One of the primary goals of any leader is to continually develop their staff. Improving employee performance typically requires some sort of sustainable change in behavior. If someone lacks empathy with their customers, they have to purposefully change their actions and statements to successfully close this performance gap. I’ve outlined four key steps to changing employee behavior.
Step 1: Individual Discovery
The first step is Individual Discovery. Every employee has a unique set of strengths, and areas that need improvement. When assessing a team of sales and service employees, quantifiable data is key to identifying individual performance gaps. Typically an assessment can be accomplished in 30 days through observation, or collaborative observations, to identify consistent patterns of employee behavior. This allows you to see the areas where an employee truly shines, their comfort zones, and also the gaps in performance. Time is one of the largest barriers to successfully completing this step. In most cases a manager lacks time to invest in Individual Discovery for one employee, let alone their entire team. One of the most underutilized resources to help in this area is the voice of the customer. Leveraging the thousands of customers that interact with each of your employees every week to help observe during this phase provides the manager with virtually unlimited resources that are not only qualified, but are possibly the most credible experts to participate in this process.
Step 2: “Buy In”
Once Individual Discovery is completed, an employee must “Buy In” to the assessment before any real change can occur. The voice of the customer increases “Buy In” and reduces the amount of time it would normally take to complete this step. When employees are assessed by their customers, they more readily accept the assessment, reducing subjectivity or perceptions that may arise in traditional observations or quality monitoring. The reality is that a customer has more credibility at assessing performance than any internal personal in an organization. Think about it. We pay employees to observe employees, and then we have them talk to each other about what the customer experienced. What’s missing from this process? The customer! So not only can the customers help save time and improve the efficiency of the Individual Discovery step, they are equally valuable at gaining “Buy In” from your staff.
Step 3: Targeted Observation
This step is critical in achieving long term behavior change and employee improvement. Now that an employee has “Buy In” and begins to make appropriate changes when interacting with customers, Targeted Observation must occur to watch for any indications of improvement, while identifying any old habits that might resurface. Once again (do you see a pattern here?) the voice of the customer can provide tremendous value. Customer driven organizations can leverage the voice of the customer in a very targeted manner, allowing customers to observe specific performance opportunities for the individual employees they interact with. This approach allows employee A’s customers to help by observing them as they work on their empathy, while employee B engages their customers to observe them on active listening, and so on for every specific performance area of every unique employee.
Step 4: Targeted Feedback
As an employee begins making changes towards improvement, Targeted Feedback is critical to having long-term results. Typically an employee makes positive changes, and in some cases their manager will notice it, especially if it occurs shortly after the “Buy In” step. The manager will affirm the behavior by encouraging and acknowledging the successful steps toward improvement. The employee might also slip into old habits, and a manger may step in to correct them and get them back on track. The challenge is that over time, or even within a few days, it becomes more challenging for a manager to catch someone doing something right. When the manager fails to notice anymore, an employee may slip a bit and slowly settle in to just being “good enough”. Without successful, ongoing Targeted Feedback, you run the risk of the employee just settling in where nobody notices them. Once again, a customer driven organization leverages the voice of the customer in this final and critical step of changing behavior. The customers show up every day (hopefully) and when permitted, can deliver amazing bits of Targeted Feedback in virtually real time to employees. This creates a momentum where employees are noticed and encouraged every day as they continue to improve over time. Once a performance gap is resolved, customer driven employees then leverage their customers to identify the next challenge they can work on together.
Are you customer driven? Do you leverage the voice of the customer in improving your employees? Are your customers working for you to reduce operational costs while improving employee performance?