In one of my early projects in the corporate world, I built a team member satisfaction measuring tool for the company I was working for. As I built the questionnaire, I covered all areas from hiring to training, from on the job satisfaction to the role of the supervisor and compensation.
Once the data was collected and broken down by region, I tried to correlate it to sales for each region but to my amazement, there was very low correlation. That seemed quite strange. Certain Senior Management members started questioning the need for the survey as it was not connected to the top-line key performance indicators of the brand. The reports generated on the project made their rounds among different regional VPs and then got put in their designated folders. I was quite bummed for not being able to provide the company with actionable data, or making the company feel that they can act based on the data.
Six months later, when I was between projects, I decided to run the correlations again. But this time I used current sales and compared it to team member satisfaction data collected six months back. The results were simply astounding. The relationship was strong. Then I enhanced the model by putting monthly sales changes for the last six months and soon realized that the team member satisfaction data was a crystal ball, as it was the leading indicator of future sales.
I could not believe I missed this one. This was right in front of my eyes and I failed to see it. I remember growing up in India; my mother was a great cook. But on days she was upset, the food was not the same. Of course my brother and I never complained, not because we did not want to complain, but complaints got us a few smacks on the head. In short, my mom, a great cook, could not cook to her full potential on days she was unhappy. So in order to get a great meal, our job was to make sure mom was happy, at least when she cooked.
That same lesson now was in front of me, on a bigger scale. I realized that only happy team members can make customers happy. Empowered by the new information, the team member satisfaction data found a new life in the corporation. As most of you can imagine, in the corporate world we judge today on yesterday’s sales, a trailing indicator. In that scenario, to be able to provide a system-wide and regional level leading indicator for sales is very valuable.
At the same I came across another piece of information. In most experience industries, nearly 70% of the reason for revisit (repeat sales) was the customer’s experience. The remaining 30% was marketing, branding, message and other factors. And who controls the customer’s experience? The front line team members. Wow! I realized we had information that would allow us to favorably influence the guest experience.
The next few months, I traveled to present the data to each region and would also do focus groups with team members to understand the drivers of the data. Here are my top three big learnings:
1. It is better not to ask what is wrong, than to ask and not do anything about it.
Asking sets an expectation, and not doing anything creates an unfulfilled promise. It is just like a relationship where earlier your spouse accused you of not asking him/her of how the day was. Now that you asked and he/she is talking, you are accused of not listening (and not caring) as you were doing something else at the time.
Solution: Within three months of collecting team member satisfaction data, all team members should receive the following:
a) Top-line summary data so they feel included
b) List of actions that will be taken
2. Compensation is not the number #1 driver of satisfaction.
Of course fair compensation is necessary, and fair is defined by:
a) comparable industry salaries
b) salaries within the company
c) incentives that reward performance
But what was more important on a day to day level was work place situations and interactions.
3. Finally, team members worked for a person, not a company.
The data always has a strong correlation with how a supervisor treats a team member. Hence when a team member decides to leave a company driven by dissatisfaction, the primary source of dissatisfaction is “how my boss treats me on a day to day basis.”