The founder of the Virgin family of corporations, Sir Richard Branson has been quoted as saying, “The best way to take care of your customers is to take care of the employees who take care of your customers.” For him, good customer service, which we all know is the key to survival in any business, begins with Human Resources. Considering the amount of success his various enterprises have enjoyed, it’s rather difficult to argue with his logic.
In truth, the fact is that employee retention and training is a key part of running a successful business. It shouldn’t be a secret. And, it should be just as accepted that taking into account loss of corporate memory and work efficiency, training a new employee cost a company as much as three times as much as keeping an older more experienced one.
That is why it is so important to metaphorically not only hear but understand your company’s “Voice of the Employee” (VoE).
What is a VoE Program?
The simple answer is that a Voice of the Employee program is a system designed to not only gather information about the issues that matter to your employees, but to also gauge and interpret that information on a deeper level.
When properly implemented a VoE system will give you the ability to look behind the curtain of what your employees say and see what really matters to them at their core. This view that is often difficult to see from the lofty heights of the top floor office suites.
Value of a Voice of the Employee System
Armed with the information like this it becomes much easier to engage your employees, devise better performance reward programs, benefit updates, and company perks that will not only make your employees want to stay, but will also attract the very best talent on the market.
As a prime example, free trips were once very much in vogue for companies to give to their top sales team members or top production people. For the right employee makeup they are still nice, but if your staff is made up of predominantly single parents or even just family people with kids, a month’s house cleaning service or membership to a local spa where they can unwind once a week might actually be of much greater value to them in their daily lives.
According to the latest studies, benefiting employees in their daily lives is the key. In truth, the latest polls show that employees care more about the benefits they see daily from their company rather than the size of their paycheck.
The point is, if you don’t have a way to listen and analyze your VoE, you could be wasting time, effort, and resources on programs that add very little to your bottom line or could even be counterproductive.
Who Benefits from a VoE Program?
Everyone at every stage of a business can gain from a properly implemented VoE program. To the more pragmatic, this may sound like a lofty claim so, let’s look at the benefits for employers.
- Higher retention rates
- Lower development cost
- Higher work efficiency
- Higher employee morale and fewer complaints
- Greater job satisfaction
- Happier work environment
- Feeling appreciated
- Feeling understood
- Better customer service
- More pleasant interactions
- More efficient processing
- Quicker turnaround times
- Higher ROI
- Higher Dividends
- Stronger Investment
Remember: employees are the glue that holds a company together and they are the people that actually take the decisions made higher up and turn them into actions. They are the ones who see and deal with the daily issues that come up and know where the bottlenecks are developing.
They are the best source of operational knowledge in the company and the ones who know the client base better than anyone else. It pays on every level to use them as a resource.
How to Start a Voice of the Employee System
1. Start at the Top
Like anything else in a well-run business, starting a VoE program needs to be supported from the top. This is a necessity for many reasons, foremost is the simple truth that when the CEO speaks, people listen and things happen. Their being involved and showing their support lets everyone involved know that the program is serious and important.
Also, as the captain of the ship, the chief executive needs to set the goals for and parameters that the program will operate within. And lastly, while a VoE program doesn’t have to be expensive to implement, it is going to need some budgeting consideration.
2. Audit and Update Existing Programs
Most companies have some form of existing employee feedback system in place, even if it is nothing more than a suggestion box in the corner of the lunchroom. It can save both time and money if these programs can be tweaked to provide better information. Even better, reexamine past data to look for trends you might have missed.
3. Set Your Target
The only thing worse than too little information is too much information.
From the very beginning, you need to know what information you are wanting to gather, the knowledge you are hoping to gain and goals you are hoping to reach. You can expand all of these later, but it is best to start simple.
4. Ask the Right Questions
Numerous studies have found that survey results can be skewed by how the questions are asked and, at times, even by the order that they are asked.
Special care should be taken to ask the right question in the right way to garner honest, meaningful results.
5. Integrate Your Systems
A business, like the human body, is not made up of independent parts. It is made up of systems that must operate in an interdependent way. At times, it is by paying attention to the information gathered from these separate systems in a unified way that the greatest insights can be gained.
For instance, if your VoC program is telling you there is an issue with a particular product or service, then you may want to look at the VoE information in the areas affecting it. What you believed was a sales or shipping issue might actually lie in production or marketing.
By looking at all of the data gathered, from all of your information sources you expand your view and can see a much clearer map of where your company is and make the changes needed to more effectively guide it where you are wanting to go.
A Note of Caution as You Embark on VoE
When mining for insights from your survey and feedback sources, remember that bias always exists. No employee ever wants to be blamed for a shortcoming in their department and no department head ever wanted issues to be in their area of responsibility.
Bias always exist; it is part of human nature. Properly designing and wording survey questions can go a long way toward eliminating these issues, but they should always be kept in mind when interpreting your data.
The military likes to use the phrase “boots on the ground”. For your business, that is your employees. They make things happen and solve the daily problems that every enterprise has. By listening to what they have to say you can more effectively drive the innovations needed to keep your business on the cutting edge. You can better serve their needs as they serve yours and you can improve your bottom line through more effective business practices, higher employee engagement, and retention as well as better overall customer service.