How to Reward Your Employees Effectively

Could you make a mistake and offer the wrong gift to employees during the holiday season? What if it’s based on outdated assumptions that do more harm than good? Here are some findings from recent research to ensure your organization makes the most of the occasion.

The season for giving gifts to staff is fast approaching and, right now, someone in your company is making an important decision. What gifts should workers receive? It may seem like a small-time concern, but take a closer look: it’s tied up with management’s idea about what motivates employees.

In some years, managers get this wrong, thereby amusing or even insulting staff with their choice of gifts. In others they get it perfectly right, and it resonates in a way that lifts morale and engagement. What can you learn about employee motivation that results, at the very least, in doing no harm?

The big finding is that there’s a huge paradox at play:  the story employees tell their managers about gifts just isn’t true. To wit, when surveyed, most staff members say they prefer cash rewards. With regards to money, most respond with a knee-jerk, cultural reaction – of course they “want more of it”, as soon as possible.

 However, when employee performance is measured after the fact, cash turns out to be less effective in changing behavior than verbal praise or other visible rewards.

Why is that?

I believe that, when surveyed, employees are literally reporting what they should want, rather than what actually produces higher performance. This is especially true for complex or creative work which can’t be quantified easily.

In fact, monetary awards undermine intrinsic motivation in these situations in a phenomenon called “crowding out.” It implies that staff becomes distracted by the money, focusing away from the job at hand. This ruins quality and productivity.

Part of the reason this happens is that raw cash, when rewarded, offers only a temporary spark. In no time, it devolves into a commodity to be traded for ordinary goods and services such as JPS, NWC, rent and phone bills.

However, this isn’t true for other kinds of gifts which have more staying power. Here are some examples and the reasons why they perform better than one-time cash rewards.

1. Luxury Items

These are identified as goods and services which the recipient wouldn’t purchase for him/herself. Apparently, the fact that the gift is a luxury allows an additional level of indulgence. After all, once a reward has been given, it cannot be returned. Instead, it must be consumed and enjoyed which prolongs its effective life, even after completion.

In addition, the luxury gift grants permission to the recipient to partake in an “impractical” expenditure which takes them outside habitual behavior. This heightens the experience, usually increasing a sense of gratitude.

However, one-size-doesn’t-fit-all. Each person has their own ideas about what’s special. Choosing the right gift means knowing something about their personality and making a proper match.

2. Hedonic

Another element which augments the effect of a reward is an intention for it to generate positive emotions. In particular, in the workplace it could evoke feelings of being “included, appreciated, invested in and feeling valued.” This is so important that some researchers have attributed 80% of voluntary attrition to a lack of recognition by employers, echoing similar studies performed here in Jamaica.

In this context, sometimes the most meaningful rewards have no real tangible component whatsoever. Instead, they hit other emotional chords which are more powerful. For example, the words spoken when the gift is given should be accurate and specific, focusing on the unique contribution. This increases the impact.

3. Social

Finally, it’s also best if the reward is public, so that others can honor the individual. 
Furthermore, try to choose something that’s perishable, such as a physical object; not a dinner for two.

Such visible rewards keep doing their job long after the event is over and can continue to be a talking point. Its line of sight reminds people of the reason the gift was given and continues to honor the recipient.

Too many companies treat their employees as if they are simpletons who just want more money or food (e.g. Christmas cake and Easter bun). It’s a not-too-subtle form of classism which needs to be traded in.

But don’t stop at changing the gift you give. Examine the underlying theory managers harbor about the motivations of their staff. Challenging this old thinking may avoid a problem this holiday season.

The Power of Innovating on Unmet Needs

Innovation is hard. What is the hit-rate like for new products and services in your organization? If the track record is poor, then you may need to delve into the hidden drivers of behaviors in your target market.

Most innovation in Jamaica follows the same process. First, someone high enough in the company has a bright idea – a flash of insight. Their intuition tells them that there’s revenue to be made from customers who will willingly pay for a new offering.

Then, the idea is shared, but more often than not, a directive is issued. An employee in a lower position is given the job of evaluating the concept. They return with misgivings but it soon becomes clear that the high-level originator won’t be easily swayed. A final decision is made to proceed.

However, when the product fails in the market, everyone is mystified, except those employees closest to the prospects. They have their pulse on customer behavior, and can see the shortcomings of the idea clearly. However, they lack enough clout to make a difference.

Companies try to compensate for this power imbalance by surveying workers for ideas, but the truth is that lower-level staff often draw a blank when polled for new product suggestions. They just don’t have the skills to speak to the executive suite. Fortunately, there’s a better way.

At the heart of Tony Ulwick’s “Jobs to be Done” theory is the idea that everyone is going about their daily routine trying to get certain tasks executed. Here is a method that links this notion to innovation.

1. Ask for Unmet Needs

An “unmet need” is expressed as a three-part statement: “When I feel/need__________ I want to ____________ so that____________.” In other words, it’s an expression of a psychological state lying deep within the customer’s experience which then leads to action.

While this desire may be weak at the start, if it continues to be unmet it grows until an actionable decision is made. Consider that customers of your company are a walking bundle of unmet needs. Normally, your marketing department would simply assign them to a well-defined segment. Set that approach aside and, instead, start looking for unmet, emotional drivers.

The challenge is that customers cannot be surveyed directly about their deeper, driving feelings. Why? People give unreliable answers in questionnaires, often telling the surveyor the answers they believe the person wants to hear.

Alternately, it’s far better to have a conversation with customers about their actions, then gently probe them for the reasons behind them. Their explanations may be unclear, but their past behaviour offers important clues. Keep asking until a pattern of actions and underlying emotions emerges.

2. Look for Substitutes

Strong unmet needs cause people to take concrete steps, even if it only leads them to partial, temporary substitutes. By definition, the fact that the need persists means that the substitute is doing a poor job. For example, someone who has a feeling for some quick, new ideas to use in their organization may go searching on television, the local bookstore or Facebook. While these substitutes are all readily available and inexpensive, they are time consuming and foreign, so the need never gets fulfilled.

Therefore, your new product or service should be so well-crafted that it displaces the substitutes currently in use. They are, in fact your real enemies.

Take this fortnightly business column as an example. At first blush, you may think that another newspaper represents the competition. However, when I performed the Ulwick analysis I realized that the real competitors are television, books and Facebook.

From a traditional point of view, these conclusions makes no sense. Yet, in the customer’s world, the psychological gap that drives them to these substitutes has its own, perfect logic.

3. Use Benefit Statements

Closing the psychological gap isn’t easy. In fact, innovators often have a difficult time articulating the emotional-filled reasons their new product or service improves the customer’s life.

However, once the unmet needs and substitutes are known, the task becomes easier. For example, one benefit of reading this column regularly might be that “It gives you fresh ideas for your Jamaican organization with a minimum investment of effort, so you don’t have to waste precious time searching the internet.”

Contrast this approach with that taken by traditional marketers who imagine distinct market segments. These are usually formed around demographic data such as “an employed woman between the ages of 30-45 with two children and a bachelor’s degree.” Unfortunately, segments don’t work as well because people are actually individually and psychologically motivated by unmet needs in particular circumstances. Not by generic characteristics.

In summary, use these three insights to dramatically improve your connection with your prospect’s hidden motivators.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. Missed a column? To receive a free download with articles from 2010-2018, send email to

On Separating Breakthrough Strategic Plans from the Others

November 7, 2019

Have you ever been presented with a strategy document that appears to be nothing more than a list of projects? If so, the good news is that you aren’t crazy if you thought that something was missing. A sound plan is more than a grab bag – it should bring an intangible hypothesis to life in words and images that staff members can use in their daily activities.

To listen to this podcast, visit Source

Are you Cutting Meetings to the Bone

October 31, 2019

Is it possible to simultaneously cut the total time people spend in meetings while improving their quality? Not only is it possible, but there is a natural link between the two results that your company could exploit to increase its overall productivity.

To listen to this podcast, visit Source

What Does it Take to Truly Be In Communication?

Most people consider the phenomenon of “being in communication” to be a simple matter: it’s the state which follows a discussion between two or more persons. But is this standard high enough to get your organization through challenging times?

Others believe that communication is just about sending messages in the general direction of their intended recipients. Based on what we know of electronic messaging, that’s also not true. It’s too easy with new technology to blast another person with loud, confusing or random notes that do nothing to achieve the precious end-result of “being in communication”.

A definition: to “be in communication” means to be on the same page as others. People are together and in sync, achieving a high level of cohesion. A large frequency of authentic conversations occur which put prior issues to bed.

Take a look at working groups in your office. Sometimes, the least effective ones are stuck with a list of matters which cannot be discussed. The breakdown in communication inevitably drags down performance, making it hard to complete the simplest of tasks.

Given these realities, what should leaders do to bring about a new level of communication to their organizations?

Understand that Being in Sync Is Unnatural

Functional teams are an aberration. Getting people to work well together is always going to be an ongoing, uphill challenge. Why?

To explain, it’s somewhat abnormal for a group of individuals to “be in communication”. If anything, our survival instinct leads us to scan our world for threats. We have a natural, inherited suspicion.

This invisible vigilance treats vulnerability and openness as weaknesses to be shunned. In other words, our very nature constantly pushes us out of communication with each other and ruins teamwork. Unfortunately, these are the very traits that teams need to bring into reality in order to “be in communication.”

Just take a look around. Most people would rather stick to themselves and share as little as possible with others.

In spite of this challenge, too many managers prefer to effect a level of casual nonchalance in their working groups which makes things fun and easy in the beginning, but causes havoc when the going gets tough. Instead, the best leaders don’t let their guard down.

Fully aware that mediocrity is always at the door trying to sneak in, they prepare themselves to communicate in group settings in a focused, intense way. Others react by calling them anal. But they persist, insisting that certain processes be followed by every high-performing team they  sit on, bar none.

What are some disciplines your leaders can implement to ensure quality teams operate from the same page?

Tune into Group-Based Routines Which Work

Here is a process Caribbean groups should follow to allow communication to flow. First, it’s important to start every team activity by giving people an opportunity to connect. Once that requirement is satisfied, the approach is the same as that used in other countries: define the purpose of the gathering, the agenda / steps to be followed and the logistics which must be in place. (I was taught to use PAL – Purpose, Agenda and Logistics.)

When this formula is adopted, “being in communication” becomes easier to accomplish because the team’s core activities are already being managed in the background. In other words, taking care of the basics yields added bandwidth. It can be applied to the careful speaking and keen listening required to get on the same page and stay in communication.

Tune into the Group’s Connections

When humans aren’t working closely together, but should be, some surprising behaviors manifest. For example, they may start blaming each other for what appears to be minor matters. This sometimes escalates into name-calling and even acts of verbal violence – “Bad Mind”.

As a leader, you must be hyper-aware of these small gaps before they become major issues. Often, all that’s needed is an insistence that people talk to each other, rather than rely on electronic channels. However, in extreme cases, you may need to intervene with outside help.

Therefore, it’s essential to learn how to tune into and monitor the degree to which individuals in your team are in communication with each other. Call this a kind of ESP if you will,

an ability to tap into intangible, emotional data that your inner self serves up. Most of the time we ignore these private urgings, but a leader should never do so.

The success of your enterprise may rely on the accomplishment of difficult goals. They won’t happen without the deep cohesion that brings people together on the same page. It’s a phenomenon which most leaders must consciously will into existence or it just won’t happen.

Why You Need to Sweeten Up Your Emails

As a manager, have you ever been shocked at someone’s adverse reaction to a seemingly innocuous email message? Perhaps you also wondered “What is wrong with him?”, then questioned your own judgement. The answer is that neither sender nor receiver is at fault. People’s response to email messages is unique, making this communication skill a must-have for leaders of all organizations.

Daniel Goldman, brain expert, confirms something you may already know: email  can be dangerous. While it’s a necessary element of corporate life, problems often  arise when no harm is intended.

Why? Compared to visual and auditory channels, text communication is bereft of all the emotional cues we, as humans, are conditioned to distinguish. Consequently, miscues occur.

For example, someone asks you a question and you respond with a one-word answer. Their conclusion? “You are probably angry.” Or, you get busy and take a bit longer than usual to reply. “You must be unhappy,” they assume.

Perhaps you yearn for the day when recipients of your messages will simply read your words without adding unintended meaning, but that’s not likely to happen soon.  In fact, Goleman reports, “people interpret your positively intended email as neutral, and your neutrally intended email as negative.” Their survival instincts thwart your best intentions.

You may complain that this isn’t fair.

However, you are better off adapting to this reality, while correcting for the fact that we live in a nation with a violent past. Even today, disrespect sometimes triggers death.

It’s no wonder then, that your email style may need a makeover, especially when communicating with those below you in the chain of command. Here are some recommendations.

  1. Never send emotionally fraught communication via email.
    While some managers have fired employees via email messages, avoid this temptation. Instead, reserve your text communications for good news and sharing information. Don’t try to coach, give feedback, correct, counsel or apologize for anything critical.

If you must have a paper trail, write it out before the conversation and send it afterwards, as clarification. But never let it be the first point of contact if the message is likely to be a sensitive one.

The reason is simple. Imagine if your note is read an hour after the recipient receives news of someone’s passing. Obviously, if you were speaking to her in person, you would sense that the timing is bad and change gears. However, it’s easy to violate this accepted norm via text.

But what should you do to prevent a face-to-face conversation on a difficult matter from escalating into a shouting-match? Instead of looking for shortcuts, practice the challenging discussion with a colleague who can provide feedback in real time. This technique, often used by life coaches, should become a part of your regular training.

  1. Never communicate in haste.
    The worst moment to hit “Send” is when you are upset. A better alternative is to save the message in your drafts until you have calmed down and can reconsider your options. After a night’s sleep or a day’s work, things may look dramatically different and you want to be in your best, right mind when you make your final decision.

However, if you have difficulty knowing when you are upset (or in denial about ever being off-kilter) then try improving your Emotional Intelligence (EQ.) Doing so will benefit every aspect of your life.

  1. Learn modern writing skills.
    You may hate emojis. Ending a sentence with an “LOL” might be something you think you should never do. Perhaps in your world, “GIF” means nothing.

Even if you believe that these elements of modern communication “are not my style”, consider adding new skills. These seemingly silly add-ons are now part of the language most are using because they impart important, emotional context to dry textual content.

Here in Jamaica, for example, WhatsApp has long surpassed email as the most effective form of daily communication. One reason is due to its flexibility. A short message can be sent in multiple ways, via a range of media, enhanced by a variety of optional elements. The result is a faster, more precise method of sending brief messages that reduces the risk of misunderstanding.

But these fancy add-ons are not the point. Instead, the idea is to use every tool at your disposal to convey the emotional intent of your communication. Remember, Goleman tells us that recipients are likely to downgrade your message from  positive to neutral and from neutral to negative. To be an effective leader, you must compensate for this tendency.

If you willfully refuse to sweeten up your messages, be warned: it’s only a matter of time before they bear bitter fruit. Don’t blame the recipient. Instead, improve your skills.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. Missed a column? To receive a free download with articles from 2010-2018, send email to

How to Fix Execution Problems

Most adults who live and work in Jamaica are used to
watching everyday transactions like hawks. Every invoice, payment or message
must be tracked carefully due to the mistakes companies make in even simple

A $300 bill becomes one for $3000. An email with a
straightforward request gets lost. A phone rings without an answer. Most
Jamaican organizations have an issue dealing with their own recurring errors.

Compare this to the environment surrounding our world-class
athletes. In post-race interviews, they often contrast their planned versus
actual execution. They continually examine their performance to remove faults
in ways our companies don’t.

But there’s a bigger problem afoot. In the public sphere,
while we laud the construction of grand highways, we fail to fix ordinary
potholes. Ribbons are cut to launch projects to widen roads, but within days
the site looks like a war-zone, as if project management were never invented.

The challenge is that we focus on the initial vision and
the  excitement around it, but when it wears off, a series of recurring
mistakes become par for the course.

Is your company facing a similar test? Do you put a lot of
effort into launching new initiatives but fail to solve repeated mistakes?

If you are in doubt as to the answer, ask employees. They
are the ones who complain about these maddening execution problems. But what
drives them nuts is not the issue itself, but the manager who chases symptoms
rather than causes.

The plain truth is that complex issues require people to
cross functional or hierarchical boundaries. This means they must put
themselves at risk, but it’s far easier to fire-fight and complain than to be

This managerial cowardice allows execution problems to

If this phenomenon sounds familiar, how can you transform
the situation?

1. Re-Define Execution

The problem with a common term like execution is everyone
thinks they know what it means and therefore uses it loosely. After a while, it
loses whatever meaning it ever had.

Research shows that sometimes issues recur when companies
don’t have a rich enough language to describe them. In other words, they can’t
even talk about the challenge in a fruitful way.

To bring an over-used concept to life, you’ll need to
redefine it afresh so it meets the unique needs of your environment.

For example, let’s imagine you coin a phrase: “flawless
execution.” It could equate to “completing a function or process such that
there are no mistakes which create further problems.”

With that in mind, “flawless execution” can be adapted as a
new universal standard that everyone is taught to use. It should become part of
the performance management system as well.

2. Own Execution

Many companies are happy to employee workers who simply take
orders without taking any additional initiative. In other words, the manager’s
job is to think and direct, while those underneath them should merely follow.

In modern organizations, this common approach leads to

While passive employees may be able to solve simple
problems, challenges which require some thinking and coordination with others
demand more. In other words, staff must have the power to take the initiative
without the manager being involved.

Managers who try to micro-manage end up becoming
overwhelmed. So do those who try to do all the thinking.

The solution is for  managers to transform all the ways
in which they undermine  employee initiative. The best leaders are
vigilant: they actively seek feedback on their approach to managing others to
discover where they are preventing staff from problem-solving. They get
themselves out of the way, and ask employees to let them know when they become
controlling or otherwise offensive.

But is this enough?

3. Teaching Problem-Solving Skills

Unfortunately, even motivated employees find that solving
tricky process problems isn’t easy. Not only are excellent communication skills
required, but a capacity for critical thinking and data analysis are a must.

Most employees are weak in these areas and lack training. A
smart leader will develop these competences in a systematic fashion, knowing
that as they do so, they help staff solve recurring execution problems on their

In other words, it’s the only way to implement a new ideal
like “flawless execution”.

Given the fact that our athletes and coaches use these
techniques every day to achieve world class standards, it makes sense for our
organizations to try to do the same. Even though it’s more difficult to do so
in groups of people, the rewards are more far-reaching.

The Difference Between Having a Strategy vs. Being Strategic

Why is it that strategic plans often languish on the shelf? Some would say it’s a matter of lazy executives but experience shows that it has more to do with creating the right context from the start.

A client I work with has an idea: “let’s put up our own website.” At first blush, it makes sense. Every organisation has one. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to let the world know you exist.

However, a brief survey of websites of similar organisations reveals an inconvenient truth: they are all embarrassingly stale.  The layouts look tired. Not a single site is current, or has been updated in ages. Whoever had the original vision has long gone, leaving behind an obsolete artefact.

But it’s likely that when the idea was first pursued, people were excited. They invested personal energy in the project and when it was done, felt satisfied that their vision had come to life.

Unfortunately, they also made a deadly mistake. In their minds, the purpose of the activity was to produce an object (a website) versus to launch a process (a way to keep staff in touch with the public.) In other words, the context they created for the project was limited.

This particular error happens every day. Imagine the typical family. The kids want to adopt a dog, but their parents refuse. The fact is, the older, wiser heads know that owning a pet is more than possessing an animal object. It also means engaging in a process of feeding, exercising and cleaning that takes time and money. They understand that this job is likely to fall into their laps when their children lose interest.

As adults, they see the real cost.

This also happens in strategic planning retreats when companies try to compress the activity into a single day. It’s possible to create a report in this time-frame if the team focuses solely on producing unlimited visions of the future. They walk away feeling inspired, as if they have just adopted a dog or launched a website.

However, the typical second day is usually focused on adding in real-life constraints – the true cost. Once they are included in the plan, tradeoffs must be considered which lead to the team making difficult decisions. Among them is a choice to kill certain initiatives.

The sad reality? There just isn’t enough time, manpower, money or energy to accomplish all the goals set on day one. That initial mood of boundless creativity must be balanced.

Apart from spending two days on this activity, what else is required to be strategic versus just producing a plan?

  1. A Context of “Being Strategic”
    Paradoxically, the main output of each planning exercise may not be the plan. Perhaps, it’s better understood as the start of a process which engages everyone.

In this process, a new paradigm is introduced which reshapes everyday work. Now, instead of simply doing their job, an employee is doing so for a greater purpose which inspires them.

This means that the plan should be changed as often as necessary in order to play its role as a guide for daily actions. These updates keep it fresh and relevant.

Some companies unwittingly rob employees of learning how to “be strategic.” First, they  hire outsiders to write their strategy. When the final document (the object) is handed over, the company finds itself unable to execute because no-one possesses the requisite way of being to be successful. It disappeared out the door with the consultants.

  1. Make Concrete Commitments
    In prior columns I accused executives of failing to treat their time with the same level of rigour as they do their budgets. Consequently, their strategic plans are unrealistic and are treated as if they can all drop their overfull schedules at a moment’s notice.

One antidote is to book the same time in each executive’s calendar for implementation: e.g. Monday morning from 9-12 am. Doing so means cancelling or delegating existing commitments. It’s a way to ensure that the new projects and processes in the plan have a chance of survival in the real, post-retreat world.

  1. Make Behaviour and Process Changes
    Pay attention to those strategic initiatives which are as painful to implement as the challenge of learning to write cursive with your non-dominant hand. At both the individual and corporate levels, old habits and processes will assert themselves, resisting the planned changes.

Instead, put in place new systems for performance management, rewards, recognition, training and automation. Hardwire these improvements to reduce the possibility of failure.

Part of being strategic is acknowledging all these obstacles and finding ways to work around them. Admittedly, they are harder than simply producing a document but they will ensure that your plan is realistic and provide a unique pathway to future success.

How to Help Employees Exert Emotional Labour

The challenge that organizations
have is that they haven’t trained, rewarded or permitted their frontline
employees to exert emotional labor to create human connection when it’s most
needed. Seth Godin

Now and then I come across a quote
which makes me stop and think. Here’s why this one brought the local customer
experience to mind.

Most Jamaicans who travel to the
United States are struck by how well-trained service workers are. At first
blush, it appears that they really know how to smile, be polite and seem

However, those who end up staying to
live in North America tell a different tale. They recall a discovery: five
minutes after a seemingly meaningful interaction the provider can’t remember
your face or name. It was all an act.

Where it comes from is
obvious – those who have peeked behind the scenes say it’s the result
of thorough training tightly coupled with swift, harsh consequences for
non-compliance. It gets the right behaviour, but does it produce genuine

Contrast that situation with the
experience of tourists who visit Jamaica repeatedly for several years, making
lifelong friendships which start with chance encounters on the beach, village
or bus. These extraordinary, unscripted stories end up bonding entire families
from different cultures. Sometimes, they even cross generations, in spite of
the geographic distance.

How can these two contrasting
experiences be reconciled by you, a manager who must develop staff to serve
local customers? Godin’s quote offers a few clues.

1. Faking isn’t Creating

I suspect that frontline workers in
the US have been trained to “fake human connection” on demand – to go
through the motions, following a set of actions they have memorized and
practiced. Unfortunately, they also haven’t learned to separate true emotion
from fakery.

How to get past this obstacle?

If you believe that your front-line
workers are acting the part but not actually creating authentic
experiences, they may need deeper training. Noticing real emotions in the
middle of a transaction isn’t easy, especially when the customer is upset. Most
of us can’t: it takes a kind of emotional maturity few possess.

2. Doing Feeling Work

However, when we bump into someone
who can regularly provide this experience in the worst of circumstances, we
tend to think of their emotional maturity as a rare gift or talent.
Unfortunately, this explanation puts them up on a pedestal, far beyond the
reach of the unlucky majority.

Godin implies that this thinking is

“Emotional labour” is really what’s
missing, he explains. It’s the trained effort most companies’ leaders just
can’t be bothered to develop – the expense is too high. Their lack of
care begins with haphazard hiring and continues with non-existent onboarding.
Employees who receive this basic training are left to their own
devices, never given the tools to produce emotional results. Then, when
problems occur, most managers simply blame the employee: they fail to
accept responsibility.

But Godin goes further: he hints
that many companies don’t even “permit” their front-line employees to provide emotional
labour. They actually make it hard.

Have you ever received a quiet act
of kindness from an employee who put themselves in harm’s way to make an
exception in your case? That’s someone who is working around the limits
implemented by a blind, callous leadership.

3. Identifying Moments

These subversives are not only
brave, but wise. They can tell when a human connection is most needed and act
decisively to provide it.

But they aren’t just interesting:
these moments are extraordinary opportunities to create lasting loyalty.
Perhaps they explain why these tourists return to visit their newfound “family”
in Jamaica. Their initial link was so positive, and so unexpectedly real, that
they end up feeling closer to a Jamaican front-line worker than their actual
neighbours or office colleagues.

Can workers be trained to identify
these key moments in a customer’s experience?

They can, but if your employees have
childhoods pock-marked with trauma, it’s much harder to do so. Unfortunately,
given the low pay of our service providers, many have experienced such
hardships and won’t get over them on their own.

If management steps in and provides
the counselling, training and coaching needed to move past these obstacles,
everyone benefits. The fact is, employees who are being trained to emotionally
labour on behalf of customers who need a human connection need to deal with
their own wounds first.

This puts them in the driver’s seat: able to respond to the customer without their history getting in the way. Now, they can deliberately create the kind of deep loyalty customers enjoy but rarely experience. It’s emotional labor which provides a win for all concerned.

The dilemma of the bored employee

Why is it that your employees who start out excited about
their jobs lose interest so quickly? Is it a problem with their age, a cultural

or just fate? Can their experience be enriched by savvy

The dilemma begins with most leaders who compare employees
to cars and their jobs to long-term parking spots. In other words, all they
need to do is slot people into positions and leave them. From that point on,
the person is expected to perform the role faithfully and occupy the position

Unfortunately, that‘s not how things work. As you may know,
there are a startling number of staff who merely go through the motions: “It’s
just a job.” Long gone are the challenges which kept them up at night. All
that’s left is a routine they can now do without thinking.

Predictably, they turn their attention to other life
demands. They raise children to pass exams with top grades. They sign up for
marathons. They become deacons in their churches and volunteers in community
organizations. While there’s a great deal of good they accomplish in all these
other areas, their career remains stagnant: the same job from one day to the
next. A few convince themselves that the steady salary is worth the deadening
sacrifice. Others refuse. They walk away, quitting to find a different career
or start their own company.

Meanwhile, executives in your firm probably remain clueless
about the real depth of disengagement: the high percentage who give their
work-life the bare minimum. Understanding why employees are more dissatisfied
than ever can help you produce a breakthrough culture.

The New Employee

Today’s entering staff member is often surprised at the
stale environment found inside most companies. The truth is, little has changed
over the years. People at all levels are still stuck in the
car-and-parking-spot frame of mind.

Why are they shocked? They have been raised in a world of
high engagement in which social media, entertainment and games occupy a great
deal of their personal energy. Each of these platforms is  engineered to
grab hold of a user’s attention and keep it for extended periods of time.

Creators of highly engaged online environments realize they
are in a competition with other experiences. With every bit and byte, they
intend to keep users interested and use attention as a measure of success. The
makers of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram don’t want you to slip away.

By comparison, most jobs in the workplace seem to be
designed to lose, disrupt or even destroy attention. It’s tempting to think
this has something to do with technology: instead, it’s all about intention.

Unfortunately, there are probably few managers in your
company who see their challenge in the same way. They fail to recognize that
“experience design” is part of their job, instead pretending as if nothing has
changed over the years.

The outcome? Employees who can hardly last 15 minutes alone
or in a meeting without reflexively searching their smartphones for something

A New Challenge

Most of your fellow managers probably just shrug their
shoulders, complaining. For them, the point of engaging staff is not to
entertain them, but make them productive.

Perhaps they could adapt the mindset of game designers. One
of their leading thought leaders, Amy Jo Kim, asks: “How can we create
experiences that get better as employees become more skilled?”

In most companies, the focus has been on the opposite. HR
has been trying to keep employees’ experience the same once they reach a
certain level of skill: the old car-and-long-term-parking-lot model. The result
is boredom.

Behind this unwanted outcome is a lack of responsibility.
Most manager’s don’t believe that their job is to engineer an outstanding
experience. In their minds, work is not a place for intrinsic fulfillment or
purpose: it’s a crude exchange of money for labour.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to tackle this issue
head-on. As a new employee at AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1988, I joined a
system which made room for technical employees who had no interest in becoming
supervisors. A technical ladder allowed many to be promoted and recognized without
having the burden of direct reporting relationships.

At a micro level, your company can train managers to develop
detailed ladders of skills. Imagine if, at any moment in time, your employees
could know exactly which rung they occupy. Furthermore, they would also be able
to pinpoint which skills they are developing. This way, they know what their
next personal improvement target happens to be and when it is due.

This form of career gamification can engage even long-term
staff, blocking the default – boredom – which thwarts your company’s goals.