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How to create an inspired workforce: Operationalize

This post is the sixth in a series devoted to creating an inspired workforce. I will share additional posts over the coming weeks to support leaders, managers, and supervisors in this effort.

In summary, the first five steps are to 1.) discover the total job role, which consists of both job functions (duties & tasks) and job essence (purpose; single highest priority at work), 2.) articulate the answers to the Four Questions that will establish and reinforce direction, priorities, and standards (i.e., True North) for you and your team, 3.) uncover the higher purpose of the job role, 4.) reveal corporate ideals to employees at all levels of the organization, and 5.) connect daily work activities to the higher purpose of the organization/job role and core values.

Here’s the next step to create an inspired workforce: 6. Operationalize purposeful actions and behaviors for consistency.

Customers make buying decisions based on their confidence that product and service quality expectations will be met. Inconsistency undermines confidence and dooms success. The point of operationalizing desired actions and behaviors is to make them systematic so that they occur reliably over time, by design, rather than inconsistently, here and there, by chance.

Stable processes yield consistent results. Most businesses track, measure, and correlate these results with key performance indicators (KPIs). When managers think of KPIs, they tend to think of lag measures like revenue, profit, quality, and customer satisfaction. It’s what they hope to achieve—the metric they want to improve. They give less thought to lead KPIs, the actions and behaviors that predictably drive success.

Every process can be optimized. This requires examining each process for opportunities to improve it by incorporating actions and/or behaviors that will enhance the customer experience and reinforce the higher purpose of the organization and job role. The professional salespeople at L’Occitane En Provence carefully nestle purchases in brightly colored sheets of tissue paper that are spritzed with a signature scent. This action elevates the check-out process from one of transactional efficiency (e.g., “Here you go. Next in line?”) to making an emotional connection with customers—as their senses are invoked during the indulgent packaging ritual.

In this example, the leading KPI (i.e., the action of decadently packaging merchandise) contributes to the customer’s perception of product and service quality, value for the price paid, and, possibly, increased intent to recommend or return/repurchase—all of which are lagging KPIs.

The key is to examine every process with the aspiration to optimize it by incorporating actions and behaviors (lead KPIs) designed to facilitate the attainment of lag KPIs and create progress, movement, and momentum toward the organization’s mission, vision, or purpose and the team’s aspirational goal. This involves getting input from employees who are closest to the process, feedback from customers who are subject to the process, and even gleaning ideas from other companies, inside and outside of your industry.

By operationalizing purposeful actions and behaviors, staff will consistently reflect the higher purpose of their job role, which may be to surprise and delight customers, add value, instill confidence, or create a loyal customer. They will also be able to influence work outcomes by seeing the connection between their daily efforts and the organization’s results (e.g., sales, perceptions of product/service quality, customers’ intent to recommend/return, etc.).

In the next blog post in the series, I’ll share a novel way to evaluate results (using both leading and lagging KPIs) that involves all team members and fosters esprit de corps. I hope you’ll return for that post. In the meantime, feel free to drop questions or feedback in the comments.

Illustration by Aaron McKissen.

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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