Archive for the ‘Employee Experience’ Category

Are You Focused on the Transaction or the Experience? (part 2)

open-24hrsNow that the turkey and pies are gone, I guess it’s time to jump back into the blog.  Recapping from my last post:

  • Companies who differentiate on customer experience are more likely to succeed in the face of shrinking margins and discretionary spending.
  • A highly engaged customer-facing workforce will deliver a consistently better experience.
  • An “Open Organizational Culture” is necessary to drive employee engagement.

So what exactly is an Open Organizational Culture?  Fundamentally, it’s one that fosters transparency and accountability to its employees, customers and the public.  This is in contrast to traditional organizations that operate in a hierarchical model with an authoritarian culture that seems to foster privacy or secrecy.

An Open Organizational Culture has several unique characteristics:

Transparency and Open Communications

Leaders of high performance organizations nurture a culture that allows for people to question openly and have honest dialogue. They create a climate of candor throughout the organization.  They remove the organizational barriers — and the fear — that cause people to keep bad news from the boss. They understand that those closest to customers usually have the solutions but can do little unless the organization encourages open discussions about problems.  When people can raise objections when when necessary (and without reprisal), it paves the way to higher engagement.


In an Open Organization, the leader’s beliefs and values create the direction and the boundaries that people need to perform well.  The values are clearly defined & communicated, and reviewed periodically for relevance.  More importantly, the organizations practices, systems & processes are clearly aligned with the values and management ensures that employees’ day to day experiences are consistent with the values.  You can quickly identify an organization that does not adhere to its stated values by gauging the level of cynicism amongst the staff.  Open Organizations really walk the talk and it is reflected in their employees’ attitudes.

Empowerment in Organizational Culture

In “Good to Great” (2001) Jim Collins asserts, “good-to-great companies built a consistent system with clear constraints , but they also gave people freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system.”  Open Organizations not only actively engage members of the workforce, they rely upon their contributions to on-going improvement.  Driving Empowerment and responsibility down to the lowest appropriate levels within the organization, especially to the customer-facing members, has many benefits:

  • It provides employees the opportunities and incentives to shape the company experience.  Encouraging involvement in this way fosters a feeling of ownership on the part of employees.
  • It promotes organizational creativity which leads to innovation.  As I stated above, customer facing associates are typically the ones with the best insights regarding the customer.
  • It allows decisions to be made without unnecessary or authoritarian approval process which can lead to a more responsive organization.
  • Encourage continuous learning which in turn improves decision making.

So in summary, an organization’s culture is shaped by and reflects the values, beliefs, and norms held by its founders, leaders, and organizational members. In Open Organizations, values are aligned and honored, transparency and open communication are the norm and decision-making is informed by a process of continual learning. Cultures that embody these characteristics demonstrate them in the organization’s structures, standards, policies, and systems. They shape the work environment, staffing practices, and organizational performance, all of which influence the employee experience and by extension, the customers they serve.

If this sounds like your organization, great.  I’d love to hear about it.  If not, I’m curious about that things  you see are barriers to getting to an Open Organization.

[image: Open 24 Hours on Houston Street]


Are You Giving Your Employees a Great Experience

flip.jpgI like to talk about the value in delivering great customer experiences, but for retail businesses, which rely on store employees to deliver that great experience, it’s just as important to deliver great employee experiences.

I was standing in line at Lowes yesterday when I heard one employee tell another about his five-year award. From the way he described it, it was clear that Lowes, like most companies, recognize service milestones with some sort of meaningless trinket. This exchange reminded me of my own experience after 20 years with Circuit City in which I received an email instructing me to a website where I could choose from five items (ladies watch, mans watch, golf bag, desk clock, luggage), all of which really conveyed how much the company appreciated my service (sarcasm intended).

A number of studies estimate the cost of recruiting, hiring and training an $8/hour to be between around $5,000. At around 70%, retail has one of the highest industry turnover rates and many companies experience rates significantly higher. To put this in perspective, a big box or specialty retailer with 50,000 employees averaging $8/hour will spend $175 Million each year replacing employees. This cost does not include mistakes made due to lack of experience or the cost of lost productivity.

Why does retail have such a high turnover rate? The chief reasons include the obvious ones (pay and benefits), but also include things lack of job security, inflexible work scheduling, fairness, poor communication and lack of recognition. Much of this boils down to failure of store management to develop good relationships with their employees.

Companies invest every day in customer retention. What would happen if the big box or specialty retailer spent some of that $175 Million a year on employee retention? What if store managers could spend less time recruiting new employees and more time developing better relationships with the ones they have? What if, instead of an e-mail telling your employee to select a 20 year award, you and high level managers or executives wrote personal notes to thank the employee for their service. Would consistently great employee experiences lead to great customer experiences? I think so. What things are important to providing a great employee experience? I like these:

  • Providing good work environment with clear values and goals
  • Ensuring equitable pay and fair treatment
  • Demanding results while caring about people
  • Giving frequent, direct and honest feedback about performance and opportunities
  • Discussing and mapping employees’ careers 18-24 months in the future

What are some other ways to create great employee experiences?

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