Rapid Advances in Technology Are Changing the Way We Live and Work
The exciting and sometimes scary growth and application of technology to enable innovation and development appears to be here to stay. Kids are growing up with it, and entire industries are being disrupted by it.  So, is leadership still important?  Does leadership EQ beat AI?

  • On a macro scale, the World Economic Forum reports that a 10% increase in broadband penetration is associated with a 1.4% increase in GDP growth in emerging markets.
  • On the work front, McKinsey reports what many of us have experienced – many activities that workers carry out today (about 30 percent) have the potential to be automated by technologies that exist today.

Will One-Third of Your Job Go Away?
In additional to industries like Trucking that is predicted to lose thousands of jobs to self-driving cars in the future or areas like healthcare where predictive analytics is changing the way doctors diagnose and prescribe, technology and partial automation will impact almost every job from the front-line factory worker to the CEO. Amazon has even begun to use algorithms instead of humans to predict demand of certain products.

In fact, there are reportedly 170,000 fewer retail jobs in 2017—and 75,000 more Amazon robots.  As artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and machine learning continue to grow, what skills will matter most to perform at your peak? Does leadership EQ beat AI?

Skills that Matter Least
Let’s start with the skills that seem to have the highest probability to be improved through automation. While the majority of artificial intelligence applications still require the help of humans, we believe highly automatable skills fall into two broad categories:

  1. Administrative, repetitive and routine tasks
  2. Data gathering and analysis

While we are confident that technological advances will continue to delight, scare and surprise us, these two categories seem like the lowest common denominator. We already see this happening with tasks such as grilling burgers, making salads, brewing coffee and selecting stock portfolios.

Skills that Matter Most
If the need for humans to undertake automatable tasks will be on the decline, we believe that should free up more than 30 percent of workers time to do the “human performance things” that truly differentiate one person and one company from another. We believe success will therefore become more and more dependent upon Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – the ability to understand, empathize and collaborate with other people.

Those individual and organizations that excel at EQ in three overall areas will outperform their peers.

1. Understanding Others
Invest in the self-awareness, empathy and communication skills required to read people’s emotional cues, recognize the feelings and needs behind those signals, understand what matters most to them both personally and professionally and articulate your understanding in a way that can be heard.

2. Motivating Others
Invest in the skills required to create, articulate and align clear goals and roles. Then learn how to use intrinsic and extrinsic motivation communication skills to help others to do their best work. Remember, your job as a leader is to create the circumstances to consistently get the most out of your people.

3. Collaborating with Others
Invest in the influence, change, conflict management, problem solving, project management, leadership, decision making and teambuilding skills required to produce performance results which cannot be achievable by any single individual alone.

The Bottom Line
Does leadership EQ beat AI?  The good news is that most experienced leaders already believe that emotional intelligence (EQ) is more important than one’s intelligence (IQ) in terms of being successful. Think of technology advancements as the foundational progress related to building personal and professional IQ. Then invest in EQ to take you and your team to the next level with the help of technology.

If you liked Does Leadership EQ beat AI, download 8 Reasons Leaders Need 360 Feedback

Top Employee Engagement Trends for 2018
These Top Employee Engagement Trends for 2018 are based on the employee engagement surveys from nearly 50 Best Places to Work contests, this comprehensive report is the one and only of its kind, examining employee engagement and culture trends at America’s top workplaces.  This year’s study aggregates responses from more than 600,000 employees from 8,000+ organizations across America.

The Top Employee Engagement Trends for 2018

1.  Overall Employee Engagement is Up Slightly
The number of highly engaged employees increased 0.50 percent from 2016 to 2017.   This makes sense given the level of focus and investment employee engagement has received over the last few years.

2.  Overall Employee Disengagement Has Not Improved
Despite a slight growth in highly engaged employees, the number of disengaged employees remained steady at 2.7 percent between 2016 and 2017.   We define disengaged employees as those who score in the bottom percentile.  They are disconnected from the workplace, negative, disruptive and hinder productivity.

3.  The Employee Engagement Highs
The four items with the highest favorability were the same in 2017 as 2016. This indicates that these are strong indicators of being a Best Place to Work.

  • I believe this organization will be successful in the future
  • Everyone here is treated fairly regardless of race, gender, age, ethnic background, disability, sexual orientation, or other differences
  • I am proud to work here
  • The people I work with most closely are committed to producing top quality work
  • My immediate manager cares about me as a person

4.  The Employee Engagement Lows
The five items with the lowest favorability are consistent with last year’s report, which indicates that most organizations,
including Best Places to Work, struggle in these areas.

  • When the organization makes changes, I understand why
  • I am paid fairly
  • I see professional growth and career development opportunities for myself in this organization
  • If I contribute to the organization’s success, I know I will be recognized
  • It would take a lot to get me to leave this organization (note: this item also was one of the only items to decline in favorability year-over-year)

5.  The Top Five Drivers of Employee Engagement
While all items on the survey had a positive correlation with employee engagement, some had a greater correlation than others. Items with a correlation of 0.75 or higher were considered significant drivers of engagement.

  • My job allows me to utilize my strengths
  • I trust the senior leadership team to lead the company to future success
  • I believe this organization will be successful in the future
  • The leaders of the organization value people as their most important resource
  • If I contribute to the organization’s success, I know I will be recognized

6.  Employee Retention is Still a Struggle
In a year of improved favorability, the survey item, “It would take a lot to get me to leave this organization,” was the lone detractor. Since 2014, this survey item has declined in favorability, with its most drastic decline between 2015 and 2016. Unfortunately, 2017 didn’t recoup 2016’s loss. Low favorability on this item has been found to be a top predictor of employee turnover.

7.  Managers Care About Employee Development But Cannot Deliver
The gradual increase in the item, “My immediate manager cares about my development,” is a great indication that managers understand the importance of developing their teams. However, when coupled with whether employees have visibility to growth opportunities, we see an average 10 percent gap in favorability over the past eight years. That gap has gradually widened from 9 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2017. This represents the gap between managers’ intent and their ability to deliver.

The survey item, “I see professional growth and career development opportunities for myself in this organization,” is consistently a top driver of engagement. Unfortunately, it’s also consistently been among the bottom in favorability. Empowering managers to close this gap could greatly impact engagement.

8.  Employee Recognition Is Improving, But Not Enough
Despite the improvement in favorability on the item, “If I contribute to the organization’s success, I know I will be recognized,” it maintained its consistently low ranking and high uncertainty. While employers are improving employee recognition efforts, it might not be enough.

The Bottom Line
How you engage employees matters. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.  Because each company has a unique strategy and workplace culture, we recommend you take a look at these top employee engagement trends for 2018 and determine how they impact your current talent management strategies.

To learn more about how to use these top employee engagement trends for 2018, download The 10 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Employee Engagement

An Aligned Workplace Culture Matters
Our organizational alignment research found that an aligned workplace culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing companies in terms of:

  • Revenue growth
  • Profitability
  • Employee engagement
  • Customer loyalty
  • Leadership effectiveness

The Definition of an Aligned Workplace Culture
An aligned workplace culture means that “how and why things are done” is highly attuned with “what needs to gets done” from a strategy perspective.   Creating alignment between strategy and culture allows everyone to become interdependent and act with a more unified and harmonious mindset.

An Aligned Culture is Different than a Healthy Culture
A healthy corporate culture includes areas such as employee engagement, leadership, trust, service, safety, innovation, continuous improvement, community involvement, ethics, character, and respect. These attributes are what make an organization healthy and drive how people interact with each other in getting things done.  The attributes of a healthy organization, however, are not typically much different from other organizations and they typically do not address how business actually gets done.

A healthy culture is just the “ticket to play the people game” for any well run organization.  While necessary, by itself, cultural health is insufficient to differentiate one company from another or to create higher performance.  That is the job of an aligned corporate culture.

Top 10 Research-backed Dimensions of an Aligned Workplace Culture
When an organization has an aligned workplace culture –one that is purposefully aligned with the business strategy – it sets the stage for high performance. Effective leaders align their culture with strategy to remove barriers, to simplify decision-making and to create organizational harmony across ten research-backed cultural dimensions:

1.  Market Approach
From a [Market Adopter] that introduces new offerings after the market has proven that they work to a [Market Leader] that develops offerings beyond what exists today.

2.  Customers
From [Transactional] short-term interactions to [Intimate] relationship-based experiences

3.  Loyalty
From [Individual] capabilities and relationships to [Logo] and company loyalty

4.  Focus
From an [Internal] focus on systems and processes to an [External] focus on customers and market trends

5.  Risk Tolerance
From [Risk Mitigation] that eliminates all risk before making decisions to [Embracing Risk] by encouraging and rewarding smart risk-taking

6.  Operational Approach
From [Low Process Variation] to ensure standardization and quality to [High Process Variation] to get each unique job done in a quality manner

7.  Decision Making
From [Centralized] decision-making by top leadership to [Decentralized] decision-making where individuals are allowed to make decisions at the front line

8.  Information
From [Fact-based] decision-making that requires extensive data to move forward to [Intuition-based] decision-making that utilized intuition and gut reactions to determine courses of action

9.  Atmosphere
From a [Social] approach that encourages a flexible approach to workplace norms to a [Disciplined] and formal work environment where employees are expected to conform to strict norms

10.  Results
From [The How] where doing it the “right” way is of highest priority to [The What] where delivering results matters most

The Bottom Line
A corporate strategy without an aligned workplace culture is just wishful thinking.  Because a business strategy must go through your culture and your people to get successfully implemented, you must make sure that the “what” and the “how” are attuned.  While a health culture is a step in the right direction, by itself, it will not differentiate you from the competition.

To learn more about the dimensions of an aligned workplace culture, download How to Build a Purposeful and Aligned Corporate Culture.

Should You Postpone Sales Training?
There are many valid reasons to delay or postpone sales training.  The value and timing of business sales training, like every other sales investment, must be compared to and aligned with shifting business priorities and initiatives.  Given the speed of change today and the constant pressure of competition, what timing makes the most sense in terms of the value and business impact of the training?

The Impetus to Improve Sales Performance
The majority of our clients are being pressed by investors to deliver higher growth at the same time as their clients are demanding more value at better price points.  To make matters more challenging, there are fewer barriers to entry causing competition to increase.  This perfect storm means many companies are:

  • Trying to design and introduce more new products and solutions faster than ever before
  • Launching major shifts in their go-to-market sales strategies in terms of solution sets, target clients, value propositions, portfolio mix and geographic reach
  • Struggling to hire sales reps fast enough who can sell complex solutions to different types of buyers

The #1 Priority – Profitable Revenue Growth
When we talk to sales leaders, there is one priority that never seems to change – profitable revenue growth.  If this is true, then the question becomes, is sales training important to ensuring profitable revenue growth?  Because sales training develops new sales skills and techniques gradually over time, the impact of training can be difficult for some companies to quantify.

The Impact of Sales Training
The good news is that we have measured over 800 sales training projects and know that profitable revenue growth is possible.  Sales teams that do training right, grow revenue 58% faster and are 72% more profitable than their peers.  To ensure your sales training hits the mark, follow these three research-backed best practices:

  • Sales Strategy – start with a clear, believable and implementable sales strategy about where you are going to play and how you are going to win.  Sales training without a clear sales strategy is just wishful thinking.
  • Sales Culture – once your sales strategy is clear enough, your next step is to ensure that your sales culture (the way things get done) is healthy enough, high performing enough and aligned enough with your sales strategy to help, not hinder, progress.
  • Sales Talent – once your sales strategy and culture are aligned toward profitable growth, it is then time to attract, develop, engage and retain the top sales talent you need to execute your sales strategy.  This is where sales training comes in.

The Top Five Reasons to Postpone Sales Training
Because sales training is just one avenue to improve profitable revenue growth, there are certainly situations where it makes sense to postpone sales training.  Here are the top five reasons from our clients:

1.  Lack of Strategic Sales Clarity
You should postpone sales training if your go-to-market sales strategy is not clear enough, believable enough or implementable enough in the eyes of your leadership or sales team.  It is hard enough to change sales skills and behaviors.  It is almost impossible if everyone is not on the same page in terms of target clients, value proposition and the critical few strategies to meet you objectives.


RELATED: ASSESS YOUR LEVEL OF STRATEGIC SALES CLARITY NOW


2.  Unhealthy or Misaligned Sales Culture
Think of your sales culture as how sales-related things really get done… the way sales people think, behave and act.  And sales culture matters.

Before you embark on sales training, make sure that your sales team is engaged enough to want to take their performance to the next level.  Then make sure that the way your sales team treats customers, makes decisions, views risk, creates loyalty, goes to market and gets results matches your growth strategy.  Do not let culture gaps provide excuses for missed sales targets.

3.  No Solution to Sell
Oddly enough, too many companies who want to teach their sales reps to sell value-added solutions do not actually have a solution to sell.  Here is how we define product versus solution selling.

  • Product sales is about the features and benefits – what your product does, how it’s built and how it compares to alternatives in the marketplace
  • Solution sales is about how your organization’s capabilities solve a pressing customer problem or achieve an important customer strategic objective

You should postpone sales training, at least the solution selling approach, if you are only selling features and benefits, regardless of how complex the product may appear.

4.  Not Ready to Reinforce the New Sales Skills and Behaviors
Sales training without the proper reinforcement only changes the behavior of 1-in-5 sales reps.  To ensure that new sales knowledge, skills, and attitudes transfer to the job, you must invest in:

  • Sales Support Resources – Make sure your sales teams have the necessary time, information, tools, technology, supporting sales processes, and structures to drive increased revenue the “new way”
  • Sales Reinforcement – Make sure you provide and align sales success metrics, incentives, consequences and recognition with the newly desired sales skills and behaviors
  • Sales Coaching – Our research shows that sales reps who receive frequent sales coaching outperform their peers 4-to-1.  Invest in sales coaching if you do not want your sales training investment to waste away.

You should postpone sales training if you are not willing to hold people accountable to the new way of doing things while providing the consistent and frequent sales coaching and support required to succeed.

5.  Different Capability Levels on Your Sales Team
While no one can excel at everything, we do believe that anyone can improve in almost any field.  We absolutely know sales people can change and improve their sales performance.  With that being said, if you are convinced that some on your sales team will never have the right attitude or aptitude to succeed in the “new way,” it may makes sense to let those people go before you begin sales training.

Can You Afford to Postpone Your Sales Training?
While the five reasons above should be addressed before moving forward, do not postpone sales training until everything is perfectly aligned.  Otherwise you will never provide your sales team with the sales skills they need to be successful in today’s marketplace.  There will always be change and uncertainty.  Remember the fundamental solution sales skills required to be successful do not change much and take time to develop.  You can always take the skills to the next level as things progress.

The Bottom Line
To get the most from your sales training investment, make sure that your sales strategy is clear enough, your sales culture is aligned enough, your sales team has enough of the right people and that you are willing to reinforce the new skills and behaviors.  And remember, the longer you wait, the longer it will take for your reps to execute your new sales strategy.

Is your value proposition unclear?  Your Unique Value Proposition and Differentiation – What Sets You Apart?

Aligning Call Center Change
When you ask your Call Center Reps to change their behavior in order to deliver on your brand promise, increase revenue and manage margins, be sure that you are fully aligning call center change to support any desired changes in behavior and performance.

What Motivates Call Center Reps
Remember, not all Call Center Reps respond to monetary incentives and commissions the way that successful telesales people do. Inbound reps often cringe at words like “up-selling,” “promotion,” and “cross-selling” because these terms indicate to them a primary goal of pushing product rather than helping a customer solve their most pressing problems.

7 Steps to Aligning Call Center Change
To ensure leaders are aligning call center change with your desired new direction, make sure you update and align:

  1. Objectives.  Call center performance objectives for all employees impacted by change.
  2. Compensation.  Rewards, recognition and compensation plans for those impacted by the change and their leaders to help institutionalize new behaviors.
  3. Job Profiles.  Job descriptions for any role involved in work that has changed.
  4. Hiring profiles.  Behavior-based competencies and skills for new hires to align with the new behaviors and changes..
  5. Onboarding.  New hire onboarding and orientation programs to match new job responsibilities.
  6. Messaging.  Internal and external communications to highlight change success and the associated costs and benefits of change.
  7. Development.   Call center training to regularly assess, practice, reinforce and measure the new skills, knowledge and behaviors.

The Bottom Line
Contact centers must change with the company’s go-to-market strategy to stay relevant and perform at its peak.  If you seek to make changes to strategies, processes, structures or people in your call center, follow these seven tips to ensure you are aligning call center change.

To learn more about high performing contact centers, download How To Get Serious About a Customer Centric Strategy and Culture

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