Monthly Archives: January 2012
By Rob Markey who is co-author, with Fred Reichheld, of the book: The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World, just published by HBR Press. He is a partner in Bain & Company’s New York office and head of the firm’s global Customer Strategy and Marketing practice.
Employee happiness is becoming a hot topic among CEOs and in boardrooms, and it’s about time. The current issue ofHarvard Business Review, which includes a series of articles focused on employee happiness, is just one more sign of the growing recognition that happy, engaged employees are more productive and generate better outcomes for their companies.
But there’s also a risk in all this attention to “happiness.” Happiness for its own sake is not the right outcome to seek. If you want happy employees, you can just pay them more. You can give them more time off. You can give them free lunches by celebrity chefs. Only a few of the things that make employees “happy,” however, result in real, sustained benefit for the company. As Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath note in one of the recent HBR articles, “It’s not aboutcontentment, which connotes a degree of complacency.”
My colleagues and I agree with that. We have been studying the links between employee engagement and customer loyalty for a few years now, and we’ve found that the only route to employee happiness that also benefits shareholders is through a sense of fulfillment resulting from an important job done well. We should aspire not just to make employees “happy,” but to do so by helping them achieve great things. In short, we should earn our employees’ passionate advocacy for the company’s mission and success by helping them earn the passionate advocacy of customers.
That’s an ambitious goal, of course. And it necessarily links employee engagement to customer outcomes, the ultimate source of a company’s success. Most companies’ approaches to employee engagement fail to achieve the right sort of engagement. Here’s some of what’s needed:
1. True ownership by line managers. Most large companies depend on HR to measure and manage employee engagement. HR collects the feedback, analyzes it, and then “cascades” it through the organization, beginning with the CEO and then at progressive levels down to the front line, along with recommendations for improvement. But this keeps control, ownership, and responsibility firmly in the hands of a central team.
Real engagement — passionate advocacy — comes from making customers’ lives richer, and there isn’t much that HR alone can do to help employees achieve that. So Apple stores, JetBlue Airways, and others deliver employee survey results directly to operating managers, who can then sponsor shop-floor change initiatives. Perhaps more important, they feel full ownership of the results and for making progress. At Apple, for instance, employee focus groups identify key themes and issues from the surveys; employee teams then help develop solutions, which they present to store management. By the time the next survey comes around, managers can see whether the solutions have had the desired effects.
2. Simpler measurement. Most companies gauge employee satisfaction through the time-honored annual survey, managed centrally and comprising a huge number of questions. They often result in tremendously detailed reports across a large number of metrics. But many companies are taking a page from the Net Promoter playbook: They survey employees more often, ask just a few simple questions, and simplify the reporting. How likely would you be to recommend this company to a friend as a place to work? How likely would you be to recommend the company’s products or services to a potential customer? What’s the primary reason for your response? These companies allow employees to use their own words to identify opportunities and issues. The feedback can be difficult to hear — employees tend to be tough graders. But it can be much more powerful as a motivation to take action.
3. Direct feedback from customers. The most important step, of course, is providing a steady stream of feedback from customers and then “closing the loop” quickly by sharing it directly with employees in its most raw form. When frontline employees and managers hear directly from customers — when they see how customers scored their experience, when they hear what went right and wrong in the customer’s own words — the effect is dramatic. Applause in the form of positive feedback inspires them to keep up the good work. Criticism often inspires employees to improve their performance on their own or to seek additional coaching so they can do better next time.
And it isn’t just customer-facing personnel who can learn from customer reactions. Logitech, for instance, compiles Net Promoter scores for each of its products and ensures that the engineering teams responsible for each one see and hear what customers think. When one new keyboard got negative reviews, the company was able to identify the problems and quickly bring out an improved model.
Loyal, passionate employees bring a company as much benefit as loyal, passionate customers. They stay longer, work harder, work more creatively, and find ways to go the extra mile. They bring you more great employees. And that spreads even more happiness — happiness for employees, for customers, and for shareholders.
By Alejandra Cancino- Chicago Tribune reporter.
Employees filed nearly 100,000 discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in fiscal 2011, the highest number in the commission’s 46 year history, according to a report released Thursday by law firm Littler Mendelson P.C.
A portion of the report focused on systemic discrimination cases, which involve more than 20 victims. It found that in 40 percent of the investigations completed in this area, the commission determined it reasonable to conclude that the employers’ policies or practices were discriminatory.
“These statistics are disconcerting for employers,” Barry Hartstein, lead author of the report, said in a statement. “Reasonable cause determinations are typically issued in only five percent of charges that the EEOC investigates.”
Although the commission will continue fighting cases of systemic discrimination, the report says that the lawsuits filed by the commission have been subjected to close scrutiny. In two recent lawsuits, employers were awarded over $7 million in attorneys’ fees based on what the courts called “sue first, ask questions later litigation strategy,” according to the report.
Last fiscal year, the commission filed 261 merit-based suits against companies, 11 more than in fiscal year 2010. Of those, 84 had multiple victims and 23 were considered systemic. The leading cause for lawsuits was disability discrimination, followed by retaliation, sexual harassment and race discrimination.
The top five states where lawsuits were filed were California, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Michigan. Illinois was sixth, with 15 lawsuits.
The chairman of the National Labor Relations Board told the Associated Press he wants new rules that would make union organizing efforts easier.
Mark Pearce said that he would like the board to propose the rules immediately since it has a full component of five members. He is ignoring the controversy surrounding recent appointments to the NLRB, which some members of Congress, some advocacy groups and business organizations have said is unconstitutional.
“We keep our eye on the prize,” Pearce said in the AP interview. “Our goal is to create a set of rules that eliminate a lot of waste of time, energy and money for the taxpayers.”
One new rule Pearce is seeking is to require businesses to give lists of employee phone numbers and emails to union officials before an election. Any such proposal would add more power to unions seeking to halt declining membership. The NLRB passed a revolutionary set of new regulations in December that accelerated the process for holding union elections after organizers collect enough employee signatures.
“My personal hope is that we take on all of these things and consider each one of these rules,” Pearce said. “We presume the constitutionality of the president’s appointments, and we go forward based on that understanding.”
Union leaders and their Democratic Party allies have praised the unprecedented new rules making it easier for unions. Many have said the NLRB appointments and rule changes are repayments by the Obama administration and the Democratic Party for union campaign contributions.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics — a nonpartisan electoral watchdog organization — 75.5 percent of the $21,469,557 contributed by labor unions in 2011 to election campaigns went to Democrats, while a mere 11.5 percent went to Republicans.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce was quoted by the AP as saying, “I knew this was going to happen. The NLRB has lost all pretense of objectivity in my judgment.”
Randel Johnson, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vice president on labor issues, said he is surprised the board would try to adopt even more new rules that businesses fiercely oppose.
“If they’re going to go forward on that basis, I think that removes any pretense at all that they are not in the back pocket of the union movement,” Johnson said.
AFL-CIO spokeswoman Alison Omens called Pearce’s comments “a reasonable, balanced approach to ensure that every person has a voice on the job.”
“The board is obviously taking modest steps to create a level playing field and bring stability to a process that’s been outdated,” Omens said.
Republicans in Congress are vowing to put more pressure on the agency, with at least two House hearings on the NLRB recess appointments planned next month before the education committee and the Judiciary Committee.
“If the board is determined to continue advancing its pro-union agenda, House Republicans will continue to maintain aggressive oversight,” said Brian Newell, spokesman for education committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation which represents workers whose rights have been violated expressed dismay at Pearce’s comments.
“It is not surprising but certainly disappointing,” said Pat Semmens, NRWLDF Legal Information Director. “There has been a steady stream of give aways to unions at the expense of the rights of employees. Some of the proposals are ripe for abuse by unions. It is outrageous for the federal government to mandate that companies furnish the personal contact information of employees to unions.”