduct a morale survey. Find out how you’re doing in the morale department. Regularly (and formally) assess employee attitudes, morale and perceptions of the work environment through the use of a survey. Feed the results back to everyone and make use of them in the promotion, retention and compensation of all those in a leadership capacity. Use the data to manage, measure and reshape the organization’s strategic people priorities.

Evaluate training feedback. The next time an employee attends any kind of training, ask them ahead of time to be prepared to tell you three new concepts or skills they learned, and one thing they will begin doing differently as a result. Assure them this is not a test, but a way to implement learning in the workplace.

Show employees the fruits of their labor. Find a meaningful way to show employees how the product they make, service they support or work they do is actually used by your customers. Catlette and Hadden cite a company that meets this challenge with field trips. The company manufactures highly technical medical supplies. The plant manager started arranging tours of a nearby hospital where the assembly workers could see their products at work, saving lives and delivering drugs and pain relief to patients. They returned with such excitement and rediscovered appreciation for their work that the office staff began to participate as well. Now, everyone in the plant makes a couple of trips a year to continue reinforcing this message: “What we do here is important.”

Investigate effectiveness of internal communications. Here’s a little pop quiz you can use to see if your internal corporate communications are working: Ask the next 10 employees you bump into to write down the company’s top three business priorities. If the answers are all exactly the same, congratulations! If they aren’t, you had better get busy —as former NFL head coach Jimmy Johnson once put it, “Confused players aren’t very aggressive.”

Sit on the footlocker. Get in the trenches with your employees, because good leadership is involved leadership. Major General Melvin Zais, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Viet Nam, circa 1968, once said in a speech to future officers, “If you’ll get out of your warm house and go down to the barracks…and just sit on the footlocker…you don’t have to tell ‘em they’re doing a great job. Just sit on the footlocker and talk to one or two soldiers and leave. They’ll know that you know that they’re working hard to make you look good.”

Leverage the wealth of industry education from CTDA
CTDA and the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (U of CTS) have developed a series of online educational programs to help ceramic tile employees be more effective at their jobs. For example, Understanding the Basics of Ceramic Tile is for new employees and those who haven’t had the opportunity to learn about the history and all the aspects of ceramic tile. The course teaches the History, Types and Uses of Ceramic Tile, the Manufacturing Process, Installation and Maintenance, How to Select the Right Ceramic Tile, and How to Avoid Problems and False Expectations. Designed to help sales people increase their sales of ceramic tile, the course also provides many sales techniques. Employees enjoy more credibility with customers and sell more tile with more upgrades.

Participation is easy, since students only need a computer and internet access. Tuition includes 14-day, 24/7 access to the self-paced, interactive format which allows participants to come and go as time allows. There is no loss of productive employee time and there are no travel expenses. CTDA members enjoy a significantly discounted price (only $55/course; that’s $40 off the regular price!).

CTDA’s Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program offers participating companies prestige, professional recognition, expanded knowledge and increased customer satisfaction through documented sales competence. It’s the first and only certification program specifically designed by and for ceramic tile salespeople! The benefits are significant: CCTS increases professionalism and employee pride, promotes focus on product features and benefits and provides a competitive edge. The bottom line is increased profits.

Tile Training in a Box is an easy, affordable introduction to the ceramic tile industry. It comes complete with a tabbed binder of resource information, PowerPoint presentations for each lesson, and an updated stone section.
CTDA’s Color/Shade Variation Program™ uses graphic representations of each variation along with full-color photographs of actual tile installations. This is the valuable industry tool that trains your salespeople to sell shade and color variations as part of the intrinsic art that is tile. As a result they can create appropriate shade and color expectations for your customers and save thousands of dollars each year in costly tear-outs.

Industry training from CTDA. Use it. Require it. Reward employees for doing it.

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