Sunday, 28 February 2016

Linking quality performance to employee engagement

How should a business define the quality of its employees’ performance? It is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. Is quality defined by the senior team, purely? Or, the customer? Maybe, the industry regulators? 

Digital business strategist and author Martin Hill-Wilson, suggests looking at it in the context of contact centres. “They are a topical employee group. They are at the front-line of how organisations try to engage with customers.”

Hill-Wilson has been working for the last three years on the Performance and Quality (P&Q) Challenge. It is a framework that helps contact centres to change and improve their culture. 

I wanted to explore with him the state of people quality performance from a business transformation perspective. In this interview, Hill-Wilson shares his view on the challenges of defining quality, its opportunities to engaging employees, digital change and the role of leadership.

Gloria Lombardi: Why did you start developing the P&Q Challenge? 

Martin Hill-Wilson Martin-Hill Wilson: I used to be a system integrator, helping contact centres technologists to communicate their business benefits to clients. I was particularly interested in one of the product set ups: analytics. It was about being able to analyse the customer voice and understand what was happening from a continuous improvement point of view. 

But, I soon realised that people performance management was another important area where an enterprise could use this approach. 

GL: Could you give me an example of how the P&Q Challenge works?

M-HW: I have just been applying it with a group of insurance companies in the UK. They are very much compliance driven with a rigid interpretation of what they think their industry regulators expect of them. 

Sometimes contact centres do not provide a pleasant experience for customers. They can be frustrating and prescriptive. Front-line employees can’t help; or, they do not have the right mindset. One of the reasons is that the organisation places emphasis upon efficiency at the expense of effectiveness. 

With the P&Q Challenge we lock things down. We challenge the culture to be one in which a company engages with staff, moving away from compliance to using their workforce’s own initiatives. As a result of that, many employees, including the people who are working in the contact centres, want things to change dramatically. 

GL: Tell me more. How do you do that? 

MH-W: We ask the business to think about the management of quality in an integrated ecosystem way. Often people tend to work on the symptoms of problems when looking at transformation. For example, how happy a customer was during a transaction. But, taken in isolation, that’s irrelevant. People should think about the employee and customer experience in a holistic way. 

The model is based upon 6 core discussions and delivered over a six-month period. With it, we focus on the voice of the customer and the voice of the employee. In the design of the new approach to quality, it is crucial to discover new ways to engage front-line staff. For example, in terms of changing who defines quality, some organisations for the first time ever ask their staff for their opinions. Other organisations have also deliberately involved front-line employees in the overall design of quality. They ask them how they would like to improve, and encourage them to self-learn. Staff is given dashboards on their screens that give customers’ feedback and help them improve their performance. Ultimately, co-designing the model with employees is key to establishing a participatory culture. 

During the programme we ask staff to come out from their contact centres. Then, they take their new ideas back into their businesses and apply them. They also extend the same approach to their own teams. 

GL: Is “co-designing the model with employees” part of the added value to engagement? 

M-HW: Yes. It is about changing the top-down management approach, which does not challenge people and therefore does not engage them. Rather than telling people what to do, they are encouraged to come up with their own answers. To add further examples, one organisation encouraged its staff to define their own customer service standards. In another situation the team leaders defined their own vision of how quality management worked and the standards of engagement they wanted to generate. Others have included their front-line employees in identifying customer experience issues, helping to define solutions and testing them before the roll-out.

By inviting staff to co-create, the business mindset changes from just thinking about employees as a cog in the wheel, to thinking that they have a voice and valuable insights. People feel respected as a result of that. >

GL: Another area that you have been working on is business digital transformation. How do you see its current development inside businesses?

M-HW: It is an interesting area to look at right now. Ideally, digital transformation should be initiated by a Board member, possibly the CEO, the Head of Business, and the Head of Function. But often executives are neither well connected to their business nor are they particularly dynamic and agents for change. Mainly, that is because those in senior positions still belong to the old management school: they keep the organisation within the same way of doing things.

GL: Following this observation, how should an organisation support change without getting into that leadership trap? 

M-HW: Digital transformation is about inventing something that did not exist before. Many of the people in charge in companies today, often do not have that mindset or that skill. So, anybody who has the ability for making things happen can start helping to transform the business. Because ultimately, leadership is an approach; it is not a position. 

Leadership is about setting a direction for the benefit of the group. It is about survival, growth and finding new customers. As we saw with the P&Q Challenge, it is about inspiring employees to find new ways to make change happen as opposed to simply looking for more efficient ways of doing the existing things. And, providing people with the courage and the persistence to go through the transformational breakthrough as necessary, to move from the old to the new.

This article originally appeared on StaffConnect

Sunday, 21 February 2016

How the Autonomous World is shifting the Future of Work

An ‘Autonomous World’ is about to emerge according to Jeremiah Owyang,  founder of Crowd Companies. Gloria Lombardi explores and finds out more.  

By Gloria Lombardi

Could you imagine having a robot as a colleague? The idea may seem rather fanciful. But, according to founder of Crowd Companies Jeremiah Owyang (pictured right), we are witnessing a rise of the Autonomous World, which he defines as: “The future state when intelligent technology systems, operating without human participation, enable new business models in a more efficient society."

The Autonomous World is driven by the digital world. “It relies on the merger of robots and The Internet of Things (IoT),” clarifies Owyang. It is already creating new ways of doing business. “It is also changing the Collaborative Economy in different ways.”

The future of work 

The effects of the Autonomous World on the future of work will be both good and bad, Owyang says. On the positive side, workers will rely on robots to get their work done. “The management as well as other employees will use machines and even artificial intelligence systems to fulfil their tasks.”

But, on the downside, workers themselves maybe displaced. “They may find out that they no longer have a job: the robots are doing it for them.”

In order to be part of the workforce of the future people will need to develop new skills to manage technological advancements. “They need to prepare now for the changes that will come when computers are able to complete some tasks better and cheaper than them.”

However, many people are still either unaware that the move is about to happen. “Or they are trying to resist it.” Yet, the shift is happening. And, “it will not be stopped.”

Not surprisingly, there is a lot of concern about the rights of workers. Owyang is seeing the rise of the Universal Basic Income. “It is a form of socialism where common resources and a basic income is provided to all workers.” Even if people are not currently working, they will be guaranteed a wage. “The aim is to have no one ending up starving or becoming homeless.”

The worker-machine relationship in the workplace 

Will the Autonomous World emulate humans? No. Robots will behave differently from people. “They are going to be faster and complete transactions quickly. They will be like sub-workers or sub-serving workers.”

Obviously, autonomous machines are not social creatures like humans are. Yet, they will be able to improve communications. “For example, they will give workers essential information on emerging situations immediately at the time they occur. They will collect data, analyse it and and produce important alerts or notifications for people to access as soon as a set of circumstances change.”

And, these technologies will certainly extend the idea of the workplace. It is worth mentioning the role of self-driving cars. With the vehicle driving itself people will be able to work while commuting. “The car will start looking like an office in its own right: WiFi, large screens, and the opportunity to connect various devices to work in comfort.”

Autonomous vehicles will also function as a sort of logistics partners. “If someone needs a package to be delivered to the office, they can use those technologies to quickly send them the material. For workers, that means that they can get things on demand.” And, the supply chain itself will be faster thanks to the technology.

The impact 

The impact on society is and will be big. Good examples come from ride-sharing companies such as Uber, Lyft and Didi Kuaidi, which are preparing to launch their own self-driving cars. “Uber is already building the technology in its vehicles.” Meanwhile, car manufacturers such as Volvo, Ford, Mercedes and Yamaha are working on producing their own self-driving transport. And, the industry impact has continuing effects. “These firms are opening laboratories and innovation centres in Silicon Valley as they, too, strive to integrate software with their products.”

Additionally, new collaborative partnerships are developing. For example, Lyft, which is the second largest ride-sharing start-up in the United States, has partnered with General Motors: “Together they will be launching self-driving cars soon.”

The role of mobile in an Autonomous World

The Autonomous World is intrinsically and entirely linked with the mobile experience. “It is summoned by mobile.” For example, people will organise their rides through the apps on their devices. The self-driving car will go to their house and take them wherever they need to go.

Mobility will also enable WiFi access: mobile devices will be on a very fast connection inside the car. “In some respect, the self-driving vehicles themselves will be like smartphones.”

And, a new form of mobile apps will emerge. “The current way of downloading and installing applications as well as logging in, is old and antiquated. It will not sustain in the long run.” In the future, people will not need to download the app: “It will be instantly available on the phone.”
And, it will provide richer experiences than today’s apps are offering. Yet, “it will take some time before we reach that point.”

Nurturing corporate culture and human talent 

Employees will always be seen as an important asset. But, the idea of talent will change in an Autonomous World. “Many companies are already outsourcing high expertise and skills from the freelancer world. They are already relying on the on-demand workers.” And, leaders must carefully take them into account. “They must prepare and nurture an internal culture that considers these individuals.”

Institutional knowledge is going to be critical too. “Companies have to ensure that the knowledge of their organisation is captured and retained.”

But, that is important anyway. “Whether or not the business has engaged with freelancers or used any machine that could potentially replace humans.”

Fascinating or frightening depending on how it is seen, the Autonomous World is shifting the future of work. “And companies must prepare for it.”

This article originally appeared on StaffConnect

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Why Employee Communication is key during a Crisis

 By Gloria Lombardi

When your organisation is facing the worst, you need to be at your best.”  Paul Barton

A crisis can hit any company. Especially in an increasingly volatile world. And, at times of crises most large companies prioritise their public image. Often they direct all their communication efforts externally, only. However, the truth is that employees are just as important as external audiences. As Paul Barton puts it: “Organisations need the full support of their staff to recover from a crisis as fully and as quickly as possible.” 
Barton (pictured right) is the author of “Maximizing Internal Communications” and founder of Paul Barton Communications. He has studied and advised companies for more than two decades to help them communicate effectively. Over the years, he has also developed a strong interest and knowledge on crisis communications.

I wanted to discuss with him the role of internal communication in a time of crisis. In this interview, Barton shares his view on the best strategies to deploy, the power of employee advocacy, new digital channels and staff policies. Plus, the rise of the ‘content expert’.

Gloria Lombardi: Internal Communication is vital during a crisis. But, why it is so critical to emphasise its role?  

Paul Barton: Employee communications are at the heart of every company’s success. Most certainly, they stay at the heart of any crisis recovery. Internal Communication is the little strand that holds everybody together when everything else seems to be falling apart. Just as Richard Branson has built his Virgin Group brand from the inside out, crisis are best solved that way.

But, in the rush and panic of a crisis it is easy to take staff for granted. That can be a costly mistake. Employees are the ones who get the work done. They are the people who will determine how quickly and fully you recover. And, employees are the face of the brand to customers.

GL: What attributes define good internal communication in a crisis?

PB: I talk about the 3Ps of Predict, Prepare and Practice.

Any company should try to predict the crisis scenarios that are likely to happen to them. I suggest coming up with a list of five scenarios, at least. The organisation will be able to adapt more quickly and appropriately to those situations if they arise. This is true even if the crisis turns out to be something closely related but different. Obviously, everything cannot be predicted. Yet, statistics show that about two-thirds of crises are foreseeable if the company does their work in advance.

Prepare is about having the necessary information pre-gathered and processes pre-determined. It includes the definition of roles and responsibilities, an emergency notification system, an initial employee template update, the communication channels, and the policy for staff. Also, a post-crisis evaluation is important for learning what could be improved in future. An organisation needs those resources in advance – they cannot wait when a crisis hits to figure them out. There is simply too much happening too fast.

But, where I see many companies failing is the practice. Perhaps, the 3Ps model should say, ‘Practice, Practice, Practice’. It is the best way to be prepared for a crisis. Practising helps an organisation to uncover communications that need to be changed and revised. It’s practice and experience that will help a team to perform well in a difficult situation.

GL: How should an organisation approach the frequency of internal communications in a crisis?

PB: Employees need to see Internal Communication as a trusted and credible source for information. The function definitely has to communicate early and often. They have to provide staff with clear and timely insights, and consistent messages just like they do in any other form of employee communication. But, they also need to consider that everything gets amplified in a crisis – while all the basic rules are still in play, they get intensified.

GL: Sometimes employees become aware of a crisis situation involving their company through the news and social media rather their own organisation first. That can create additional confusion during an already difficult time.  

PB: Yes, it has happened, and it happens often. There is an overlap between internal and external communications. The exchanges that employees have with customers, family, friends and neighbours, are de facto external communications. And, the messages that a company gives outside can actually come back with an overlay to employee voice.

The last thing a company wants is having staff who are uninformed and telling customers that they do not know what is going on. So, it is important to ensure that messages are aligned and to provide accurate information to everyone.

GL: In the digital economy an organisation can use new channels as an opportunity to empower employee advocacy. How should the activity be run during a crisis?

PB: Yes, absolutely. If an organisation treats their employees respectfully and provides them with the right information they can become the best advocates inside and outside of the organisation. They can help the business overcome the worst situations. For example, if there is a crisis on a plant, field workers could be tweeting about it, posting videos, sharing pictures, updates and more. And, letting employees talk about areas that they are experts in can become a more credible source of information than any public relations.

But, I advocate that long before a crisis happens, any company creates a detailed and open policy. That document states how employees should use social media as well as the other communication channels.

Unfortunately, many policies are not kept up to date. They were developed a long time ago. It was well before we become aware of all the capabilities that digital, social technology, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to work offer. Those policies do not address the new developments in communication. That must change.

GL: You have just made the important remark of “letting employees to talk about” the crisis. They may have extra knowledge about something to actually become the most trusted source of information. Tell me more.

PB: As for any communication, an organisation should not use their own CEO all the time. Clearly, when it is appropriate they most certainly may want to do that.

However, in a crisis it is important to involve the ‘content experts’. Often, they are employees in the middle level who know more about the situation than anyone else. It is a good opportunity to involve them.

In the old days a company would try to funnel everything through the public relations department and one spokesman. In particular, it was mainly through a CEO whose spokesman was by his side briefing him. But, the days when an organisation used to control all those messages, or answers if they ever existed, are gone. Funnelling does not work in the modern era. Everyone has a device and is capable of broadcasting to the world in real time. That is a great chance for the company to find and empower the real experts across the organisation.

GL: Are there differences in the way companies in different geographies and industries encourage employee advocacy?

PB: The most high-tech companies in the United States, California in particular, are well adapted. They allow their employees to defend the organisation on digital media. They understand the opportunity much better than many old manufacturing companies. The latter are still slow when it comes to instilling employee advocacy.

GL: Let’s take a scenario where staff is part or the cause of the crisis. How should an organisation approach the situation?

PB: An honest communication approach is still the best, whether it is internal or external. Employees certainly will watch how leadership responds. The company needs to be open, treat staff like adults, and provide them with timely information. Even if they don’t have all the answers, they still need to get out in front of people and communicate. They simply should say that they may not be able to answer all the questions. But also that they are aware of the situation, working on it and that they will provide more details as soon as they have it. And, action has to follow. The organisation needs to keep staff updated. For example, they can set up pop-up notifications on the appropriate channels and times for employees to see depending on the type of crisis.

Rumours are created for a specific reason: they fill in the information void. If an organisation does not tell staff what is going on, they will make up their own story. And, it is very unlikely that the latter will be similar to the one the company would like to tell!
This article originally appeared on StaffConnect

Sunday, 7 February 2016

When internal communication meets mobile apps

Mobile is everywhere and broadly applicable to everyone. It has the opportunity to change how employees connect and communicate. It facilitates the sharing of whatever they need to access for doing their job. And, it makes it easier for them to participate in important conversations.”

MLMaribel Lopez (pictured right) has had a keen interest in mobility since a young age. She started her career at Motorola in the 1990’s. Since those early years, she developed a deep knowledge about the technology industry. As an analyst, she worked at Forrester Research for over 10 years. Now, she heads up her own business Lopez Research, where she interprets the impact of mobile applications and digital transformation on business practices and processes.

I spoke with Lopez to explore what happens when mobile enters the world of Internal Communication. In this interview, she shares the latest trends, the opportunities, benefits as well as challenges, and the role of internal communicators, leadership and culture in driving digital transformation. Plus, how organisations are measuring the success of their mobile apps.

Gloria Lombardi: Based on your research, what are the most remarkable changes that enterprise mobility has faced over the last five to ten years?

touch-screenMaribel Lopez: Phase one of enterprise mobility focused on Bringing Your Own Devices (BYOD) into the organisation. And, the security and management aspects of those devices.

Now, most companies have entered into the second phase of mobility. Enterprises are moving beyond providing email, contacts and calendar to provide real business applications. The current big trend is to figure out which types of mobile apps make sense for any particular organisation.

In the next phase, companies will use mobility to evolve and transform business processes with context such as location, image capture and sensor data.

GL: Which mobile apps for internal communication are currently having the most impact on businesses?

ML: There are a variety of different apps and uses. It can start from very simple services such as making approvals and expense reports easily actionable.

smartphoneHowever, the apps that are currently very popular allow better collaboration amongst employees. There is high demand of those services for field workers. For example, this group can now share logistics or customers’ information – from inventory to a product’s details to industry news – wherever they are, whenever they need it. Hence, they serve the customer better. Because those apps are replacing paper forms and collecting the data electronically, employees can send information back to their headquarters seamlessly. And, by allowing the sharing of data and actionable content, internal communication apps are anchoring the social angle of the business. This is a big thing for every organisation I talk to, across all the roles and industry. Probably, it is the most universal adoption trend right now.

There is also demand for employee recognition apps. They give colleagues the ability to acknowledge the great work of their peers in front of the company. In the past, the only review that employees received was the direct feedback from their manager. Now, there is an opportunity for team members to have a say on the skills, achievements and expertise of co-workers.

GL: What are the key challenges for internal communicators who need to implement and drive mobile apps?

finger-769300_960_720ML: Part of the challenge is that there is a lot of choice. They need to make sure that they choose the right apps for the right job. The other part of the challenge is that they have to ensure that those apps are secure; that they are not giving away company data; that the organisation can’t be hacked. For this to be achieved, there is a real need for all the lines of business to work with IT.

Equally important, and challenging, is making sure that the mobile applications integrate with the existing enterprise data sources such as ERP and finance. Sometimes organisations just buy a solution that looks good, but when they try to implement it, they cannot connect it to the existing data. At that point, the company realises that it has to buy another solution, wasting time and money.

GL: How does the organisational culture impact on the successful – or unsuccessful – implementation of mobile apps? 

ML: Something interesting happens with mobile. An organisation can build and deploy apps without conducting internal research first. It results in a disaster.

The role of internal communicators is to go across the company and find people who can become natural evangelists. They should talk with those employees and ask them what they would like and need to do with mobile. And find uses that provide the business case for funding mobile. IT won’t get funding if there isn’t real demand from the users.

GL: Different employees probably have different mobile needs. A group could ask for a people directory; other individuals may require an internal news app and more. How should an internal communicator approach such diverse needs?

personalML: It isn’t easy. The first thing to do is to create a list of the organisational needs that can be met with mobile. And what groups of employees each app is able to support.
Then, they should map those applications back to the key performance indicators of the company (KPIs). The apps that have the most impact on the KPIs are the ones to adopt first. It is about creating alignment with the company, but also with staff.

What often happens is that internal communicators start implementing one or two apps because of the demand. But suddenly, they end up with a list of a hundred apps that people want. Yet, the company cannot adopt all of them. So, it is about focusing on the main business goals and evaluating which applications are really going to meet the key objectives.

GL: How are organisations measuring the value of their internal mobile applications?

ML: Sometimes organisations directly evaluate the time it takes to perform a task. For example, they track the number of days it took to close a contract before and after implementing a mobile app. One company was able to capture the barcode of the products and easily log all of the products sold. Before having the app, even without intentions, some numbers were missed. Thanks to mobile, employees did not miss any product sales, and improved billing. Plus, the field workers became more efficient and they could do one more service call a day.

GL: Internal communication apps have become a big part of the digital transformation of an organisation. How can leaders lead this change, effectively and in the right way?

monitorML: It’s an important question. Organisations should not just adopt mobile because it is now available. They should think of the actual digital transformation, and ask themselves, ‘What can we do better because of mobile?’ Probably, many of their existing applications were not originally designed for services such us photo or video capturing, motion, sensing, or location. Yet, the organisations that are serious about becoming a digital company, are going to rebuild their entire business processes with these type of services in mind.

GL: Could you give me some concrete examples?

ML: A simple example can be with construction workers who check in for a time clock. If they walk into the building with their phone, and they stay in the building, their timekeeping card can be automatically punched. They don’t need to have to go to a device and register their presence. A CRM system could also automatically log when a salesperson entered a customer site, making it easier to capture a record of the visit.

To embrace digital transformation, organisations should be thinking about wearables and smartphones to leverage location. That fits into the cross between mobile and The Internet of Things (IoT) where sensors are on devices. Employees will be able to track shipments, know exactly where an equipment is, and check the health of that equipment at any given point in time.

This article originally appeared on StaffConnect