Tag Archives: Harvard Business Review

What’s a Happy Employee Worth?

One of the items that comes up regularly in our employee surveys is a wish for improvements in our physical work environment, so we’ve made some investments recently in fresh coats of paint, removing clutter and keeping items in their proper place, and other efforts to polish and shine things up a bit.  We haven’t addressed every concern, but we are getting a positive response to the efforts we’ve made.

In the last Better Managers’ blog by Debra Koenig, she spoke about the “satisfaction mirror” in which happy employees result in happy customers.  We’re hoping that addressing the issue of physical environment improves the happiness quotient at our office and brings us closer to the many companies   whose happy employees have brought happy customers resulting in happy shareholders.

Google invested in providing a great dining experience for employees at its campus which also includes pool tables and swimming pools.  They were on track to hit an all-time high share price last month and currently rank #1 on the Forbes magazine Best Company to Work For list. The Parnassus Workplace Fund was created in 1984 – a mutual fund that includes companies that consistently land on that list – and it shows strong long-term growth, outpacing the S&P 500 Index for more than a decade. Dr. Noelle Nelson in her book “Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy cites the example of Alcoa that determined that safety (not profit or any other typical measure of company success) would be its focus in the late 80s and into the 90s.  Significant improvements in safety resulted in happier employees and also annual income growth near 500%!

In the Harvard Business Review, Michael Schrage said that while the connection between happy employees, happy customers and company profitability can be valid, happy employees don’t always translate into profits. He cites Yahoo as an example of a company that isn’t currently performing well despite offering some of the perks that often indicate happy employees.  This is an appropriate caution that throwing perks and benefits at employees doesn’t automatically generate happy customers and broader organizational success.

Employees that are truly happy at work and not just showered with perks are the ones who are engaged, keep their skills current and are often part of innovation or process improvement teams.  To help identify which of your employees really like their jobs, the website www.happyemployees.org suggests you look for the following:

  • Promptness: anyone who is consistently late probably isn’t the most engaged or happy
  • Productive: gets work done on time and produces at rates higher than their peers
  • Trainable: interested in career development or skill training, volunteers for extra duties or projects
  • Communication: participates in the regular exchange of information about their work and the company’s success
  • Commitment: works overtime to get the job done, pulls together during difficult times
  • Service: for both internal and external customers, they work to keep all of them happy

Congratulations to those of you who already have a core of employees who fit the above description.  If you’d like to increase the number of happy engaged employees, use these Simple Guidelines to Drive Your Company’s Success:

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate – provide information and regular feedback; it shows that you respect, trust and value your employees
  • Keep promises – don’t offer what you can’t deliver, but deliver what you promise; if you don’t, you’ll undermine any of the respect and trust you may have generated by communicating
  • Pay attention to regular recognition – not all recognition has to be monetary, so don’t ignore the small ways you can thank and reward good performance
  • Support employee development – nothing says you value someone like an investment in their future (and yours); if your budget is limited, find projects or other ways to expand an employee’s experience
  • Work on motivating or inspiring workers – this is where your leadership comes in; chart the course, set the example, be a cheerleader and make your employees believe in your company

If you’re successful in increasing the number of happy and engaged employees, it can result in an increase in the value those employees may bring to the company.  In her blog from last March called “When Employees aren’t Happy then the Company Isn’t Happy”, Elizabeth Lupfer uses the following to calculate that value:

  •  Fully engaged employees RETURN 120% of their salary in VALUE
  •  Disengaged employees RETURN 60% of their salary in VALUE

It may take more than a little paint, but if the above is true, it’s more than worth the investment to see what you can do to keep your employees happy.

By, Nancy Lane, Human Resource Manager at Red Book Solutions and B2A, LLC – 30 years of experience in education, medical imaging, oil & gas and business services.

A Framework for Networking Movers and Shakers

Reid Hoffman’s face popped up unexpectedly on the TV screen in front of my elliptical machine. Fortuitous. He is the guru in professional relationship building. To get ahead as a manager you must employ the skills of networking.

Strength in Numbers

Reid is the Founder of LinkedIn, an early investor in Facebook and the author of the networking book best seller “Start Me Up.” I have always been a devotee of networking. Reid has taken the art and added science.

His networking guiding principles:

  • Be genuine and put the interests of others ahead of your own
  • Form ten alliances – people you would get up in the middle of the night for
  • 3rd degree relationships are the best – someone in the mix who knows you personally
  • Nurture your relationships

At the start, let’s agree that successful businesses and people stay in touch. They gain something from one another.

Here is a great example – publically traded Lululemon Athletica’s manifesto proclaims that “friends are more important than money” and since their IPO in 2007 their stock has climbed 263%. Top motivating speaker Tony Robbins states, “Proximity is power.” Combine the two and, voila, you have networking at its best.

Yes, networking is important. But how do I include it as an important aspect in my daily routine?

I see two problems for me:

  • Reid famously carries 5 phones/laptops to stay connected. I don’t!
  • And to stay that connected moves one into Information Overload – less productivity due to a never-ending barrage of distracting contacts and data.

So, let’s see what some of my network thinks. I randomly sent reconnecting emails to my allies and some 3rd degree connections. Responses were swift – perhaps because there was no ASK (“I need a favor”).

Here is a sampling:

“Sorry I haven’t been in touch lately. How are you?”

“I’ve been slammed. Glad you reached out.”

“No, I don’t do LinkedIn or Facebook. Too time consuming.”

One of my contacts responded with this actionable networking framework that she follows successfully:

  • Create a formal alliance of folks who agree to help each other. Agree to talk once a month.
  • Be disciplined in sharing leads and offering help and advice. Take this alliance seriously.
  • Look for articles/information that would be interesting or useful to a contact. Send with a brief email. This shows you are thinking about them, limits your investment of time and keeps you connected.
  • Make a personal decision to help someone in a big way. It will pay forward.
  • Routinely make introductions and ASK for introductions.
  • Send messages for key milestones (promotions, big business wins, awards).

More comes from networking than meets the eye. According to Harvard Business Review, being a good networker has other perks as well like moving from the non-promoted pool to being in the top 10% of getting promoted. By making a point to network up and down the ladder in your organization you keep yourself in the front of peoples’ minds and have allies in place who are ready to help you make that next move.

My conclusion – successful networking requires work and a personal approach. It is a snowball effect that gains momentum as you build and nurture it.

But designing your own framework of connectivity and working at it every day is absolutely doable.

By Debra Koenig, President of B2A Consulting

For further support around networking see Three Degrees of Separation: Building a Powerful Professional Network

Linking Employee Satisfaction to Customer Loyalty: Happy Employees Can Help Drive Profitability

On a recent Southwest flight to Las Vegas (yes, it was a business trip), I removed Spirit Magazine from the seatback pocket and started flipping.  One of the first articles, by the Chairman and CEO of Southwest, discussed the company’s focus on customer service.  The central point of the article was that service excellence is a “way of life” at Southwest and it starts with the employees.  Now, if I didn’t know any better, the article could be yet another business leader talking about the importance of customer service, while doing little to back it up.

However, as anyone who has flown Southwest knows, the company definitely “walks the walk.”  It was only about 48 hours later that we experienced clear evidence of this.  While waiting by the gate for our return flight to board, my colleague lamented how she wasn’t feeling well and would love some Ginger Ale.  Unfortunately, after visiting several stores in the concourse, no Ginger Ale was located. When we boarded the plane, the flight attended, having overheard our conversation, handed her a can of Ginger Ale. If that doesn’t demonstrate the Southwest service culture, I don’t know what does.

Achieving service excellence in any company requires participation from every employee.  A well-known Harvard Business Review article entitled “Putting the Service Profit Chain to Work” described the relationship (or “links in the chain”) between employee loyalty and customer loyalty. A simplified version of what the researchers found is – employee satisfaction rises when you equip employees with the skills and power to serve customers. Employee satisfaction in turn raises employee productivity, and higher productivity means greater service value for customers. This increases customer satisfaction and loyalty, which stimulates profitability.

It stands to reason that a happy employee is more likely to go the extra mile to service a customer, as evidenced on my Southwest Airlines flight. If your employees feel appreciated and empowered, they will probably be more pleasant to deal with and show a greater willingness to ensure every customer interaction is handled in accordance with the high standards you expect.  It has also been well documented that dissatisfied employees are less productive and contribute to higher employee turnover in a company (check out a recent Twitter post on creating “happy worker bees”).

Fast-forward to today and there are a number of companies that live and breathe these concepts, including Southwest Airlines. What can leaders and managers of smaller organizations do to promote employee loyalty?

  • Show a willingness and ability to listen to employees. Engage with them often, ask for feedback and suggestions on how to improve both the work environment and the customer experience. Make it safe for employees to talk about workplace dissatisfiers.
  • Set clear expectations and hold employees accountable to a high standard of service. Reinforce to all employees how they contribute to satisfying customers, and thus generating profits.
  • Recognize success, both on a company and individual employee level.  When an employee does something extraordinary, use it as an opportunity to celebrate achievement.
  • Understand factors that contribute to employee turnover.  Uncover the root cause of employee frustrations so they can be quickly addressed.
  • Provide ongoing coaching, training and education so employees have the tools to make decisions that are beneficial for the company and each individual customer.
  • Use metrics to measure and track employee satisfaction and retention, including employee surveys and exit interviews.
  • Finally, communicate effectively and keep your employees ‘in the loop’ when you implement any changes that stem from their feedback.

The linkage between employee loyalty and financial performance is proven and strong. Investing in employees provides companies with another opportunity to gain competitive advantage.

Evan Klein, Guest Blogger, Satrix Solutions Founder & President   

Evan Klein is the founder and President of Satrix Solutions.  For nearly 20 years, he has been responsible for maximizing customer satisfaction, retention and profitability in high touch point, customer-centric organizations.  As an enthusiastic champion for voice-of-customer driven change, Evan has designed and executed customer feedback programs for dozens of business-to-business firms.  He has experience with all phases in the life cycle of these programs, including design, construction, execution, analysis and, most important, ensuring they are driving positive change.

About Satrix Solutions – Satrix Solutions was founded with a singular goal – help businesses maximize potential and opportunity by engaging in active dialogue with their customers. Companies rely on our formal customer feedback programs to gather valuable insights from existing, former and potential customers. The analysis and recommendations we deliver serve as a blueprint for driving operational improvements to enhance the customer experience. By leveraging our proven approach to capturing and responding to the needs of the market, our clients are able to improve customer retention, maximize share-of-wallet and increase sale close rates. Satrix Solutions serves small to mid-size businesses in a variety of industries, each focused on realizing the financial benefits of creating a differentiated service experience. To learn more visit www.SatrixSolutions.com.

Keep a Work Diary To Minimize Mistakes And Document Successes

What do John Adams and Oprah Winfrey have in common?

December 3, 1764, “I am determined to keep a diary, if possible, the rest of my life. I fully realize how difficult it will be to do so…it is my purpose to write down each evening the events of the day as they occur to my mind, …I shall try to deal truthfully with all matters that I may refer to in these pages, whether they be of national or personal interest…” – John Adams

April, 2011, “I’ve been journaling since I was 15…now I do a combination of gratitude and trying to give some perspective to whatever I’m writing about…It’s astonishing to be able to track your own evolution—who I was, who I’m still becoming.”- Oprah Winfrey 

A daily diary.

Though reading the accounts of John Adams and Oprah Winfrey may be fascinating to us, the benefits they gave the writers were probably far greater.

Why keep a work diary?

There are four reasons, according to Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer from “In the Power of Small Wins” at the Harvard Business Review

  1. Focus
  2. Patience
  3. Planning
  4. Personal Growth

They discovered that of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Everyday progress – even a small win – can make all the difference in how one feels as a manager and holds clear implications for where to focus one’s efforts.

In their research on how events at work influence people and their performance, 200 people sent in daily diary reports. The diarist realized that personal growth was the most important benefit. Keeping regular work week diaries took no more than ten minutes a day, but gave many of the participants a new perspective on themselves as professionals and what they needed to improve.

In my own experience with diaries, I had to chronicle my daily experiences leading a project team in providing food service for the Olympic Village in Atlanta. It was something our company had not done before, and the project notes would be helpful in making future decisions on participation. I still enjoy reading them occasionally, particularly the bit about wearing the Gold Medal of Amy Van Dyken (she needed a late night snack right after her win). My professional reflections, along with many others, helped us to make the decision to continue our association.

Where to start?

In his article, “Writing and Keeping Journals”, Mark K Smith suggests a basic framework is probably useful. A good starting point is to use four basic elements:

  • Description – information on the situation/encounter/experience that includes some attention to feelings at the time.
  • Additional material – information that comes to our notice or into our minds after the event.
  • Reflection – going back to the experiences to capture feelings and evaluate the experience.
  • Things to do – the process of reflection may well lead to the need to look again at a situation or to explore some further area. It may highlight the need to take some concrete actions.

There is, however, no ‘right’ way, rather, what is most comfortable for the writer.

Now back to John Adams – In July 1776, Adams wrote some great reflections in his journal:

“No Member rose to answer him: and after waiting some time, in hopes that some one less obnoxious than myself, who was still had been all along for a Year before, and still was represented and believed to be the Author of all the Mischief, I determined to speak” (On the subject of independence).

The conclusion:  A daily work diary helps one focus on progress, recount personal and professional concrete actions and reinforces making positive behaviors habitual.

Debra Koenig, President, B2A