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Via Forbes : Engage Your Front Line To Increase Your Bottom Line

Your frontline employees, like your sales associates, technicians and customer service reps, often know what’s wrong in your company before you do. They can tell you what delights customers and what frustrates them and, perhaps more importantly, they can tell you “why.” They can tell you why some customers are buying more of your services, while others are returning products, canceling contracts, and taking their business elsewhere.

The problem is that many companies aren’t listening.

Engagement, loyalty, and the bottom line

Fred Reichheld, creator of the well-known Net Promoter System, says companies “can’t earn the loyalty of customers without first generating enthusiastic engagement and loyalty from employees, especially frontline employees.” The evidence bears this out. When the Medallia Institute compared employee engagement and customer loyalty across more than 130 retail outlets, we found that stores with more engaged employees, measured by the likelihood that they would recommend the store as a place to work, had customer loyalty ratings that were 12 percent higher than stores with less engaged employees. Stores with high employee engagement also achieved greater increases in customer loyalty year-over-year, while stores with low employee engagement saw loyalty drop.

A five percent increase in customer loyalty can increase a company’s profitability by 25 to 95 percent, according to Bain & Company. That’s a nice boost to your bottom line.

The unique, untapped value of frontline employees

To increase customer loyalty, companies often turn to market research firms and expensive analytics to determine what their customers like and dislike. Market research and fancy algorithms might be able to tell you how satisfied your customers are, but they rarely tell you how to change your operations to make things better. Fortunately, your frontline employees can.

To understand why, and what creates greater customer-centric engagement at the front line, we surveyed 1,000 customer-facing employees across five U.S. industries—automotive, banking and financial services, retail, telecommunication services, and travel and hospitality.

While 78 percent of employees surveyed said their leaders had made customer experience a top corporate priority, nearly 60 percent also said their ideas for improving the experience often went unheard. These included ideas for delighting customers in new ways (61 percent), improving processes or practices to enhance the customer experience (56 percent), or providing better training so that employees could serve customers more effectively (47 percent).

As in most things, the devil is in the details. Many executives know they ought to be engaging their front line more effectively, but how? Our research suggests that the secret to enthusiastic, customer-centric engagement is empowering frontline employees to make a difference, which starts with listening to them. Based on our survey, we offer four practices that can help you find the way to happier customers through the voice of your employees.

1. Solicit feedback regularly. In our study, 51 percent of frontline employees said they had suggestions for improving customer satisfaction at least quarterly, and 22 percent said they had feedback to share weekly or even daily. Yet nearly 20 percent said their companies never asked for their thoughts on improving customer service, and a third said they were asked for their opinions once a year or less. Thirty years of research have shown that employees are highly accurate in their assessments of customer satisfaction and the quality of their company’s service delivery. If you give them more opportunities to share their insights and suggestions, you’ll be far better equipped to understand and respond to your customers.

2. Ask the right questions. Even when companies do ask frontline employees for feedback, they often ask about inconsequential things that have little impact on the business. Less than half of the employees we surveyed (46 percent) said their companies asked the “right” questions when asking for feedback. Instead, employers tend to ask generic, often irrelevant, questions that offer little opportunity to provide meaningful input. The best way to solicit feedback from employees is to ask questions about relevant, actionable topics that are central to their ability to deliver a great customer experience.

3. Communicate before and after. Only three out of five frontline employees said their company shared the results of employee surveys, and only half said the company informed them about actions taken in response to the feedback. When companies fail to keep employees informed about what they’re doing in response to feedback, employees stop providing their input. If you think your ideas go into a black hole, why bother to give them? This not only diminishes the quality of feedback loops, it also slows learning. Knowing which suggestions are being acted on allows employees to track the ideas that are implemented, assess their impact, and calibrate accordingly, thereby improving future suggestions.

4. Take action. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is ask employees for input and then do nothing with it. But that’s precisely what many companies do. Thirty-three percent of the people we surveyed said their company never took action on employee feedback and another 24 percent said it acted once a year or less. Perhaps most surprising: Less than half of frontline employees said they could count on their leaders to remove obstacles to delighting customers.

A poorly managed employee feedback system can be more detrimental than having no system at all: It sends a strong signal that employee suggestions are not valued and that management is only paying lip service to creating a great customer experience. If management doesn’t care about improving customer service, why should employees?

On the flip side, if you ask your employees for ideas to improve the customer experience, make use of the best suggestions, and communicate what actions you’re taking and why, your efforts will go a long way toward increasing customer-centric engagement among employees, and also dramatically improve your ability to deliver a great customer experience.

A recent Gallup review found that business units in the top quartile of employee engagement had 10% higher customer loyalty and 20% higher sales than those in the bottom quartile. Our results suggest that listening and acting on feedback from your front line is a great place to start building engagement, loyalty, and your bottom line.

Via INC : The Right Way to Conduct a 90-Day Performance Review

What is the right way to do an evaluation of a new hire?

Many companies have a 90 day “probationary period” for new hires. At the end of this, the manager is supposed to do a sit-down evaluation with the new employee. It’s such a standard thing that we often don’t think about it, but we should. It’s actually an area which can cause your business big troubles if you don’t do it right. Here’s the right way to conduct a 90-day performance appraisal.

Stop Saying “Probationary Period.”

This is not just a language thing–it’s a legal thing. In the United States (with the exception of Montana) all employees are at-will unless they have a contract (such as a union). You do not want to do anything to jeopardize the at-will status. So, stop referring to the first 90 days as a probationary period because it implies that the rules change at day 91. If you can be fired without notice on day 75, does the end of the probationary period mean something’s changed and now you can only be fired for cause? You don’t want to get in the legal battle over that. Just say, “We’re going to do a review at 90 days.”

Aim for 90 days.

We don’t call it a 90-day review for nothing. The 90 days isn’t critical. You could do a 60-day review, a 120-day review, or a 75.5-day review (over lunch!). The critical part is to do it when you’ve told the employee you will. Put it on the calendar on your new hire’s first day.

Why? Because performance reviews stress the heck out of your new hires. If you postpone or don’t get around to scheduling, it makes it difficult for your employee. She doesn’t know where she stands. So, if you say you’re going to do it, do it.

Have an Agenda

If you sit down and say, “So, how are things going?” you’re going to miss important things. You can certainly have that type of conversation, but not at an official review. A review should have, at a minimum, an agenda. If this is official company policy there should be a form.

You want to stick to the agenda and cover these things (plus whatever is important for the particular position).

Areas where the new hire needs additional training:

  • Cultural fit
  • Gaps in knowledge
  • Workload evaluation
  • Skills Fit
  • Employee’s observations
  • Things that need changing
  • Things that are working well
  • Make Sure the Employee Has a Chance to Speak

This is not just about you giving feedback, it’s about you receiving feedback. What is and what is not working? Are the improvements that your new hire wants to make? Are there concerns you should know about? It’s better to learn about these things now than have problems appear later on.

Remind the New Employee about Policies

Most people aren’t going to take a day off in their first few months, so they may have forgotten the proper procedures to request time off. The new employee may not have submitted an expense report or had to buy plane tickets for travel, but she will in the future. It’s a good time to go over these things to that the employee never feels uncomfortable.

And if the 90 Days Were a Failure?

If it was a total failure, then that should not be a surprise to anyone at the review. If you’ve been attempting to fix the problems for the past 90 days, it’s time to let the employee go. However, if it was a disaster because you didn’t provide training and support, you need to fix that. Bringing in someone new won’t fix the company’s onboarding process.

But, if the employee is definitely the issue, it’s better to part ways sooner rather than later. Get the paperwork in order and get everyone to sign off and bid the person good luck in their future endeavors.

Say Thank You!

You know what a new job is? Hard. It’s far more difficult than a job you’ve had for 3 years. You get decision fatigue just because everything is new–you have to develop new patterns and new techniques. You have to deal with new people and learn their quirks. It’s tough. So thank your new hire. She’s survived 90 days and that’s not easy. Let her know you’re thankful.

Via Human Resource Director : Why are so many onboarding experiences bad?

Most employees look forward to starting a new job. But what if the introduction turns into a bad experience?

A recent online survey of 4,000 office workers in the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand by cloud-based webonboarding.com revealed that over a third of new starters have had bad onboarding experiences in their organisations.

These experiences led them to regret joining the firm or to leave the job altogether. In fact, 22% of respondents changed their minds before their official start.

For example, 36% of those surveyed said they did not have basic equipment such as a computer on their first day. This caused them to feel like they were joining an unprofessional company.

Fifty-six percent of workers said they did not receive full training and have a sufficient induction plan – when support is seen as pivotal to the overall development of a new employee.

“The findings of our research have highlighted extreme flaws within the onboarding process that are having detrimental effects on global businesses. Major themes throughout were neglect, disorganisation and a lack of engagement,” said Adam Reynolds, CEO of webonboarding.

“Remarkably it seems to boil down to businesses failing to invest the time and focus you would expect to receive in the first few months of joining a new organisation.”

Among those surveyed, 71% said they would have settled into their role quicker had there been a better process in place.

Sixty-nine percent said a good onboarding process would have improved their overall job performance.

Reynolds highlighted the need to prepare all required equipment, materials and training for increased engagement of the new employee.

“Our aim with these results is to make businesses sit up and listen,” he said. “We wouldn’t treat our customers like this, so why would we treat new staff with such disregard?”

Via Forbes : Upgrade Your Interns: Keys To Making An Internship Program Valuable

With summer in the rearview mirror, the noise level in the office has gone down a couple notches, and the kitchen shelves aren’t quite as bare. Without context, that might seem like a good thing, but we’re actually pretty torn up about it. Because it means our interns have left. Even though they were with us for mere months, they quickly became just as much a part of our culture as any full-time employee—and their energy and enthusiasm is something we’re having a tough time learning to live without.

Interns arrive bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to tackle the world as they embark upon what is for many their first real job. Unfortunately, not all internships are created equal. While everyone jokes about how interns are for paper shredding and coffee runs, sometimes those jokes are far too close to the truth. Take a look at these intern horror stories:

Keyera interned with a startup in hopes of gaining experience in public relations. She ended up spending all her time calling and emailing organizations asking for donations and grant money. “It turned out the head of this startup was looking for free labor instead of the opportunity to mentor college students to gain experience.”

Adam accepted an internship at a local game development startup at the end of his undergraduate degree. “I was promoted to lead designer of the project at the end of the first week, and it was then that I realized that I knew more about game development than the person who was supposed to be mentoring me.”

Ron had an accounting internship that started out full of valuable experience. However, after the busy tax season, his manager ran out of work for him and assigned Ron to file scanning. Over the next four months, he scanned close to 20,000 pages. “Ever since that summer, every time I hear a machine scan a document, I run away.”

And finally Jesse, whose internship with a local hospital’s ophthalmology department sadly proved that sometimes stereotypes are 100% spot on. Jesse spent every single day shredding papers, never once interacting with the doctor or patients. “I would sit in the optometrist’s office and shred using a cheap shredder that could only take a couple of pages at a time. After about 15 minutes of use, it would heat up and stop shredding, so I would have to wait around for it to cool down.”

So obviously some internships are broken. Interns face unavailable managers, no formal training, busy work or a lack of work altogether, and no clear goals. They finish the summer with no useful skills, no relevant experience, no meaningful relationships, and deflated enthusiasm.

Six years ago, we hired our first intern at Lucid, and we knew we wanted our program to be different. Interns aren’t for coffee runs, and you can give them real-world learning experience while simultaneously creating value for your company. We want our interns to feel immersed in the culture, working on real projects that produce real impact. We want them to stay bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Here’s how we try and do it.

Trust them with hard things.

When our VP of engineering Brian Pugh first meets with potential interns, he explains our internship philosophy. “An internship with most companies, even hot tech companies like Google and Microsoft, means working on a project that may never see the light of day. At Lucid, within 3-4 weeks, interns will have worked on code that is out in our production system being used by millions of users. There are bug fixes or new features in the product that interns can point to as something they personally worked on.”

We don’t dream up separate “intern projects” that are presented at the conclusion of the summer. Instead, we place our interns on a team and give them work that integrates directly with the overall team objectives. For example, engineering interns are placed on an existing scrum team and treated like any other team member, diving headfirst into the issues that team is responsible for and working on real features that become the next big things in our product. In fact, many employees find it difficult to distinguish between full-time hires and interns, only realizing when the interns disappear come September. Brian says, “I know it has been successful summer when a co-worker says to me at the end of the summer, ‘He/she is back in school? I didn’t realize he/she was an intern!'”

Last summer, our graphic design intern helped kick off Flowchart Fridays, a huge campaign that is still running today and that has received numerous local and national awards. During this intern’s first couple weeks at Lucid, she designed the very first flowcharts for the campaign. They have hundreds of thousands of page views to date and remain some of the most viewed in the campaign. This campaign has been crucial in allowing us to reach new audiences with our software.

Two of our marketing interns built hundreds of diagram templates that customers can actually use. Each template was published as an individual page, and they have helped us rank for dozens and dozens of valuable keywords.
The feedback we hear most often from our interns is how much they appreciate being given this real experience rather than fake projects that fade into oblivion once they leave. We truly value the work our interns do, and we make sure they are well aware of that. Frankly, we are baffled that so many companies waste interns’ time and talent on unimportant projects.

Give the interns a chance. See what they can do. It’s likely they will surprise you.

Treat them like the real thing.

How, you might ask, do I comfortably pass the reigns on a real project to an intern who barely looks 14? I realize that can be a bit disconcerting. But if you’ve hired the best of the best, they are ready to handle it.

Hiring the right interns might not seem as important as hiring for full-time positions. It’s just a summer, right? But you can’t treat internships like short-term relationships. In fact, we hold our interns to the same high bar as we do our regular hires. We are looking for the cream of the crop, and we put our intern candidates through the same rigorous interviewing process as we do our normal candidates. For example, engineering interns take the same programming test, are asked the same algorithm, language, modeling, and behavioral questions, and are held to the same high GPA standard as full-time hires.

So yes, the recruiting and the hiring can be a long process when you have such a high bar. But the process is a smart long-term investment. We’re building a pipeline of qualified candidates, and we hire our interns with the intention of offering full-time positions if the internship goes well. You can put them through the ringer now, or you can do it later.

In addition, internship programs are an easy way to build goodwill for your company and expand your footprint. Interns talk—they are going to tell others about their experience (and keep in mind that they’re going to do so whether it’s good or bad). Our interns have become Lucid ambassadors, representing the company at career fairs and generally raising awareness about our company among university students.

Pair them up.

Don’t send your interns on a wild goose chase. Set them up for success and make sure they have access to the people who will help them achieve that. In addition to the manager they report to, all interns are assigned a mentor from day one.

Mentorships offer a chance for more informal relationships that facilitate open communication. Mentors help interns feel comfortable and quickly get up to speed. In doing so, interns are able to start contributing to meaningful projects right away—the best way to learn is by getting their hands dirty. On our engineering team, mentors often pair program with interns, always review interns’ code changes, and help interns learn the intricacies of the system. We have a graphic design intern who started working with her mentor on a big summer campaign the day after she started.

Immerse them in the day-to-day.

Key to making an internship valuable is ensuring interns are immersed in the culture. And the best way to make sure that happens is to integrate them in existing teams from the get-go. That way, they are living the culture every day rather than listening to you talk about it.

We bring all of our interns on our company retreat at the beginning of the summer. That means our retreat count hit nearly 300 this year. But it’s worth it. The experience allows them to feel a part of the company and to meet people they don’t normally interact with. The informal setting fosters relationship building within and across teams and can put even the most nervous interns at ease.

Every summer, we also hold a Hackathon where employees are invited to come up with ideas for new product features, join a team and create something amazing in just a few days. Many hackathon projects become key features in the products. Interns are strongly encouraged to join (or form) a team and participate. Last year, an intern was on the winning team that came up with Feature Find, which was released to the production system and had a significant impact to our business. This year, an intern was part of a team that spent three days converting 600,000 lines of JavaScript to TypeScript, working off of very little sleep and averaging one file per minute for 48 hours straight. When asked why he joined such an ambitious project, the intern said, “We chose this project because we are absolutely crazy and we don’t know when to call it quits on a joke.”

We also want our interns to feel comfortable with one another and to have that network as another support system. In addition to the company-wide events, we have intern-only activities throughout the summer, such as baseball games, BBQs, and hikes.

So give your interns a shot. Find the golden ones and put them to work on things that really matter and produce value for themselves and your company. Let them think they can tackle the world—and please don’t squash their enthusiasm with coffee runs.

Via Forbes : Create This Sort of Work Environment If You Want To Retain Millennials

Gone are the days when employees must conform to a traditional 9-to-5 workday, losing precious hours of sunshine while being confined to a windowless cubicle. At least millennials think so.

We were raised in a different era than our predecessors, so naturally we have a different approach to getting things done. This doesn’t make us entitled or lazy. (Reminder, millennial over here!) Quite the opposite.

According to a study by Bentley University, 77% of millennials say that flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive for people their age. And flexible hours are just the beginning. A traditional, outdated concept of when and where to work isn’t going to cut it for my generation.

A flexible work environment can take on many forms, but the main idea is to shift away from set hours and not dictate when employees need to be in the office. There might not even be an office.

While this transition might be a hard pill for some execs to swallow, consider this…

Studies have shown that both employees and employers benefit from a flexible work environment. Millennials are determined to reshape the world of work because we know what environment we can not only perform in, but also thrive. Here’s why…

Millennials Value Work-Life Balance

Yes, work-life balance is still a thing, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Millennials value the genuine blending of their work and personal lives, so giving them the opportunity to control when they work and when they play (and how they fit together), makes for more fulfillment. According to Leslie Doolittle at Bentley University, “family, friends and making a difference in their community are much more central to millennials than previous generations.” We believe in the importance of community involvement. How are we going to contribute to society if we’re stuck in an office all day?

Millennials Are Experts In Digital Communication

Millennials are hyper-connected globally, always on. Early adopters, we grew up glued to tablets and smartphones, so digital communication comes to us as second nature. We’ve brought our love for technology into the workplace and know how to stay connected to our peers and run kickass meetings, even from afar. Why not let us cultivate a remote workforce and put these skills into practice? Research by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom showed that working remotely increases productivity and the total number of hours worked. Let’s put that research to good use.

Millennials Crave Loyalty And Stability

This might sound counterintuitive since we’ve been accused of job-hopping and leaving for the next shiny opportunity, but times are changing. According to a 2017 Deloitte millennial survey, millennials in the US are now more likely to say they will stay beyond five years than to leave within two. Part of this is due to an increase in flexibility on the job. McKinsey & Company found that millennials are more likely to accept a job offer from a company that offers flexible work schedules. Flexible work arrangements can also improve retention efforts. In short, we’re looking for freelance flexibility with full-time stability. If we’re in control of how and when we get things done (and are getting fair pay and upward mobility, of course) why jump ship?

Like any shift in corporate culture, transitioning to this type of environment won’t be without its challenges. Communication and good collaboration tools are key to a seamless experience. Luckily, millennials are experts at communicating on the job, especially with mobile friendly tools at their fingertips. A 24/7 kind of culture, some millennials may never be able to “turn off” from work and find themselves logging on over the weekend. But I bet if they’re sitting at a cafe with nitrogen cold brew in hand, there will be little complaining. That is what we signed up for after all.

I wouldn’t be hammering this in if it wasn’t for good reason. Companies are already implementing a variety of flexible practices; we just need to get more on board. Dell aims to have 50% of its global workforce on flexible schedules by 2020, and since millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, that’s a step in the right direction. Any wrinkles will undoubtedly smooth out over time as more and more millennials enter the workforce.

Collectively, let’s just say yes to less restrictions surrounding when and where work gets done. There’s no need to fear flextime and working remotely if it means increased satisfaction and productivity all around. Besides, adopting a flexible work environment will not only benefit millennials, but future generations to come.

The end of the cubicle era is fastly approaching.

Employers, take note… The future is now.