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Show Me You Care: Listening and Appreciating Your Employees | #ICMIchat Rundown (September 1, 2020)

Man in suit sitting behind desk.

Labor Day is on its way, reminding leaders how important their employees are to our organization's success. Employee appreciation isn't something to be done once a year. It should be part of every manager's routine, year-round. Due to everyone's elevated stress levels this year, we could all use a little more appreciation and empathy.

Join us on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific to weigh in on the contact center industry's most pressing challenges. Check out next week's discussion and join the conversation on Twitter!

During this #ICMIchat, we explore why it's essential for employees to feel understood, capture employee feedback, and showcase our team's accomplishments. We'll also explore the benefits and risks associated with rewards programs and evaluate how to modernize rewards for our remote workforces' reality.

There's Value in Feeling Valued

Every manager would love to get more than the minimum value from their employees, but our teams won't perform to their fullest potential if they don't think it makes a difference. Most people approach work wanting to do their best and meaningfully contribute to their company, at least in the beginning. Leaders must reciprocate this concern for their employees, and that often starts with understanding. When our employees have something on their mind, whether it is an issue with pay and benefits, safety concerns, or ideas to improve efficiency, their leaders must listen and empathize with their interests.

Employees that aren’t heard or even acknowledged will look for something else. Paychecks are one thing but that is generally not enough to keep them on board.

Only if you want to keep them. Or want them to share their ideas about how to improve processes, better serve customers, save money, make money, etc.

If employees feel like they aren't heard at an organisation, there could be no more cruel disservice that an organisation can do. Listening to employees is the basic unit of respect and if that is denied, it tells a lot about the organisation

Owning Employee Feedback

When employees approach management with feedback, the easiest course of action is to avoid, deny, or excuse the problem. Passing the buck is easy; "that's not my decision" isn't always untrue. However, we should treat our employees' remarks with the same consideration we give toward our customers. Don't pass the buck; take ownership of the problem. Although we cannot always make an immediate change or provide everything our employees would like, it's always within our control to listen empathetically and take the appropriate next steps toward a better workplace.

Listening shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of just one team. If we want to create a culture of participation, we all need to listen when someone brings an idea to us. The least we can do is offer our full attention and help guide them in the right direction.

Should be a cultural norm to ‘hear’ employees - both in the chain of command on the reg + by HR/exec team - formally and informally. This is a “both/and” across the board. Surveys, reviews, career planning, town halls, anonymous 'suggestion boxes'... all the ways.

The most successful companies align CX initiatives across the entire company from the front-line agents to the C-suite. And it’s not hard. Executives simply need to understand what the front-line experience is on a day-today basis.

Actions Speak Loudest

Acting on employee feedback wherever possible is excellent, but leaders must also communicate where the changes originated. Individuals often appreciate being recognized for their contributions to the organization, and it reminds employees that management values their feedback enough to take action. At the very least, a thoughtful response, progress report, or explanation of obstacles to implementing suggestions help employees understand how their ideas are being addressed.

Build trust with them and be transparent in whatever they do. Their actions should demonstrate that they trust their employees and there should be no room for doubt. Create a culture that is evolving with good leadership behaviour.

1. When they come on board don't just give them the ee manual, implement a structured onboarding prgm. More than 2/3 of [employees] are likely to stay with a [company] for 3 yrs if they have solid onboarding. 2. These are internal [customers] so take/implement [feedback] + close the loop.

Create tangible changes that showcase they have listened to feedback. Pursue their employees as valuable relationships they want for the long term, betterment of both sides, accomplish company goals & do good work. Profits as appropriate for industry.

Greener Pastures

When employees don't feel understood and cared for by their employers, they may mentally check-out while remaining clocked-in. As engagement falls, so will schedule adherence, productivity, creativity, and quality. In the best case, disengaged employees leave the organization. The worst case is that actively disengaged employees remain, stunting the company's growth and further degrading its culture. The benefits of low attrition aren't achievable if employees have given up on your business.

Consequences for an org if employees don't feel understood. 1) Their output reduces to a suboptimal level, only enough to not look bad. 2) Subconsciously, they disassociate themselves and are on the lookout for new opportunity. They're actually quite hard to catch.

You can lose talent. Those immediately affected may walk. Another large risk is birthing a culture where associate remain silent instead of solving issues. No growth. No agility. No money.

Your best employees - the ones who care about the company and want to make things better - will quit in frustration. Your worst employees will stay put because they do not care.

The consequences are dire for orgs where employees do not feel understood. Poor quality work, high attrition, poor sales, customer churn. And the bad-mouthing. And sneaky "you don't care about me so I'll take from you" behaviors. All the stapler stealing.

But, I Paid You

Employees don't often include their expectations for praise and recognition in their salary negotiations, but that doesn't mean they're not critical parts of their compensation. Market wages might keep employees coming back, but they don't tap into their discretionary effort or satisfy the social and psychological needs that come with productive work. Put simply, when employees give a little extra, they should get a little bonus.

Paychecks are table stakes for attracting and retaining great talent.

The paycheck is just the ante to get a seat at the table. You won't win many hands if you're only willing to bet the ante.

Paychecks don’t say the words “Thank you”. It is up to leaders to recognize that and say the words even if they can’t do anything else. Good leaders never miss an opportunity to heap praise on a subordinate. That doesn’t mean pizza parties are in order either.

Receive What You Reward

Regardless of their form, rewards and recognition are vital components to an employee experience initiative. However, hastily implemented reward structures may be your downfall. By reinforcing the wrong behaviors, rewards can incentivize lousy customer service, unethical behavior, or team dysfunction. These results aren't always apparent at first glance, so leaders must monitor how employees are getting to their goals.

Recognition should always reward behaviors, rather than outcomes. The worst case scenario is when we hand out awards based on numbers, and the same few (the ones everybody knows are cheating anyway) keep getting them, while those who behave ethically, lose out.

What gets recognized get repeated! So, avoid recognizing the wrong thing i.e. I never want to see an award for shortest handle time because that will encourage other Agents to rush customers off the line.

It can cause friction and favoritism. Avoid only acknowledging one person or forgetting one. Everyone deserves their chance, it will motivate them to continue their efforts.

Boosting Morale on a Budget

Not everyone is gifted with enormous budgets for employee recognition; sometimes, our organization doesn't allow for it at all. Not everything of value comes at a price. There are many ways to show employees they're special without breaking the bank. Thoughtfulness often outweighs book value when it comes to showing employees you care. Even carefully delivered words of encouragement can mean a lot.

Some meaningful rewards: Compliments ("I liked your choice of words in the presentation"), Show Trust ("I respect your opinion"), Seek Thoughts ("Are you happy in the organisation? Is there anything we can do?"), & Offer Opportunity ("We want you to take this up")

Authenticity is free. A heartfelt shoutout from an appreciative superior or colleague in a public forum like a team call or town hall meeting can go a long way toward making someone feel seen!

Some of the best rewards are free IMO. There are a couple of times I I can think of in my own past when I would have preferred one-on-one coffee with the big boss over anything else.

Sincere appreciation is rarely rejected. Agents know when they do good work, and simply having that acknowledged thru sincere words, both verbal and written, goes a long-way.

Don't Dismiss Distant Employees

Although employees working from home might be out of reach, it doesn't mean they need virtual hugs any less. There are plenty of opportunities to keep spirits high and call out great work when we see it. Being remote also opens up possibilities of new types of rewards; handwritten and mailed notes just became much more meaningful. You might offer treats for your employee's personal breakroom or supply entertainment for the whole family. Your employee's interests are the only limits to your opportunity.

Probably minor to some - I'm working with a company where most are remote workers and we're on a lot of What's App and Zoom comms. Even to be called out - that was great work you did, great idea that we're going to implement, etc. etc. Speaks volumes. It does for me.

Bout 10 years ago, had a gf who worked remote for AppleCare. They were super good about team dynamics for remote teams. Frequent contact with managers and team, gifts, inside jokes, whole 9. Way before Slack ubiquitous era too.

Tell the truth! Simply acknowledge they're working off hours, going the extra mile, showing up in millions of ways they don't have to based on job description alone . Remove the blinders & give opps for more training, skills, info sharing, etc.

Employee recognition is a must. Comp offs, weekend trip tickets, Amazon vouchers are some of the ways. Well, displaying name of employee in large font on wallboard at the contact center is just awesome.

Join us on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific to weigh in on the contact center industry's most pressing challenges. Check out next week's discussion and join the conversation on Twitter!

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