Understand your staff, understand your customers
I recently took part in a panel discussion on business transformation at the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce Technology Conference, where some of the key topics that arose were recruitment, people management and the changing profile of the workforce in the digital age.
It’s no wonder that HR is high on the agenda when it comes to analysing the changes required to transition successfully to a digitally-driven enterprise. I’ve always been a firm believer that ‘people’ are the starting point of any significant business change – you simply can’t address the ‘process’ and ‘technology’ pillars until you’ve got your staff on board. The General Data Protection Regulation is a current case in point; compliance ultimately rests on the actions of your workforce so it’s critical that they understand - and come to advocate - its rationale.
In the context of digital business, we are a good example of a company that has been adapting its attitudes and policies towards the workforce over the last few years. This has been a necessary step to ensure that we are practising what we preach in the world of Customer Relationship Management – in other words, that we are able to understand, communicate and engage with our customer base in ways that measure up to modern, digitally-driven standards. This applies to all areas of the business – from our technology itself and the way we market and sell it, to the service and support we provide.
One of the crucial changes has been to diversify the skillset of the workforce, and this involves recruiting from different age groups. Workers from the Millennial demographic (or Generation Y, aged between 22 and 36) have barely known life without digital technology - and we’ve recently taken on a 19-year-old, from the truly ‘digitally native’ Generation Z. It’s evident that our younger workers live up to the stereotype of displaying a natural affinity with digital technologies, especially mobile and social media.
But what’s also important is that they bring with them a new set of expectations, such as immediacy in customer service; choice and flexibility in supplier relationships; and a marked preference for the pay-as-you-go cost and service model. For a Software-as-a-Service business, recruiting staff who are naturally aligned with these values is fundamental if we are to meet the needs of our modern customers. Furthermore, we’ve found younger workers tend to be the ones who question the status quo and champion new, and different, ways of thinking – a vital attitude to instil in any ambitious business.
Flexibility in the workplace is both an outcome of the digital revolution and a necessity to attract and retain modern workers. Our experience of part-time staff, for instance, is wholly positive – their productivity is unrivalled. Similarly, flexi-time also works well for us, not only to help workers avoid rush-hour traffic here in the Thames Valley but also simply to accommodate each member of staff’s preferred way of working. The drive towards measuring performance by output rather than time is a hugely beneficial step forward for business.
Today’s preoccupation with Millennials must not eclipse the enduring role of older workers. Business experience counts for a great deal, to my mind – in fact we encourage younger staff to learn from their more experienced counterparts. Bridging the gap between generations, skillsets and personal working styles can be a challenge in today’s diverse enterprise. We find that regular ‘team insight’ sessions, where a different team outlines their current work and challenges, is an excellent way of fostering collaboration and cohesion. It’s important to be open to what we can learn from each other.
Many workers from Generation X are, of course, technology-minded, but training is a prerequisite to keep skills up to date. We conduct weekly training sessions focused on different skill areas, such as using LinkedIn for sales. It’s also worth pointing out that not everything revolves around technology – it’s relationships with people that keep us in business.
In summary, taking the time to understand the values and preferences of today’s workforce not only helps us keep them happy and productive but also teaches us about our customers. Ideally, the profile of the company should be closely aligned to its audience, so that the messages, content and communications we produce resonate naturally with customers and prospects. This requires a continual process of engagement with staff – because you don’t have a hope of understanding and responding to their needs if you aren’t listening in the first place.
Mike Richardson - Managing Director, Maximizer EMEA
As Managing Director (EMEA), Mike is charged with leading and delivering the marketing, sales, service and operational strategy for the EMEA region, alongside the management of the Certified Solutions Provider network.
Mike joined Maximizer Software in 2000, by which time he...