360-degree service

There is only so much you can give unless you are cared for yourself. Depleted people have little to offer. In a feeling sense, they are on survival rations - to maintain self-esteem they must look after themselves, believing that no one else will. ‘Jobsworth' people are those who have little left to give. They have to get through the day, and your problem is just one too many for them.

Colleagues in great companies feel well respected and cared for. With employers who value the skills they bring and want to see them get ahead, they are rich in self-esteem. When things are not working - and they do not always work - they are strong enough to talk with bosses and colleagues to create change. They belong to something bigger and are better for it. And the result? It is a connection that should not surprise you. This level of service to, and regard for, colleagues makes great companies some of the best customer service organisations around.

Take Southwest Airlines: even in the recent tough times for the travel industry, they remain in the black - the only US airline to do so. This is due to the commitment of their people, who will do all they can to keep the company afloat. You may think this is self-evident - obviously they want to keep their jobs - but it is not as simple as that.

The same thing happened in many organisations as the stock market plummeted and everyone was desperate to keep their jobs. But there is a difference - if the company has not cared enough, people feel depleted, have little to offer and are compelled to look after number one. At Southwest, where people are truly valued, they have energy in reserve for the company, so you hear stories of pilots who load bags rather than take a delay, which would cost money. Their customer service is exemplary, evoking huge loyalty, but colleagues could not do it if they felt ignored and undervalued by their leaders.

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‘It is not easy to maintain people as a priority when so many business demands cross your desk - how do you balance priorities?'

No one would say this is an easy task. It will always be tempting to close the door and get on with the demands of managing the business. Remember: the people you work with are the business - you cannot have one without the other. People management is part of the real job, not just an irritating addition.

Know your people, communicate clearly, and understand what they need in order to do a great job, and you will reduce the fire- fighting work you have to do. Good relationships make for trust, which improves delegation and overall effectiveness. Think how much time it takes when someone is doing a job badly - much better to make that time investment at the outset than pick up the pieces afterwards.

Make a point of recognising extra effort and pay attention to personal needs. Having an employer who understands when the kids are ill, or when you have financial difficulties, is worth so much. It needs to happen only once and that person - and all those who know about it - will respond with added loyalty.

What to do?

Look for the opportunity to support a person in your care. As John Timpson says of customer service, ‘Each problem gives us a chance to amaze you.' The same goes for your people, so find ways to amaze them too - but make sure you really mean it. They will know the difference.

Talk with each person who reports to you and find out what they need in order to do a better job. Take care to listen more than talk during the discussion - this is a fact-finding mission, not the chance to tell people what to do.

Make sure you follow through on agreed actions. Asking without follow-through will cost more credibility than not asking at all.

Track how you spend your time. Make sure you are the best person for the job. If there is work that would be more appropriate for someone else in the team, or would be a good vehicle for development, set aside time to train and support that person. It will take time now, but save it in the future, not to mention the benefit to your relationship with that person.

Understand: the more involved you are with people, the more loyalty they will feel towards you. This is priceless in tough times, so invest now.

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Once you have a community that lives by its principles and is prepared to support the well-being of another, the attitude of service begins to grow. It is all to do with the mindset - if people expect scarcity - ie to have to cope with the bare minimum - they will pull in their horns and look after themselves. A mindset of abundance, understanding there is good will and care in plenty, will allow them to look after each other because they have energy to spare. It is abundance that builds a great company and 360-degree service. Which means caring for peers and colleagues, the company, customers, and the community the organisation sits in. So it makes sense for everyone involved.

Providing the basics

The first step is to provide a good environment in which to work, plus a standard of living that fulfils personal needs. Many of the great companies are renowned for this, providing a plethora of wonderful perks and benefits - gyms, Indian head-massage, shopping on-line - anything that will make people feel better, healthier, and less stressed. This is not just altruistic: healthy colleagues give more to the job, so it makes sound business sense. (See Chapter 9 on Belonging for more detail.)

Moneywise and Healthwise are facilities put in place by Flight Centre to ensure that their young colleagues take care of themselves over the long term. In one-to-ones managers discuss where you want to go in life, and whether you will need a house, a car, or want to travel. ‘Brightness of Future' - part of the company vision - is not just about work, it is about what work can bring you. Buying a first house and owning your first high-quality car are turning points that require an understanding of money and planning. Moneywise provides basic information about credit cards, mortgages, insurance, etc through an independent financial adviser, paid for by the company, who negotiates good deals on the basis of company buying-power.

Healthwise is a similar service that drip-feeds information through daily hotlines providing ideas on fitness and dietary issues - including how to handle a hangover after a ‘buzz night'! As Gary says:

It may seem like a tangent but is critical to looking after our consultants. If they feel good about themselves, secure and cared for, there's a good chance they'll treat the customer with equal respect. If we treat them like dirt, they'll do the same thing. We start from within.

Wragge worked out an interesting way of encouraging colleagues to look after themselves. The personnel team in the HR department instigated a ‘well-being day' to launch the new Employee Assistance programme. Knowing that if the information was just sent round in an e-mail or letter, people would not absorb what was on offer, they decided to take the opportunity for a fun event. Wragge have a wonderful old banking-hall in their building, and this was the perfect setting for a gathering. The personnel team contacted people in the town to see if they would be willing to offer their services - a win/win that means celebrations do not have to cost a fortune. The end result was a fair of providers offering everything from fresh smoothies to neck massage. It was so successful that it has been put in the calendar for next year.

Reward and recognition

Once people have their physical needs answered, they begin to look elsewhere for appreciation and satisfaction. This is where reward and recognition comes in. Asda have ‘Oscars night' to reward the Colleague of the Year - mimicking the real thing down to the red carpet, limos and evening dress. The senior leaders even dress up as celebrity characters - I have to tell you that Tony DeNunzio makes an extremely impressive Freddie Mercury!

This is not just a ‘nice to have' for colleagues. What gets measured gets done and if what is done is also rewarded, there is a major impetus to success. So the many versions of awards and rewards come into being, providing a chance for celebration and fun, as well as demonstrating that success is highly valued. Bottles of champagne, vouchers for a spending spree, ‘take your partner out for a meal' vouchers, handwritten notes, announcements in the team meeting, the senior manager or CEO popping over to say ‘Well done' - all these are ways of giving a strong message that colleagues are valued and appreciated.

Each month, as mentioned above, Flight Centre areas hold a ‘buzz night' - an evening when everyone gets together to learn, celebrate success and have a good time. Learning is from the company providers - airlines, hotel chains, etc - who come to tell of new offerings. There is one condition: they have to do it in the FC way and make it fun, which means they look forward to the evenings as much as the staff! The next stage is giving out awards. FC measure everything, so there is always much to be rewarded - best consultant, best new consultant, best customer appreciation - and so it goes on. Once this is completed it is down to the serious business of partying. Everyone is expected to attend- something that is made clear at interview, but that in fact needs little coercion - it is just too much fun.

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‘What if that sort of celebration doesn't fit your people - how do you go about finding the right way for them?'

Let us just go back to part of the definition of a great company - that it is a place where they tailor responses to suit their own colleagues. This is not about forcing fun down people's throats. Flight Centre has a young staff group that loves to travel and have fun - a buzz night is just right for them. Bromford have their annual ‘bash' with entertainment provided by the senior team who put on a topical skit. In contrast, at CORGI colleagues gain most pleasure from the work itself, sharing their delight in the moment. However, they do occasionally look at the company opposite who are rather raucous in their celebrations and wonder if they could have a bit more fun themselves.

Constantly asking those sorts of questions is the key - understand what your people like to do. What is a reward and incentive for them? What makes them feel appreciated and cared for?

This is not as easy as it sounds - beware of assuming that everyone likes the same things you do. But do make the effort to find out and then take the time to party together in their way. It may be lunch at the pub or a family day out or, as at Timpson, a funded evening in the bar and the bosses out of the way.

What to do?

Make sure you have clear measures in place, both individually and for the work of the team. Apart from providing direction and joint understanding of the work to be done, it identifies the achievements to celebrate.

How long is it since you last had some form of celebration or get- together? If it is any longer than two months, sort out a date now for the near future. Make a note in your diary at regular intervals to ensure that you do not forget this important aspect of team life.

  • Complete the Timpson test questionnaire (see Chapter 6) for all your team - if you score less than 70 out of 100, make time to find out more about your people.

  • If you are shy or introverted, concentrate on the one-to-one elements and buddy up with an extrovert colleague or team member for the team events.

  • If you have shy or introverted people in your team, find out if team members know what they enjoy or appreciate. You need to find a way of congratulating that will not be an embarrassment. A regular quiet ‘Thank you' with minimal fuss may be the best way.

  • Allocate time to find out how the team want to celebrate. Consider giving them a budget and hand over responsibility for making the arrangements. Apart from the respect this shows, it is one way of getting them on board without encountering the British Eeyore tendency of looking for the flaw.

  • If your company does not have a budget for reward and recognition, suggest it to the senior leaders, pointing out the value of encouragement.

  • Say ‘Thank you' whenever you can - it is a small effort with huge impact.

  • Always attend team gatherings and get your boss to join you, even if only for a short time. Remember: giving your time shows enormous respect and will be repaid tenfold in commitment.

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Everyone wants to be appreciated - it is human nature to enjoy that moment of acclaim. However, look for the style that suits the culture, company and country. Remember the great company cry - match the actions to the people. With the appropriate method, recognition sends a number of messages - we appreciate a job well done, we are a company that looks for excellence and this is the best way to behave in the workplace. Even those who apparently brush it away will take the validation to heart.

Once begun, it is important not to backtrack - raising expectations is wonderful as long as you are prepared to keep going. Do not feel you have to do it all alone: make it a team responsibility and it will become even more of a pleasure.

Becoming an Employer of Choice(c) Make Your Organisation A Place Where People Want To Do Great Work
Becoming an Employer of Choice(c) Make Your Organisation A Place Where People Want To Do Great Work
Year: 2006
Pages: 100

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