Sitting at Tryst’s curved copper bar for lunch this week, I had the privilege of watching an accomplished barristo train a new hire at the industrial-size espresso machine across the counter from me.
It was remarkable because the barristo was teaching the newbie not just how to operate the machine but how to make an incredible cup of coffee. And he did it with grace.
The barristo was supportive of the newbie’s latte attempts, he tested him on café au lait, and he let him make a classic cappuccino mistake. He showed him how to be exact, clean, and classy by teaching him about each machine and input the barristi control (e.g., water temp, grinder settings) and by showing him how to tweak each to get certain results. Then he allowed him to test and learn.
Too often we train people on process and not fundamentals, which makes them less critically minded and flexible. It also makes them less useful to the business in the long run. Any newbie can learn the steps to making a cup of Cuban Coffee, but being able to recommend the perfect drink to a groggy customer and make it fabulous takes more artistry than rote memorization.
Effectively, the barristo was giving the newbie context and fundamental tools to delight customers. How many of your managers are training their new hires like this?
- Understand what your customer needs and assess employee performance in delivering these results with key performance indicators.
- The best coaches are able to adapt their communication style to those they are teaching.
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Photo credit: i spy things dc.
In a knowledge economy, where nearly 75% of the world’s wealth resides in people’s minds, tapping the insights of your employees is critical to your company’s success.
Social vs. Structural Capital
Whether you run an accounting firm or a manufacturing enterprise, your company’s ability to create value for customers relies on the processes you have in place for getting the best ideas from your employees and using those to provide value to your customers.
Good ideas come in many forms: insights that improve the business model, ideas for new and better products and services, and input that improves processes to deliver greater value to customers.
This is all to say that growth is a function of intellectual capital, which has many parts: most is contained in employees’ heads; and some (structural capital) is held in the company’s technology systems, IP, and processes.
Structural capital is easier to hold onto. Social capital, on the other hand, poses a flight risk. Your company’s employees, customers, partners, and alumni (former partners and employees) all act in concert to add value to your brand and your company, but they can all jump ship at any time.
The key to keeping your best employees (who are your best asset) is to focus them on the right challenges and engage them on the right issues.
Applying Social Capital to the Right Goals
Companies must focus on creating value for their customers - by saving them time, money, and benefitting their personal or professional well-being - or they will see their social, human, and even structural capital disappear.
Learning what’s important to your customers is the first step. For most companies, on-time delivery of the right product or service at the right time is a top indicator of performance (called key performance indicator or KPI).
Additionally, all companies should also encourage employees to quickly address customer needs. Define for them what is “above and beyond,” based on customer feedback, and encourage that level of performance by your employees. Doing this serves the dual purpose of providing fulfillment to the employee by connecting them to the mission of the organization and your customers, as well as improving your company’s ability to meet customer needs.
Innovation from Intellectual Capital
The goal of leaders is to take what’s in their employees heads and use it to create better products or services, and improve the business model.
Rhythms and cadences of the assembly line do not apply to most knowledge workers, who likely make up a big proportion of your team. Help your employees use their minds and space and better, and don’t mess with your employees by asking them to jump through hoops for no reason; doing so makes them less efficient and less effective.
Remember, employees’ primary focus should be on what customers want to buy, not what they sell for the company. If you are finding it difficult to monetize the full value of your product or service, then you have a marketing or business model problem, and you should focus intellectual capital there.
Effectiveness vs. Efficiency
Sometimes to get to a higher level of effectiveness as an organization, inefficiencies are necessary.
Effectiveness is a function of education; a new computer system, new skill development, etc. increases the ability of your employees to perform. Boosting effectiveness can be a drag on efficiency in the short-term. Keep in mind, however, that the best way to engage the biggest holders of your intellectual capital (your employees) is by training them to be better and smarter.
Yes, people can leave, but it doesn’t mean that weighing short-term efficiency more heavily is a good idea. Consider, for example, the cost of not investing in employees who stay on for years.
Finding the Right Metrics to Encourage Performance
Determine the indicators and incentives that drive performance to channel intellectual capital at your company. The right metrics should provide a forward-looking picture of company performance and encourage higher levels of performance from employees.
In the coming days I will be writing on how to incent more meaningful positive change and performance at your company; my intent here is to get you thinking about how you use your best asset - your intellectual capital.
First, have a theory of which performance indicators are forward-looking. Financial measures tend to be backward-looking, and are often driven by external factors as much as they are by employees themselves. Instead of focusing on these, consider nonfinancial indicators of performance.
To identify the right indicators, determine (using your judgment and observation) what keeps your customers coming back. Pinpoint the 2-3 factors that drive performance, and, with your employees’ help, identify the behaviors that encourage repeat customers, renewals, referrals, and overall success. Employees are likely to set the bar higher than managers would.
Watch this space for more blogs on KPIs and measuring customer satisfaction. Follow Stepwise on Twitter