Why It’s High Time We Forget About Employee Engagement

Customer Satisfaction
Businesses exist to do only one thing – “Make Money”. Even Non-profit organisations need constant cash flow to reach their target. So how does a company become profitable? The answer lies in the making both employees and customers happy. Lot of research have been done in this field and we can safely say that both of these are linked. Here are some of the studies that prove this:

  • A study conducted by Washington State University says that customer satisfaction is directly connected with employee satisfaction and customers give utmost priority to their financial success.
  • According to Journal of Services Marketing,  employee satisfaction leads to customer satisfaction.
  • As per a study done by Bain & Company, employee behavior & attitude is one of the primary components of customer satisfaction. Loyal and satisfied employees are efficient in delivering the best product and service to customers.

Traditionally companies have tried to run various employee engagement programs with the hope that they would result in low attrition rate and eventually result in better customer service. So businesses deploy incentive programs, create social groups, organise team outings, buy foose ball tables and do much more.

Employee Engagement

Employee Enagement

Gone are the days when companies just created a place where employees needed to work. In the modern age employees hold the power to choose the employer and the competitive digital age has left companies to fight with each other to get the best talent. Now companies are vying to create a place where people would want to work.

While the traditional approach listed above generates employee engagement,  it has a tendency to create engagement in only specific set of employees and leave the disengaged in solitude. The problem lies with the way we look at engagement. For example: companies run various incentive programs like granting special privileges to the Employee of the Month, fully paid holiday trip to the Most Productive Employee, stock options with vesting period and the widely used commission based compensation for sales reps. It doesn’t matter what kind of incentive the company is providing – these programs tend to become mundane over the period of time, as they induce a temporary compliance from the employees. The moment incentive is gone, the behavior also changes and people are back to their original self. Incentives can not change the attitudes that drive our behaviors and they are certainly not capable to of creating a long lasting commitment.

Is there a relationship between the average employment tenure of 3 years in a startup and 4 years of vesting period with one year cliff?

It’s time to concentrate on employee experience instead of employee engagement.

Employee Experience

cultivating-happy-customers-29-638

It is all about focusing on the complete life-cycle and covering all the touch points – starting with how employees first discover and apply for an opportunity at the company and ending with their departure. This is a much needed change in the mindset. There is a reason why employees are called internal customers and it’s time companies start treating them as the same.

The first thing that we need to do is look at the way we operate the business, create policies and deal with customers from the employee’s view point rather than just thinking of ways to engage employees with the organisation. It goes a long way to understand what employees actually value the most and what exactly matters to them.

In order to have a significant impact, employers will need to find different ways to connect to each employee and truly integrate personal growth with the growth of the company. Studies show that a significant chunk of employees who have not been adequately onboarded or trained tend to quit their organization within the first year. Short multimedia rich training courses have proven to be highly effective in engaging employees and creating a platform from where they can add value to the company.

In addition to this, conducting eNPS, checking out the reviews of the company on sites like Glassdoor can also give you direction and help you measure the employee experiences. Then the company can go on to transform the part that needs enhancement, introduce one minor changes or add several small experiences in the employee lifecycle. It varies from organisation to organisation – while Google is engineer’s playground and the work may not always be tied to business outcome, at Amazon everything that an employee does is closely associated with customer benefit.

Removing the mental barrier to treat employees as customers and providing a fulfilling employee experience has become all the more important with the advent of new age tech. It has become easier for recruiters to poach employees simply by connecting with them via LinkedIn. Platforms like Upwork, Uber, Postmates, Etsy, Lyft, Airbnb have already given people the choice to earn a living in a non-traditional way. So focusing on employee experience is the way to go, if companies want to make sure that their employees give them a long-term commitment.

Examples

Four Seasons

Four-Seasons-Hotel-Guangzhou-Street-Level

Earlier in Four Seasons Hotels whenever a customer complained about the room, the housekeeping team used to first connect with the manager before taking any action. That was a major problem, as the customer would be expecting swift resolution of the issue. And this led to longer response time resulting in frustrated customer. Four Seasons empowered their lower level employees by allowing them to judge the situation and comp the room immediately. This is type of authority to take decisions at different levels of the organisation can be a great strategy.

Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods considers “team” as the supreme driving force. They have built self-directed teams who frequently meet to resolve issues and recognize individual contributions. As a company they believe in the following -“open book, open door and open people practices”. Employees have been given free hand to select new team members for a four-week observation period. To join as a permanent employee, new employees must get green signal from the two third of the team members after the trial period. Apart from this, full-time employees get additional benefits like health insurance, a 20% discount on merchandise and extra cash by distributing the departmental savings among themselves. Their team-based and team-first culture fosters loyalty and accountability for each another, which finally translates to customer satisfaction.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile

T-Mobile has started releasing the insights about the jobs that the prospective employees are applying for along with the time period for which that opportunity has been open and number of applications they have received. They have also re-written majority of the job description in just plain, vanilla English without any legal and marketing tone. This is indeed an important step towards setting the right experience even before people get into the whole hiring process.

Conclusion

Any company that delivers world case customer experience, delivers great employee experience as well. Critically analyse your business strategy through the eyes of your people and make it a priority to empower them. Everything that the employee comes across constitutes the employee experience – right from the food in the cafeteria, the technologies used in the work to the office environment. The whole idea is about providing an atmosphere of empowerment that leads to wholesome job experiences along with traditional benefits. At the end of the day let’s just think about one thing – are we providing the type of employee experience that will allow our people to deliver the best possible customer experience?

TeamWave HRMS

The Ingredients of great startup culture

startup

Startups are high growth companies and the onus is on every single employee to deliver value. There is tremendous amount of pressure to grow at any cost, as the survival of the company is on the line. But at the end of the day, we all have to agree that employees are not super humans! so setting the expectations right from the start and creating a template for the company is critical. The right company culture can improve productivity, improve job satisfaction, minimize attrition and in turn help the company grow. These days, a great company culture is something that every company wants to ingrain and employees are also giving similar amount of stress as they would give to traditional benefits. In this post we’ll cover the most important elements for building a great company culture and also look at the examples set by some of the startups.

Establishing Values

Finalize the start up values as early as possible – this is critical to create hiring practices and build a guiding force that drives your path as your start up grows. The core vision of the company will help in keeping the culture consistent and also help the whole team remain true to the “cause” behind the company’s existence.

– Amazon’s Door Desks

Amazon is well known for its culture of frugality. Jeff is a strong believer in the impact of frugality on innovation and to that end, he got a set of desks made out of door to convey this message to the employees. This is something anyone who came to company’s headquarters saw. It depicted amazon’s ethos about cost-cutting, spending and intent.

Amazon doordesk

– Buffer’s Transparency

Among the 10 values set by Buffer there is one that says – “Default to transparency”. By transparency, they don’t mean run-of-the-mill transparency, but a transparency that reaches a stage with which a traditional company won’t be comfortable. The formula to calculate their salary has been made public along with the salary of each employee.

Assessing Culture Fit while Hiring

It is highly critical to embed the culture fit assessment in the hiring process. Establishing the company culture, and making sure that the candidate would fit into that culture should be the very first step. This bolsters the culture, gives boost employee happiness, and finally leads to customer delight.

One thing that we must understand here is that start ups are for people who are generalists. Invariably you would end up doing something which is not your forte and working with cross-functional team is a must. So it’s also a good idea to let the members from different teams meet the prospective candidate and ​reach a consensus.

– Zappos

When someone gets into Zappos’ hiring process, first they undergo cultural fit interview, which holds 50% weightage in final decision. New employees are offered $2,000 to quit after the first week of training in case the recruit has a change of mind. Zappos has listed ten core values and each team member has them instilled in them. The salary hike comes when employees show increment in capability and succeed in skill test, completely abolishing office politics. Part of the budget goes to team building and culture establishment. Significant benefits and a work environment that is fun and committed to delight customers clearly resonates with Zappos’ strategy to build a strong company culture. The right culture automatically leads to great customer service and a great brand.

Creating Traditions

Traditions are great for building teams and also a way generate publicity. You can get creative and experiment with something funny, humorous or  provide platform to foster new ideas. This is a nice way to stop the real work for sometime, relieve stress and bond with team members over various activities.

– Dropbox Hack Week

Dropbox conducts a hack week in which people completely stop their work at hand and focus on interesting hacks to show off at the end of the week. It helps people to be creative without any constraint and in the end they might develop something that might be the next popular feature or product. It’s basically a hackathon spanning over a week.

Dropbox hack week

– Starter Kit at Commerce Sciences

Commerece Sciences has got something called as a “Starter kit”, which is prepared by the the last person who has joined the company for the new recruit’s joining day goodies. Each “kit” is unique and customized as per new guy. This is a great way to create a lasting memory in any employee.

– Vacation tax at Quora

As per Quora’s “vacation tax”, employees bring in exotic food items when they come back from vacation. This increases friendship among the team members and people get to try something new. Though it is quite simple, the impact on the team bonding is huge!

Doing Things Together

Make sure that your team members are doing something together every two months (at least). This can be anything – ranging from team lunch, camping trips, movie nights to community service. Apart from creating a strongly knit team, it provides your team with something to look forward to.

As Jonathan Safran Foer rightly puts it:

Eating out and team building

Holacracy and Flat Organisation

Every individual in a startup is accountable for the growth of the company. That would come with a sense of ownership, responsibility and proactiveness. Flat hierarchy means loose and informal organisational structure with moderate level of hierarchy.  And Holacracy essentially focuses on creating a strong and clear organisational structure without any kind of hierarchy. At the end of the day, these management principles keep the top management approachable, help employees take control of the job and motivate them to do amazing work.

medium

– Medium.com

Medium is a strong proponent of Holacracy and they have sharp focus on getting the final output without any people management. The structure of the company is created based on what they want to achieve. There are different circles present in the company depending on a specific purpose and  the resultant purpose out of these inner circles drives the company’s purpose. There is a circle called Reading and Discovery (or RAD), which has roles devoted to improvement of the reading experience and it is encompassed by the Product Development circle. Same goes for the Creation and Feedback circle, that takes care of content creation process. In this case, the Product Development circle can analyze the results from circles present inside it to drive the product in a particular direction. Finally everyone is contributing to achieve the company’s goal.

– Some Unconventional Companies

At GitHub they work with “Open Allocation” – people do what they find interesting and move in & out of different projects. For example one employee might find the project done by another team interesting, but he might not want to work on that full time. So he would join them, work with them for sometime and might disappear for 2-3 weeks. The founders provide direction and roll out the high level template. After that individual ideas are pitched and different features are discussed internally to steer the product. An Individual might have a cool idea for the product and inform some of the interesting folks about it, discuss around crude prototype with some code and finally it may or may not make it to the production. It’d be worthy to note that 75% of the work force of GitHub, are not in San Francisco and work remotely. Those who are in SF, might also choose to work from a coffee shop or home.

Valve, a billion dollar company with 400 employees, is completely driven by peer consensus. They don’t have things like upper management, bosses  or HR managers. The employees have decided a hiring process and a self-organized committee takes care of hiring. A new recruit is free to join  any project inside the company and also there is freedom to move around from one project to another. At a time when Google gives 20% free time to its employees, Valve prides itself with 100% free time. Hiring and firing can be started simply from a conversation between two employees in the lobby. Payment bonus can be sometimes equal to 10 times an employee’s base salary (subject to leaderless peer approval).

Flexible Schedule

Flexible schedule works out great for both employers and employees. It can take various forms – shortened work days, flexible daily hours or remote work. This helps employees keep a work-life balance, gain control over the schedule and work environment. Most important of all, it lets people work when they can achieve most, feel energized, and enjoy working.

Workation

Although this concept is not new, Uber is the company which is making it popular. During Workation, Uber team members travel to different parts of the world to convert some of their ideas into reality. It is like a working vacation. It helps in changing the work environment and get people to contribute directly to the company more than ever. One of the Uber’s product called ‘UberEvents‘ was born out of this.

Uber Workation

– Unlimited Vacation

New age companies like Buffer, Evernote, Netflix have adopted unlimited vacation policy and some of the mainstream companies like Virgin America and Best Buy were also quick to embrace this. In contrast to the belief, companies saw that employees are not actually taking any leaves – may be they are super happy with what they are doing and there might also be unspoken barriers set the reporting mangers. The whole idea behind vacations is to get rid of stress and come up with fresh ideas. Now, companies like Evernote and Buffer (live smarter, not harder buffer value) are incentivizing people to go on vacation by providing at least $1000.

That sums it up. We’d be happy to learn more about some of the interesting approach taken by any company to build a solid culture. Feel free to post in the comments section.