Keys to Employee Engagement: 2. Resources

In our last post, we discussed the importance of ensuring employees have a clear understanding of the company’s expectations of them in their jobs.  It sounds simple, but it’s surprising how many companies don’t do this right.

Today, we’re going to talk about another principle that’s at the foundation of employee engagement.

The second question in the Q12 is “Do I have the tools and materials to do my job effectively?”

Toolbox to represent resourcesIt’s hard to imagine a carpenter building a house without lumber or basic tools such as a hammer or saw. To bake a cake, a chef needs flour, eggs and other ingredients as well as mixing bowls and an oven in which to bake the cake.

In a modern work environment, a person such as an accounts receivable clerk would need a computer or terminal to obtain and record credit information. They’d need a desk to sit at, a chair to sit on and maybe a pad of paper to take notes. These are pretty obvious.

As employers, we owe it to our employees to give them full opportunity to perform to their best abilities. If we don’t provide them the tools and materials to do so, we’re severely limiting what they can do.

When the Q12 was developed in 1998, the focus was (we feel) too much on the tangibles – physical tools and physical materials.  We’d prefer the broader term “resources” be used instead – primarily to help employers focus beyond the tangible and consider intangible resources employees might need.

My background is in sales and marketing.  I’ve seen considerable turnover in sales teams during my career – and not just in the companies I’ve worked for.  Often, companies fire sales people because they aren’t generating an expected level of sales.  If a company is struggling financially, the sales team often gets the blame for not bringing in enough business.  Sometimes sales people ARE the root of the problem and should be moved out.  However, I often see that the people who place the blame and do the firing have never worked in the field to understand exactly what challenges the sales people face each day.

If we think about sales people, a number of tangible tools come to mind fairly easily: briefcase, samples, car and cell phone.  To this we could add brochures, fact sheets about products, specifications – pieces that help the sales rep educate the buyer.  And this is often where employers feel their responsibility to outfit the sales team ends.  In most companies that existed prior to 2000, the sales team was the last to be enabled with computer technology.

In our previous post, we referred to ISO 9000 as a source of business processes.  I’ve found very few companies, however, who have a clearly defined sales process – a recipe for sales success – for sales personnel to follow. If company leaders can put themselves in their customers shoes, they can probably develop a sales process that works well for their industry and product type.

When I worked for Plasmatreat, we had a very easy to follow sales process. First we obtained samples from prospects to see if our process could work on them in our development lab.  If that was successful, we could then go on-site to demonstrate the process on our customers’ production lines for a real-life test. On success, the customer had a choice of purchasing one of our machines or they could rent it to ensure the process worked properly over an extended period of time.  Over 90% of the time, customers who rented purchased.

A frequently overlooked example of an intangible resource the sales team really needs is a compelling value proposition that defines why a customer should buy from the company.  Too often, the value is offered in the form of price concessions.

When Marketing puts together sales literature, they have plenty of photos, specifications and details how the product works.  But they leave it up to the sales team to figure out how to quantify the benefits of the product to the customer. While some sales people are pretty good with Excel, most are not proficient in developing ways to show the customer how the product they’re selling adds value to the customer’s business. When Marketing takes on this kind of competitive product comparison, they have the skills to not only do the analysis but also to make the data presentable.

What a sales person needs now is a good corporate website with compelling content to create leads, a CRM to interact with customers and provide technical support after the sale, a laptop to be able to research customers and to maintain contact with the inside staff, and intelligence about the market, customers and competitors.  That’s a long way from a briefcase and samples. Note we haven’t listed brochure among these: sales people now expect the company website to give the customer an overview of the business.

If you short-change your employees on resources, you’re really setting your company up for failure. Without the right resources – tangible and INtangible – your employees just won’t be able to deliver your expectations for quantity, quality and timeliness of their outputs.

These first two questions are what Gallup considers the Base Camp of a successful campaign.  It may require some work, internally, to get processes defined and to consider the intangible resources needed, but doing so will put you way ahead most of your competition who think it’s too much work for them.