Seeing as the New Year is on the horizon and there is a focus at this time of the year around new beginnings, I thought now might be an ideal time to address how to improve the workplace environment, why taking care of your employees is crucial to the success of your business and how you can implement proven practices to harvest a more satisfied workforce that will drive performance and profitability for your business.
This piece will examine the employees themselves and how to make them feel valued and appreciated, a separate piece will focus on workplace culture, brand ethics and policies to prevent hostility and conflict from being a burden on your company.
The best way to deliver benchmarked customer satisfaction is to ensure you have satisfied customer care staff driving it
An obvious focus for any business is delivering quality customer care to retain existing customers and attract new ones. Put simply, a business cannot survive without them. In the internet age of consumers using social media to shame companies with bad experiences, there is a far greater emphasis than ever before to deliver an impeccable customer service at all times. How do you achieve this? Well, it stands to reason that only happy and contented staff will be motivated to deliver care that leaves customers happy and contented.
In many companies, the customer satisfaction department is often given last priority in terms of budget. Think about that logically. This is the one department where dissatisfied customers will be relaying negative feedback about poor service, quality or experience they have encountered. It is also the department which has the most direct face time with your customers. Ensuring that you have a well-funded customer service department brimming with motivated staff should be at the forefront of your business.
Putting equal importance on ensuring that staff servicing customers are as satisfied as the customer is imperative. The two go hand in hand because frustrated, demotivated or disgruntled employees will be in no fit position to deliver good customer service. Key questions you should be asking yourself are:
- Does the employee feel proud to represent your brand?
- Are they trained properly?
- Are they overworked?
- Are they happy?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then they will deliver a good customer experience.
If you don’t care about your staff, they won’t care about your customers. This is true both of staff who are customer facing, but also of back office staff in all areas of the business, whether it is a designer working on a new product, an executive marketing it or a salesperson selling it.
Everyone needs to be proud and happy in what they are doing if you want to benefit from the best of their ability. The best way to do this is motivation.
A motivated workforce will yield productive and efficient performance
A recent poll undertaken by the American research-based, global performance-management consulting company, Gallup, found that a whopping 70% of workers are disengaged in their jobs.
Demotivated staff won’t apply any effort and will simply work to rule, which in legal terminology means producing the bare minimum requirement in respect of their duties in order to maintain employment but offering no initiative, no extra incentive or additional input etc. Naturally, the motivated staff who are engaged and passionate will do precisely the opposite. You may not notice a huge difference between motivated and demotivated staff if you are a small business of up to ten employees. But imagine the difference to a business having a fully motivated workforce across 50, 500 or 5,000 employees. I don’t think you need me to point out that there would be a huge gulf between efficiency and productivity. That’s why large corporates are so heavily focused on regulation and training. They need a well-oiled ship in order for things to run smoothly.
One mistake that senior managers always make is that they believe motivation is driven purely by financial incentive. It isn’t. A decent wage for an unhappy staff member might hold them to ransom, but it doesn’t necessarily motivate them. Increasingly it is shown that motivation is focused around respect, wellbeing, knowing that your staff feel appreciated and treating them like humans.
Respecting your staff
According to a survey conducted by Sirota Survey Intelligence and the authors of The Enthusiastic Employee, employees who feel they are not treated with respect or dignity are three times more likely to leave their job. If treating employees with respect is critical to retaining skilled staff and a company fails in holding onto its top talent, they will be trapped in a restructuring cycle that disrupts production and has an adverse impact on consistency. The flipside is that higher employee continuity results in stronger relationships with customers which in turn contributes to greater loyalty, enhanced sales and lower marketing costs.
Developing respect for employees needs to be at the heart of management philosophy, if it isn’t you risk losing high numbers of staff that you have invested time and money to train.
There is an amusing fable I would like to cite here. On the subject of training, a shareholder asks a CEO: “What happens if we spend time and money training our staff and they decide to leave the company?” The CEO retorts: “What happens if we don’t spend time and money to train our staff and they stay?”
Even if staff who don’t feel they are respected don’t actively decide to quit, they will suffer psychologically and become demotivated and I’ve already discussed how work to rule can adversely impact efficiency and productivity.
Another mistake bureaucratic cultures make when motivating staff is that they will allow top managers to hog all the rewards – corporate event invites, business trips, bonuses and lucrative pay packets – whilst treating lower-ranking employees like cogs in an uncaring machine.
A good manager understands that employees who feel respect feel enthusiastic and this can make all the difference to the success of the company. A smart manager understands that in order to meet their targets, they need to assemble a skilled and reliable team to deliver results and that staff who are enthusiastic and suitably rewarded for their effort will up their game. A manager who doesn’t motivate and reward their team will fall upon their own sword when it comes to explaining their results to the board.
Treating your staff like people
You pay your employees a wage for them to perform a task so you want a good return from your investment. Employees who perform well have to care about the work they are doing and in order to care they need to be appreciated.
Appreciating your staff means treating them as the humans they are, not assets. Businesses focused solely on maximising profit need to understand that this is driven by helping its staff reach their highest potential and purpose by making them feel valued.
An engaged staff member will be more passionate and apply more effort, yielding greater results. If you want to truly engage your employees, the number one thing to remember is that their personal needs trump professional aspirations every time. People wake up as human beings, not employees.
The B Team is a group of global business leaders orchestrating a better way of doing business for people. They claim to have identified nine elements of treating staff like human beings:
- Dignity and fair treatment
- Diversity and equal opportunities
- A positive work space and environment
- Wellbeing for the whole person
- Fair pay and benefits
- Continuous learning and development
- Purposeful leadership
- Connection to local and global communities
- Meaningful work, delivering purpose and joy
By ensuring that your human resources department implements each of the above practices, you will reap the benefits of a happier and more motivated workforce which will be proud to excel in work related performance.
Listening to your staff
Whilst making money remains an important incentive for any employee, more and more successful, career-driven individuals, are putting an emphasis on job satisfaction. No longer content with a comfortable salary and benefits package, what talented staff really desire in a job role is to be heard and for their opinions to be valued. Companies with an old school mentality are simply struggling to hold on to or attract talented new staff.
Some employers may shrug this off as the employee but unsuitable for the role they were hired to fill, but this denial ultimately only costs the company, not the employee who will simply seek out job satisfaction elsewhere. A company with a listening culture is more likely to attract and retain great people.
Each employee on your payroll is likely working in your company for scores of hours each and every week. They will quickly come to understand your business, identify problem areas, recognise areas where potential can be harvested and gauge an idea of how and where to improve the service offering.
This feedback could be crucial to resolving issues and delivering a better service to your customers rather than waiting to receive negative feedback from the customers directly and then taking action when the damage has already been done. You’re not contractually obliged to follow through on any proposals submitted by an employee so it doesn’t cost anything to listen to them and they will respect you if you do.
Taking care of your staff’s wellbeing
Organisations with strong leadership who value their staff will demonstrate a sincere interest in employee’s wellbeing. This doesn’t simply mean arranging a healthcare package for them, which is becoming increasingly standard in big corporates, it means actively managing workloads and hiring enough people to get the job done instead of working a few to the bone. It means being clear about goals and expectations, it means being understanding to natural fluctuations and hurdles, increased budgets and postponed project deadlines etc. It means intervening when high-stress levels are identified and providing flexible schedules.
Two recent examples here are Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg. Branson was a pioneer of flexible working, encouraging his staff to take responsibility for their own workloads. He understood that people value their personal lives first and their business lives second and he placed trust in his employees to fulfil their duties and deliver on their tasks on their own terms rather than merely tying them to a desk for a fixed number of hours each day.
People have other responsibilities, families, sometimes “life happens” and a business that is receptive to the needs of their staff will benefit when those employees reciprocate that level of care and understanding. Flexible hours is now accepted as the norm in many companies around the world that are leaders of staff satisfaction.
Mark Zuckerberg, once the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, recently announced four months of paternity leave for all staff, again, treating them with dignity and appreciating their personal needs on the understanding that reciprocation will harvest an improved workplace culture of loyalty and trust.
We’re talking about two of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world today, so they must be doing something right.
Ultimately, the most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.