Your Frontline team members are the face of your organization.
To your guests, clients, and consumers, those who serve them at the moment of truth are their connection to your business. Of course, you may have a big corporate machine behind the scenes but that really doesn’t matter to the person buying the car, eating the pizza, or shopping for clothes.
That means that truly understanding your customer's journey means you must first understand your team's journey as well.
To do this you must prioritize your team experience.
I hear a lot of people talking about employee and team experience out there. It's great that they are talking about it, but it all seems a little hollow to me. I have spent my life leading teams - and not teams of 1 or 2 - but teams of hundreds. To be blunt, it's easy to create an engaging team culture with small teams or groups - you'd almost have to be a monster not to.
But if you want to really understand team dynamics and employee morale, lead a team of 500 and then talk to me.
Worse yet are those who talk about employee experiences and have never led a single person, much less a team. So let's cut through the clutter and let me share with you what I learned through both leadership successes and failures.
I found 3 non-negotiables when it comes to cultivating, nurturing, and sustaining a great employee experience.
Make your peace with the fact that team experience is as important as customer experience. Why? Because without a team which is well engaged and cared for, you will never deliver the kind of service and experience you want to provide.
Remember that only you can prioritize and create that experience. You may have a team of leaders you engage to assist you, but just remember that a great team experience doesn't happen without a plan, hard work, and attention. Just saying you want it isn't enough. I've been saying I want a pony for 25 years and I still don't have one.
Creating an employee experience isn't as hard as you think. Stop making it so complex with strategies, cross-functional teams, and endless meetings. Your team wants you to ask them what matters to them and then do that stuff. Are you struggling to find recognition and engagement strategies that work? Sure you are. Have you asked your team what they want? Try that first.
Here are the strategies and tactics that have led to proven results when it comes to providing a great team experience.
THINK TOOLS AND TRAINING FIRST I spoke to a group of amazing front line associates at a restaurant group a few weeks ago, and we discussed what mattered most to them from a team experience perspective. They said that having the tools they need to do their job (stuff like aprons and towels and chicken) was a huge deal for them. When they had to waste time looking for things they needed it made them less likely to do anything "extra" for customers. It wore them out and made them feel like no one cared about the job they had to do. Training also comes up in almost every talk I give. It starts with the need for great onboarding and then continues into mastery of an employee's core duties. When they have lousy training or lack of tools that sets up opportunities for disengaged team members and inconsistent products. You are putting both hospitality and trust in your brand at risk.
CONNECT THEM TO THEIR PURPOSE Every business ultimately connects to people. These people have a job to do or a goal to achieve and your company plays a part in their success. Don't let your team get mired in their daily tasks. Of course they are important to providing great service and experience, but there is more to the story. I am always in awe when I speak to healthcare leaders and we discuss their purpose of helping patients heal and thrive. It's humbling and always inspirational when organizations embrace that kind of thinking. Be sure you also understand your employee's needs and purpose. It isn't enough to connect them to the consumer or organizational needs. If you don't understand what they need to win and what inspires them, you'll struggle to ignite their passion.
COMMUNICATE INTENTIONALLY Communication always comes up in employee focus groups. It is a catch-all when team members are disenchanted with their leadership. The trick is always to find out what kind of communication matters most and then deliver that consistently. Communication is often supercharged with regular pre-shift rallies or team huddles before each shift, so stay tuned for my videos next week on my YouTube Channel. Leaders who communicate effectively do so with purpose. They always remember to recognize and celebrate their team when they win and manage performance effectively when execution lags. Great leaders never shy away from direct, meaningful, inspiring communication that is appropriate to each team interaction.
STEP INTO FRONT LINE ROLES REGULARLY There is no better way to understand your team and see things from their point of view than to spend time performing their duties. When you work side by side with your team not only will you gain an appreciation for their contributions but you will also discover hassles and inconveniences that you can address for them. Be sure you take the time monthly to work shifts in customer facing and non-customer facing roles so that you can gain a complete picture of what it takes to create the amazing customer experiences you are striving for. This will also have the added benefit of engendering loyalty and appreciation from your team - but only if you take it seriously and really commit to performing these roles (meaning you can't opt out of the tough parts of the job).
GIVE AWAY SOME POWER Yes, we are going to talk about empowerment now. You must set a compelling vision for service, share with them a sort of decision tree for success, and then let them try their hand at decision making. You don't want to have to make every decision anyway, do you? Where's the fun in that? But it is scary stuff to give away a bit of your decision rights, but if it doesn't make you a little uncomfortable then you haven't really empowered anyone. This doesn't mean you can just abdicate responsibility, so be sure you stay connected to the decisions your team is making and offer feedback to help them stay on track.
So push hard when it comes to continuously improving your employee experience. It will absolutely show results when it comes to driving your overall customer experience. The real power comes when your team begins to feel these engagement tactics which will fuel their passion. You'll see them begin to perform at a higher level and give more discretionary effort when it comes to providing superior customer outcomes. The other benefit is reduced turn over, which is crucial for creating a sustained culture of excellence.
Thanks for keeping your customers at the center of everything you do.
Tony Johnson, CCXP Customer Experience (CX) Leader | Author | Speaker
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