Show Your Team the Future Through Engagement
Is your team invested in your customers?
Do they see a future with your organization?
A key issue facing employers today is the eroding notion of loyalty. There is a breakdown in trust between company and employee that has the potential to negatively impact the customer experience.
The first thing everyone needs to understand is that this is a two-way street. Employees switch jobs more than ever and often have little or no loyalty to their current employer.
Employers, for their part, have not done much to build trust as they have a worsening reputation for valuing employees.
"Optimizing labor," and other euphemisms have becomes the norm in company culture and team members work with one eye open for layoffs as financial pressures mount. And don't think this is a product of the pandemic - while it has exacerbated the situation, it has been this way for some time.
The challenging conditions in the marketplace - economic, political, and health - have made leadership more challenging than ever before. it's easy to take your eyes off the prize, but this is the time to dig in. You have to realize that your team needs to feel valued, appreciated, and invested in so that they will deliver the empathetic service customers are demanding.
So it's time to stop making excuses about how the "new normal" and the "post-covid world" are making things more difficult and to lead your teams in meaningful ways that drive results.
When employees see themselves as expendable, it is a tough sell to entice them to focus on going above and beyond for customers.
It's become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy as team members accumulate transferrable skills and both sides try to keep from becoming overly attached to the other. It's really a bit like a junior high school dance with the way both sides remain as non-committal as possible.
That just won't do when it comes to building a culture that values teamwork, collaboration, and customer focus. It's hard to think about those higher order items when you can't see a future together.
So let's talk about how to focus in both leaders and team members on what matters most - taking care of customers and creating rewarding employee experiences.
Understand That Recruiting the Best Is Not a 20-year Commitment.
I wanted to open with this because so often I hear leaders downplaying the need for training since team members won't stick around that long anyway. I'll let you in on a secret, employees are also concerned about investing too much of themselves in a company as they know that they could be downsized at any time, even if they do a great job.
So learn to value the current moment and those who are a part of your organization right now. The best talent likely won't stay with one company for their entire career, but I challenge you that it's better to have great talent for a shorter term than mediocre talent for decades.
Connect Them to the Long Term Vision
Regardless of how long team members may be a part of your organization, they can still buy in to the long term vision. This is why many employee engagement surveys still ask the question around identifying with the future of organizations. They want to know the employee appetite to take the journey.
So paint them a picture of the future and why they should care. Employees want to know that they are doing work worth doing and that they are making an impact. This comes back, at its core, to understanding how the work helps customers solve problems and improve their lives.
If you want to test if your team knows your ultimate purpose or your customer's needs then ask them "what do we do here?" or "What do our customers need?" Their answer will clearly define their understanding of their larger purpose.
Identify Their Passions
When it comes to keeping team members excited about the future of an organization, you must tie into their core passions. This means that you as you execute your engagement plans, it's important to learn about them on a personal level. As you walk through your quarterly meetings and daily interactions be sure that you are learning something about each person and what they value.
You may find that Sally is all about environmental stewardship and Phil wants to find ways to give back to the community. It is also likely that you never knew that Bob aspired to transition to leadership and that Fran wants to move out of her supervisory role into marketing.
You'll never know unless you take the time to invest in your team and learn what matters to them. As you uncover these hidden passions to cook or fly drones or teach, then your goal must be help your team find ways to unleash their creativity.
Create Development Plans Together
The obvious part of this piece is to prioritize training as a part of your team's development. This means you can't gut the budget when things tighten up and you can't rely on e-learning to get the job done alone. Virtual learning has its place (now more than ever) and it can be a part of a meaningful training strategy. Your training must be solid, delivered by those with an aptitude for the craft, and updated regularly. All that said, it must also contain relevance to your team.
Have you involved your team in creating their training and development plans? The reason this is so important is that employees want to feel a sense of participation in their self development. Of course they will always need to take the base training around safety, customer focus, and brand - but the more they feel like they can opt in to other topics that interest them, the more engaged they will be in daily operations.
Ultimately, this all comes back to employees feeling valued by the companies that employ them and seeing their larger purpose within the daily noise of the workplace.
The key is to lay a foundation that team members can depend upon. When you couple great training with purpose and vision, it creates a culture of trust that drives customer experience.
But more importantly, it keeps your team and your customers at the center of everything you do.