We are currently staying at Deerhurst, which is a beautiful resort in Muskoka, about two hours north of Toronto.
There is an activity desk here where you can book different activities around the resort – rock climbing, a petting zoo, hummer tours, etc. The activity desk is staffed by very friendly young women who are always smiling and at least appear to like their jobs. When we arrived yesterday, I went to the activity desk to find out what was going on for the next few days. I was very politely told that there was a brochure that I could take and decide what I wanted to do. The young woman was very friendly and helpful.
But here’s my issue…she had a great opportunity to create additional revenue for the resort without being pushy or obnoxious. She merely had to highlight some of the key activities. She could have noticed that I was with my five-year old daughter and mentioned she might like the pony rides, or that many families who stay at the hotel have really enjoyed some other activity. It’s not her fault, she did her job as she was instructed to do. That’s the limitation of customer satisfaction metrics. She could have engaged me in a conversation and asked what my family likes to do, or even better, engaged my daughter in a conversation about what she likes to do. Then highlighted some options for us.
If someone were to have handed me a customer service survey on the spot, I would have given her high marks. She was friendly, smiling, polite, knowledgeable and helpful. But from the resort’s perspective (and my perspective as a business consultant), there was a lost revenue opportunity. You need to consider what you are measuring when it comes to those who have direct interaction with your customers and figure out new and creative ways to generate new revenue opportunities.
We always seem to be discussing how to manage the new generation of workers. The ones who enter the work force with no supposed loyalty to their companies and an entitlement to live a balanced life. But what about the most experienced workers? Why is no one talking about them?
These are the employees who have a great deal of knowledge about the organization, its customers, and the industry as a whole. But we don’t often talk about these employees except when discussing the huge demographic shift that is happening. These employees will be leaving their organizations within the next 5-10 years, so we tend to focus on what’s next. How do we effectively develop the next generation of workers?
So why do we overlook these employees, even though they still work for us? Because we think of these experienced workers as dinosaurs who are out of date with the current realities of the business world and stuck in their old ways. It is so difficult to get them to change their ways, so why bother? In some cases, that will be true, that the more experienced workers will not want to change. But in many cases, it’s simply not true. Here are some ideas on how to maximize the value of these more experienced workers, even those that don’t want to change:
- Ask if there are any initiatives they would like to lead – Many experienced workers still have the desire to learn new skills and lead new initiatives. Identify those with the best potential and give them an opportunity to lead.
- Offer them mentoring opportunities – As many workers get more experienced, they shift their mindset from ‘doer’ to ‘teacher.’ Give them opportunities to mentor new employees or high potential leaders. This will allow them to contribute to the organization in new and creative ways.
- Train them in new roles – Some experienced workers are actually ready and willing to make a change. Find a new role where they can be more valuable. 5-10 years is still a long way away, so investing in their development will not be a wasted effort.
- Offer them early retirement – For those that really don’t want to change, offer them an easy out. Give the next person in line the opportunity to make their mark on the organization. Everyone will benefit.
- Have them train apprentices – Even if your experienced workers don’t want to take on formal mentoring opportunities, always have them train other people on what they know, so that knowledge is not lost. Knowledge management will become more important so you need to capture all of that relevant knowledge.
- Help them find other jobs – If your experienced workers are no longer a good fit for your organization, then help them find new roles elsewhere. They have been loyal to your organization for a long time, so it is time for you to show loyalty to them and support them on their new endeavours.
As you can see, there are many different options to ensure experienced workers continue to add value to your organization. Don’t just focus on the demographic shift, also focus on the people you still have. How will you maximize the value of these experienced workers?
Technology has sometimes been considered the saviour for many organizations. And it can be a great way to improve the performance of an organization. But technology in and of itself is not always going to improve that performance. Organizations need to make technology decisions strategically and those technology purchases need to align with the direction of the organization.
Here are some questions to consider when looking to bring new technology into your organization:
- What are the results you want to achieve and can technology help you achieve them faster and more effectively?
- What impact will the technology have on the rest of the organization? Will structures need to change? New skill sets required? Increased volumes to support?
- What is the investment required and what is the return on that investment?
Too many organizations just implement new technology without considering how it will improve performance, which is why most technology projects can’t provide a clear return on investment. Remember this, automating a bad process only allows you to make bad decisions faster.
I called the company that provides me a hot water tank for my house, Direct Energy, because I was considering whether or not I needed a more efficient tank. Some friends have moved to the tank less water heating systems that cost more, but take up less space and is more efficient. I was hoping to have a simple conversation with a knowledgeable person who could help me determine the best option for me.
Instead what I found was a company offering two different products, hot water tanks and tank less hot water systems, and a different department servicing each one. I was forced to speak with someone in each department to find out what I needed. They each called themselves consultants, but no one could “consult” me on my best option, only the benefits of each specific product. This made no sense to me.
What makes this story even better is that they offered to send someone to my house to assess my current situation and advise me on the best solution. However, I would have needed to make appointments with two different people, one for each product. So the best solution would in fact only deal with one product or the other, without any comparison between the two. How can an organization advise customers of the best alternative if they don’t know all of the alternatives?
I ended up having conversations with three different representatives to find out what I needed to know. None of them knew anything about the other product or how it compares to what they were offering. In the end, I am staying with what I have, but it shouldn’t have taken three people and 15 minutes of my time to determine that. Nor should I have had to make that determination myself.
Here’s some free advice for Direct Energy: combine your sales teams together so that they can truly provide value to customers by helping them determine what the best option is based on their individual circumstances.
After the tragedy a few weeks ago at Lac Megantic so many things have come out that are just wrong, and there are a few that aren’t even being talked about. Here a brief list of my musings about this tragedy:
- Why is no one talking about the fact that there are railway procedures that allow a running train to be left unoccupied? Forget about how many brakes were applied, why is that ever allowed?
- After the worst tragedy in his company’s history, why did it take MM&A Chairman Edward Burkhardt four days to visit the site? When asked, his response was that he was more effective managing the crisis from his company’s headquarters in suburban Chicago. Is he really that out to lunch?
- Burkhardt, pulling his best impression of BP’s Tony Heyward, shifted the blame to every party but his own company. The train was tampered with, the engineer lied, the firefighters started the fire. The list goes on.
- Let’s acknowledge the strength of the residents of the town for their perseverance.
- MM&A now has to file for bankruptcy because it can’t cover the costs of the cleanup, estimated at more than $200 million. Wouldn’t they have insurance for this kind of thing? They do run a railroad after-all. Oh right, they do have insurance, $25 million worth. Does that seem sufficient for a company carrying dangerous goods across the continent?
If any of you remember the listeriosis crisis that Michael McCain and Maple Leaf Foods went through a few years, you may remember this quote from Mr. McCain, “Going through the crisis, there are two advisers I’ve paid no attention to. The first are the lawyers, and the second are the accountants. It’s not about money or legal liability-this is about our being accountable for providing consumers with safe food.”
Sounds like a good lesson for Mr Burkhardt.