The recipe for great IT services has always been a combination of people, processes, and technology. With the increased focus on the customer experience and employee engagement, having the right staff is more important than ever. So, how do you find and retain the best employees for a service culture, and how do you help them excel? I’ll take a look at these questions and provide some solutions.

Engaged Employees at the Heart of Technology

By now, most us have heard about people and process, and technology being the proven recipe for providing great IT services. With the new ITIL4, we can add even more people to the process: partners and vendors. Your people should be at the center of your technology where the tech makes them better but does not replace them. Likewise, artificial intelligence/machine learning is more relevant than it has ever been. Gartner, amongst others, has provided some insight as to how relevant this topic is; AI will not take away jobs and, ultimately, will become “augmented intelligence.” This should make people’s jobs better, not replace them. 

Secondly, companies and employers with engaged employees have an 81% higher customer satisfaction rate, proven by many studies, including by those from research firm Forrester. Thus, a solid “people” strategy is crucial, especially since the main focus of most service desks is on user experience. User engagement means organizations must focus on creating an exceptional employee experience.

Companies with engaged employees have an 81% higher customer satisfaction rate.
Tweet: Companies with engaged employees have an 81% higher customer satisfaction rate. @NancyVElsacker @ThinkHDI #leadership #serviceculture

Where most employees become disengaged with their employers is during or after a poor onboarding experience. Employee engagement is crucial for success. But, what to do about it? Let me share some of my insights with practical examples in the following fields: culture, motivating factors, vision and mission, agreements, and behavior.

Start with Culture

Defining culture means considering a mixture of people, context, and mission. Culture identifies your organizational values, agreements in place, and behavior. It is not a policy or procedure. Culture can’t be implemented, but it can be influenced. When we think of a great service culture, it will show as customer obsessive towards clients, open and appreciative in internal relationships, co-creative and continuous improvement driven with a leadership that is value driven.

Culture Motivates People

Culture motivates people, or not. In a great service culture, the focus is on enabling and empowering those who work within the organization. Offering free meals, sleep pods, laundry services, childcare, etc. are more of an excuse to keep employees in the office longer each day than actually serving as a motivating factor for them to do a better job. These accoutrements are not meant to improve cultures, but that is a whole different discussion.

When you know what motivates people, it is important to set appropriate values. At TOPdesk, we have core values: freedom, trust, and responsibility. This means actually providing employees freedom to thrive in and build out their current role and responsibility, but also their career path. Placing trust in employees means providing them with a lot of responsibility. For us, there is no given path and we do not have people climb a specific ladder in a specific order (for instance, from junior to senior). The flip side of this is that it also comes with a territory; it takes a lot of responsibility and initiative from the employee’s side to be able to handle all the freedom we provide.

Creating a quality culture means living up to it, being transparent, and measuring what matters. Let your people know what you are working toward. This can provide insight for people and triggers ideas in them that may not have come out if they were not shared with the whole organization.

Strategy Beyond Culture

With a culture baseline, you’re ready to implement policies and procedures that can drive strategy. For example, your hiring strategy is crucial to achieving a great service culture. There are three factors that you can teach employees: knowledge, skills, and behavioral competencies. Some, such as culture fit, motivational drive, and learning ability are not teachable. In my experience, these last factors are what I focus on most in job interviews and also are mostly the reason for turning down applicants.

Strategic onboarding also is crucial. Strategic onboarding is a continuous process that goes far beyond an employee’s first day; you ask for feedback from those who leave and those who are super engaged, so you have a perspective from opposite sides and you can improve. Studies show that most employees leave in the first year, the third year, and the seventh year of employment, so your strategic onboarding plan has to be continuous and include those key moments as well. That also means providing employees with a continuous learning environment. That is why learning ability is one of the major factors in recruiting. In a true learning environment, you encourage people to start a new learning curve in parallel before they plateau. That could mean taking up other responsibilities or specializing in a particular field.

Review meetings are another crucial part to keep employees engaged. You need to know what is going on with your employees. By doing regular check-ins, you can see what is going on internally. And the chats can be bi-directional, so employees feel at ease to give feedback and openly discuss what’s up in their worlds.

Also, don’t discourage employees from making mistakes as long as they agree to learn from them. If people do not make mistakes, they are most likely not stepping out of their comfort zone.

People Strategy First

Finally, leadership has to live and breathe the culture in a great service environment. Next to striving for excellence and a passion for customer contact, their primary vision and mission should be to put employees first. No matter how good your processes and technology, without a steady people strategy, you will not be able to achieve a great service culture.

Nancy talks about service culture at HDI Conference & Expo.
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Nancy Van Elsacker Louisnord is the president TOPdesk USA . She’s also a public speaker, a contributor to several leading industry publications, and a service management expert. Follow Nancy on Twitter @NancyVElsacker

Tag(s): supportworld, workforce enablement, workforce enablement, leadership, employee engagement


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