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In the Age of the Customer, get out of your employees' way

David K. Johnson | Jan. 21, 2014
Your company's value zone has more to do with the employees who deliver your services than the services themselves.

Success in the value zone requires getting the obstacles out of employees' way
Among both businesspeople and scientists, there's no debate that there is a direct link between happy employees, happy customers and long-term business success. The debate and misunderstanding are over what actually makes people happy at work and perform at their best. It's not bonuses, happiness committees or benefits packages — these are contributors, but they're not the primary sources. The science proves that what makes people happiest at work is believing that their work matters, and being able to make progress toward it while improving their own skills, every day. There are few things as demotivating as internal mandates or policies that stand in the way of doing great work, yet much of what organizations do every day serves to force employees to forgo doing their best work in order to "feed the machine" with progress reports, managing up, being "on" day and night, and dealing with minutiae.

Success also means demanding the very best from employees and leading by example
The barriers to success aren't just within the organization — they're within all of us. The science also reveals that emotions and perceptions play a key role. How we work, how organized we are, how mindful and intentional we are and whether or not we can interrupt negative thought patterns are all factors in the emotional component of our work. Our perceptions of our work come from what we observe — things such as the integrity of our manager and company executives, the consistency between what leaders say they value and what they actually reward and promote, and whether or not things like technology policies are in harmony with what leaders say and expect from employees. It's a wise investment of leadership time to help employees develop impeccable work habits, but leaders must also live and do what they are asking employees to do.

Workforce technology strategy begins with knowing how people do their best work
So what does that mean for workforce technology strategy? Plenty. It means that success in the Age of the Customer starts with a complete understanding of how the people in the value zones for your company do their best work. Is it late at night after their kids go to bed, because it's the only time they can get enough uninterrupted time for creative focus? Is it while they're waiting around a train station on their daily commute? Whatever the case, thinking through the barriers that they face in trying to get things done, from their perspective, is a critical step. When you are able to do that, then you know you need to give them the VPN-equipped laptop they need to work from home late at night and the tablet they need to capture the ideas they get while waiting for the train.


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