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Data Is Great — But It’s Not a Replacement for Talking to Customers

kkgas/Stocksy

 

Summary: Many companies rely too much on big data and analytics in their hunt for strategic insights.  They’d do better if they actually went out and talked to their customers instead, as Toyota and Adobe do, because data is too rooted in what managers already think their customers are interested in.

 

 

The ability to gather and process intimate, granular detail on a mass scale promises to uncover unimaginable relationships within a market. But does “detail” actually equate to “insight”?

Many decision-makers clearly believe it does. In Australia, for instance, the big four banks Westpac, National, ANZ, and Commonwealth are spending large on churning through mountains of customer data that relate one set of variables — gender, age, and occupation, for instance — to a range of banking products and services. Australia’s largest bank, the Commonwealth, has announced its big data push.

Like the big banks, Australia’s two largest supermarket chains, Woolworths and Coles, are scouring customer data and applying the massive computer power now available, and needed, with statistical techniques in the search for “insights.” This could involve the combination of web browsing activity, with social media use, with purchasing patterns and so on — complex analysis across diverse platforms.

While applying correlation and regression analysis (among other tools) to truckloads of data has its place, I have a real concern that — once again — CEOs and senior executives will retreat to their suites satisfied that the IT department will now do all the heavy lifting when it comes to listening to the customer.

Data’s Deceptive Appeal

To peek into the deceptive appeal of numbers, let’s review how one business hid behind its data for years.

Keith is the CEO of a wealth management business focused on high-net-worth individuals. It assists them with their investments by providing products, portfolio solutions, financial planning advice, and real estate opportunities.

Like its competitors, Keith’s company employed surveys to gather data on how the business was performing. But Keith and his executive team came to realize that dredging through these details was not producing insights that management might use in strategy development.

So, Keith’s team decided on a different path. One that really did involve listening to the customer. They conducted a series of client interviews structured in a way that allowed the customer to do the talking and the company to do the listening. What Keith and his executives discovered really shocked them.

The first was that their data was based on nonsense. This came about because the questions they’d been asking were built on managers’ perceptions of what clients needed to answer. They weren’t constructed on what clients wanted to express. This resulted in data that didn’t reflect clients’ real requirements. The list of priorities obtained via client interviews compared to management’s assumed client priorities coincided a mere 50 percent of the time.

Keith’s business is not alone in this as studies have shown that big data is often “precisely inaccurate.” A study reported by Deloitte found that “more than two-thirds of survey respondents stated that the third-party data about them was only 0 to 50 percent correct as a whole. One-third of respondents perceived the information to be 0 to 25 percent correct.”

In Keith’s case, this error was compounded when it came to the rating of these requirements. For example, the company believed that older clients wouldn’t rank “technology” (digital and online tools) as high on their list of requirements. However, in the interviews, they discovered that while these older clients weren’t big users of technology themselves, many cared about it a great deal. This was because they had assistants who did use it and because they considered having state-of-the-art technology a prerequisite for an up-to-date business.

What Keith and his team also discovered, to their surprise, was how few interviews it took to gain genuine insight. Keith reports that “we needed around 18 to 20 clients to uncover most of the substantive feedback. We thought we’d need many more.” What Keith has encountered here is saturation; a research term referring to the point when you can stop conducting interviews because you fail to hear anything new.

Listening to the Customer

Engaging with your customers may not be as exciting and new as investing in “big data.” But it does have a solid track record of success. Cast your minds back to a historic time in Toyota’s history.

When Toyota wanted to develop a luxury car for the United States, its team didn’t hunker down in Tokyo to come up with the perfect design. Nor did it sift through data obtained from existing Toyota customers about current Toyota models. Instead, it sent its designers and managers to California to observe and interview the target customer — an American, male, high-income executive — to find out what he wanted in a car. This knowledge, combined with its undoubted engineering excellence, resulted in a completely new direction for Toyota: a luxury export to the United States. You will know it better as the Lexus. Listening to the customer is now embedded in Toyota’s culture.

Listening to the customer is also a fundamental component of Adobe’s culture. The company speaks of a “culture of customer listening” and has produced a useful set of guidelines on how to tune in to customers. Elaine Chao, a Product Manager with the company, has expressed it this way: “Listening is the first step. We try to focus on what customers want to accomplish, not necessarily how they want to accomplish it.”

So, provided your data isn’t “precisely inaccurate” employ modern computer power to examine patterns in your customers’ buying behavior. But understand big data’s limitations. The data is historic and static. It’s historic because it’s about the past. Your customers have most likely moved on from what the data captures. And it’s static because, as with any computer modeling, it can never answer a question that you didn’t think to ask.

Real insights come from seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. You will only ever get that by truly engaging with customers and listening to their stories.

March 05, 2021
Source: https://hbr.org/2021/03/data-is-great-but-its-not-a-replacement-for-talking-to-customers
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5 Ways to Build Employee Confidence and Increase Engagement

Leaders and human resource managers build a high level of employee engagement and confidence to create a productive workplace environment. As a leader, whether you are a manager, supervisor, or team lead, it is your duty to encourage employee morale, including attitude, feedback, and satisfaction. During the Covid-19 pandemic, corporations and businesses had to transition and develop effective ways for engaging their personnel.

The task was complex at the beginning of the pandemic, especially for companies without the technologies to continue operations virtually. Employers implemented engaging online activities comprising team building, team meetings, conduct assessment, counseling, and other learning and interactive engagements. (1) You can control and create a culture in the workplace that builds positive employee morale.

Advantages of Building Employee Morale:

  • Increased productivity.
  • Boost in sales for products and services that increase profits.
  • Higher level of customer satisfaction.
  • Builds trust between the employees and leaders.
  • Creates transparency throughout the entire workplace environment.
     

Research studies prove that practiced employee morale in the workplace has a positive effect on employees’ job performance and productivity. You want to ensure a cultural attitude that ensures all employees of your organization are giving their best efforts. Your primary focus should be to continuously reinforce the importance of committing to the company’s goals and values.

Your employees have to trust their leaders and see transparency in the workplace. You must avoid showing any kind of favoritism and treat each employee equally with respect. It will ultimately increase customer satisfaction and increase sales and profits.

Five Tips to Help You Build Confidence and Increase Engagement of Your Employees

1. Empower Your Team with Training and Resources

When your employees receive training and have resources to help them fulfill their duties and responsibilities, the results are confidence and empowerment. Employers can experience a high rate of employee turnover because their team members lack training or received incorrect training. Training helps to build confidence, and it ensures each employee knows what to do and how to perform all assigned tasks. (2)

2. Communicate Efficiently to Team Leaders and Members

Effective communication between team members and leaders helps to build trust and confidence. It encourages engagement to resolve internal and external issues in the workplace. If your employees know they can communicate with you openly and regularly, the outcome is an increase in productivity and engagement. Set up weekly team meetings to have open discussions about improvements within the organization to make it a better workplace environment.

3. Use Recognition and Reward Incentives

Human resource managers and leaders should use recognition and reward incentives to uplift their employees for a job well done. It shows them that their works are valuable to the organization and keeps them motivated to perform their best daily. You can recognize your employees with recognition certificates or plaques and rewards, such as gift cards.

4. Provide Ethical Training to the Employees and Management

Ethical training helps to create a thriving workplace culture to cultivate principles, making it fair and safe. It teaches ethical behavior, the importance of customer privacy and data protection, and code of conduct. You and your employees will learn about customer relations and the significance of customer satisfaction.

5. Offer Fair Compensation and Benefits

Employees and management work more productively when they receive fair pay for their work. Benefits, such as health insurance with wellness programs and investment plans, help to increase employee engagement and confidence. Health benefits and fair compensation are definitely ways to encourage and motivate your employees.

The psychological approach for engaging employees involves their emotional, cognitive, and physical engagement in the workplace. (3) You have the obligation to provide for your employees’ needs in training and building a friendly and positive environment, while they are at work. It will influence them to contribute to the organization and commit to reaching the company’s desired goals.

Despite the pandemic, employers are implementing virtual and outdoor activities to engage their employees and their family members. From virtual learning to stress relief webinars and lunch video conferences, human resource managers and organizations are getting more creative. Millions of workers are returning to the workplace after receiving Covid-19 vaccines, but the online engagement activities will remain active. It is a trend that will continue in coming years for improving morale, careers, and the cultural environment.

Sources

1 Chanana, N., Sangetta. (2020, October 1). Employee Engagement Practices During COVID-19 Lockdown. NCBI US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7536939/

2 Knight, R. (2018, April 25). How to Manage an Insecure Employee. Harvard University Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/04/how-to-manage-an-insecure-employee

3 Osborne, S., Hammond, M. (2017). Effective Employee-Engagement in the Workplace. International Journal of Applied Management and Technology, Walden University. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1239&context=ijamt

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Agile Talent Strategy: Why You Need It and How to Develop One

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

(Editor’s Note: Today’s article is brought to you by our friends at SilkRoad Technology, a provider of strategic onboarding solutions to drive workforce readiness and organizational transformation. They were recently recognized as one of Chicago’s Best Places to Work. Congrats to them. Enjoy the article!)

 

Every day, more people are getting vaccinated and looking forward to their personal and professional re-entry. However, that doesn’t mean we’re all going to simply go back to the way things used to be. Too much has happened. This is an important issue that businesses should not ignore.

When the pandemic first started, organizations had to make quick decisions and not everything went according to plan. But I believe that employees, customers, and everyone else tried to be very tolerant and empathetic. That was then, this is now.

Organizations have been operating under this scenario for over a year. During this time, customers changed their expectations and spending habits. Employees changed the way they feel about work. Unfortunately, it’s possible that organizations didn’t adapt fast enough to the changes around them, according to a new report from SilkRoad Technology titled “Full-time Flexibility: Do employees feel supported working from home?”.

One of the biggest takeaways for me from the report was that 2 in 5 office workers plan to look for new job opportunities based on how their employer handled the pandemic. This aligns with other articles we’ve recently seen about the labor market. An article from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests that up to a quarter of workers plan to quit their jobs once the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey says that one in three employees don’t want to work for an employer that requires them to be onsite full-time.

So, what does all of this mean? I know that organizations are very focused on economic recovery right now. However, organizations need to start thinking about their talent strategy as part of that economic recovery.

Talent Strategy is a Key Component of Business Strategy

The good news is that talent and business performance have always been intertwined. And the solution for both is intertwined. We’ve been talking for a while about how business agility is important to business success. Organizations need to be able to quickly react to changing business conditions.

Well, the same holds true for talent. Organizations should adopt an agile talent strategy that allows them to react quickly to the changes in the labor market. Here are three components to consider in developing an agile talent strategy:

WHERE we work. Before the pandemic, working remotely was more of the exception than the rule. Then during the pandemic, remote work – specifically working from home – became the norm for many. Moving forward, organizations have the ability to create a best practice in terms of a hybrid model. The question becomes what does that hybrid model look like?

I wish there were some concrete answers to share regarding the right balance of remote and onsite work. Even the SilkRoad report notes that organizations haven’t reached consensus in this area just yet. But that doesn’t mean organizations shouldn’t consider a hybrid work environment. What it does mean is that it could take some trial and error to find the right balance for your organizational culture.

WHAT we work on. During the pandemic, 63% of employees took on new responsibilities, according to the SilkRoad report. Totally makes sense – everyone just did whatever it took to get things done. But given the statistic, it’s time for organizations to look at existing jobs. Make sure the right people are doing the right things and make any necessary adjustments to work responsibilities.

This has a cascading effect on other talent-related activities. HR departments will want to reevaluate whether to buy, build, borrow, or use bots when it’s time to hire. Ideally, they should be looking at all four strategies. Managers should be provided with the training and tools to effectively manage a remote workforce. The SilkRoad report noted that over half of workers wanted more support from their employer. Finally, onboarding programs should be adapted for a hybrid work environment. If organizations want employees to be successful, they have to spend time setting employees up for that success. We all know that starts on day one.

HOW we get things done. There’s a McKinsey study that reported the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation by as much as seven years. While that can be an overwhelming statistic, it’s equally important to remember that all digital transformations are not equal in terms of results.

The SilkRoad report cites that the reason digital transformations efforts often fail isn’t because of the technology but rather because organizations didn’t make the investment in people, who are responsible for executing the transformation. If we think about these three components – where we work, what we work on, and how we get things done – it’s a good reminder that organizations will need to invest in learning, training, and development to ensure ongoing business success.

I totally understand that organizations are anxious to get to the next normal. Lilith Christiansen, chief strategy and product officer at SilkRoad Technology, reminds us it won’t happen overnight. “Our current environment and the change and disruption we’ll all continue to experience presents an opportunity for organizations to redesign their employee experience or talent strategy.”

The good news is that data – like the data found in this SilkRoad report – can help us identify where to focus our talent strategy. Christiansen reminds us that organizations need a successful talent strategy to have a successful business strategy. “We should continue to deliver intentionally designed experiences as well as a cadenced delivery of content, learning, and performance conversations. We also need to prioritize flexibility over rigidity in our approach to where work gets done. If we are to be successful in the future, we must increase our focus on communication, inclusivity, and alignment, and adopt more outcome-oriented performance strategies that drive engagement and contribution.”

Source:  https://www.humanresourcestoday.com/?open-article-id=16049562&article-title=agile-talent-strategy–why-you-need-it-and-how-to-develop-one&blog-domain=hrbartender.com&blog-title=hr-bartender