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Don't Let Your Business Suffer From Corporate Flu

02/25/2014 05:11 EST | Updated 04/27/2014 05:59 EDT

It's flu season. Get a shot. Protect yourself. Protect your family.

But for those of you who do get sick, most often you ignore it and carry on. Most of us ignore internal signs until it is almost to late. But when your spouse, partner or child is sick you move heaven and earth to cure them.

Strangely enough today's business environment reflects the internal and external struggles of illness. When churn is high, recruitment costs increase and skill shortages become an HR headache. Employers, in their arrogance, ignore or explain away the problem. They consider workers are replaceable, and act as if everything will be better when the economy is stronger. Staff HR issues are viewed as an internal, temporary problem and, at best, a low-priority issue.

Juxtapose that with the classic external issue: clients are unhappy with products or services. No resource is spared here. Businesses regularly forego profits to throw money at customer surveys, logistics, marketing, and technology to keep their customers happy. How much has your business spent on keeping employees happy? Not much, I bet.

No matter how much you spend on your customer by beefing up marketing, product development, logistics and delivery your failure point will continue to be your own employees. If turnover is high and morale is low -- two easily measured indicators of corporate health -- your customers will know. Dysfunctional businesses give off a discernible reek to outsiders, even if management has grown used to the stench.

Just as your body starts to fail from constant stress or neglected disease, a business with a corporate culture that is toxic to its employees starts to shut down. In a business that can take the former of higher absenteeism, missed deadlines, defection of key staff who make lateral moves or choose self-employment and even end up as competitors.

There are many ways to take your corporate temperature. I developed the DMS index, and my friend Robert Hutton developed the concept of internal polling. Mr. Hutton, one of Canada's best pollsters, explained to me that an unhealthy company is afraid of talking to their employees for the same reason a bad politician dislikes talking to his/her constituents. They don't want to know what people think -- ignorance is bliss. Robert created a fabulous tool; I like to think of health check for companies. As an outside expert (like a doctor) he performs a series of focus groups (tests) that help determine the health of an organization. Then he delivers his diagnoses.

Based on personal experience your company's survival depends on it.

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