Wouldn’t it be powerful to have a culture of employee feedback that kept your finger on the pulse of what matter most to help your company to perform at its peak?

Let’s Start with Customer Feedback
Today’s businesses seem to be rightfully obsessed with gathering customer feedback to know how they are doing and how they could improve  You can’t even go to the Post Office these days without being asked to fill in a survey.  Unfortunately, this kind of survey is often ignored unless the customer is either absolutely delighted with the service or absolutely disgusted.

Employee Feedback
Gathering employee feedback should be very different.  To reinforce what is working and to improve areas of weakness, you want to hear from every employee – from the discontented and disillusioned to the enthusiastically supportive and engaged.  To create a culture of employee feedback, you need to understand the level of employee engagement among your workers and to develop an action plan that will address real issues and improve organizational health and performance.

Done right, the employee engagement surveys are confidential, purpose- rather than curiosity-driven, supported at the executive level, and include effective follow-up.  These surveys become the foundation for a culture of employee feedback and open communication – both of which support improved employee engagement and performance.

Follow-up Steps Are Critical
Once you’ve gathered survey responses, the follow-up steps matter even more than polling your employees.  What you do next sets the tone.

  1. Thank Everyone for Participating
    Surveys take time and careful thought. Send a prompt note of appreciation to employees for their participation.
  2. Look for Patterns
    Analyze the data for trends and choose key themes. Consider such factors as absolute scores both high and low, scores as they relate to benchmark data, scores that reflect an increase or decrease over time, and how scores compare among different departments.  Pay special attention to response rates overall and by group, as well as to any individual comments which can provide additional insight.
  3. Corroborate Your Findings
    Work with teams or focus groups to test your findings and make sure you’re on the right track. It helps to have different perspectives and to talk about how the feedback informs what needs improvement and how these pain points can be addressed.
  4. Create an Action Plan
    Develop just two or three initiatives that address the issues you have uncovered. Some companies do this at the executive level.  Others try to involve employees from all levels in order to get their ideas on execution and their buy-in.  Just make sure that the plan will have the desired impact and is both actionable and measurable.
  5. Share What You Know
    According to the timetable you set up at the beginning of the survey, share with employees what you learned and what you plan to do about it. Studies show that “companies with effective change and communication are 3.5 times as likely to significantly outperform their peers.”  Provide an overview of results for all and then have managers break down relevant results for their team along with a discussion on how the initiatives will be addressed at the team level.
  6. Now Begin Implementation
    As you begin the agreed upon action steps, don’t stop monitoring, measuring, and communicating in order to maintain momentum and establish accountability.

The Bottom Line
A culture of employee feedback includes regular surveys, both formal and informal, of employee job satisfaction, regular meetings where open discussion is encouraged and opportunities for employees to offer new ideas for improvement.  What’s not to like?

To learn more about how to create a culture of employee feedback, download 7 Tips on How Managers Can Increase Employee Engagement through Communication

High Performing Sales Organizations vs Standard Sales Team Performance
According to a recent CSO research report, only 46% of sales reps are meeting quota, and sales teams are losing ground on 94% of the key sales activities most associated with high sales performance.  How can companies be doing well if more than half of their reps are missing their targets and sales performance is so varied?

Apparently, sales leaders found ways, like relying more on existing customers, leaning heavily on star sellers, and putting more feet on the street to bulk up their revenues.

From our perspective, relying more on existing customers makes sense.  Growing business at a current account is faster, more profitable, and easier than winning new business.  We also believe that it makes sense – at least in the short-term – to lean on top performers if they are treated and rewarded appropriately.

But hiring more salespeople is where we believe that the problems begin.  If you have a 46% success rate, then more than half of your new hires will not meet expectations.  When you calculate the cost of attracting, hiring, onboarding, developing, and letting go of half your sales force each year, the numbers just do not add up.  And from a sales culture perspective, it is not sustainable to rely too much on your top performers over the long haul.

What High Performing Sales Organizations Do Differently
In comparing more standard sales teams with those that are consistently on top, the research found three main factors that account for the success of high performing teams.  Here’s our take on all three:

  1. Customer Centricity
    First and foremost top performing sales teams keep their customers front and center. This does not surprise us.  Our organizational alignment research found that sales culture – how work gets done – accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing sales teams.  Sales teams that culturally strive for customer intimacy and measure their success based upon the success of their customers outperform their peers.

    To improve your customer centricity, focus on increasing your understanding of your customer’s business, anticipating and flexing to your customers’ needs, and creating a community of customer advocates to spread the word.

  2. Sales Process Alignment
    Next, the research pinpointed aligning your sales process with each customer’s buying process. This also makes sense to us.  The days are long gone when salespeople could dictate how buyers needed to buy.  Today’s buyers are more sophisticated and come armed with more leverage and data to get what they want and need.

    Similar to the being more customer centric, solution selling training today must teach sales reps how to be customer focused from the top to the bottom of the sales funnel.  The most effective sales reps adapt their selling journey to the customer’s buying path.  Rather than try to force the customer to follow their process, high performers are intimately connected to the steps the buyer must take on the way to a deal.

    They know who will be making the final decision, how the decision will be made, and what information is needed when.  Then they expertly escort their customer through their internal buying process to be successful.  That means being skillful at navigating often misaligned internal systems and challenging politics not only at your company, but also at your buyer’s company without placing a burden on the customer.

  3. Adding Value
    Not surprisingly, high performing sales reps offer unique perspectives and value-added insights. Hopefully this finding is not news to you.   Top salespeople act more like trusted advisors who have their customers’ best interests at heart and less like sellers who are interested mainly in closing the deal.

    Does your sales team add value at every client interaction and focus on helping their customers to succeed?

The Bottom Line
When you are looking to raise your sales team to the level of high performing sales organizations, ensure that your sales culture truly puts the customer first in a way that aligns with your sales strategy.  Any misalignment with how your clients measure success will lengthen your sales cycle, decrease your win rate, and put too much pressure on your top sales performers.

To learn more about better aligning your sales culture with your sales strategy, download How to Determine the Right Amount of Pressure for Your Sales Culture

Communicating Change Can Misfire Unless You Prepare to Communicate Change
Organizational change can arouse all sorts of negative emotions from fear, to resentment, to sadness if it is not properly handled.  How you communicate change can make all the difference in the way it is perceived by your workforce. If you mismanage change initiatives from the people side of change, you risk missing your targets.

Don’t make the mistake of neglecting to plan well.  You can always expect some resistance to change.  But, with adequate preparation, you can increase the likelihood of meeting goals, and completing the change on budget and on time.

Better Prepare to Communicate Change
Change management consulting experts follow these tried and true tips to better prepare to communicate change.

  1. Take Adequate Time to Practice and Plan Ahead
    You need to prepare not only the content of your communication, but also the delivery, timing, and follow-up. You may choose to make the initial announcement at an all-hands meeting but quickly follow that session with smaller group meetings at which leaders are prepared to answer questions and concerns.

    Giving employees multiple opportunities to absorb and process the news reduces the possibility of their feeling undervalued.

  2. Explain the Rationale for Change
    It’s important that employees understand why the change is necessary and how things will improve once implemented. Share the background of the situation, what’s not working, and your vision of the future.  Employees deserve to know why they will be going through the disruption and how the proposed solution will concretely improve things.
  3. Be Sure Managers Are Equipped with the Right Message
    When managers are leading smaller discussion groups or one-on-one conversations, they need to fully understand the context for the change and be able to communicate it simply, directly, and with compassion. Give them the words and the tools to talk about the change and how it will be carried out at their team level.

    Managers should know how to answer the more personal questions too.  Every worker will want to know how the change will affect them personally.  Will they be able to continue in their role?  How will their job change?

    The more individual attention and support employees receive, the less opportunity there is for anxiety and resentment to grow.

  4. Actively Invite Employee Participation
    Include employees as much as possible in the actual execution of the change. Because they are closest to the work, they will have very practical ideas on how to effect the change smoothly.  An added benefit is that they will also become implementers of the change rather than obstructers.

The Bottom Line
Don’t sabotage your change initiative by poor communication at the front end.  Thoughtfully consider and practice the people side of change so you give the plan a greater likelihood of success.

To learn more about how to better prepare to communicate change, download 5 Science-Backed Lenses of Change Leadership

The Current Situation
For those charged with keeping their organization’s talent up to date, the current situation is daunting.  Trying to maintain a talent base that is ready and able to take on rapidly changing challenges is a monumental task – and yet more important than ever to the success of your company.  Just ask Amazon who just committed $700 million to retrain one-third of its workforce in new skills by 2025.

Talent managers need to develop talent management strategies that figure out how to “reskill” and “upskill” employees shoved aside by automation and other advances.  One report claims that this group of workers accounts for almost 66% of current headcount. On average, two-thirds of today’s employees will experience a substantial shift in their job profiles over the next five years. And that doesn’t begin to count the numbers of new jobs needed to meet marketplace demand.

The Goal
For companies that rely on their people to succeed, business results depend getting the right people with the right capabilities in the right positions to consistently perform. You need to be able to attract, engage, retain, and develop a workforce that is up to what is required.

4 Keys to Keeping Talent Up to Date
As we see it, there are four keys to succeeding at talent management in today’s ever shifting job market:

  1. You Need to Prioritize Talent
    Managing talent today is both important and complex. As a result, the time required by leaders to handle talent demands has greatly increased while the time to deploy talent where it’s needed has greatly decreased. Leaders need to get involved in the careers of their employees so they can provide development plans, shift resources, and recruit top talent.
  2. You Need to Be Agile
    Change is a constant. The best leaders don’t run away from change but are ready to embrace change.  They need to adapt and quickly.  The slower you are to recognize a shift in talent requirements and to plan new ways to accommodate the change, the less able you are to stay ahead of your competition.
  3. You Need to Rely More on Cross-Functional Teams
    Teams that work well together complement each other’s strengths. The group’s overall effectiveness is greater than the efforts of the individual parts.  When you’re looking to increase performance, use teams to enhance collaboration, communication, and performance.
  4. You Need to Instill a Sense of Purpose
    Employees who understand the purpose of their jobs are more engaged and more willing to find better ways of doing things. Aligned employees are also more ready to take on new challenges like retraining for a job with a future so that they stay relevant and productive.

The Bottom Line
It is harder than ever to keep your talent prepared for changing job requirements.  Are you doing what you need to do to keep your people as your competitive advantage?

To learn more about keeping talent up to date, download The 3 Surprising Ingredients for Talent Management Success

Do Your Corporate Values Keep You in the Right Path?
In some organizations, company values are monitored, lived, and rewarded as they help people to make important day-to-day performance and behavior decisions.  In other organizations, company values are just empty words and slogans. We believe that corporate values set forth company-wide guidelines for desired workplace behavior.

Do Your Values Have Value?
Do your espoused corporate value clash with the way leaders and employees really behave?  When values are thoughtfully selected and meaningful, they can be the foundation for a healthy corporate culture.   When values are not lived, especially by high performers, they create cynicism and politics at work.

How to Evaluate Your Current Corporate Values
To test that your corporate values are believable, actionable, and true reflections of the culture you are trying to establish, ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Consider how your organization responds to challenging situations. Do you depend on corporate values to guide and make sense of your responses?
  2. Think of times you lacked enough data to make a critical decision and, instead, had to rely on feelings or instinct. Were the decisions you made without facts to guide you aligned with the values you espouse?

If the answer is “no” to either question, you have some work to do.  As a leader it is your job to shape your culture to best drive your people and business strategies forward.

Why Values and Culture Matter
We define culture as how things truly get done in an organization. It can be measured by understanding the way people think, behave, and work.  This includes the values that drive key business practices and behaviors.

  • One recent Harvard Business School research report described how an effective culture can account for up to half of the differential in performance between organizations in the same business.
  • Our organizational alignment research shows that cultural factors account for almost 40% of the difference between high and low growth companies.

Time to Revise Corporate Values
To operate at your peak, you need corporate values that truly define your workplace culture.  Otherwise they are empty and do little to frame how you do business.  What we know is that when values are at odds with your culture, performance suffers.

But when values and culture are aligned, work is accomplished much more smoothly.  Daily decisions and behaviors are driven by a framework of values that have meaning and purpose.

The Bottom Line
As a business leader, it is up to you to shape your culture so that you and your employees are firing on all cylinders.  Are your values clear and consistent with the way things get done at your company?  Do your corporate values help you keep on your chosen culture path to success?

To learn more about how corporate values keep you on the right path, download A Purposeful and Aligned Organizational Culture – Your DNA for Success

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