If you need to increase your company’s competitiveness and profit, where should you start? Should you focus on your employees first, or should you start by focusing on your customers first? In reality, you need to do both.
It is almost always best to start by focusing on your employees first. Highly satisfied and engaged employees are essential for achieving high levels of customer satisfaction, retention and long-term loyalty. Start by listening to your employees and taking action based on their ongoing feedback.
Conduct an employee engagement survey to gather information, suggestions and insight from your employees. Ask them about what it is like to work for your company and what can be done to help them do their jobs more effectively and to do a better job of taking care of customers. Include questions about the effectiveness of internal communications, business processes, teamwork and how employees feel about your company’s direction.
Make sure your employee surveys also include questions about effectiveness of supervisors and managers, empowerment, ability of employees to make suggestions, effectiveness of rewards and recognition, fairness of compensation, adequacy of employee benefits, treatment of diverse groups and fear in the workplace. Include questions about quality, customer service and ways to increase productivity. Ask questions about anything that may be positively or negatively impacting employees and customers.
Don’t be surprised if you end up identifying a very large number of challenges and opportunities. If challenges and problems exist, you need to know about them, prioritize them and take action. There is no single silver bullet. Identifying and addressing the top three problems is not enough, especially when there are many more problems that already impacting your employees.
It is important to do a thorough and objective job of analyzing the survey findings. It is then equally important to create a comprehensive action plan and to do a good job of getting everyone involved and executing the plan effectively. This requires communicating the results of surveys so that employees know that you listened to them and that you are committed to making needed changes based on their feedback.
Your goal should be to use the employee survey results to achieve large-scale increases in employee engagement and satisfaction, with a much greater focus on your customers and meeting or exceeding their expectations.
To ensure that you are achieving success, conduct employee attitude surveys annually to measure progress and to identify any new challenges and opportunities that surfaced since the previous survey. Your focus on and commitment to continuous improvement will ensure continued satisfaction and loyalty.
Once you start to achieve positive results, you should also conduct customer surveys to assess customer satisfaction levels and to see how your customers feel about your company, your employees, your products and services and other key issues that drive customer satisfaction and retention. Don’t be afraid to ask customers about things you know you are not doing well. You need to learn about how customers feel. Guessing isn’t good enough. Your customers are probably also buying from your competitors. It is important that you learn first-hand how they compare your company, products and services with those of your competitors.
In summary, take good care of your employees, set the right direction, provide good leadership, identify problems and opportunities, take action and measure ongoing progress. This will enable your company to attract and retain customers and to be competitive and profitable.
Three Easy Ways To Retain Employees
Tina Olson is an assistant professor and director of the Graduate Business Programs at Stephens College. Here is her advice to employers on how to keep good employees.
1. Spend time getting to know your employees. Learn about their interests, background, family, pets and what’s important to each of them. This takes time yet employees want to know their leaders care about them. Be sure you’re also showing your “human side” and sharing similar information.
2. Show empathy for individual situations and remember there is a human being behind every problem. Empathy does not mean employees get a pass on being accountable. (Watch some TedTalks by Brene’ Brown to learn more empathy.)
3. Allow time for fun and support of our community. Spend time talking with an employee from Veterans United about their culture and you’ll see the impact this has on organization.
Howard Deutsch is the CEO of Quantisoft, a full-service survey company