“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.”
– Lucius Annaeus Seneca
About a year ago a friend came to me with a problem common to many businesses, high employee turnover. Concerned about the impact of turnover rates on his company, he sat down and ran some numbers. He quickly realized that turnover was eating significantly into the company’s profit margin.
As we discussed his situation we realized there were some processes that made it difficult for employees to do their jobs smoothly and several employees that were making the lives of team members difficult.
We had found points of friction inside his company.
The good news is friction does not indicate failure- friction indicates a point of growth. Growth is fun and exciting!
Over the months we have worked to create new processes that eliminated employee frustration, and removed employees who refused to be team players. Morale improved, production went up; instead of turnover, his business has experienced additional job creation.
These following five steps apply to any business looking to alleviate friction. I even use them in my personal life to enhance my marriage and friendships.
- Step back and examine the friction: Take time to pull yourself out of the situation and give it a hard look. Do this in a quiet place, free of distractions, where you can dedicate time.
- Locate the context: Try to identify where the friction comes into play. Is it only in certain situations? Is it a common complaint?
- Identify the root cause: This step can be difficult, but it is an important one. You need to understand and treat the root of the issue, not just bandaid the symptoms.
- What needs to change?: Often minor changes have a big effect. Another client moved a piece of equipment and employee complaints dropped nearly to zero because access to the tools they need was easier at hand. Can you introduce a minor change to alleviate the issue?
- Get input from your team: Your people are on the front lines, they have intimate knowledge of what works well and what does not. I bet they also have ideas on how to make things better. Never overlook the importance of insight you can gain from them.
What friction are you experiencing professionally or personally?
How can these five steps be applied to your situation?