Lots of companies now understand that they need to turn more customers into promoters if they are to grow profitably. They also recognize that they can’t accomplish that goal unless front-line employees and supervisors are enthusiastic and love their work.
The latter realization has given a boost to the mini-industry of experts in employee engagement.These experts help companies implement periodic surveys that gather confidential responses from employees on how happy they feel along a variety of dimensions. The experts aggregate the data, sprinkle some statistical fairy dust over it (each provider has its own magical recipe), and identify the “key drivers” of employee satisfaction. They then recommend a set of improvements based on comparisons to proprietary benchmarks and putative best practices. The logic seems reasonable: find ways to satisfy your employees, and they in turn will delight customers.
The problem with this process is that it does not work very well. “Satisfying” employees isn’t even the right goal. The right goal is to help everyone in your company earn real happiness by putting them in a position where they can delight customers. When they succeed in doing so, you can make sure they get full recognition and appreciation for their accomplishment. (Earning a 9 or a 10 from a customer is like receiving a standing ovation.) Every day, for instance, Apple Retail employees review feedback in their pre-shift huddle (the “daily download”) from customers they served the prior day. Nothing does more to engage team members than hearing applause from customers in front of their peers.
Of course, Apple Retail also surveys employees every three to four months to determine how the company can make each store an even better place to work. Apple calls this program Net Promoter for People (or NPP), and it represents a radical break from the standard employee satisfaction survey process. First, it focuses on finding solutions to problems that employees believe must be addressed if they are to delight more customers. Second, it helps the front-line team members at the store have a productive dialogue. Instead of generating a statistical key-driver analysis that leads to top-down “improvements,” it provides the basis for mandatory all-hands meetings, usually held on a Sunday night. Attendees review the store’s NPP results, discuss them to ensure accurate interpretation, and identify the issues most vital to that store’s success. Store leaders then recruit teams of employees to consider each high-priority issue and to develop alternative solutions, which the teams then present to leaders over subsequent weeks. Each store adopts the best solutions and communicates actions taken back to the team. Then the team gets to evaluate effectiveness on subsequent NPP surveys.
This NPP process not only leads to productive dialogue and grass-roots solutions; it also is a great professional-development experience for all concerned. It clarifies the notion that the leader’s job is not to make employees happy but to put them in a position to earn happiness. And unlike conventional employee surveys, the process focuses on delighting customers. Sure, some stores adopt measures that help employees remain motivated, such as providing remote break rooms for employees in mall stores that were designed to handle modest customer traffic and are now bursting at the seams. But the central objective—the objective that makes all investments in employees possible—remains front and center: creating more customer promoters.
During my keynote at the upcoming Net Promoter Conference in London, I will review some of the other cutting-edge practices that are revolutionizing the process of earning employee loyalty. These emerging solutions represent a fundamentally important advance in the Net Promoter System. The goal of a leader should be to help employees earn happiness by playing valued roles on teams that delight customers. The survey tools and processes (the eNPS toolkit) required to pursue this goal have little in common with the solutions currently proffered by the so-called experts in employee satisfaction and engagement.