Nicolle ParadiseNicolle ParadiseMarch 19, 2019
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9min515

This article by Nicolle Paradise was written in conjunction with Dr Kristin Walle, Division Vice President of Global Money Movement & Compliance/Shared Services Compliance Solutions at ADP.

 

Too sensitive? Just suck it up, buttercup. Too abrasive? Bull in a china shop.

And somewhere in-between these extremes, there’s us: you and me. We’re leaders, we’re employees, and we understand that at the most basic level, those who don’t know what is expected of them seldom perform to their potential. 

Astonishingly, Gallup research suggests that nearly 70 percent of all US employees aren’t working to their full potential in a given business day. 

To communicate what’s expected, is it as binary as: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” versus “You Can’t Handle The Truth!” (thanks, Jack Nicholson)? No, we disagree with this positioning and what lies in-between is what we will explore.

We believe leaders have a fundamental responsibility to create value through direct communication. This communication style benefits the Employee Experience and is good for business. Direct communication, defined as the ability to consume, interpret, and mirror back, leaves very little room for interpretation of the employee’s value, their value to the business, and value to customers. This process also subtly communicates the message of “you care about me”, from leader to employee.

With so much to gain then, why do leaders resist direct communication? According to a 2016 study published in Harvard Business Review, “69 percent of managers reported being uncomfortable communicating in general with employees”. If two out of three of leaders are uncomfortable with general communication, we begin to understand just how uncomfortable most leaders would be with direct communication.

To help bridge this communication gap between what makes most of us uncomfortable with what employees need to achieve their full potential, let’s examine a case study between Jack (SVP, Customer Success) and Oliver (VP, Customer Success), a direct report of Jack’s. 

Jack was frustrated with the number of escalations he was receiving from Oliver. He believed he had clearly addressed Oliver’s concerns around how to manage escalations and when that volume did not decrease, but instead the escalations increased, it caused several related outputs:

  • From a leadership perspective, Jack believed that Oliver was choosing to not follow the appropriate direction.
  • Through that lens, Jack interpreted the escalations from employees who were bypassing Oliver as being directly caused by Oliver’s choice to not follow directions.
  • Customers expressed concern at the increased amount of time it was taking to address their issues.

Observing the impact to both employees and customers, Jack decided to confront Oliver as to why he chose to ignore the provided guidance.

Oliver, however, was confused and himself, frustrated. He was a proven, competent VP within the organisation and asked his manager, Jack: “What specifically are you asking me to do differently? I thought I was following your exact direction this entire time.”

Why did this stark miscommunication happen? To answer that, we leveraged an Ishikawa diagram to uncover the potential cause and effect.

We first identified what specific areas, either internal (e.g: ‘personality’) or external (‘HR policies’) may be perceived obstacles. Then within each category we identified several potential reasons ( e.g: ‘I prefer…’) why this prevented the desired outcomes.

This diagram helped Jack get to the root cause of the disconnect. Jack, unintentionally, had concluded the root cause of the escalations solely through his own perceptions, not via direct communication with Oliver. By broadening his perspective and asking direct questions of Oliver, Jack was then able to provide clear, consumable feedback related to Oliver’s performance, goals, and associated metrics. This renewed clarity of communication benefited Oliver, Oliver’s team, and ultimately, the 10,000 customers that the organisation supports.

This diagram also helped Oliver contemplate his own obstacles. He realised that his assumptions prevented him from asking specific, clarifying questions to Jack. Understanding that Jack may not be skilled or may have his own bias around the interaction, Oliver learned to probe and paraphrase back to Jack in a manner so that clarity was achieved. 

Several iterations of the diagram are commonly needed to yield the desired clarity, so patience from both leaders and employees is needed until the skills have been developed. 

Additionally, we recommend the organisation ask itself a few proactive questions with a focus toward driving direct communication:

  1. How are we ensuring that the root cause issue is actually the root cause?
  2. What is the result we are looking for as an organisation?  Why it this important and how is it measured? 
  3. How does this connect to the overall organisational benefits? 

This feedback loop – comprised of the above proactive questions and the Ishikawa diagram analysis – position organisations to communicate directly regarding behaviours that contribute to achieving specific goals as well as identify which behaviours contribute to creating obstacles. From a communication perspective, this feedback loop helps balance the extremes of “too sensitive: suck it up, buttercup” and “too abrasive: bull in a china shop”.

Today’s leaders are investing in the leaders of tomorrow, ultimately yielding a richer and more developed employee, an improved experience, and thus higher employee retention rates. The stability that this feedback loop provides an organisation has a direct, positive impact on development, collaboration and creativity, delivering value for both employees and customers.

When we know what is expected of us, we can perform to our full potential. How might leveraging this feedback loop help your team reach their full potential?


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamMarch 7, 2019
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9min522

It’s no news that satisfied employees are one of the pillars of a successful company, but what makes an employee happy and motivated?

How do we know which processes are working well and which ones are criticised? What are the attractive factors of a workplace and what are the sources of conflict between team members? The answers to these questions can be easily found out by a suitable employee satisfaction survey and the responses can be evaluated within minutes with tools  like automated text analyzer systems. Here is an example, showing the whole process from data collection to the application of results.

To collect employee feedback quickly is a big challenge for most companies without the suitable tools, let alone the next part – the data evaluation and identification of the matching points of hundreds of responses.

However, nowadays there is no need for HR professionals to do the work manually, spending long hours with it. There are tools that cut down the evaluation time and effort, while the accuracy of the results are also better.

In this case study by media monitoring firm Neticle, we see how employee feedback can be processed quickly and easily, and how it can be used as an input for organisational development processes.

Methodology

Neticle used their own text analyser tool to uncover the opinion of every co-worker in detail about the most important factors:

  • atmosphere in the office
  • organisational structure
  • progress of the company (in business and in technological terms)
  • internal communication
  • the rights for decision-making
  • working hours
  • salary
  • tasks
  • the management

To let team members describe their opinion as accurate as possible, open-ended ones were included in the survey alongside multiple-choice questions.

To process the results, Neticle used Zurvey, an automated text analyser tool which identifies the tone of every text-based opinion as positive, negative, or neutral based on the phrases that occur in the text.

It also recognises topics, brands, locations, and persons in the text. Therefore, there was no need to analyse the survey responses manually and subjectively. The strongest and weakest points of Employee Experience within the organisation could be found out within a matter of minutes.

Results

Malfunctions in the operational processes – negative topics

The text analyser identified three critical points regarding the operation. The most frequently mentioned one was the office, indicating that that co-workers do not respect the common places in the office: they often leave dirty dishes in the kitchen, make too much noise, and speak loudly. Moreover, many complaints have been written about the office becoming “too small” for the fast-growing team.

The second pain point appeared to be the organisational structure. Many proposed the revision of the management processes and suggested that weekly status meetings could be more structured and time-saving if attended by relevant team members only.   

The other request was to have middle management. Given that Neticle is a startup with a non-hierarchical organisation structure, there is no-one between the C-level executives and other members of the team. As the survey showed, many began to feel the necessity of managers, who could coordinate within and across teams more clearly.

Besides the above, Neticle employees need more accurate briefs. As many people from different teams work on the same projects, the tasks are often fragmented and it is difficult to detect who’s in charge.

The well-functioning processes – positive topics

The average score for the question how employees like working at Neticle was 9.25 out of 10. Employees highlighted the importance of an assembled but open team where lots of friendships have been made and outdoor activities have been organised together. Because of this friendly atmosphere, employees start working happily, even on Monday mornings.

Effect came as second best, indicating that employees love being involved in important decisions because of the flat and democratic structure. This not only means that members are asked and informed about important changes, but they are also free to work from home flexibly and can turn to anyone in the team for help. The team also find it inspiring to work for a successful company where they can see the fruits of daily hard work through constant growing.

Application of the results: some examples

The honest responses made valuable insights for the process of development and helped the firm discover which areas are satisfying and which ones need improvement. Results were shared with the whole team as part of  transparent internal communication habits and solutions for the problems were discussed.

The survey data can be further used in external communication processes too. For example, the positive aspects can support the employer’s brand and attractive features can be highlighted in job advertisements also. Shared opinions of team members increase the authenticity and uniqueness of job posts, while it also can increase the number of applicants.

With a clear view of the weaknesses, companies can look for solutions, considering the workers’ suggestions. Identifying problematic areas will save time and make a HR team’s work more efficient and successful in creating an excellent Employee Experience within a company. 




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