Have you built a culture of quality in your business? While “striving for excellence” is part of nearly every business mission statement, what does that look like? A recent study by the Forbes Insights showed that companies that regularly instill quality measures and test them are more likely to meet their goals than companies that do not.
Instilling quality is more than just developing a mission statement and setting goals – it’s leadership in action, and it has to come from the top down, and should be reflective in every aspect of your business. Key questions, like the one in the study, can determine whether your team is on track or whether they should change course. Read on here.
Reference: Forbes’ Insights, November 5, 2014
Last week, Comcast won the award for worst customer service. The recording of a Comcast customer trying to cancel his service – only to be harassed for over 8 minutes by a Comcast agent – went viral, and needless to say Comcast has experienced a pretty tough week. While at first it seemed like an agent gone bad, Comcast has since confirmed that agents are financially incented to retain customers. While this agent certainly didn’t show much compassion, he was trying to do what his company rewarded him to do.
In my corporate days, I probably prepared more than 50 incentive plans, and while that doesn’t make me an expert, it certainly provides me with some lessons. This Comcast snafu reminded me of the most important lesson I learned from creating, then adjusting, scrapping, re-creating incentive plans:
Whenever you incent a person to do something, you are also dis-incenting them to do something else.
Here are a couple examples from my experience:
- A newly launched product was moving more slowly than we wanted. We created a short-term high-impact incentive to encourage our sales team to sell that new product. While sales of the new product increased, the sales team lost focus on the company’s bread-and-butter products and sales dropped drastically.
- Another incentive encouraged our team to sell longer-term service contracts over shorter-term contracts. Seemed logical. What we didn’t plan on was a longer approval cycle which delayed any service contract revenue coming in – short or long term.
As you can see, I most often stumbled by incenting sales of one product or service, or even a product line, at a different rate than others. If a sales rep knows they will earn $25 every time they sell product A, and $50 every time they sell product B, they will try for product B every time. Who wouldn’t? If any of your staff’s pay is performance-based, here are some pointers:
- The decision to award an incentive payment upon the sale or upon collection is often debated, and rightly so. Define your sales team’s role clearly; sales only? Do they have credit granting authority? Or, are they responsible all the way through collection?
- Be careful that your incentive structure does not put one employee against another. Having a maximum incentive pool can cause this; define the split to guard against too much competition.
- The most important question to ask with every incentive payment is this, and you must ask it every time: By encouraging a particular behavior by my employees, what might I discourage them from doing? You must think like an employee on this one or you will be caught off-guard again and again (trust me, I learned that the hard way).
I love incentive and performance pay, but just be sure that you are comfortable with not only what you are encouraging your staff to do, but also with the behavior you are discouraging. If you don’t believe me, just ask Comcast.
“How do I get my staff to finish the loose ends on a job so I don’t have to?”
“How do I get my team to remember all the steps they need to take on a procedure?”
“How do I get my staff to put all the tools and boxes away at the end of a day?”
These are all questions I’ve heard from small business owners over the past few weeks.
The answer is simple:
Stop doing it for them.
I said simple, not easy.
Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re a business with protocols and checklists, or at least someone who wants that level of consistent quality in their business. When it doesn’t happen, it’s frustrating and just grates on your nerves. I hear “why don’t they care enough to do the job well?” We sometimes take it personally, or think that our employees don’t care. As with so many things, though, it comes back to us: we pick up the pieces at the end of the day, we tie up the loose ends, so why would our employees think that it’s their responsibility? Yep, you created the practice and you need to dismantle it if you want your staff to work independently without constant reminders and reinforcement.
To change a protocol, wanted or unwanted, you start with communication. If you want your staff to do something differently, don’t assume that they can read your mind (sound familiar?); you need to tell them what needs to change and how it will change. Think of it as if you’re playing a board game and you want to change the rules; you’d have to tell everyone what the new rules are, right? Same is true in the workplace. New rules, new protocols, new responsibilities. Be culpable, recognize to your staff that you let this happen, and that you take responsibility for how things have been done in the past. Finally, remember that habits are tough to change and it may take time. Your staff is not deliberately ignoring your request (if they are, that’s another conversation we need to have!), they have just developed a habit and it may take time to adopt a new habit. Be patient and keep the communication going as your team’s behavior (and your own) slowly changes.
By the way, the solution works for another age-old question, one I heard just this morning: “How do I get my kids to pick up their laundry?” Stop doing it for them. Like I said, simple, but not easy.
How would you congratulate your biggest competitor on a big win, especially when it was directly against you? We can all learn something from how Team USA Snowboarder Shaun White congratulated Iouri Podladtchikov on his half-pipe win. Even in losing, he showed the best of the Olympic spirit by being a good competitor and an even bigger sport. Nicely done.
Understanding what employees want in benefits can seem like shooting at a moving target; there are more studies and surveys than there are potential employee benefits. These studies have a lot of great information in them but there’s a catch: they didn’t ask your employees. The only way to find out what is most important to your employees is to ask.
SurveyMonkey.com is simple and anonymous for employees to use. The free version allows you to ask up to ten questions with a variety of question formats. If you have few employees, try having an open dialog with employees to prompt in-depth answers; consider asking employees to give you their thoughts in a more free-flowing format. This style is best for discovering benefits that don’t come off the shelf.
Stop and think about what employees really want, with or without a survey; it comes down to the basic wants that all humans desire – control, to make an impact, and appreciation.
- Control. Employees want to be in control of their schedule, when they work, where they work, and how and when they can take time off. Open communication allows you to both achieve what you want.
Employees also want to be in control of their approach. This can be a tough one for entrepreneurs to swallow since there is a control-freak lurking somewhere in us. If you hire up (Read more about hiring up: http://avisionofyourown.com/tag/managing-employees-small-business/page/3/), you have hired an expert, someone more skilled at their job than you could be. Why would you try to control how this hired expert completes their tasks? If you’re still skeptical, create a safety net by asking for drafts, agreeing on a timeline, or having the employee explain their approach first. Do this a couple of times, then let them do the job you hired them for.
- To make an impact. Humans like to contribute, to give, to know that they make a difference. While we generally think of this in philanthropic terms, it’s true in all aspects of our lives including our working lives. Allow your employees to contribute, to use their talents, to feel valuable.
- Appreciation. Let your team know that you appreciate them; be specific, timely, and usually, do it in public. It can be as simple as a heartfelt thank-you or a handwritten note with tickets to a show or dinner. If you ever received a handwritten note from a boss, I bet you saved it for a long time and may even still have it. Give that same gift to a well-deserving staff member.
Talk to your employees about what is most important to them through a survey, an impromptu conversation, or a scheduled quarterly/semi-annual review. Incorporate these basic human wants – (control, to make an impact, and appreciation) into your organization – and not only will your employees notice, but they will appreciate you more and be motivated to work harder. Happy employees means happy customers, an attractive bottom line, and a less stressful personal life.