Obtain a Yield is the third permaculture principle, which often translates into harvesting your fruit or vegies before the possums eat them all. For businesses and organisations that are profit-based, the obvious yield is a financial return. However, there are many other ways that we can create a return on investment, be that in time, money, or effort.
1. Employee engagement and retention
For many employers, salaries and benefits payable may make up a large percentage of outgoing costs. However, it is also important to consider the cost of onboarding new staff, re-training, and gaps in workflow due to staff shortages or absences. Personal relationships between the client and the staff member who is the main point of contact, can be the difference between making a sale and retaining the client, or losing them to the competition. How many of us have joined a club or gym, only to lose enthusiasm when our favourite instructor moves on?
Estimates for the cost of onboarding new staff range from $US3000-7000, or even higher depending on the nature of the organisation. This doesn’t take into account any lost productivity or downtime, or the impact on supervisors to bring new staff up to speed.
Creating a workplace where employees feel valued, are paid appropriately, and are offered opportunities for training, professional development and advancement, not only contributes to a culture of inclusion and satisfaction, but could also save a significant amount of money by improving retention and reducing turnover.
Reputation is something that can be hard to quantify in dollar terms, but once lost, is even harder to regain. It could be reflected in lost shareholder value, loss of customers or clients, or a loss of trust in the business or organisation within the community or professional networks. It may be difficult to pin down the source or causes, but once the dissatisfaction surfaces in reviews or rumours, it can be even more difficult to contain the damage.
Instead, consider reputation as something you aim to build or create alongside financial returns. Participate in community events, sponsor your local school fete, and support staff fundraising efforts. Train your staff well to deliver the outcomes expected by your customers, and provide them with the resources they need to do a good job. To borrow an acronym from Transformational Leadership, “DWYSYWD” or Do What You Say You Will Do! Consider the value of doing the best job you can, as opposed to doing the least you can get away with. How does it feel when we find out that someone we have engaged to carry out a task has cut corners and done a shonky job? Would we hire them again? In short, value and protect your reputation. It’s worth more than money in the bank!
3. Knowledge Banking
The knowledge held by staff, especially those that have been involved with the business for the longer term, is again hard to quantify. Think about who you go to when problems need solving, the printer refuses to operate, or you need a contact within another organisation. While you can no doubt find another solution, it will take longer and may not result in the outcome you hope for.
Workplaces with a high staff turnover are constantly having to reinvent themselves, or recreate processes and relationships. As well as considering how to improve staff retention, think about how you can capture the existing knowledge bank into process and policy documents, that are regularly reviewed and updated. It may feel like you are taking attention away from the ‘urgent’ day to day tasks, but attending to the ‘important’ tasks will be worth it in the longer term.
The feeling of a job well done, and goals or outcomes achieved is well worth cultivating and acknowledging. Celebrate the small wins, provide positive and constructive feedback to staff where it is warranted, and recognise achievements. A positive culture is difficult to quantify, but results in a happier, healthier, and more productive workplace. The cultural tone of a workplace is set by the people in charge; if the CEO rarely praises but is quick to criticise, middle managers will follow their lead. Be the type of leader who values your staff, and they will return you with loyalty and a willingness to go beyond the job description when it is needed.
5. Shared benefits
While we tend to automatically think of businesses as profit driven, there are an increasing number of organisations following a social enterprise or shared cooperative model. B-Corp Certification is another model that considers employee or worker benefits, as well as impacts on the community and environment. It may not be feasible to entirely transform your existing business model, but perhaps there are opportunities to offer benefits to your employees and local community that go beyond a weekly pay packet. Partnering with community organisations and not for profits could open opportunities that benefit everyone involved.
Considering how your business or organisation obtains a yield in a variety of forms can build a more robust business structure, and embed resilience for when challenges arise. On a broader scale, if we are to tackle the intertwined and wicked problems of climate crisis, biodiversity loss and poverty (among others), then organisations needs to play an important role, and think beyond traditional models of profit and shareholder returns above all other metrics, to a more inclusive and expansive way of doing business.