The other day I happened upon the Fast Company article 12 Trends That Will Rule Products In 2013. The article was focused on consumer goods like phones and washing machines, but you know what? The trends listed made sense in the context of the workplace too and here’s why: your employees are consumers. It’s inevitable that their consumer purchasing behavior will shape their attitudes at work as well.
Here are four trends Fast Company listed that have implications for those of us in the human resources and management functions of our companies. These trends are driving employee expectations; a wise organizational leader pays attention to these inclinations and responds accordingly.
Customer-facing employees are your brain and your backbone. The article states, “The crucial element in any customer experience is still people, no matter how much technology has transformed the landscape.” Do not be seduced by what your company’s latest technology can do. The “gee whiz!” factor gets old fast – for both employees and your organization’s external customers.
Worth is determined by philosophy, not price. Can you say “intense, endless salary negotiations?” The Fast Company authors ask, “How do you determine a product’s intrinsic worth?” They say that rather than focusing on price, focus on alignment in values. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Then why is it that when the “product” is a talented job candidate, we often get mired in “nickel-and-diming” during the negotiation process? Either an employee will bring a talent set and corresponding values alignment, or s/he won’t. Are you willing to pay for that? If not, quit wasting your time and theirs.
Narrative is a delivery vehicle to make information stick. The Heath brothers made this point with Made to Stick many years ago, but it bears repeating, because, some of us still haven’t figured it out. For example, company policies and procedures are D.U.L.L. but they’re important to efficient business operation. Where’s the “story” behind why you must implement the new policy? If there’s no compelling narrative, maybe you don’t need that policy after all.
Human interaction has never been more precious. “Look for places to act more human.” We’re all fatigued with automated everything. Sure, we love the convenience, but sometimes we just crave an interactive experience with a real person. Like the Discover TV ad that features a customer who is surprised when an actual human answers her call, as leaders and HR managers, we must remember to value the power of a conversation.
Everyone is a specialist. The other day a colleague told me that they were consolidating job functions in the sales division; their sales reps would move from selling three lines of very complex business to eight. That’s insanity. The Fast Company article states “trying to be everything to everyone is a losing proposition.” I agree. People love to “show what they know” and that’s pretty tough when they must “know” everything.
Taking a seemingly unrelated topic like consumer behavior and applying it to workplace issues can help offer insights we might otherwise overlook. As leaders in our respective functions we can glean new insights on bringing out the best in our employees with a slight tweak in perspective.
What say you? How do you see consumer behavior outside the office influencing the way employees act in the workplace?
About the author: For 20+ years, Jennifer V. Miller has been helping professionals “master the people equation” to maximize their personal influence. A former HR generalist and training manager, she now advises executives on how to create positive, productive workplace environments. She is the founder and Managing Partner of SkillSource and blogs at The People Equation. You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter as @JenniferVMiller.
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