Culture and engagement issues have always been a priority, but today they are more essential to business health going forward than ever before.
Employee engagement is now widely viewed by most companies as an important driver of productivity, retention and results. As a result, from perks to incentives to training, organizations have been searching for that ideal mix that will keep employees motivated, inspired and willing to give it their all.
It could be that they’re viewing the issue from the wrong lens.
The annual Deloitte Human Capital Trends study found that one of the biggest challenges organizations are facing today is a need to improve “employee experience.” Not only did 84% of survey respondents rate the issue as important, 28% said it was one of the three most urgent issues their organization is dealing with.
One clue about why organizations continue to struggle on both the engagement and experience fronts lies in another pair of statistics from that study: Only 53% of respondents said their organizations were effective or very effective at creating meaningful work, and only 45% thought that they were effective or very effective at delivering supportive management.
Employee engagement efforts, although centered around the employee, have been primarily top-down initiatives that “relied on the organization’s hope that employees would choose to engage with the company’s ideas, culture, work, and results,” Deloitte notes. Employee experience, on the other hand, though bottom-up in concept, still focuses primarily on the work itself.
User-friendly processes and workflows and well-designed office environments are great. So are perks and rewards. But as Deloitte points out, none of these addresses the human side of work. What people want from the work is meaning and opportunities for growth. They want to find purpose in what they’re doing and a connection to the mission. And that’s why it takes an organizational effort to significantly improve engagement and experience.
THE POWER OF PURPOSE AND ENGAGEMENT
Getting this right matters. Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost companies about a third of the disengaged worker’s salary in lost productivity. And when those employees are checked out, you can bet that’s impacting the customer experience as well.
In fact, culture and engagement have a ripple effect. Another study by Deloitte, focusing on cultures of purpose, found that when employees feel like they’re working for something greater than pure profits, their companies are more successful. These high-performing companies, which are committed to creating a meaningful impact for everyone, define their values by the success of their customers.
The bottom line is that people buy from companies they like, and those tend to be the companies that place an importance on mission and purpose. Their people not only understand the organization’s broader mission, values and purpose, they feel connected to them and have aligned their own behaviors around them. When that happens, customers notice.
So, what are you doing to build that culture of meaning and purpose? Here are 3 steps to consider:
- Focus on aligning for value: It’s not enough to have a great mission statement. Embedding the mission, values and purpose into the culture requires alignment of people (talents and traits), processes (skills and tools), support (leadership and coaching) and commitment (employee attitudes, beliefs and values).
- Turn managers into coaches: But not just any coaches. Managers need to have the mindset as well as the skillset to see the potential in their employees—even if their employees don’t yet see it themselves. They also need to help employees discover what motivates them personally. It’s a necessary part of the process of finding meaning in the work and connecting it to the company’s purpose.
- Remember, you’re developing people. Aside from the fact that tools like sales scripts and rote-based training aren’t effective for changing behavior over the long term or building customer loyalty, they discount the reality that people are individuals. They have unique attitudes, beliefs and values, all of which affect how they view the company, its products and services, their job, and ultimately, their performance. A values-based approach, linked to your corporate mission and purpose, is a win for all sides.
It takes more than a few HR policies and environmental tweaks to improve the employee experience and create a highly engaged workforce. Employees at all levels want to know that what they’re doing is making a difference. Is your culture aligned in a way that will inspire your workforce to achieve more?
DOES YOUR COMPANY KEEP ITS PROMISES?
All healthy, long-lasting customer relationships are based on trust, integrity and mutual respect.
In our private lives, keeping a promise is seen as something sacred. We swear to cross our hearts, hope to die, and stick needles in our eyes before breaking that trust. But what about in the business world? Do customers have faith that companies will keep their promises? Just how strong is that bond of trust?
If you look at some of the recent studies on trust in business, it’s clear that, on the whole, companies have a long way to go. Salesforce’s most recent Trends in Customer Trust study, for example, shows that 54% of customers don’t believe companies have their best interests in mind. And that has real consequences for the business. That same study found that 95% of customers are more likely to be loyal to a company they trust, and 92% are more likely to purchase additional products and services from trusted businesses. Just as important, 93% are more likely to recommend a company they trust.
Strong Customer Relationships are Built on Trust
All healthy, long-lasting customer relationships are based on trust, integrity and mutual respect. The customer has to trust that the company—and every person who is part of the customer experience—will keep its promises. As Gallup points out in its publication The Real Future of Work: The Trust Issue, “In a globalized, highly interconnected world, trust is more important than ever to business success and sustainability over the long term. More than ever, integrity is the ultimate brand attribute.” And more than ever, keeping promises is everyone’s job.
Trust-building is a process that begins with first impressions and goes all the way through the customer relationship. For people in sales roles, this means that they have to be able to validate themselves, the products and services they’re representing, and the organization throughout the buying/selling journey. Any time trust and confidence are missing, the chances for a sale are weakened.
This process of validation is about answering the questions in the customers’ minds:
- Can I believe and trust you?
- Can I have confidence in the value of your product or service?
- Can I be assured that your organization will stand behind this sale?
Start With a Focus on Customer Value Creation
How do you build trust and demonstrate to customers that you’re the kind of company that keeps its promises? It starts when everyone sees themselves as value creators.
When people view their jobs through the lens of how their actions impact customer value creation, it makes things like keeping promises, acting with integrity and treating people with mutual respect a way of doing business. As Gallup puts it, “If a company exists to improve the life of its customers, violating their trust or harming their communities through unethical behavior becomes not just a moral issue, but a strategic concern.”
Here are just a few of the ways a focus on value creation brings out the best in your people and your business:
- A healthy view of selling unconsciously validates your salespeople to your customers. Salespeople who believe that their job is to create value for their customers will view selling as serving, helping and focusing on solutions. This is a very healthy view of selling, and one that builds customer trust almost by definition. It’s also the hallmark of highly successful salespeople who enjoy long-term, mutually respectful client relationships.
- A focus on customer value creation results in stronger confidence and sense of purpose. When people focus on identifying and filling customer needs with the objective of creating more and better value, they’ll have higher energy and confidence, and a stronger sense of purpose.
- Values and attitudes are projected to customers. People tend to form pretty quick impressions of others. That’s why the old saying is true: The best way to get people to trust you is to be someone they can trust. When your behavior shows that you believe in the importance of integrity and have a genuine desire to create value, others will intuitively feel your sincerity.
Too many organizations are dropping the ball when it comes to keeping their promises, and yet it matters to customers now more than ever. For more on how to make sure yours is a company that customers have confidence in and know they can trust, check out these 5 ways leaders can develop a culture of trust.
5 WAYS LEADERS CAN INCREASE A CULTURE OF TRUST
What are you doing every day to strengthen the culture of trust with your employees and customers?
In our recent sales coaching research, 76% of the firms told us coaching is a critical driver of success. As Lou Cimini, Vice President of Human Resources at Samsonite, explains it, the power behind coaching is that it allows the leader and the salesperson to “arrive at a common path—an agreed upon output—and in some cases, the tactics to get there, and then the employee has what they need to go out and achieve those goals.”
But before they can arrive at that common path—in fact, before the coaching process even begins—the employee has to be receptive to coaching. And more than anything, that requires trust.
Trust and the Coaching Relationship
To understand why trust matters, consider your own experience. If you don’t believe your manager’s primary objective is to help you reach your personal and professional goals, then you’re probably not going to be very receptive to what they have to offer. Unless they can create an emotional connection and show that they understand it’s about you, not them, then the relationship’s not going to make it very far. And that means you’re not likely to get the full value of those coaching conversations.
As the manager, building a receptive environment for coaching takes some time and effort, but the value extends well beyond the coaching conversations themselves. When people trust you, they will work harder, listen better and be more forgiving of mistakes or misunderstandings. When trust is low, there’s more resistance, and communication simply doesn’t work as well.
In his work on The Neuroscience of Trust, Paul J. Zak notes that, where there’s high trust, employees are more productive, energetic, collaborative and more likely to stay longer with the company. Not only that, “They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance.”
Trustworthiness doesn’t come from specific managerial or coaching skills alone, however. It also requires a mindset that is others-focused. To have honest, open discussions with your employees, you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes and be willing to do the work to establish common ground, connect emotionally and break the barriers to pre-occupation.
In the coaching engagement itself, the manager’s responsibility for creating trust in the relationship includes such actions as:
- Establishing rapport before initiating the coaching dialogue
- Setting aside your agenda and focusing totally on the person
- Recognizing and adapting your communication to their Behavior Style
- Communicating your sincere interest in that person’s development
5 Ways Leaders Develop a Culture of Trust
As Gallup pointed out in an article exploring the potential trust crisis many companies are facing, “Strong ethical leadership is a big part of what gives employees and customers the confidence to invest in long-term relationships with organizations.” Here are 5 leadership actions you can take to begin forging these all-important trusting relationships:
- Clearly communicate expectations to each person. Don’t assume they know what you’re thinking or would respond to the same internal motivators that you do. Communicate with their perspective and behavior style in mind, not your own.
- Show you have their best interests at heart by what you say and do. Realize that sometimes actions speak louder than words. If you talk a good game but show through your behavior that you’re really looking to “catch and punish” rather than coach and develop, your employees will see right through it.
- Follow through on commitments given and received. This isn’t just about what you’ve committed to your employees but also about your employees’ commitments to you. If you can’t be trusted to care about whether or not they follow through, then they won’t care either.
- Be truthful and authentic, even when it isn’t easy. As a manager, you’re going to have to deal with tough issues from time to time. Conversations about performance problems or other challenges are never easy, but when you’re candid about the issues and show that you have their goals and success in mind, you’ll actually strengthen the relationship.
- Model trustworthiness with your team members and customers. Plenty of companies have value statements that tout a commitment to trust and integrity. But that doesn’t mean those qualities automatically translate into everyday behaviors. Through their own actions, managers are the ones who set the standard. Your employees will notice and follow your lead. And that means your customers will notice, too.
While trust is the cornerstone and foundation for productive relationships and high-performing teams, it’s not something that happens overnight. It’s built and maintained by many small actions over time. It’s also not a matter of technique; it’s about character. We are trusted because of the way we live our lives and manage relationships with people.
What are you doing every day to strengthen the culture of trust with your employees and customers?
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