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Tagged: learning

Want better employee performance? Use benchmarks.

June 27, 2017

What should a manager do when an employee’s performance falls short? Consider the following scenario: An employee isn’t reaching his personal performance requirements. Maybe his sales are low, his ability to open new accounts is subpar or he receives weaker customer satisfaction scores than his colleagues. During a performance review, the employee is informed of his low performance, and feels pressure to improve. He worries about his job security and thinks if he simply tries harder, he’ll achieve better results. However, two weeks later, his willpower is drained and he resorts to the same ineffective behaviors.

In this scenario, the employee gets lost in a cloud of ambiguity and stress. Employees want to perform well, and when they don’t, managers need to treat the moment as an opportunity to teach, rather than to scold. Benchmarking makes this teaching moment possible.

Benchmarking is the process companies use to identify and establish key performance standards, or benchmarks, and measure their performance against those standards over time. These standards are usually achieved by quantifying performance based on customer feedback scores. Coaching employees to achieve benchmarks is highly effective for a few reasons:

Non-accusatory feedback

When a manager discusses poor performance with an employee, the conversation feels highly personal. However, the ability to look at a benchmarking score as an external performance metric helps things feel less personal, and shifts the conversation in a positive way. Rather than the manager telling the employee he’s underperforming, the manager speaks in terms of improving customer relationships through specific behaviors. The result of a non-personal conversation leaves the employee feeling supported, rather than attacked.

Clarity

Benchmarking helps managers give specific feedback and learn about their employee’s personality traits. Different personality types yield different performance strengths and weaknesses. For example, an extroverted, persuasive personality may do well to promote add-on purchases, but rub certain customers the wrong way by being too abrasive. Conversely, a perceptive and introverted personality may do well at highly analytical tasks for high-maintenance customers. Benchmarking illustrates performance strengths and weaknesses in clear terms the manager and employee can look at together. Additionally, this process gives an opportunity to talk about the employee’s highest scores. The manager learns about the behaviors which achieve stand-out scores, and the behaviors are taught across the company as a best practice.

Tangible goals

Benchmarking is done using scales, such as a numeric 1-10 scale. Seemingly small differences, like a customer giving a “7” versus an “8” in overall experience, have major implications in terms of the loyalty of the customer and the customer’s likelihood to recommend the brand to others. Therefore, employees should be encouraged with realistic and specific targets. When an employee is told he isn’t doing well enough, he might feel discouraged. A good manager offers specific strategies to employ, and encourages the individual to see if he can improve his score marginally over the next three months, maybe from a score of 7.5 to 7.8. Presented in this context, the goal feels realistic and achievable, easing the anxiety of the employee and inspiring hope that the strategies recommended by the manager will work.

Good managers should always consider the emotional impact of the feedback they give their employees, make sure their feedback is precise and give the employee a clearly defined path to success. CSP’s Manager Development and Training uses Voice of the Customer data to coach managers and employees on the specific behaviors that improve key drivers of both employees’ engagement and customers’ satisfaction.

15 Qualities of a Good Coach in the Workplace

August 26, 2015

Think back to the people in your life who have recognized your potential and used their talents to help you discover and shape your own. When a coach like this is present in the workplace, his or her influence can have a profound impact on the professional development of the entire team as well as the individuals within it. Most people would rather work under a manager who behaves as a coach than one who dictates and directs from above.

Coaching your employees is an important step in developing an internal culture that supports the customer experience. Sometimes coaching can happen “on the fly” when learning opportunities present themselves, but formal coaching sessions provide a great benefit to employees, who get the chance to ask questions, practice skills, and set goals against which they can measure their progress over time.

CSP believes strongly in the power of a good coach, so we’re here to offer you a little coaching ourselves on how to effectively guide the development of your team.

The Measurements of a Good Coach

coach

There is no exact blueprint for a good coach, as each coach will have their own strengths and weaknesses. However, there are some distinct qualities that good coaches have in common.

As you read this list, ask yourself how you measure up against each of these qualities and identify which areas could use more of your attention. If you have been receiving coaching yourself and feel like it could be more effective, this list might give you a window to a constructive conversation with your mentor to improve the relationship.

1. A good coach is self-aware.
To understand oneself, one’s coaching style, and how it is perceived and received by employees, is a critical first step to becoming a valuable and effective coach. Self-awareness is a journey unto itself, so we’ll be writing more about that in the coming weeks.

2. A good coach brings specific and well-defined issues to the attention of others.
Being unspecific about problem areas, or failing to bring them up with the appropriate parties, suggests a reluctance to affect positive change and a lack of leadership.

3. A good coach prepares for each session with information, examples, ideas, etc., and is ready for discussion.
Coaching sessions should be scheduled in advance, and the coach should have a solid agenda for each session that lays out the mission for the day. Without structure, the coaching session can devolve into a casual conversation with no real substance or direction.

4. A good coach treats individuals as partners in the organization, encouraging their input and trusting them to carry out assignments.
Some coaches are fans of “tough love,” while others are more lenient, but what all good coaches have in common is respect for their mentees. Contempt and resentment have no place in an effective coaching relationship, and only breed further conflict.

5. A good coach knows the strengths and weaknesses of his or her employees.
Much like the coach of a sports team, he or she knows how to tap into the individual strengths of employees to get the most out of them and to get the greatest amount of productivity from the team, collectively and individually.

6. A good coach makes expectations clear at the beginning of the coaching session.
Both the coach and the employee must have a sense that this meeting has a distinct purpose, and must agree on what that purpose is, for the session to proceed smoothly.

7. A good coach allows enough time to adequately discuss issues and concerns.
Blocking out enough time for a solid session, rather than squeezing it in and rushing through, shows respect for the employee’s time and allows them to participate more thoughtfully.

8. A good coach seeks out ideas and makes those ideas part of the solution.
Take it as a red flag if a coach is not willing to hear ideas, suggestions, or thoughts from other members of the team. A coach is there to serve the employees, not for the employees to serve his or her ego.

9. A good coach listens to others and tries to understand their points of view.
Rather than assigning blame or delivering unhelpful criticism, he or she allows the employee to explain things from the other side, which can often uncover the root of a misunderstanding or miscommunication.

10. A good coach expresses encouragement and optimism when both easy and difficult issues are discussed.
Sometimes an issue can be the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. It’s the coach’s job to make this issue less intimidating by modeling a constructive attitude that brings the team together to address it.

11. A good coach directly asks for a commitment to solutions that have been agreed upon.
Coaches can’t be wishy-washy about their expectations. If the employee isn’t held accountable for improving, it becomes a waste of everyone’s time to continue coaching.

12. A good coach provides the resources, authority, training and support necessary for others to carry out solutions.
Coaching doesn’t end when the session ends. It is up to the coach to follow through with any additional guidance the employee might need to move forward.

13. A good coach offers support and assistance to those he or she is coaching to help them implement change and achieve desired goals.
Professional development is a team effort. It’s usually not wise to simply cut the employee free after a session and expect him or her to achieve everything on their own.

14. A good coach follows up on coaching sessions in a timely manner.
It’s all too easy for coaching to fall down the priority ladder among all the other demands of a manager’s day-to-day job duties. At the end of each coaching session, it’s a good idea to go ahead and schedule the next one, and to hold to that commitment when the time comes around.

15. When solutions do not turn out as expected, a good coach proactively helps to define alternative actions.
If at first the employee does not succeed, it could be that there was a misunderstanding, or it could be that the original solution was a mismatch for that particular employee. A good coach is open to having a backup plan (or two).

The theme running beneath many of these qualities is this: When coaching is done in the spirit of mutual respect, the rewards and benefits for your employees and your customers are endless. What is important is to establish a positive coaching relationship between the coach and the employees that incorporates all parties’ strengths.

Read more: What are the differences between training and coaching?

More articles like this one can be found in our STARS library, available to current CSP clients as part of our full-service delivery. Contact us to find out how we support effective coaching and training in pursuit of the optimal customer experience.

Use Learning Styles to Customize Your Employee Training

January 28, 2015

As we’ve stated in a previous post, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all employee training.

There are actually two layers of truth to that assertion. Not only should each business customize its training program to best meet the expectations and needs of its customers, each employee has distinct learning preferences. These preferences will affect the employees’ ability to absorb the material.

Understanding learning styles will help you conduct the most effective training that gets through to each individual and sticks. Each learning style has its own strengths and weaknesses.

visual learning stylesVisual

Visual learners want to see the information or idea that’s being conveyed to them. They like graphs and diagrams and may color-code their notes and materials. They can learn a new task by watching someone else do it.

Strengths

  • Can visualize ideas in detail
  • Does well in face-to-face environments
  • Learns well from descriptive examples and demonstrations, pictures, or diagrams
  • Good note-takers and list-makers

Challenges

  • Can get distracted by clutter, movement, or crowds
  • Might struggle to listen for long periods of time
  • Less likely to retain what they hear

auditory learning stylesAuditory

Auditory learners want to hear the information. Mnemonic devices and rhymes make intuitive sense to these students, and they have no problem paying attention to a long presentation – they may even quote the speaker later on from memory. They can learn a new task if it’s described well to them.

Strengths:

  • Attentive listeners and communicators with a good memory for what is said, with or without note-taking
  • Does well on the phone
  • Absorbs verbal/written instructions

Challenges:

  • Sensitive to a noisy or loud environment
  • May find handouts during presentations to be more distracting than helpful
  • May need to hear instructions repeatedly to fully grasp them

kinesthetic learning stylesKinesthetic

Kinesthetic learners want to do it themselves. They are hands-on students who often rely on muscle memory and “feeling” their way through things. If teaching others, they’d rather demonstrate than explain.

Strengths:

  • Learns well with plenty of practice
  • Can figure things out as they go along
  • Thrives in in-person learning environments

Challenges:

  • Prefers a peaceful learning environment without a lot of active movement around them
  • Less likely to pay attention to verbal or written instructions
  • Unlikely to study from notes
  • Can feel trapped or restless in a classroom or at a desk for prolonged periods

Most adults won’t fall 100% into one box, but could have a secondary learning style that compliments their dominant preference. There are simple activities you can have your team complete to identify their learning styles.

Training for the Different Learning Styles

A slideshow presentation delivered by a single speaker may engage the visual and auditory learners, but leave the kinesthetic learners bored. They’d prefer a class with lots of activities and opportunities to practice, but the visual and auditory learners may then fall behind without as much verbal information.

When designing your training curriculum, make it a priority to include activities and methods that engage all three styles. Show, tell, and do. Pay attention to what seems to be working for your own group – after all, if the team skews towards visual learners, the learning materials might as well follow suit.

Effective employee training can have an indirect impact on the customer experience. You want skilled representatives on the front lines of customer service – and you get skilled representatives by taking their learning styles into consideration.

Want to know more about customized training solutions designed with the customer experience in mind? Contact CSP today.