Keeping the brand custodians happyBy Danny Abreu
With so much emphasis on businesses growing the bottom line, the focus of most research is on the end customer. How do we attract new customers? How do we fulfil our customers’ needs? How do we keep our customers happy?
Sir Richard Branson offers a piece of advice:
“If you look after your staff, they will look after your customers. It’s that simple.”
Yet, so often, companies neglect to include the people who are the custodians of their business and their brands when planning their research strategies.
Don’t just take Sir Richard’s word for it. Multiple research studies have shown that business success, customer loyalty and employee loyalty are highly correlated. Satisfied employees help companies increase profits. It’s that simple.
A well-structured employee relationship measurement tool can help the business answer questions around issues such as productivity, creativity and innovation, commitment and motivation and can assist in staff retention and succession planning.
Apart from uncovering insights that will guide future HR decisions, the very act of conducting a regular employee survey reassures staff that the business is committed to creating a better working environment for them. Sharing selected positive and negative feedback with staff reinforces the point and creates a more inclusive, collaborative business environment.
Over the years, we’ve learned a few dos and don’ts when conducting employee research:
- Always use an independent researcher for this type of research. Employees are more honest about their thoughts and feelings if they know their comments are confidential and will be reported anonymously. Internally managed surveys, on the other hand, can be intimidating for the respondent and lead to bias in his responses for fear of losing his job.
- Always ensure that the research objectives and process are adequately communicated to employees. If employees know about the survey and understand how it will benefit them, they will be far more willing to participate and their feedback will be richer.
- Consider conducting a preliminary qualitative phase of research if you are embarking on employee research for the first time. It is useful to establish whether staff sentiment is in line with the stated Mission, Vision and Values of the company. Specific feedback on aspects of the job or the business that work well, cause frustration or could be improved enable us to develop an initial SWOT analysis of the business from the employees’ perspective and identify key characteristics that can be measured at a quantitative level.
- Ensure the initial quantitative benchmarking study captures the views of as many employees as possible across all parts of the business. Use the results of the qualitative phase together with any other areas of interest to senior management and any additional measures recommended by the research agency to design the questionnaire. A large sample will increase the analytical possibilities of the data gathered and enable you to accurately identify the key drivers of satisfaction, commitment, motivation, loyalty etc. that will be used as the basis for future tracking via a shorter questionnaire.
- Ensure that the business leaders remain accountable. Application of the research results in future business planning (and communication of such) is essential for any ongoing employee survey to succeed. It reinforces leadership’s commitment to the workforce and the workforce’s commitment to the business.
- DON’T assume that you already know what the key drivers of employee satisfaction, commitment etc. are if you haven’t formally researched it. Every business is different and employee motivations can be surprising!
- DON’T mix senior management and staff in group discussions. Staff will commonly react to such a situation in one of two ways: 1) they will feel inhibited and be reluctant to share their true thoughts and feelings for fear of later repercussions, or 2) they will use the opportunity to air all their grievances and aim to steer the group in a negative direction throughout. Depending on the size, structure and ‘health’ of the organisation, one-on-one interviews may be a more sensible alternative to group discussions for the early phase of qualitative research.
- DON’T task management personnel with the distribution of questionnaires within their departments or business units. Managers are only human and their commitment to the business will vary as much as that of other staff. Avoid the impact of management bias on participation rates and responses by managing the process centrally, ideally independently.
- DON’T be shy in sharing the research findings with the workforce – warts and all! Communicate improvement initiatives borne out of the research findings, where weaknesses have been uncovered. Don’t leave staff to figure this out on their own. And a collective ‘pat on the back’ where it’s warranted improves staff morale and builds pride in the business.
DON’T underestimate the power of a good employee survey in keeping your brand custodians happy and contributing to your bottom line!