How Can Anything Be More Important Than Customers?
Hey, I’m all about customer focus and delivering consistently great customer experience. The whole point of the blog and podcast is to help you do that.
But according to today’s Frank Reactions podcast guest, Jeff Polovick, founder of the Driving Force, there’s a crucial step that comes before it: creating consistently great employee experience.
That’s easier said than done. In fact, as Jeff put it,
“The cultural part is way harder than the financial part.”
A while ago Jeff and I sat down for a long conversation about how the company he founded 38 years ago became a success by focusing first and foremost on employee satisfaction.
That focus has led to the Driving Force being named one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies (there’s a great story in the interview about the challenges of getting into the top 50 — they came 51st twice!) and one of Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures.
Anonymous Employee Surveys Are Vital
The company started doing employee opinion surveys about 18 years ago, and measures its progress year over year. Employees rate not just their satisfaction with the company, but also with their direct boss.
One interesting – and important – question: “How comfortable would you be going above your supervisor’s head if you had to?”
The fact is that most employee dissatisfaction results from a bad relationship with their immediate supervisor. Often the boss’s boss has no idea there’s a problem. So if employees don’t feel they can speak up, problems fester.
Of course a good employee survey will also identify problem supervisors if it is set up so you can look at the results by work unit. And if anyone actually looks at the results by work unit.
(I remember doing “post-exit interviews” for a national US employer. We discovered 3 problem managers who were causing most of the departures. But until my analysis, no one had looked at the data this way.)
At the Driving Force managers learn from the surveys how their employees feel about them. This can be a risk if the unit is very small, but even if you’ve got a half dozen or more employees, there can be enough anonymity to get valuable feedback.
In the interview, Jeff talked about how to deal with it if a small minority of employees give negative feedback, without having to know exactly who they are.
Other Tips About Employee Experience Surveys
- Keep them as short as possible. He said theirs is “down to” 26 questions. That still seems pretty long to me. On the other hand, he said they get a 98% response rate, so who am I to argue?
- Over time you will learn that some questions aren’t needed. Drop them. But be careful not to change all your questions or how they are worded because if you do that you won’t be able to track results over time.
- Simplify the rating scale. Do you really need a 1 – 10 scale? The difference between a 9 and a 10 can just be the philosophical view of the respondent: I only give 10s for something truly outstanding, but a 9 is still first-rate in my mind. So they got theirs down to a 4 or 5 point scale. (I prefer odd numbers, because people should be able to have a neutral position.)
- Always include optional open-ended questions. You need to know more than just the score. You want to know why they feel that way!
You might want to also check out this article I wrote way back in 2005, but still applies today, about employee surveys.
I need your advice. I’m trying to decide which should be the higher priority:
- Recording the Audiobook version of PeopleShock, or
- Writing the PeopleShock Workbook, to help readers implement the ideas in PeopleShock.