In my last blog post, we looked at one of the key reasons why employees don’t care about service targets and index scores: because few leaders ‘meet employees where they are’ and effectively translate scores and targets into the ideas and actions employees care about! This gap in understanding is problematic, costly, and unnecessary.
To help your employees understand and care about quantitative measures, consider and then take these five steps:
Step One: Identify and quantify the changes you want to achieve
“We want our employees to be more proactive, efficient and value-adding” is a common statement by leaders worldwide. It is also vague to employees who live in the world of daily tasks and procedures.
Leaders and managers must talk about metrics in language that makes sense to their employees.
“We need your help to find and fix the source of these ten complaints before our next survey” is a clear request to Client Services. “Let’s find a way to shorten the time to process claims by at least 10% while maintaining accuracy” makes sense to the people who work in Finance. “Let’s work with our suppliers to reduce the number of steps required to place our orders” may sound like a good idea to the folks in Procurement.
The good news is that leaders don’t have to figure everything out. As new practice become standard practice, employees will see the possibilities of positive change and will help identify more areas for quantifiable improvement.
Step Two: Design and deliver effective communications
Leaders can achieve effective communication by using these five fundamental components:
1) The Declaration: What is your intended outcome? What indexes are you trying to improve? What is your target for this quarter/year? Why?
2) The Assessment: What is the impact of current practices for your employees, organization and customers?
3) The Promise: What will be the benefit of proposed new practices? What new possibilities will be created for your employees, organization and customers?
4) The Offer: What incentives will be provided (financial reward, social recognition, etc) to these employees demonstrating the new behaviors? (‘None’ is also a valid answer, but this needs to be communicated clearly.)
5) The Request: What exactly do you want your employees to do? What are the conditions of satisfaction? How will you evaluate their performance?
These five components cannot be communicated in a single memo to the entire organization. They must be customized and conveyed to each employee, or to groups of employees in language that reflects the concerns of their functions, roles and departments.
Leaders and managers must genuinely listen to employees and appreciate what they care about – their goals, concerns, preferences. Only then can leaders understand the full impact of their proposed changes, take full responsibility and effectively communicate their vision to others.
Most leaders communicate only “The Request” to their employees. And many never even ask the other questions. In his paper, My Problem with Design, our friend and advisor, Chauncey Bell, asks change designers to consider this:
Who do we think we are to mess around with others’ lives? By what kind of audacity do we set ourselves up in that kind of position in the world? If we puncture the pretense of being involved only in the design of artifacts and the arrangement of activities, and we open ourselves to a fuller recognition of the implications of our designs, then we must ask where to stand to be confident in our judgments about what will be better, or right, for those on whose behalf we design.
Step Three: Measure intent first, not outcomes
We’ve all heard stories where an enthusiastic employee goes overboard trying to do something extra for a customer (higher discount, extra attention, etc.) and gets reprimanded by the manager.
This not only demotivates the well-meaning employee, but instills a fear of trying something new in others across the organization.
The manager didn’t do anything ‘wrong’. He was merely focusing on the unintended outcome – probably increased costs of service or decrease in average response times to customers.
When your employees try new things to achieve new outcomes, they will make mistakes. Internalize mistakes into your service improvement process (in the form of Service Recovery processes – Building Block #10), instead of treating them as anomalies.
Some metrics that work well for measuring intent: Number of unsolicited ideas, Number of unrequested (or unauthorized) actions that generated positive responses from customers/colleagues, Number of constructive complaints by employees about business processes.
The desired outcomes will be achieved when employees who care are provided with effective service education.
Sidebar: You can pontificate till the cows come home about how empowerment is important, but empowerment is useless if your employees don’t care enough to take new actions.
Step Four: Design effective systems and processes for support
Existing business processes and systems may need to be re-engineered to support new initiatives and revitalized employees. New systems may also be needed to support specific improvement initiatives such as: measuring intent, tracking behaviors and outcomes, reinforcing the leadership visions, building transparency into operations across the organization, re-invigorating values, improving reporting structures and SOPs to empower employees, etc.
This redesign is typically ‘easier’ to do when there is high involvement of employees who care. In an uplifting service culture, employees are constantly looking to add and create more value in all areas!
Do these four steps above sound like a lot of work? They are. But here’s a bonus step that will help:
Step Five: Realize your managers are more important than you.
Managers generally understand frontline employees’ worlds much better than senior leaders. Emotional buy-in and involvement of mid-level managers is absolutely critical to Get Employees to Care. As Ron Kaufman says, they can make or break your service culture.
1) In Step One – Managers’ input is essential for leaders to translate ‘index improvements’ into specific employee behaviors.
2) In Step Two – The five components of change communication must be reinforced by managers every day.
3) In Step Three – Managers need to appreciate employees’ good intentions and make it really OK for them to make mistakes, and help build a culture of Service Recovery.
4) In Step Four – Process improvement projects need to be driven by managers collaborating cross-functionally to ensure alignment and effectiveness.
When these five steps are taken frequently and constructively in your organization, then your entire team will be stepping UP to new levels of service, caring, and results every day.