Consider this. How can you as a leader create an environment where employees are energised and passionate enough to play their role in delivering the organisation's strategy and customer goals? Sounds obvious, but employees are people, with particular points of view, some of which leaders hear, most of which they don't. Those highly customer centric and agile organisations are adept at keeping pace with and recognising employee needs for input, creativity and adding value.
The employee market is changing
It is predicted that by the year 2020 (only six years away!) as many as half of Australia’s workers will be employed on a contingent, project-based arrangement. According to research by recruitment firm Hays, 83.1 per cent of employers say up to a quarter of their workforces are made up of these workers. Lost productivity due to employee disengagement costs more than $300 billion a year in the US. However research by Amabile TM1, Kramer SJ in 2005 ‘Inner work life: understanding the subtext of business performance’. They found that the single most important differentiator for employees was their sense of being able to make progress in their work and deliver value.
What can leaders do?
Apply external brand principles internally by knowing your target audience as people. Brand decisions are about people’s lives, choices, who they are and who they aspire to be, their values. Clearly a one size approach to employee engagement and happiness does not fit all! Employees have choices, so emotional outcomes are as important for them as for customers.
Here are some key areas for leaders to help stimulate a creative and customer centric culture;
For many organisations the brand focus is largely directed externally, for all the right reasons – customers, competitors, the market. The question is, how well do people within the organisation live and deliver the brand, compared to how you want it to be? How well are the people in the organisation connected to the customer and your brand experience ambition? Quite simply, many employees are not as emotionally connected to the internal brand as they are to the products and services they buy in everyday life outside of work. When employees feel great about the brand and the importance of customer, this allows them to play their role in delivering the unique benefits of the organisation’s brand through to the customer experience.
Customer Passion at Zappos
Zappos the US online shoe retailer exemplifies the notion of employees living the brand to drive great customer experiences. Zappos successfully connects very clear, customer centric brand values to employees and this has a direct effect to their customer service quality. An excerpt from the book, Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business, by Francis Frei and Anne Morriss sets out a very neat case study of Zappos culture and the corresponding effect on staff loyalty and customer service. The key point here is staff empowerment – aligning their values with the company’s values. It’s very compelling, because it empowers people to be who they are.
The Zappos case study is a worthwhile read – it might be seen by some as quite an extreme example of culture, but consider the principles at play; leadership, staff empowerment, meaningful and purpose, authentic brand positioning and values. These principles can be applied to any organization, not just a high energy online retailer.