Welcome to Part 3 of my blog series on Going From Good to GREAT. If you haven’t read Part 1:Creating Core Values in the Relationship Economy or Part 2: Engage an Effective Vision yet, I recommend that you read it for a little perspective and understanding of our conversation. On the other hand, even if you haven’t read part 1 or 2, I’ve written the series so that each article is independent of the other parts. If you have read my first piece, you might want to skip down a little lower to the guts of Part 3. I have include the upper part of my previous post in the beginning of this article as a quick refresher so it might make a little more sense to you, the reader.
What does it require to take your business or personal life from Good to Great?
I have found in my research and experience the same traits that create a great personal life also create a powerful business life. What’s good for you personally is good for your business as both are intimately connected to people. A company is a living, breathing, entity, just as you are, made up of collective parts that create a whole. It exists within a sphere of relationships, just as you are.
From time to time you’ll see articles written by me in my “Good to Great” series. Today’s article is on creating Core Values. I’ve written it from the corporate perspective, however, even if you don’t own or lead a company, you likely work for one, and knowing the information I’m sharing here is a step forward for you to be an even better version of yourself whether you’re the CEO or at the bottom of the organizational chart. The research and ideas listed here can also be used to cultivate awareness which serves to support you in your journey to be a better human being. What I have come to understand in my experience over the past 25 years researching and speaking on personal and business relationships, is that the skills and techniques that make better organizations also make better people.
In today’s world, we are moving into a post-consumer age called the relationship economy. With the widespread use of the internet, instant global communications and most dramatically, social media, we are entering an era defined by two-way relationships between brands and bodies. Today’s consumer wants to be heard, whether it’s to voice a concern to management or request a particular color image on their laptop case. Transactions are being defined by emotions and relationships not just dollars and cents.
According to Forbes Magazine, 78% of consumers say that posts made by companies on social media influence their purchases and an even greater 81% say that posts made by their friends influence their purchasing decisions. This result was from a 2012 survey. One can only imagine with the continued permeation of social media into all aspects of our lives that this number has only increased. Relationships drive purchase decisions. Purchases are the lifeblood of every company.
With this knowledge, how does an enterprise go from Good to Great? We build relationships. True two-way relationships which interact regularly with customers to receive and act on their input. The customers of today are much more savvy then in years past and expect company’s to pay attention to them. They also have instantaneous and much louder methods for voicing their displeasure as well as their support. (Case in point, the recent media exposure regarding Southwest Airlines and a gentleman and his two young daughters that were booted off a flight for the father Tweeting his displeasure about a rude gate agent. Allegedly the gate agent made him de-plane, and insisted that he delete his Tweet on Twitter before being allowed to re-board and fly. Click for the full article here by ABC News.)
With the Relationship Economy in-mind I’ve laid out the 5 V’s of building a Great Enterprise. The 5 V’s are:
1. Values: Create Core Values
2. Vision: Engage an Effective Vision
3. Validate: Validate Your Employees
4. Village: Build a Village Through Relationships
5. Voice: Listen to the Voice of Your Current and Potential Customers.
These 5 V’s: Values, Vision, Validation, Village and Voice, are built around the concept of improving relationships inside and outside of the company. In fact, the 5 V’s are closely based on my RelationShift® model of success and reflect the importance I put on positive, uplifting relationships in both our personal and professional lives.
In this article I will speak on the third concept: Validate.
So often in our organizations we can develop a one-dimensional focus on building our success on adding new customers in an effort to steadily increase sales. Unfortunately this focus can lead to a case of sales tunnel vision where we forget to focus on the other elements of our enterprise. One of these often ignored elements is our greatest asset: our employees.
Employees are an organization’s direct contact with its customers. An unhappy or unmotivated employee is not going to present a company in its best light. In fact, a recent study by European polling company, Vision Critical, found that nearly one-third of U.K. consumers (30 percent) have become less loyal to retail brands in the past five years. One-quarter of those customers identified poor service as the main reason for this decreased loyalty.
A motivated employee is critical to not only increasing sales, but retaining current clients in an ever more competitive business environment.
How do we develop motivated and engaged employees? Validate their importance to the company. There are numerous reasons that companies do a poor job of employee validation. Whether a company’s lack of focus on employees is due to imagined fears that an empowered employee may ask for a wage increase if they felt critical to the enterprise, poor employee morale will directly impact the bottom-line in a negative fashion.
Afraid your employees may ask for a pay raise if they feel important? A 2009 McKinsey study found the exact opposite. In fact McKinsey found, “praise and commendation from managers was rated the top motivator for performance, beating out other noncash and financial incentives, by a majority (67%) of workers.”
In fact if you’re worried you may have to raise wages, consider the cost to hire and train a new employee to replace one that is already proficient in their job. Gallup says, “The number-one reason most Americans leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated. In fact, 65% of people surveyed said they got no recognition for good work last year.” Deloitte also found, “organizations with recognition programs which are highly effective at enabling employee engagement had 31% lower voluntary turnover than organizations with ineffective recognition programs.”
There are piles of statistics beyond what I shared above that demonstrate the importance of employee validation in employee satisfaction and retention. What about the effect of engaged employees on customer service and customer retention? Is there a direct link from a happy employee to a happy client? Yes in fact there is.
Aberdeen Group discovered, “60% of Best-in-Class organizations stated that employee recognition is extremely valuable in driving individual performance.” A 2012 employee recognition survey by SHRM shared, “When companies spend 1% or more of payroll on recognition, 85% see a positive impact on engagement.”
Do you need more proof engaging your employees will deliver higher sales and greater performance? Employee Validation doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult. Beyond increased pay and bonuses, some easy ways to validate your employees include:
1. Say, “Thank You!” Yes it really is this simple. A face-to-face “Thank you” may be all that is needed. Handwritten notes and small gifts of appreciation are also great ways to let employees know you recognize their efforts.
2. Flex Scheduling. Being flexible with the work day is a great way to show employees you see them as a person who often has their own scheduling needs.
3. Breaking Bread Together. From a monthly lunch with a manager, to department pizza parties based on performance or monthly top performer lunches with the CEO, engaging an employees stomach is always a direct link to his or her heart!
4. Party-On! A yearly party is a great way to show appreciation to employees. Whether a formal holiday party or a mid summer beach picnic, letting loose with employees is a great way to say “Thank you” with the added bonus of also building team spirit.
5. You Care, The Company Cares and Your Employees Care. Providing opportunities for your employees to work in the community and in volunteer organizations, sometimes on company time, is a great way to show you care about your employees interests and you care about others and the community. It’s also an excellent opportunity to build goodwill not only with your employees, but your customers, potential customers and your own community. A classic 2 for 1 benefit.
Interested in employee retention? Your best retention strategy is making sure your people feel valued, important and part of the team. Everyone of us has need of feeling useful, of having work that is meaningful and real. Give this to your employees and they will be happier on the job, in their job and with your customers. In the end we’re all just human beings having a relationship with other human beings. Our titles, responsibilities, and paychecks might be different, but we’re really all exactly the same irrespective of our work in the world. We are human. Every human whether they admit it or not is looking for love, approval and appreciation.
The foundation for successful leadership is this: A wise leader will support their workforce to be the best versions of themselves they can be because they care about their employees, they care about their customers and they care about their community.