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When Gathering Information, Any Door is the Right Door

By Claire Howells

While working as an organizational effectiveness and change management practitioner over the last 15 years, I have had the privilege of working with CEOs and leadership teams to influence and participate in implementing various strategies to address and/or manage business challenges. And, I have also had the opportunity to experience those same types of changes from an employee perspective.

In all of these situations, the outcomes have typically fallen along a continuum – many solutions were executed extraordinarily well, some with mediocre success and others required significant remedial work to avoid being complete train wrecks! Yet, in each of these situations, there were employees who exhibited high engagement by repeatedly demonstrating their willingness to expend significant discretionary effort, often with no overt reward (and, conversely, there were those who were not – but we’ll save that for the column on “disengagement”).

A Defining Moment

There is a defining moment in every employee and customer interaction when the experience an employee has on the inside (e.g., their attitudes, beliefs, experiences, expectations, current pressures, knowledge, etc.) carries over to the outside and, subsequently, results in either a positive or negative experience for the customer, depending on each parties’ respective perceptions. The energy derived from the psychological undercurrent of these interactions either draws consumers and employees to a business or not. Plus, subconscious or not, each participant walks away with a future behavioral intent.

Thus, whether by formal or informal methods, analyzing the experience of employees and customers in the context of that moment and recognizing the power of that interaction to shape the identity of an organization is vital to influencing both consumer buying behavior and employee motivation. Moreover, an organization’s ability to improve that interaction is crucial to achieving and maintaining a competitive advantage.

Customer and employee engagement practices strive to measure these interactions and subsequently provide an opportunity for improving them. As organizations develop a greater understanding of this, internal processes are evolved to help improve customer/employee interactions.

Connect, Evaluate, Evolve

These business practices certainly hold true for Zions Bancorporation, a $53-billion bank holding company with approximately 11,700 employees. Zions has been participating in employee engagement practices for more than five years, and in the last 18 months has shifted these activities to a coordinated enterprise-wide approach. In working with Zions to develop and implement the enterprise engagement strategy, I’ve observed several practices that contribute to the success of the company’s engagement efforts.

Zions places great value on business relationships, including those of its customers and employees. Measuring engagement data helps the company listen to customers and employees in a meaningful and consistent way, analyzing and using that information to affect practical changes that will have a genuine impact on the business. Zions’ overarching model for engagement encompasses three foundational processes:

  • Connect. To better understand the overall feeling of customers and employees, Zions employs a philosophy of “any door is the right door” and utilizes engagement surveys, customer response mechanisms, performance reviews, exit surveys, marketing studies and more. It’s all about listening to employees, vendors, customers and shareholders to gain insights and perspective on their current state of engagement.
  • Evaluate. In an effort to make assessments to align changes with other business processes and put resources to best use, Zions analyzes the engagement data and then views this data in context with other business data for a well-developed perspective. Then, the company works to develop an appropriate “action platform” to operationalize changes required by the feedback.
  • Evolve. Zions continues to build its organizational knowledge in the field of engagement and use the information it gathered during the previous two stages to create positive change. By taking thoughtful actions and consistently implementing the changes planned, the company is able to achieve incremental, step-by-step results that have a positive impact on the organization.

Data-Focused Analysis

The processes involved in each of these transactional interactions are as varied as the matrixed, decentralized footprint of Zions itself. But the end result for each group is the same – the firm has an increased quantitative and qualitative knowledge of employee and customer attitudes surrounding the organization.

This data-focused analysis provides Zions with a distinct perspective from which it can look for outliers, establish correlations that it might otherwise not have found with more empirical data and take appropriate, measured actions.

Claire Howells is Vice President, Engagement and HR Communications, for Zions Bancorporation in Salt Lake City, UT.

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