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Published:October 22nd, 2013 13:32 EST
Out From Behind The Machines Service Age Redefines Hiring, Work and Engagement

Out From Behind The Machines Service Age Redefines Hiring, Work and Engagement

By Jay Forte

Much of manufacturing has moved offshore; today`s economy is now service-based. The movement from the make things to the provide service economy means two important things:

 1. Employees have moved from behind machines and are now face-to-face or phone-to-phone with customers. Employees are visible and have a more significant impact on influencing our company`s brand with customers. 2. Customer loyalty (not simply satisfaction) happens when these employees not only deliver the expected service, but also build an emotional connection with the customers. Employees now have a greater influence over the customer event than at any other point in our business history.

 Employees are clearly in the customers` view; this changes everything about how we work and correspondingly, how we hire, manage and engage our employees. Today`s customer contact requires that organizations do a better job of hiring and retaining teams of employees who are both good at what the job requires and are interested in doing it. If not, customers know it; instantly, they can affect the service event and loyalty.
 Hiring in a service age

Today`s employees don`t follow rigid repetitive-task job descriptions; service is more fluid and variable as customers want what they want and one-size-fits-all service is not loyalty-inspiring. Dictating the step-by-step procedures in many cases limits employees from doing what it takes to build that all-important emotional connection; this requires sound on-the-spot judgments. To find employees who are capable of responding in this way requires a different hiring approach and a greater focus on engagement once hired.

 Most organizations are effective at hiring for skill and experience; over the past hundred years we have gotten good at defining the skills and critical experience needed in all of our jobs. 

However, as we have moved from a skill and experience workplace to one that is more thinking (talent and strength-based), a behavioral assessment is needed in our hiring process. Just because an employee has done a job before (has the skills and experience) is no guarantee that he is both capable and interested in the job " and can be impressive in front of the customer. Assessing for core behaviors will provide this critical missing information and improve our ability to hire for fit.

Enter talent or behavioral-based job definitions and interviewing. Successful companies are now creating a revised role/job performance profile that includes a skill, experience and core behaviors requirements as they search for new employees or assess current employees for realignment. Defining the core behaviors or talents adds the critical review of the core and repetitive thinking the employee will need to have in order to successful and consistently perform in the role. Define these three critical performance attributes and the search for the right employees becomes more successful.

Couple this clarity in role expectations with crafting of powerful talent-based interview questions. These questions are crafted to assess core thinking and ability. These questions have the following components: 

1.They are unusual and unpredictable; this ensures that the responses given are top-of-mind responses instead of practiced or rehearsed responses.

2.They are phrased around the specific core talents or behaviors that are critical to the job so that responses can be assessed for the talent or behavior. 3. They involve the actual workplace situations. The best way to assess how someone will respond in your workplace is to give them a situation that they will actually encounter, then assess their ability to solve it. This is very telling of how the candidate would approach the same event if encountered for real in the workplace.

Example of talent-based questions: Assessing for driven/focused personality (tenacity, focus, intentionality) in a sales role: Here`s a situation: You are just about halfway through the month and your sales performance is only at 25% of the month`s budget. What is your plan to make budget by month end.

 Assessing for a relator  personality (relationship-focused, encouraging, supportive) in a customer service role: Tell me about a time when you had to tell a customer no because of a company policy. What happened, and how did you retain the customer?

Thinking in a service workplace affects performance. When face-to-face with a customer, employees must have the right abilities, in addition to the right skills and experiences, to provide what is expected and to create that important emotional connection. Otherwise, the customer will go elsewhere and tell their friends about the things that didn`t go right.

 Engagement in a service age The two critical words that guide this discussion on engaging and inspiring employees are fit and value-sculpting. Hiring based on fit (talents, skills and experience) sets up employees to connect with work that aligns to their best abilities and interests. Keeping them interested and performing is where value-sculpting comes in. Value-sculpting refers to adding responsibilities to employees roles that connect their strengths and interests to high-value opportunities within the company.

Here is an example of how my organization uses value-sculpting with our clients. We review the employees` unique and best abilities " their talents, strengths and passions. We also, with the CEO`s help, review the needs and challenges in the organization. We then look to connect what employees are good at and passionate about with the specific needs and challenges in the business. Employees are aligned to high-performance/high-interest areas that are also valuable for the company`s performance.

 Employees see their value and are more emotionally and personally connected to work that uses what they are good at and passionate about. Value-sculpting can happen anytime employees need an engagement boost.

Frequently employees become disengaged when they are coached  into fixing their weaknesses. In job sculpting, employees are connected to responsibilities that appeal to them and use their best abilities; this review starts from a point of strengths. This applauds employees and helps them feel capable, confident and a critical component of the success of the organization.

 It is critical for today`s managers to know how to hire who has the talents, skills and experience to consistently and successfully perform in the workplace, and develop a sculpting plan to help employees stay engaged and interested in their work. Sculpting or customizing roles is an effective way to continually connect employees with high-value responsibilities that both benefit the organization and align to an employees best abilities and greatest interests.

 When employees moved from behind machines, they redefined the process to determine who fits a job, how work is done and how loyalty is influenced. Though this movement is not new, our response as companies has been slow and unfocused. But the high disengaged and disconnected employee statistics is both great information and a warning sign to managers that the current process of hiring and retention is ineffective. Couple this with the awareness that those disengaged employees are now serving our customers. One more point to bring the message home.

I was at a chain restaurant with my kids not long ago. The greeter was unprofessional. The seats were sticky. The table was missing silverware. As I kidded with the server about our experience so far, she told me how much she hated working there because she neither liked the food the restaurant served or working in a restaurant. And in the same breath shared that she had been working in restaurants for 20 years but really hated it. We got our things and left.

 Employees are now our brand more than at any other point in our history; they create our reputation and the emotional connection with customers " or not. Hire wisely. Engage creatively. Otherwise, customers will just take their business elsewhere.

 What we do for work, how we work and how we manage work " it has all changed. Get current to be sure your organization thrives in our service workplace.