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Practice "Total Radical Transparency" to Improve Employee Engagement

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Oct, 09, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

total radical transparency resized 600

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've had the opportunity to work for, and with, more than 100 different companies over the course of my career.

 

It's very rare to find a company, or management team, that practices "total radical transparency."

 

I've worked for two companies that embraced this philosophy and they were the two places where I felt totally empowered, engaged and made the greatest contributions.

 

In a recent edition of Fast Company, in "The Second You Think You're an Auteur, You're Sunk," film director James Cameron, describes how everyone working on a particular project would sit around a table every morning at precisely 8:15 and air out problems.

 

This is tremendously healthy for any team -- management or employees.

 

It ensures everyone is on the same page and in complete alignment about what's working and what isn't.

 

You bring your problems to the group and solve them as a group. Everyone's invested in the solution.

 

Inability to discuss problems openly and honestly hinders their resolution.

 

Fail to address them and they become even bigger problems as well as a poison to your corporate culture.

 

In one company where I was hired to direct the firm's marketing efforts, I asked the president if I could conduct one-on-one interviews with the management team to ensure everyone was in alignment with regards to the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of the firm.

 

I was advised this wasn't necessary, since the firm had just completed their strategic planning.

 

It took less than a week to see how misaligned the SBU's, and the employees therein, really were.

 

In a recent consulting engagement, I urged the CEO to take a leadership position in social media since the firm aspired to be a leader in their industry.

 

My recommendation was rebuffed because the CEO was concerned that there were groups out there that would not approve of what the firm was selling.

 

If you're not willing to be open and honest with your employees, your customers and your prospects, you will not be a leader in your industry.

 

The internet rewards those who share information and exposes those that hide it.

 

AGE, arrogance, greed and ego, made companies and individuals a lot of money before the advent of the internet and social media.

 

According to Justice Louis D. Brandeis, "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." 

 

Given this, the internet and social media will expose those companies who are not transparent with their employees (Glassdoor), their customers (Amazon, Zappos, Yelp) or their prospects.

 

Are you and your firm committed to total radical transparency?

 

If so, you and your employees will benefit.

 

If not, you might want to take another look at your vision, mission and values.

 

Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

 

Tags: alignment, vision, mission, values, employee engagement, total radical transparency

Happy Employees = Happy Customers

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Oct, 06, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

Tony Hsieh

Photo Credit: Charles Henry, Flickr – Altered with Quote

Thanks to Jenn Lim, CEO of Delivering Happiness, for the following thoughts.
Happiness continues to be elusive in the workplace as headcounts are kept low and leaders remain focused on driving higher rates of productivity and profits.
Morale is low and employees are clueless about the vision, mission and values of the firm as they get no, or conflicting, information from management.
Studies show that employees who are happy and engaged in their work are more successful and more likely to deliver great customer service.
 
It all starts with the vision, mission and values of your company and ensuring that everyone in the firm is in alignment.
Once you've identified the greater good their everyone is working for, have champions to hold everyone, including the management team, accountable.
While Jack Welch liked to fire the 10 to 20% of underperformers, Zappos has been successful by letting go the 10 to 20% of employees who weren't in alignment with brand values. 
There are clear levers to increase a person's happiness:
  • Sense of progress – “is a person developing in their role or in their life?”
     
  • Sense of control – “is a person making decisions and are those decisions being executed on or at least considered?”
     
  • Connectedness – “the depth and breadth of relationships in your work and life.”
     
  • Having passion and flow – “flow is a psychological term that describes something you are so engaged in that it feels like minutes have gone by but in reality it’s actually been hours. How you create that sense of flow in the workplace is basically when you have the level of challenge meeting your level of skill.” We should think about how we can work together and “group teams of people to have that sense of flow so they really want to be engaged in their work.” 
     
  • Sense of higher purpose and meaning (ultimately the most important element) – “what are you doing that is greater than yourself? What is your personal higher purpose and is that aligned with your company higher purpose?”
Results:
  • Recent studies from the Harvard Business Review and The Economist show that business results of happiness are 10 to 30% increases in profitability and 10 to 20% increase in sales.
  • One top-20 ecommerce company increased monthly sales 39% and reduced monthly absences by 96%.
Is your company ensuring its employees are happy?
Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

Tags: customer satisfaction, empower employees, vision, mission, values, employee engagement

Voice of the Customer (#VOC) Isn't Just About Customers

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Sep, 15, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

voice of the customer insights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've used voice of the customer (VOC) research throughout my career to solve business problems.

 

However, don't let the term, voice of the customer, limit you to just talking to customers.

 

You can learn a lot by having one-on-one conversations with:

 

  • Your management team to determine is everyone is in alignment with regard to vision, mission, values and strategic positioning.

  • Your employees to understand if they know how they are contributing to the team or to learn what customers do and do not like about our products or services.

  • Members of your sales force to understand what elements of the sales process are working, where the process is breaking down, or if they're pleased with the quality of the sales qualified leads (SQLs) they are getting.

  • Channel partners to learn what you can do to make it easier for them to sell your products to their customers, as well as their perceptions of your products and service relative to other products they are selling.
     
  • Suppliers to understand how you can be a better customer and brainstorm on things you can both change to become more efficient.

  • Former customers to find out why they left and what you can do to improve your product or service to earn back their business.

  • Prospective customers to understand their perception of your brand relative to the competition and who they see as your competition.
I prefer in-depth one-on-one interviews for a several reasons:
  • It's more personal. Respondents can see and hear that you are truly interested in what they have to say and will open up and tell you more than you were expecting. 
     
  • People tell you what they are thinking rather than what they think is "politically correct" or what will make them sound smart to others in the room.

  • You can ask follow-up questions like, "Tell me more about that." or "Can you explain why you felt that way?" and get detailed answers to those questions that you do not get with open-ended questions in a non-moderated survey.

  • You can end the interview by asking, "Is there anything I haven't touched on that you think is important or relevant to the issue we've been discussing?" This gives the respondent the opportunity to answer a question that you didn't think to ask. It also gives the respondent the opportunity to add more detail to their answer to a question that you had asked earlier. 
Use surveys, use Net Promoter Score, use focus groups, use social media listening tools, use whatever methodology that makes the most sense to gather the information you need to make more informed business decisions.
It's amazing what you'll learn if you just ask.
 
The more you know, the more effective and expedient your decisions will be.
How have you used voice of the customer research to solve a business problem?
Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book

Tags: dialogue, VoC, voice of the customer, vision, mission, values, listen intensely

Top 25 Companies for Culture and Values in 2014

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Aug, 27, 2014 @ 10:08 AM

Align along vision, mission and values
Thanks to Glassdoor for sharing their findings.

 

 

 

If you've read any of my previous posts, you know how strongly I feel about companies empowering and engaging their employees.

 

It all starts with having a powerful vision, mission and values and a management team that is in total alignment so they're consistent in what they tell those they manage, as well as how they manage.

 

Where trust is an issue, there is no trust.

 

Values lead to alignment and empowers team members to overcome any disagreement.

 

Clearly the following firms do not have trust as an issue.

Top Companies for Culture & Values 2014

Want to work for a company where employees are satisfied with the culture and values? Glassdoor has announced its report of the Top 25 Companies for Culture & Values, based on workplace insights shared by the people who know companies best — the employees. The following companies stand out for high culture & values ratings and insightful reviews.

Top 25

Ratings Scale: 3.51–4.0 = “Satisfied” 4.01–5.0 = “Very Satisfied”  
Is your management team in alignment with regards to the vision, mission and values of your firm?

Don't assume they are.

 

I worked for a firm and suggested they let me do one-on-one interviews with the management team to ensure everyone was in alignment.

 

The president, to whom I reported, said that wouldn't be necessary since they had just completed a strategic planning session.

 

Sadly, I quickly saw how out of alignment, not only the management team, but the entire staff was and I was powerless to do anything about it.

 

While the company was doing alright, it could have been performing at a significantlly higher level if employees were on one team rather than several different, frequently competing, teams.

 

Ask the members of your management team, independently, about the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of the firm and see how much the answers vary.

 

I assure you the insights you get will be invaluable to the firm, and may save your job.

 

Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book

Tags: transparency, trust, alignment, vision, mission, values, strategic positioning

Does Your Corporate Culture Drive Repeat Business or just Sales?

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Jun, 12, 2014 @ 10:06 AM

corporate culture affects customer experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Motors knew about their faulty transmissions 11 years before they did anything about them.

 

Target knew they had data security issues six months before they were hacked.

 

The largest privately-held software company in the world has significant customer satisfaction issues that result in them refunding their clients millions for years.

 

A friend who works for a local health insurance company tells me I should be grateful I didn't get a job with her employer.

 

Another friend of a firm with whom I was consulting told me to be glad I didn't get their director of marketing position -- "just look at what the employees are saying on Glassdoor."

 

And yet another friend lost his job heading up the VOC (voice of the customer) program for "the world's leading provider of IT training and business training" because they're more interested in sales than customer satisfaction.

 

Has the success of Amazon, Zappos, Chipotle, Costco and Southwest Airlines, NPS leaders, not taught anyone anything?

 

Hey Mr. and Ms. C-Level executive, your employees will only treat your customers as well as you treat your employees.

 

If all you care about, and reward, are sales, don't expect your employees to be concerned with anything other than making sales.

 

If you don't show concern for your customer satisfaction levels, your NPS or the number of referrals you're getting, don't expect your employees to be.

 

If you, and your employees, don't care about customer satisfaction, do you really expect your customers to continue doing business with you?

 

When I talk to senior managers about vision, mission and values, their eyes glaze over. It's clear they either don't understand, or don't value, what I'm talking about.

 

Well, your employees and your customers do. Perhaps c-level dissonance with vision, mission and values are what's diving the pathetic employee engagement and customer satisfaction levels?

 

Employees today want to work for a company who has a mission that more than "maximizing shareholder value."

 

Customers want to support businesses who care about them, their needs, their wants.

 

Be transparent. Do what's right by customers -- protect their data, if your product has a defect fix it.

 

Make the customers' life easier, simplify their life, show them you care -- you'll have a customer for life because your competitors aren't doing it.

 

Amazon will ask if if you're sure you want to buy the same book you bought three months ago before they go ahead and register your purchase of the same book.

 

Banks, cell phone and internet providers, NPS laggards, all know enough about their customers' usage habits to suggest a plan that provides more value for your money.

 

Unfortunately, none of these companies, that I'm aware of, will let you know they've got a better offer for you until you call to cancel, or reduce, your service.

 

Customers do business with people, and companies, they know, like and trust.

 

What are you doing to earn your customers' trust?

 

What are you doing to engage and empower your employees to provide an outstanding customer experience?

 

Or, do you just care about sales?

 

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book   

Tags: VoC, voice of the customer, net promoter score, vision, mission, values, employee engagement, employee empowerment, customer service

Your Employees are Key to an Outstanding Customer Experience (#cx)

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, May, 21, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

engaged employees provide great customer experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great presentation by Jim Knight, the former head of Hard Rock Cafe's School of Hard Rocks, at the VOC Fusion (#vocfusion) conference.

 

Jim's presentation was entitled, "How To Achieve Rock Star Status: Employee Culture is the Key to Great Customer Experience."

 

The guest experience is the "top of the iceberg" for the brand.

 

The internal environment (vision, mission, vlues, service philosophy, standards and procedures, tools and processes, beliefs and experiences) are the things beneath the surface that really impact customer experience.

 

There are two types of organizations: virtuous and vicious. Which one is yours?

 

Who you hire determines what kind of organization you are.

 

Hire the wrong employees and you end up with:

  • A disintegrated morale and culture

  • An anemic customer experience

  • No one talking positively about you

  • Slowing visitor rates

  • Missed sales and profit targets

  • Good employees leaving for other jobs

  • Hiring to fill positions rather than making the right hire for the position

 

Virtuous companies focus on hiring the right employees and end up with:

  • Great morale and culture

  • Great customer experiences

  • Raving fans

  • Sales and profits that surpass goals

  • Employees receiving bonuses

  • Potential employees coming to you because your's is a "great place to work"

  •  Hiring the best available people for the job
Jim provided 10 rules for your company to achieve "rock star" status:
  1. The only path to a virtuous environment is through employees. Have a well-defined employee life cycle for all your employees: recruiting, interviewing, selecting, on-boarding, training, communicating, developing, incenting, retaining and separating.

  2. Create compelling, brand-specific recruiting collateral. Have interview standards. Great companies only hire one to two applicants out of every 10 interviews. Hiring the right fit is too important to screw up. Have multiple interviewers use different interview questions and reach consistent on whether or not you're hiring the right person. If not, keep looking.

  3. Implement a rigorous, non-negotiable interviewing process. Keep in mind that today's workforce: values individuality, are virtual learners, have short attention spans, are tech savvy as well as tech dependent, want to do meaningful work. Companies have to think differently about future team members.

  4. Hire rock stars not lipsynchers to amp up the brand. Your employees are your show. The most successful companies in the world have a shared mindset among employees. If you don't tell people they should be working on they fill in the blanks. Individual agendas produce random actions, a culture of confusion and dysfunction.

  5. Be like U2 -- everyone has a part to play in the band. There are stars and there are supporting roles. They are both important. Find the right people for each. Have a sound on-boarding process. It matters how and who teaches new hire orientations. According to the People Report, if another staff member teaches, turnover is 113%. If any manager teaches, turnover is 108%. If a qualified training manager teaches, turnover is 104%. If a general manager teaches, turnover is 98%. The top 10% in sales have the 10% lowest turnover.

  6. Give employees something bigger than themselves to commit to. Communicate with employees in comic book style or airline safety card style -- short, to the point, easy to remember.

  7. Communicate to people in the language in which they dream. Look for learning opportunities outside the classroom. Encourage immediate supervisors to engage with new employees. According to Gallup, the immediate supervisor is the promary reason people leave.

  8. Revolutionize all instructor-led training into "edutainment."

  9. Leadership matters. Leaders have the power to light or extinguish the cultural flame of the company. Leaders bring the flame thrower every day and light it up.

  10. Position your brand to be tatoo-worthy -- for your employees and your customers.

Are your employees more inclined to tatoo your company logo on their body or back in to their parking space so they can get away as soon as their day is over?
As an employer or manager, it is incumbent upon you to hire and empower your employees.
If you want them to be engaged you must inspire them.
What is your vision? What is your mission? What are you doing to inspire your employees?
Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book  

 

Tags: emotional connection to the brand, transparency, empower employees, alignment, vision, mission, values

5 Questions to Ask That Will Reveal Your Corporate Culture

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, May, 13, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

align vision, mission, values and strategic positioning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is your management team in alignment with regards to the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of your firm?

 

How about your employees?

 

Do they even know what your vision, mission, values and strategic positioning are?

 

Ask these five questions and see how consistent the answers are across your organization:

 

  1. What one thing would you change about the company and why?

  2. What makes us "different and better" than our competition?

  3. How do we reward success? Small successes? Major successes?

  4. How do teams and individuals work with each other and how does information flow through the organization?

  5. How would you describe the corporate culture?

 

Answers to these questions will give you very solid insights into the amount of alignment in your management team, as well as among your employees.

 

Remember to focus on the things you are doing well and build off of them.

 

Work to correct the things you are doing less well.

 

Firms that are in alignment are more efficient, productive and deliver a more consistent, and hopefully positive, customer experience.

 

Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book  

Tags: alignment, vision, mission, values, strategic positioning, corporate culture

Talk with Your Employees to Engage and Empower Them

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, May, 08, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

engaged and empowered employees will grow your business

 

 

 

 

 

 

The five key drivers of employee engagement are:

  1. A warm working environment

  2. Ability to help others

  3. Developing friendships

  4. A boss that develops their potential

  5. Developing new skills and responsibilities 
Note, none of these are related to more money.
They are related to making an emotional connection with the people that work for and work with.
Having a conversation with you employees will help make that emotional connection.
You'll get to know their needs, desires and aspirations. And if you're committed to helping them meet their needs, desires and aspirations, you'll have an engaged and empowered employee who wants to help make you and your business successful.
I heard a great story about a call center, a line of work notorious for turnover, who had tremendously loyal and engaged employees who provided outstanding customer experiences.
As part of the interview process, the hiring team determined what an employee wanted to ensure they'd be happy in the position for two to five years.
In one case, a single mom wanted a steady job that would give her the flexibility to support her two kids while going to school to get a degree in psychology.
Once the team learned what the potential employee wanted, they researched the courses the employee would need to get the degree at a local community college and got back to her in a couple of days with an offer that included how she would get her degree.
An employer that goes to those lengths for their employees earns a lot of trust and loyalty, as well as an engaged and empowered workforce that differentiates them from their competition.
Engaged employees:
  1. Stay longer, thereby reducing your training and recruitment expenses

  2. Promote the company to friends, family, prospects and customers
     
  3. Demonstrate increased productivity and quality to less engaged coworkers

  4. Are passionate about providing an outstanding customer experience
The three components of an engaged employee are: the head, the heart and the actions:
  • Head = "I believe." I believe the products and services we produce and sell are the best for our customers.

  • Heart = "I'm inspired." I'm fully aware of the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of the firm and am excited about the direction of the company.

  • Actions = "I will give discretionary effort." I will recommend our products and services to my firends and family, as well as to our prospects and customers. I will do my best to ensure our customers have an outstanding customer experience.

If you're interested in having an engaged and empowered group of employees, talk with them to find out if they're the right fit for your organization.
If they are, learn what they need to be engaged and empowered.
 
Engaged and empowered employees will grow your business by producing better quality products and services and providing more outstanding customer experiences.
This will result in more loyal customers who will spend more and be worth more, over time.
Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

Tags: trust, vision, mission, values, emotional connection, employee engagement, employee empowerment

Core Values: Do You "Walk the Talk" Like Zappos?

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, May, 07, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

Zappos core values

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had the pleasure of going on a tour of Zappos' headquarters a couple of weeks ago when I was in Las Vegas for a voice of the customer (VoC) conference.

 

I read Tony Hsieh's, "Delivering Happiness," when it was first published and have followed the company ever since.

 

Zappos' culture is formally defined in terms of 10 core values:

 

  1. Deliver "WOW" through service.

  2. Embrace and drive change.

  3. Create fun and a little weirdness.

  4. Be adventurous, creative and open-minded.

  5. Pursue growth and meaning.

  6. Build open and honest relationships with communication.

  7. Build a positive team and family spirit.

  8. Do more with less.

  9. Be passionate and determined.

  10. Be humble.

 

Many companies have core values but they don't really commit to them. They sound more like what you'd find in a press release.

 

You might learn about the values during your orientation but after that isn't just a meaningless plaque on the wall of the lobby.

 

Zappos believes it's important to have core values you can commit to.

 

By commit, Zappos means that you're willing to hire and fire based on them.

 

If you're willing to do that, then you can build a company culture that's in line with the brand you want to build.

 

You see that Zapponians "walking the talk" when you tour their facility.

 

We saw eight to 10 members of the H.R. team welcoming new hires, literally cheering their arrival, at 9:00 on Monday morning.

 

We saw how the unpretentious, former Las Vegas town hall, offices are designed to encourage interaction and "collisions" between employees to facilitate the free exchange of ideas, friendship and collegiality.

 

All of these are important for engaged employees.

 

If they are empowered and engaged all of your employees can become brand ambassadors inside and outside the office.

 

At the end of the day, if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff -- including building a great brand -- will fall into place on its own.

 

What are your company's core values?

 

Do you and your employees "walk the talk?"

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: transparency, trust, values, employee engagement, empowered employees

Engaged Employees Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, May, 05, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

Employee engagement accelerates sales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following is from presentations by Dr. Gary Rhoads, the founder of Allegiance, as part of the VoC professional certification program.

 

Engaged employees are good for your business on several fronts:

  • They stay longer than disengaged employees
  • They reduce training costs
  • They reduce recruitment costs by staying longer and recruiting people like them
  • They promote the company, its products and services to their family and friends
  • They demonstrate increased productivity and quality to internal customers
  • They are passionate about providing an outstanding customer experience
  • They are role models for less engaged employees helping to increase levels of engagement
Engaged employees are not just committed.
They are not just passionate or proud.
They have a vision for their own future that's consistent with the firm's mission and goals.
They are excited and in alignment using their talents and discretionary effort to make a difference in their employer's quest for sustainable business success.
An individual's degree of positive or negative emotional attachment to an organization or brand leads to, positive or negative,  discretionary effort.
Building employee engagement is all about generating emotional attachment.
The components of emotional attachment are head, heart and actions.
  • Head = "I believe" -- I believe in our company's products and services. They are the best in the industry and they will help to fulfill our customers' needs.

  • Heart = "I'm inspired" -- I'm excited by, and in alignment with, the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of my company.

  • Actions = "I'll give discretionary effort." -- I will recommend our products and services to my friends and family. I will go out of my way to provide an outstanding customer experience to my customers.
Not everyone in the firm is totally engaged.
Firm focused employees are engaged with the company. They love the company they work for, the work they do, the products the company produces. However, they aren't necessarily focused on the customer experience. They're more interested in "managing up" than providing an outstanding customer experience.
Customer focused employees are those that are engaged with the customers they serve. They go out of their way to make sure the customer experience is exemplary. But they may not be concerned about the company they work for.
Are your employees backing their cars into their parking spaces? Do they want to get away from the office that badly?
To get your employees totally engaged:
  1. Recognize and reward the right behavior and effort

  2. Connect engagement to the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of the firm

  3. Empower everyone in the firm to provide an outstanding customer experience and recognize them for doing do
     
  4. Whoever causes the pain should feel the pain -- identify the source of the problem and go to the source for the resolution
Employers are in the inspiration business -- it's only by inspiring people that you're able to make an emotional connection with them.
Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

Tags: alignment, vision, mission, values, employee engagement, inspiration