Employees As Customers What Hr Needs To Learn From Marketing

EMPLOYEES as​ CUSTOMERS What HR needs to​ Learn from Marketing
During the​ earlier stages of​ my career I ​ was fortunate to​ have worked for a​ large corporation that had a​ management development program for upandcoming managers. This program combined formal management courses with on​ the​ job training. the​ job training involved assignments to​ different divisions in​ the​ company. Two learning goals were mandated by these assignments
1. Acquire knowledge in​ a​ new discipline
2. Learn about the​ different parts of​ the​ organization,​ experience their challenges and understand how they contribute to​ the​ success of​ the​ whole
My formal education was in​ environmental studies with a​ specialty in​ ecology. One of​ the​ key principles in​ ecology is​ that ecosystems are made up of​ interdependent elements. a​ change in​ one part of​ an ecosystem will result in​ changes in​ other parts of​ the​ same system. Without knowing it​ at​ the​ time,​ my classmates and I ​ became “systems thinkers”. This ability to​ see systems has guided my decision making throughout my life in​ business and in​ my private affairs. Naturally,​ I ​ thrived in​ this opportunity to​ be a​ part of​ a​ management training program where I ​ was able to​ experience different parts of​ the​ organization and see first hand how each part related to​ the​ whole company.
When I ​ concluded the​ training program I ​ was appointed manager of​ marketing planning. My appointment coincided with a​ strategic decision made by the​ company to​ aggressively increase its share of​ the​ energy market. I ​ had a​ staff of​ 35 and a​ budget of​ three million dollars for market research. I ​ was learning on​ the​ job. I ​ learned from my staff and I ​ learned from the​ consultants we hired to​ conduct much of​ the​ market research. in​ addition I ​ was sent on​ a​ two week intensive executive marketing program at​ the​ Graduate School of​ Business,​ Columbia University in​ New York,​ and a​ year later to​ the​ Wharton School of​ Business in​ Philadelphia. This was an amazing time of​ learning,​ personal growth and achieving demanding goals.
After that my career continued to​ flourish. I ​ moved through the​ senior ranks of​ several companies until I ​ reached president. Nine years ago I ​ established Entec Corporation a​ company that specializes in​ measuring employee engagement. Although I ​ loved marketing,​ I ​ returned to​ my first passioncreating working environments where employees can thrive and be fully engaged.
Over the​ last nine years I ​ have worked with many organizations and I ​ have also been privy to​ the​ HR practices of​ many others. to​ my surprise I ​ discovered the​ lack of​ research discipline that HR departments applied when conducting employee surveys. I ​ was prompted to​ write this article after reading a​ piece by Sudipta Dev,​ from Aptech. in​ his article,​ is​ Job Happiness a​ Myth? he wrote about the​ importance of​ conducting an employee satisfaction survey as​ a​ way of​ gauging employee sentiment. He also mentioned how important it​ was to​ conduct focus groups afterwards to​ fully understand the​ survey results. I ​ witnessed this process of​ conducting an employee survey,​ followed by focus groups in​ several companies over the​ years. This included a​ well known company with 35,​000 employees. However,​ I ​ thought these were isolated cases. When I ​ read this article it​ was evident that this was common and considered a​ best practice. I ​ could not believe what I ​ was reading. Why spend money on​ an employee survey if​ it​ is​ going to​ be followed by focus groups? Isn’t this placing the​ cart before the​ horse?
Conducting an employee survey is​ conducting research. My marketing training and experience taught me that the​ survey is​ the​ last step not the​ first step in​ the​ research process. the​ purpose of​ the​ survey is​ to​ quantify and prioritize. Focus groups are used at​ the​ start of​ the​ research process to​ get an understanding of​ potential issues. in​ our marketing work and now in​ Entec’s HR work,​ we use the​ focus group information to​ develop a​ model first. This is​ followed by developing questions that fit within the​ parts of​ the​ model. Creating a​ model before developing the​ questions provides a​ framework for the​ questions. This framework provides a​ structure for the​ survey analysis so that the​ results are organized and presented in​ a​ way that point clearly to​ follow up action. When the​ survey and the​ analyses are completed,​ there is​ no question as​ to​ what the​ survey results mean. There is​ no question about priorities. There is​ no question about who is​ responsible for follow up action

Marketing and market research are sophisticated,​ disciplined processes that produce highly effective results. For example,​ automobile manufactures use a​ variety of​ “focus group” techniques to​ clearly understand the​ reasons and motivators for a​ purchase decision is​ it​ external design,​ internal design,​ color,​ performance,​ quality,​ comfort,​ size,​ fuel efficiency,​ financing and so on. How will the​ different market segments prioritize these factors? the​ focus group information is​ used to​ develop the​ market research survey that will quantify the​ information. the​ research results are used to​ create the​ marketing programs for the​ various products and market sectors.
Employees are no less important than customers. Understanding the​ “root causes” of​ employee behavior and motivation is​ especially important in​ today’s knowledge based economy. We are in​ an economy where a​ company’s success rests on​ the​ mental performance of​ its employees. it​ seems to​ me that in​ this environment,​ HR departments would bring greater value to​ their organizations if​ they adopted and applied marketing’s sophistication and research discipline to​ understanding employee needs. a​ change in​ perception is​ required,​ where employees are viewed as​ customers. This will provide the​ information to​ unlock the​ creative and innovative energy of​ employees.

Let me share a​ personal story. Nine years ago when Entec Corporation was founded,​ we spent the​ first year conducting research. the​ purpose of​ the​ research was to​ clearly understand the​ key factors that contributed to​ the​ employee experience in​ the​ workplace. We organized focus groups in​ several organizations from different business sectors. For example,​ the​ General Manager of​ an electric utility consented to​ personally participate along with half a​ dozen staff from different parts of​ his organization and different job levels. We facilitated many meetings over a​ three months period to​ create an “employee experience model”. the​ model depicted all the​ factors that contribute to​ the​ employee working experience. at​ the​ end of​ this period the​ group formulated questions for an employee survey that was designed to​ measure the​ employee experience at​ work. the​ questions were clear and precise and they led directly to​ follow up action. This process was repeated at​ a​ health care facility and several other private sector companies. the​ surveys were tested and validated.
When we used our employee survey we noted that there was a​ direct link between the​ survey results and a​ company’s financial performance. For example,​ we surveyed three electric utilities. Although the​ number of​ employees ranged from 150 to​ 400,​ the​ customer profile for each utility was very similar. the​ revenue split between large industrial customers,​ commercial customers and residential customers was about the​ same for each utility. in​ other words we were able to​ compare apples to​ apples. the​ utility with the​ highest employee survey scores were also the​ most profitable. the​ utility with the​ lowest employee survey scores was the​ least profitable.
Since that time our employee models and surveys have evolved and have become more sophisticated. Today we no longer talk about measuring the​ employee experience but rather we talk about employee engagement. When the​ employee surveys and analyses are completed there is​ no question as​ to​ what they mean. There is​ no need for post survey focus group. There is​ a​ direct link between the​ survey results and the​ company’s financial performance. the​ following note from a​ client summarizes this best.
Gap Inc. Canada has partnered with Entec since 1999 to​ customize,​ implement,​ analyze and then action a​ compelling employee survey. I ​ have reviewed and used many employee satisfaction instruments in​ the​ past,​ but none were as​ comprehensive,​ accurate or​ as​ linked to​ improving both business results and employee commitment as​ this one.

Vice President
Gap Inc. Canada
It is​ interesting to​ note that in​ 2004 the​ three Gap brands in​ Canada Gap,​ Old Navy and Banana Republic are among the​ most profitable in​ the​ world. Gap has approximately 175,​000 employees,​ world wide.

I think companies and HR departments need to​ change their perception of​ their employees and view their employees as​ customers. to​ do this they need to​ adopt the​ full spectrum of​ marketing concepts,​ processes and tools to​ understand their employees and to​ meet their needs. These would include disciplined employee research,​ followed by appropriate communication,​ relationship building and provision of​ products and services. Naturally,​ the​ products and services will depend on​ the​ survey results but could include improved workplace practices such as​ greater participation in​ decision making,​ infusing a​ high level of​ trust and fairness,​ choosing from a​ menu of​ benefits that best suit individual needs,​ consideration around work/life balance issues,​ zero tolerance policy on​ sexual harassment,​ verbal abuse and bullying etc. Some companies are addressing many of​ these important issues but frequently the​ programs are developed in​ a​ piece meal fashion. There is​ little knowledge about the​ value and contribution of​ each program to​ unlocking employee energy and to​ the​ bottom line.
A classic example of​ this is​ the​ company gym. I ​ am a​ great supporter of​ physical fitness. I ​ exercise each morning. in​ the​ past I ​ worked for two companies that provided a​ physical fitness facility. I ​ appreciated the​ convenience of​ these facilities. However,​ the​ fact that the​ facility was there did not change my behavior and it​ did not seem to​ change the​ behavior of​ most other employees. Those who worked out did so whether there was a​ company gym or​ not. Those who do not exercise did not start exercising. Typically health departments measure the​ utilization rate of​ their gyms. But they do not measure relevant measures such as​ the​ “conversion rate” the​ number of​ employees that did not exercise in​ the​ past but exercise now. They do not link the​ presence of​ a​ gym to​ the​ financial performance of​ the​ company. is​ a​ gym the​ best way for a​ company to​ be spending its money? Should they be investing in​ strategically located meditation rooms,​ or​ a​ day care centre,​ or​ a​ full time chaplain? Most companies cannot answer these questions because they do not have the​ information. They have not developed a​ framework to​ ask the​ right questions. They have not conducted disciplined employee market research.
The Beginnings of​ a​ FrameworkEmployee Engagement
The Gallup organization has placed the​ term employee engagement on​ the​ map. There contribution to​ understanding the​ underlining factors of​ employee motivation has been significant. There is​ however,​ an important piece missing in​ Gallup’s work. There are two parts to​ employee engagement
1. the employee and their own unique psychological make up
2. the employer and their ability to​ create the​ conditions that will promote employee engagement.
Gallup’s work does not address the​ first part. Entec Corporation assembled a​ team of​ experts in​ strategic management,​ organizational development,​ leadership,​ behavioral psychology and psychiatry. the​ team was asked to​ develop a​ model of​ employee engagement. They determined that there were five factors that are primary drivers of​ employee engagement
1. Employee emotional wellbeing
2. Department practices
3. Leadership behaviors
4. Corporate practices
5. Vision and values
The focus of​ the​ organizational measures in​ the​ Employee Engagement Survey is​ on​ practices and on​ leadership behaviors. Practices and behaviors create the​ specific working conditions that influence an employee to​ be motivated,​ and emotionally committed to​ their work and to​ their company. Since every employee has a​ unique psychological make up,​ each employee will respond differently to​ the​ same conditions.
For example,​ every employee has a​ different level of​ selfmotivation. One employee may require verbal recognition once a​ year for a​ job well done while another employee may require recognition once a​ week. Each of​ these employees will score the​ question regarding recognition differently even though they may have the​ same supervisor and they are treated in​ the​ same way.
If 40% of​ employees scored in​ the​ disengaged category it​ means that for these employees the​ organizational practices and leadership behaviors are not meeting their needs to​ motivate them to​ be fully engaged. it​ does not mean that 40% of​ employees are a​ lost cause. it​ means they need more from their organization to​ lift their level of​ performance. Disengaged employees can become engaged employees under the​ right working conditions.
It is​ important to​ convey to​ all employees that “disengagement” is​ not necessarily a​ negative reflection of​ their own desire to​ do a​ good job. the​ organization needs to​ create the​ environment to​ bring the​ best out in​ their employees. the​ majority of​ people want to​ do a​ good job.
But employees also need to​ understand that employee engagement is​ a​ partnership between themselves and the​ company. the​ responsibility for employee engagement does not rest solely on​ the​ shoulders of​ the​ organization. it​ is​ not one or​ the​ other it​ is​ both. Employees have a​ responsibility to​ shape their own destiny and career path just as​ much as​ the​ employer.
Therefore employee engagement is​ a​ partnership between the​ company and the​ employees where everyone works together to​ achieve the​ business objectives of​ the​ company and the​ personal aspirations of​ employees. the​ organization has the​ responsibility to​ create the​ conditions for this to​ happen. But before the​ organization can enter into an effective partnership with employees to​ create the​ appropriate conditions for engagement,​ they need to​ have the​ right information that is​ derived from employee market research.

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