The single most important aspect which determines the fate of a corporate initiative is the emotional involvement and sustained engagement of employees.  After all, great plans with no one to implement them, fail.  The same is true for plans being executed in different directions.

When employees act as if an initiative is someone else’s responsibility, efforts appear unintentional and their effect will be temporary and minimal.  Bruce Temkin’s recent post illustrates the point.  An airline employee, in answer to a question about the sign above his head describing customer experience, chalks it up as just another promotion.

Whose fault is this?  Likely the company is at fault because immediately before employees commit to a plan, companies must set the stage for success:

  1. Communicate – Not just the what, but the why.  Will the change help attract customers?  Will revenues increase?  How will the change impact the employee’s life?
  2. Invest – It’s simple to create a slogan, hang a banner and mollify your customers (at least temporarily).  But have employees been trained?  Or are they being asked to do more with less?
  3. Back-Off – Do employees have the authority (indeed the mandate) to make the changes?  Or must they constantly seek approval for actions they know will help the plan succeed?
  4. Follow-Through – If the initiative is truly strategic to a company’s success the company needs to ensure it doesn’t end up as another flavor of the day initiative.  When companies fail to follow through they are tacitly telling employees that if they wait long enough there will be a new initiative… why bother?
  5. Acknowledge Successes – One small success, widely known, leads to other small successes.  And then?

But what happens when employees have shared goals, tools, and autonomy to carry out the plan?  When we act together, the results are tremendous.  Seattle Seahawks (an American football team) fans found this out in a game in early January.  The simultaneous cheering of 66,000+ caused the earth to shake… literally.

The pivot point is that companies, by their actions, influence the success of corporate initiatives but employees turn those plans into reality.  Not surprisingly, when companies fail their employees, employees fail their companies.

Creating Earth-Shaking Customer Experiences
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