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Respectfully yours to profit from

Published on Friday, 23 Mar 2012
Illustration: Bay Leung
Book: RESPECT: Delivering Results by Giving Employees What They Really Want
Author: Jack Wiley and Brenda Kowske
Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Find out what it means to me
Take care, TCB…”

And so Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin sang so magnificently in her 1967 signature song, Respect. ‘TCB’ stands for “take care of business,” and if you’re serious about surviving the unforgiving jungle that is business in Hong Kong, this word is as apposite as if you’re dealing with the kind of relationship that Franklin is addressing in her timeless anthem.

(Thankfully, Respect authors Jack Wiley and Brenda Kowske didn’t make the mistake of not mentioning the living legend.)

Focusing on respect – with a lower-case first letter – makes perfect sense, affirms our common sense and helps build a strong business sense. After all, as the authors point out, respect generates results and excellence.

This book breaks it all down into seven key elements, summarised by the hammily created acronym. Among other findings, the authors say that companies and human resources (HR) managers who deliver R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – read on to find out what each letter stands for – outperform those who don’t, outscoring in employee-engagement by 117 per cent and in operational performance by 64 per cent. The former’s customer satisfaction level is also much greater, though this is hard to quantify but perhaps the most impacted performance gauge. And their return on assets is up to 10 times higher, the authors claim.

An accessible and fun guide to a serious issue, Respect is written for every kind of business leader – from KFC supervisors to C-suites across town. Best practices and solutions presented here are said to be applicable both vertically – at any point up and down the office hierarchy – and horizontally, across a broad range of industries.

Here are the components that make up the chapters of this guide to instant workplace sunniness.

Recognition involves a pat on the back from the person you report to or the organisation at large. (When was the last time you got one of those?) Exciting work usually comes from a job that’s challenging, stimulating and fun. Security of employment means just that. Pay is for fair compensation for the labour that the employee delivers, while Education and career growth involve opportunities to develop one’s skills and career. Working Conditions are important, requiring a well-equipped workplace that is comfortable physically and socially. Finally, Truth coming from frank, honest and transparent leaders is essential – and it’s the rarest and most precious of all, in my view.

Is it possible that the way to prevail in business is to give employees exactly what they want? To say that not many companies in Hong Kong subscribe to this mindset is an understatement. But the ones that do, the authors claim, do better than the companies that – literally – don’t care.

The authors came to this conclusion after 25 years of global research. Most of us know their findings are true every time we put in a serious chunk of unpaid overtime without a word of thanks. But bless the authors for quantifying the obvious, and thereby providing a surprisingly readable and illuminating book in the process.

Using real-life case studies, the authors provide insights from experience and also offer profoundly elegant solutions on each element of Respect.

In a neat touch, this book is mindful of the demands of the global economy, so it has been penned from an international perspective. Usefully, it mentions cultural nuances critical in assisting leaders manage the needs of their multicultural staff. This is a book for every HR manager.

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