Engagement. Engagement. Engagement. It’s what all the progressive workplaces are talking about. They know that when their people, their customers and their stakeholders are engaged that the results follow. Attracting and retaining people is easier, customer relationships and sales thrive, there are less workplace accidents and claim. Plus, great ideas happen which increase productivity and make money.
Yet we are not really sure what’s the best lever to do this. What we are now learning is that we are often over complicating how to drive change or in this case engagement. If we really want it to be clear for our employees, customers and stakeholders we need to reduce the complicated and ongoing strategies and multiple focuses.
We need to focus on one thing at a time.
My good friend, best-selling author and expert in ‘implementing projects that matter’, Peter Cook, says that if we want to drive new habits we need to make things simple. Focus on one thing at a time. We over complicate change by introducing too many things at a time. Peter says we need to make things simple for ourselves and the organisations we work within.
In the late 80’s Alcoa, the company that for over 100 years manufactured aluminium, was on the decline and shareholders were wanting a solution. A new CEO, Paul O’Neill, was appointed. In his first address to Wall Street he started his speech with; “I want to talk to you about worker safety”. Wall Street, and those who hired him, became awkward and restless. What the? You talk about safety out of everything you need to focus on? Not finance, marketing, share price, customers or people?
Every time he talked his first words were about safety. Every meetings’ first agenda item was safety. Every time he commenced a meeting including board, shareholder or Wall Street addresses, he started with; ‘If in the unlikely case that we need to evacuate… etc.”. He wasn’t the talking example. He was the walking example. He was relentless about his pursuit of safety. Both physical and psychological.
As a result, Alcoa turned into the safest company in the world, profit was five times larger when he retired from when he started, and market cap had risen by $27 billion.
So how did O’Neill turn around the largest, slowest and potentially dangerous business into the most profitable and successful in its history?
By focusing on one thing and then watching it ripple throughout the business.
hen we have Zappos. An online retailer in the US who is known to be one of the most successful customer service focused businesses in the world. They were sold to Amazon in 2010 for $1.2 billion, a record buyout at the time. I had the privilege of heading to Zappos HQ in Las Vegas to attend their Culture Camp to understand how they have built this huge success.
For anyone who has followed Tony Hsieh, the CEO, or the Zappos story you will know they have a reputation for creating an incredible culture. They have been through a huge amount of change since their inception over 10 years ago.
They initially sold footwear alone. Todays’ offering includes clothing, accessories, homewares, beauty and more. Their focus is to offer the best online selections that customers can find. They have moved location several times, grown to 1600 employees in 10 years and deal with over 5000 calls and 1000 live chats per day. It’s a pretty impressive operation.
With continual rapid growth comes its own set of challenges. In May of 2013, a small pilot group at Zappos started using Holacracy, a platform of self-organization. Designed to empower everyone in the company and give each employee a voice. Holacracy was then rolled out to the entire company in January of 2014.
So in all this change why have they continued to grow and create a tsunami of reputational success? Tony says it’s been a dogged focus on creating WOW for their people, their customers, their shareholders and their community. It is their #1 core value.
They know their values drives their success. Even when they implemented Holacracy they made the decision that their culture might change but they will continue to focus on their values, with as much passion as they have from the beginning.
Their number 1 value is their number one thing and it’s measured in everything they do.
Then Deloittes embarked on their global strategy to change their performance reviews they learnt many things. They knew that they needed to improve the quantity and quality of the conversations their leaders had with their people. They set up rigorous measurements to track the success, or not, of the changes they were driving. They knew that when their people were engaged it had a direct link to their productivity and performance. So they tracked this.
Overhauling their performance strategy for Deloittes was their one thing. The findings were compelling. One in particular, that I was drawn to. They found that the greater frequency of catch ups their leaders had with their people, the greater the engagement. In fact, 1 check in per month drive 19% increased engagement, but 1 check in per week drove a staggering 44% increase in engagement. This data tells us that the more we invest in our people, the more they invest in the business.
Similarly, when Hewlett Packard were moving towards a more conversation orientated culture they found that when feedback was not being given, engagement dropped by at least 20%.
So focusing on one thing that requires remarkable conversations, drives engagement.
To read about this and so much more in my white paper, “Feedback Cultures are Game Changers”. Please contact us here for a copy to be sent to you.