Employee Input: A Valuable Resource You Might Be Overlooking
At Emotive Brand, one of the things we strongly believe in is the importance of understanding how a company’s business strategy connects to its brand strategy. As a result, one of the first things we do is review a client’s research: external brand perception studies, competitive analysis documents, analyst reports, and so forth. This external audit is key – but in our experience, it doesn’t provide the complete picture. What’s missing? Potentially, your most informed and passionate stakeholders: your employees.
It’s something even the most well-run companies overlook. In an effort to accelerate processes and get to results, employee input is often the first thing on the chopping block. This isn’t limited to brand and positioning projects. It happens to multiple types of business strategy initiatives. The solution? Have a disciplined game plan and be mindful of the importance of getting input. Fortunately, it’s not rocket science and doesn’t need to be a cumbersome process.
Here’s What We’ve Learned About Getting Employee Input the Right Way:
1. Get input early in the process
Whenever possible, take the time to get employee input early in the process. This does not need to be a complex process. Online surveying tools make it possible to poll your organization quickly, and with minimal expense. To do this effectively, it’s important to be laser-focused in what you want to learn. It’s more instructive to ask 5 well-thought through questions that allow for optional free-response than 25+ multiple choice questions that confirm existing biases.
2. Mix it up
Some of the best insights can arise when you put people from different departments in the same room for an informal focus group. Again, this doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Order pizza or your company’s food of choice, find a trusted moderator who can facilitate the conversation, and ask them to weigh in on a topic, problem, or situation.
In our experience, this can be the quickest path to finding the root cause of complex problems that impact multiple parts of an organization. It’s important to do this in a way that makes the contributors feel that they can be completely candid, so often we recommend holding these meetings without senior leaders. They can get the detailed findings later, but individual responses remain anonymous.
3. Engage your sales force
When you want to really understand what’s working – and what’s not – get the sales team’s input. They are the direct line to hearing what’s top of mind for your customers – especially in B2B companies. Chances are, your sales team’s one-on-one conversations with customers in the field will be able to provide nuanced insights that a customer survey might miss. Additionally, getting your sales team’s input upfront results in better adoption and ownership when the final sales materials and messaging is rolled out.
4. Go to the front lines
In addition to involving your sales force, don’t forget to talk to your customer support team or the people at the register. Time after time, we’ve discovered that getting feedback and input from the people on the front lines yields insights that would otherwise go unnoticed.
For example, a major insurance provider didn’t understand why customer satisfaction ratings were terrible — until they sat with their customer service reps for a day and learned why customer service reps weren’t able to provide great customer service. They wanted to, but the underlying infrastructure simply wasn’t designed to allow them to. In other examples, baristas have provided direct insights as to why certain items weren’t selling well.
5. Don’t overcomplicate it
Getting this feedback doesn’t need to be complicated. Go sit with a customer service group, hold a focus group, or create an easy way to collect suggestions and feedback electronically. By going right to the source, you’re not only going to get valuable input and data, you’re involving your people in solving the problem.
Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy and design agency.