In case you missed it: meet challenge with a focus on people success
We all learned a lot over the past year. About what our people are capable of. About how we – and our organizations – respond under extreme pressure. And about how even when the going is good, we need to be ready for anything.
Recently, as part of our Executive Agenda series, our people-focused leaders Lisa Dodman (Chief People Officer) and Melissa MacCarthy (VP Global Customer Success) linked up with special guest Linda Moir (veteran Customer Experience leader for organizations like Virgin Atlantic and London’s 2012 Olympic Games) to discuss what people success looks like in a radically changed world. Discussing strategies and tactics for engagement, people panning and repurposing, and how to keep track of what’s going on in your organization and make measured, data-driven decisions.
Here are some of our favourite take-aways from 45 minutes of in-depth discussion.
The three most important continuity lessons from the crisis
- Don’t kill collaboration in the name of crisis response
The best ideas often don’t come from the senior leadership team convening in a war room – even though this is usually the first thing that happens in a crisis. Creative, innovative ideas come from the people who’re on the front lines collaborating with colleagues, and serving your communities and customers themselves. It’s therefore important that we don’t “crisis manage” innovation out of existence by shutting down ordinary communication channels.
- Work hard to build relationships rather than simply exchange information
Online meetings have their place – but one-to-one conversations are still key. Leaders need to work hard to set the example in this regard, listening to individuals and encouraging them to listen to each other so that trust is maintained and established.
- Keep your leadership optimistic and ethical
People have been paying attention throughout the pandemic – and the companies that are succeeding in both the market and in the market of public opinion aren’t just those working hard to stay afloat. They’re those that’re working hard to stay ethical. And to treat their people well. If you aren’t doing this, you risk permanent damage to your reputation amongst talent, customers, and prospects.
People-first cultures should include your customer’s people as well as yours
Rather than being two separate issues, engaging both your people and your customers should be considered two sides of the same coin when it comes to driving a people-first culture.
This is key because of a crucial reality of customer experience: your company can’t deliver an experience for its customers that isn’t a reflection of its own people experience. If something doesn’t exist internally, it won’t be reflected externally. And this is true no matter what your brand’s promise to customers (and to your people) is.
Being “customer centric” therefore means placing your own people first
The way that you work with one group will be indelibly reflected on the experience of the other. This means that it isn’t possible to be customer centric - or “customer obsessed”, “customer focused” or “customer first” - without simultaneously being people first.
In fact, in the experience of our panellists, the organizations with the right internal culture are almost always the organizations with the best customer experience. (Or, as Richard Branson might put it, “treat your people well, and they’ll treat the customer well.”)
It’s possible to feel the impact of culture within a company immediately if they’re doing something right – or if they’re doing something wrong. Remember: your customers will be able to spot this too.
Pandemics and people
The companies that’ve managed to respond positively in the face of COVID are those that’ve provided the most protection for their employees. Changing operations to support their peoples’ ability to work well and to foster resilience in trying times.
We’ve all had to implement changes – in every arena from where we work to the way we use real estate – and some of these are likely to persist for a long time. But the successful organizations are those that express empathy towards their peoples’ situations – and how organizations have treated their people in the past year will reflect on their reputations for years to come.
Creating moments of connection in a digital landscape
One of the things that many people are missing from their workdays is basic human interaction. This is reducing the opportunities for both spontaneous innovation and informal mentorship, advice giving, and contributions between and within departments.
It’s important for leadership to model this kind of behaviour in informal one-on-one sessions. And also for them to model the work-life balance they want for their people.
The future of people engagement – for both employees and customers – is hybrid
The way we deploy resources and make use of physical space have changed dramatically – and this change is likely to remain. Even once we’ve returned to a predominantly in-person world, we can all create better experiences by moving some of our interactions online in order to speed up the process. Then again, more critical points of contact like onboarding will almost certainly go back to the “old normal.”
People engagement is experimental right now – some things have worked, some things haven’t
Working from home has worked well for many of us – particularly those of us who used to spend a lot of time travelling. And at Unit4, we had a lot of success early on with re-assigning people whose jobs are completely location-dependent to help other teams while growing their skillsets in different areas.
However, some people have found it difficult to cope with maintaining a “normal” working pattern throughout periods of lockdown. This has lead to a renewed focus on employee mental wellbeing, and the pioneering of more comprehensive flexible working models.
Burnout is a real concern – make sure you have mechanisms in place to deal with it
Employee burnout is a real concern in a high-pressure situation like the one we currently find ourselves in. Particularly when it comes to maintaining relationships and ensuring customer success.
It’s important to realize that it’s not just your people who feel this – your customers are equally pressured. It’s good people-practice to take the temperature of your people with regular engagement pulses. But it’s important to do this with your customers as well.
Beyond this, it’s key to encourage everyone to be more open about their vulnerabilities. It’s much more difficult to spot when people are struggling in a totally digital environment. And this is another area where leaders have to set the tone – demonstrating that it’s okay to ask for help.
Despite pressures, expectations are rising
As customers and employees become more and more acclimatized to the new normal, we’re all seeing their expectations of what we can offer rise. Although it might seem paradoxical that people under pressure expect more from others, it’s actually a logical response to accelerating digital transformation. The past year has forced organizations to scale up their digital capabilities to the extent that we now all expect the instant digital turnaround (thanks, Amazon.)