Last week we looked into how the empty customer chair should work in customer-centric organizations. By implementing the premise properly and with the right intentions, companies can see a tremendous shift into their ability to gain trust in their customers.
Now what if we tried to implement a similar method for employees with the empty chair?
When companies think about who they truly serve, customers seem to take priority and employees tend to be forgotten, squeezed out by the push for more revenue. Yet employees are not part of an “either/or” equation, but are just as vital as customers and should always merit sincere consideration as “AND” in the equation.
Taking the same technical approaches as one does for the customers chair, let’s map out how the organization should consider the employee chair.
Employee Viewpoint. Consider what the typical employee must contend with on a daily and weekly basis. Are they overworked and stressed from no work-life imbalance? Does leadership minimize their concerns and efforts? What is the meta (macro and micro) of the comments (not just ratings) of the latest employee surveys? By thinking through all conversations and how a front line worker will view the attitudes, language, intentions and agendas of leadership, this first step will get management more attuned to how the employees really view the company.
Employee Impact. Whenever a new system, campaign or procedure is being planned out, the impact to the employee should be discussed. Will this add to their workload? Even a few extra minutes to today’s employee will seem onerous. Will there be proper training? Just showing them quickly and expecting full competency with little ongoing follow up will create frustration to the team. Will this enable them or prevent them from being more customer facing? These questions and answers need to be genuinely answered, and not in a flippant fashion that lets leadership move onto the next project once it’s been “handed off” to the team members. Focus on what’s best from their viewpoint, not easier for management.
Employee Voice. Think of three types of employees: the average worker, the skeptic and the stressed employee. What would they say about the conversations, ideas, and strategic plans being offered around the table? What questions would they have? What other types of employee voices are in your organization? Many times, leaders only consider the voice of a few, typically the top performers or the poorest performers, and dismiss the latter as problem employees and only consider that the top members will be happy with these changes. Considering that others besides the top or bottom performers statistically make up 70–80% of your employee base, the majority of the voice needs to be more represented in these sessions.
Alignment of Mission. Ask yourselves — do the employees really, truly understand our mission and core values? Do we promote them at every session? (And do we actually take real time to do this, instead of checking the box?) Many employees feel that company mission and values are not expressly given to them, leaving them with a feeling of disconnect. If leaders can consider that well over 50% of employees need a better vision of mission and can dovetail this into their initiatives, they would gain an incredible advantage into their recruiting and retention efforts, as well as raising the level of alignment in the organization. Keep discussions with a keen mindset of elevating mission alignment in the team at large.
Employee Well-Being. Prior to the covid pandemic, employee well-being was the fastest growing concern among both leadership and employees heading into 2020. As we emerge from the wake of this epidemic, employee well-being is more fragile than ever, and leaders should make this a core priority in every discussion. How to eliminate (or at least reduce) employee stress, distrust about their company leaders, job security and overall health should be a leader’s core function going forward. In addition to how the above points play into the role of well-being, contemplate how leaders behaviors and biases contribute as well. Being mindful of the employee holistically will probably be the most beneficial endeavor any organization will undertake.
Having this practice will help ensure that the employee is always at the center of your organization. Along with the customer, it will pay dividends not just for leadership and shareholders, but all constituents.