All of those nominated for the 2017 Employee Experience Awards demonstrated what we all know to be true, explains Lisa Garthside, Director, Customer Experience Management at Confirmit. A happy employee who is involved in the decision-making process is not only more likely to feel part of the team but will also strive harder, perform better and make a stronger commitment to the success of the organisation.

The winner of the ‘Business Change or Transformation – Employees First’ category is a case in point and was rewarded because of its mould-breaking approach to ‘doing things differently’ and quite literally putting their employees first.

Scottish craft beer and bar company, BrewDog, has clearly taken an entrepreneurial approach to every facet of its business but what really impressed me was its absolute determination to create a team of people – in its bars as well as in the brewery – who are as passionate as the original owners about ‘standing out from the crowd’.

Its belief that growth and success are due in large part to getting the right people on board and then treating them fairly has resulted in an employee engagement strategy that asks potential employees to dare to be themselves, during the interview and beyond. It proactively seeks employees who are a bit of a geek – about anything – in the belief that ambitious individuals who are prepared to challenge the norm are exactly the kind of people BrewDog needs to continue to succeed.

However it is the determination to empower its employees to think outside of the box that particularly caught my attention because it demonstrates how ‘nudge theory’ can benefit both employee engagement and customer experience programmes.

BrewDog’s Unicorn Fund encourages staff to devise new and fresh initiatives that drive sales and growth, empowering them to act like business owners and receive the rewards of business owners too. As a profit-share plan, it enables people who work in the brewery to share in the brewery profits and bar teams to share the profits of the specific bar they work in – rewarding their creative commitment to the company. In a hospitality industry that typically has a high staff turnover, this approach can pay dividends.

In our view the reason for the Fund’s success and the company’s impressive retention rates is because employees who are encouraged to think for themselves, ‘off script’, are far more likely to go the extra mile. Those who feel empowered to make decisions on the frontline that will make a difference to both the organisation and customers alike are most likely to deliver great customer experience. And that’s what ultimately converts to sales, increases profits and reduces complaints.

As Olympian Greg Searle highlighted during the awards ceremony, performance equals potential minus interference. In other words, treating employees like grown-ups with the autonomy to make decisions whilst providing backup in the form of a support network is the key to ensuring their success and that of the company. 

Stepping away from a ‘command and control’ approach to employee engagement might feel like a brave or risky thing to do. However, building a network of champions who are given the freedom and flexibility to go ‘above and beyond’ is by far the most effective way to encourage problem solving and creative thinking.

The key is to choose champions or advocates for the business that will inspire others to follow. Leaders who are prepared to set an example and choose ‘like-minded people’ as employees are far more likely to achieve their goal of creating a workforce who has the same passion for the business as they do. Nudging every member of the team to push the boundaries and think for themselves is clearly good for business.

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