Building Loyalty With Internal Customers
In this three-part series, Graham Williams of
Centre-ing Services (firstname.lastname@example.org)
and Michael Cusack of On Line Customer Care (email@example.com)
examine trends which have a major impact on how business leaders and HR
practitioners will in future need to maximize their organization’s human
assets. In this final article of the series they look more closely at the
elements of technology, "ladders," and the economics of exchange.
In order for the loyalty progression to develop
over time, a system must be built that is founded on a number of key principles.
These principles, or components of our ‘holistic’ system, form the acronym
The elements of the model are:
- Seaman’s credo.
- Technology that enables.
- And exchange economics.
In last issue's article, we detailed the first
three of those; now it's time to complete the model.
Technology That Enables
The Employee Relationship Management structure
must consider all interactions between the employee and the organization. In
terms of enabling technology and systems, this means capturing, storing and
accessing sound backend data about employees, good communication and
information-transfer technology, and easy to use front-ends on the employees’
office desk and home desk consoles. Some of the employee relationship aims of
this technology are:
- Reducing paper. We are a long way from the paperless office,
but a less-paper office is quite feasible. Forms (leave applications, loan
requests, employee record changes), company news, performance information,
events, policy and operating manuals, combined
telephone/fax/cell-phone/email contact directories, business process
execution information, business results, and a host of other applications,
can be cheaply and efficiently accommodated using electronic means—in
essence, providing an internal self-service facility on the web or intranet
(and perhaps this facility is supported by a telephone/ email/ fax-based
internal service desk).
the form of easier and freer communication across flatter organizations.
Using open internal polls to garner employee opinions and as a facilitator
of the consultative process. Managing aspects of virtual teamwork.
Installing employee self-service software which is now starting to appear in
the marketplace, which allows employees (for example) to maintain their own
personal data, select their own benefit package options, research their own
training and development options, access for themselves information in the
medical, investment and other work and life decision-making and development
areas. Conducting ongoing motivational climate surveys and the like. These
applications all contribute to faster, more open information transfer and
better, more complete communication.
- New training. Important actionable information requires the
attention of people who are well-trained in sound decision making, problem
solving and communication skills, lateral and creative thinking skills. To
provide the technology without also providing these skills to employees is
criminal. The sheer volume of information within a "digital nervous
system" also demands the training of new time management skills,
priority-setting and search refinement techniques, so that employees are not
driven by external forces. Techno-enhanced training acknowledges that
individuals have different memorizing and learning styles and preferences,
and that computer programmed learning facilities can address these
differences. A lot of this training can be self-directed.
- Stepped up face-to-face meetings.
Greater use of technology to handle routine matters has the potential to
free leaders for more important work, including communicating and
interacting. Savvy CEOs increase their visibility and accessibility and step
up face to face meetings as an integral element of any ERM system.
- Extra- and intranet applications
enable people to cast a wide net in search of knowledge and insight which
could be useful to an organizations "pulsing" of the marketplace
and finding new opportunities for replication and innovation. Many employee
complaints can also be responded to effectively via the electronic medium,
and their grouping and analyses quickly point to areas of misalignment
between vision and execution.
- Improved external customer point of contact
supporting technology help develop employee confidence and pride.
But, as Bill Gates says: "If you don’t
believe that all workers have the potential to contribute to your company’s
success, all the technology in the world won’t empower them." There is no
doubt that the application of technology and software as described above can
greatly assist with improved employee relationships. However, they should never
be seen to be a replacement of any of the other aspects of our CASTLE framework.
(It’s akin to driving a car by either automatic or manual means. Greater skill
is needed to drive manually and competent manual driving will always outperform
automatic driving.) Deep understanding of and competent application of the
"people basics" remains the foundation to which suitable enabling
technology may be added.
The ERM system should encourage each and every
employee to honestly ask of themselves the following choice - question:
- An employee can choose to attempt to climb the
"promotion ladder" and select alternative career paths in the
clear knowledge of his/her level of leadership competence and other
managerial, role and technical competence.
- Or, avoid getting stuck at their "level of
incompetence" by taking on jobs that do not match their competence-set.
Instead, they can climb the "specialist ladder" and become the
very best at what they can be; pursuing their primary motivational drivers
and "deeply hidden" competencies, gifts and talents. (Some firms
and institutions encourage this endeavour by means of broad-banding
salary scales. In this way it becomes possible for the person to be duly
rewarded, and to advance by continuing to do essentially the same job.
- Or, either separately or in combination with one
of the other ladders, to derive satisfaction by climbing the "personal
growth ladder" to increase their employability, self worth and generic
This becomes a way of streamlining and making
career-pathing exercises more appropriate, and for customising employee
mentoring, coaching and development programs.
Economics of Exchange
Paul Malherbe has postulated that earned EXCHANGE
entitlement and opportunity is the basic principle of economic well-being. He
proposes that value and wealth (both material and intangible) are created
through perceived fair, win-win exchanges between two parties (but which carry
benefit for all involved along the "production of value" line), and
that various exchange types satisfy the whole person: physical, intellectual,
social, emotional and spiritual.
Clearly the exchange between employee and employer
consists of much more than simply payment for work performed. In the new world
of work, we need to think far beyond such a narrow boundary. The
employer/employee exchange is also about adult/adult relating, sharing, creating
value together, providing opportunities to learn and grow together, and
Employees resent management-imposed solutions and
systems, will always ask "How will this threaten who I am and what I
do?" and "What’s in it for me?" And in exchange for
transparency and opportunity, will always freely give of their knowledge and
skill, and show accountability.
The act of giving in the context of providing a
comprehensive ERM system increases employability but paradoxically raises
loyalty. "Loyalty" is no longer falsely locked in by pensions to come,
loans to be repaid, the use of a company vehicle, and other fringe benefits. Nor
is an employee decision to stay with the organization a function of the cost of
leaving. Rather, it is a function of real, earned loyalty. A very different
Businesses only grow if competent, supported
employees are motivated to make the organization grow. Employees value belonging
to something worthwhile, being respected, supported, trusted, appreciated,
recognized, being a part of achieving something worthwhile, and developing our
own potential. It follows that organizations that earnestly seek to meet these
"internal customer" needs give themselves much better odds at:
- retaining valued employees, and thus reducing
recruiting and training costs resulting from unwanted turnover wastage;
- developing an employee-base that is more
employable, but which paradoxically increases loyalty to the organization;
- building a culture of learning, service and
- logic-driven reward and placement policies;
- creative resource-ing for project teams;
- benefiting from the experience, knowledge and
commitment of loyal employees during moments of truth with external
customers. If it holds true that sound "moments of truth" with
customers—regardless of the channel of communication—only occur when
competent and motivated employees display the necessary pride, perseverance
and creativity, then investing in the capabilities and satisfaction of
employees becomes an absolute imperative for forward-looking business;
- avoiding a "galley slave" approach;
- freeing HR departments from routine work,
allowing them to concentrate on value-adding and strategic HR services;
- and improving shareholder value (by saving on
routine employee-transaction costs, reducing "wastage," raising
motivation, competence, productivity and innovation levels, reducing
turnover, retaining key talent, and improving external customer
Organizations would do well to follow the
progression and principles which govern our ERM "system". The CASTLE
model for managing the nature, content and direction of relationships with
employees is founded on:
- steering the organization and it’s people to a
position of leadership and service (Culture)
- ensuring that desired results are achieved by
combining competence, capacity and motivation (Alignment, Seaman’s
- on a customized, adult-to-adult basis, using self
service where appropriate (Ladders, Technology, Exchange
- and for the purpose of establishing meaningful
employee relationships that generate meaningful customer relationships.
All of which, in turn, helps to drive
Malherbe, Paul. N.: A Pragmatic Approach to THE
CREATION OF VALUE, ENRICHMENT AND PROSPERITY (author published, Cape Town,
Gates, Bill , with Hemingway, Collins: BUSINESS
@ THE SPEED OF THOUGHT (Penguin Books, 2000)
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