Archive for July, 2010

How to Encourage Innovation in the Workplace

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

If encouraging innovation is important to your organization, you might want to pay attention to a recent study that examined key variables that influence employees’ decisions about whether or not to engage in behaviors such as voluntarily introducing or applying new ideas, products, processes, and procedures to their jobs or work units.

The study, published in the April 2010 issue of the Academy of Management Journal, found that employees in the study were more likely to engage in innovative behavior when they expected it would benefit their work than when they did not expect such an outcome. Similarly, they avoided engaging in innovative behavior when they feared doing so would cause others to view them negatively.

The researchers identified five factors that influenced employees’ expectations about the outcomes related to engaging in innovation behaviors. The good news is that most of those five factors are controllable by management. To learn what those factors are and to read about seven practical suggestions for encouraging your employees to engage in innovative behavior, I invite you to read my article How to Encourage Employees to Engage in Innovative Behavior. And let me know what you think!

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

When Did “Customer Service” Become “Self-service?”

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

An experience last week with my internet service provider caused me to examine the issue of customer service. More precisely, I wondered why I was doing all the work to identify the reason why I couldn’t connect to the internet while the voice at the other end of the phone gave instructions. It occurred to me that customer service has become, or is it on its way to becoming, a relic: these days, customer service frequently means customer-provided service. With apologizes to cartoon character Pogo for playing off the famous line attributed to him, more often than not today we can say, “We have met the customer service provider and he is us.”

A comic strip called Rudy Park addressed the issue of customer-provided service this week by articulating the thought process of a business owner seeking to wring more money out of his customers. In yesterday’s strip, the owner had a brainstorm: instead of having his employees fill customers’ coffee orders, he would call his business a training ground and charge customers for the privilege of making their own coffee! In today’s episode, he decided he would charge a premium for allowing customers to wash their own coffee cups. This conclusion might have been funny were it not for the fact that we are seeing this pattern in more and more establishments.

No doubt you have experienced the “customer service as self-service” phenomenon yourself. Companies that used to have employees provide services to customers now require customers to do the work themselves AND pay for the privilege of doing so. Here are a few examples:

    Gas stations: Does anyone remember the days when gas station attendants were the norm? Even when they started fading from the scene, they went gradually – i.e., you had a choice between self-service and full service. No more.

    Grocery stores: For a while, so-called “big box” stores made an appearance, trading self-service for lower prices, which seemed a fair exchange. Yet today, many grocery stores have self-service lines in which customers check themselves out and pack their own groceries. Personally I haven’t noticed grocery prices going down as a result.

    Air travel: Travelers today find and book their own flights, and can choose to pay the baggage fee on-line or pay a premium for paying at the self-service kiosk at the airport. In many airports, after getting the luggage tags, travelers then must haul their luggage to the TSA security checkpoint so it can go through screening. I’m waiting for the day when passengers also are told to screen their own bags….

The point is that customers now are required to perform many services that formerly were provided by companies. This raises a question: if we don’t do a good job, or we are unable to resolve the problem, are we to blame? To whom do we complain?

What are the implications of the customer-provided service trend for business? Certainly, entire classifications of jobs will disappear – e.g., customer service agent, customer service manager, technicians. Costs will be much lower because workforces will be smaller. Presumably this will help profits, as I don’t see a concomitant reduction in prices. Yet what about the cost of decreased customer satisfaction? Are companies being “penny wise and pound foolish” by forcing customers to provide the desired service AND to pay for the privilege of doing so? At what point do people begin to feel that they work for the companies they are patronizing and should be compensated for their services? What are your thoughts about this issue?

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

How to Sustain Behavioral Change in the Workplace

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Given the dynamic environment in which we live, it should come as no surprise that some behaviors that worked in the past become ineffective over time. As a result, managers not only must persuade employees to adopt new behaviors, they also must ensure that workers sustain the desired changes over time. So what’s a manager to do? When asked to answer this question, I came up with over three dozen effective tools that help individuals sustain behavioral change! Here are five of them:

    1. Identify and focus on what’s in it (i.e., the behavioral change) for ME. The best motivator I know is enlightened self-interest. However, the key to success is focusing on individual interests, not on those of the team or the organization or the family.

    2. Create a very clear and compelling picture of the outcome, and explain how the desired behavior supports it. People who see the connection between behaviors and outcomes are much more willing to embrace the desired change and sustain it over time.

    3. Leaders must identify and demonstrate clearly the desired behavior. It’s not enough to say “Don’t do X.” You must go further and demonstrate (not just verbalize) the desired behavior, Y. People need a “picture” of the behavior you are requesting, something to replace the one that represents the current behavior. Otherwise they will revert quickly to what they know.

    4. Reinforce the desired behaviors. Make sure the infrastructure (e.g., performance management and reward systems) supports the desired behaviors.

    5. Celebrate successes along the way, not just final outcomes. This keeps the focus on the achievement of the desired behavior in the short-term as well as in the long-term.

The good news is that these tools work outside the workplace as well! To learn about three suggestions for how to sustain personal behavioral changes, I invite you to take a look at my article Promises, Promises: Three Ways to Achieve Lasting Behavioral Change in Your Personal Life. And let me know how YOU create and sustain lasting behavioral change!

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.