Rob Markey of Bain and Co.: Employee Engagement Rocks!
One of the great success factors in building employee engagement is the gradual build-up of what we at Bovo-Tighe call Unshakable Trust between co-workers. (Read more about Unshakable Trust here.)
One manifestation of this is the willingness of senior managers to trust front-line workers with the authority to improve the customer experience on the spot. The “customer” could be internal or external, but the idea is to have employees earn trust through experimentation and experience, proving through their actions that they can keep the organizational mission in mind when acting on the organization’s behalf, and be an advocate of the organization to customers.
We found a nice quote in a report commissioned by Achievers and created by the Harvard Business School that supports the concept of pushing authority down the ranks. The quote was from Rob Markey, head of Bain & Company’s Global Customer Strategy and Marketing Practice. He believes that “the only way to have consistently really high levels of customer loyalty is to have a workforce that is so enthusiastic, creative, and energetic that you outperform competitors in service delivery, execution, and product design.” To do that, “you need to put employees in a position where they can be successful in creating high levels of customer loyalty and where they get the pride in knowing that they’ve made someone else’s life better.”
We stress in our own leadership training that a leader’s prime motivation should be to make life better for his or her followers. Usually, but not always, that is defined by the group’s professional success (which leads to greater rewards and personal satisfaction).
Every employee also has the responsibility to make the lives better of their customers by delivering on their organization’s promise.
This is captured in the Service-Profit Chain graphic, that many of you may be familiar with:
The basic theory: Improved employee engagement leads to better employee advocacy. This in turn improves customer engagement, which generates profits.
We use the word passion to capture what underlies this powerful chain. Aligned, passionate action drives up productivity, enthusiasm and ROI on your human capital investments, which flows through the service-profit chain to the bottom line!
Markey goes further, outlining broad areas of action that should get your focus as a transformational leader:
1. Put employees in positions where they have the ability to exercise judgment in doing their jobs and learn over time through feedback from customers (internal or external) to do that job better.
2. Continually link employee performance back to the broader goals of the organization to make customer goals better
3. Culturally, stake your organization’s mission heavily on offering employees autonomy, mastery, purpose, and a strong sense of affiliation.
Structurally, this means top managers need to open up the decision-making authority, allowing power and responsibility to be decentralized from headquarters out into individual teams.
Giving employees space to risk failure without destructive repercussion, to allow them to learn and grow is a huge step for senior managers to take. This cultural shift can happen at all levels of the organization, and can start anywhere (we usually start in operational units or with middle management teams in our engagements). But senior management must be willing to support the teams making this cultural shift through their periods of trial and error, or the whole commitment will come to a quick halt.
Does this make sense to you? Is your senior management committed to pushing authority down the ranks to allow greater ownership and engagement in the mission by employees close to the customer? How many layers of approval have been eliminated to improve the customer experience, for instance? Companies like Zappos and Southwest Airlines pull it off. Is yours moving in that direction? Let us know your story.