Archive for June 2013

Only a third of US workers engaged in their jobs: Tips for Support Managers

June 18, 2013

I was enjoying a pot of English Breakfast tea and working my way through this morning’s newspaper when I found an article that made my blood run cold. According to an article by Ricardo Lopez in the Los Angeles Times, a Gallup poll of 100 million Americans holding full time jobs conducted 2010-2012 found that the majority of workers are not engaged…in fact a surprising percentage hate going to work. Here are the numbers:

Gallup poll of 100 million US workers

  • Only 30% of workers are “actively engaged,” i.e., “were engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.”
  • 50% are “not engaged,” meaning they are just going through the motions at work and are “checked out.”
  • A shocking 30% of workers are “actively disengaged,” i.e, employees who hate going to work, and undermine their companies with their attitude.

As a manager I’ve felt this shift happening, but didn’t realize the numbers were so bad. The days of “lifetime employment”  I experienced early in my career–in which I knew I had a job as long as I worked hard and performed well–have vanished, and job security no longer exists, with companies cutting valuable, long-time employees when one quarter’s financials don’t look good. Companies that treat workers like commodities are now reaping what they sow.

I also think generational differences contribute. Older workers whose parents survived the depression were raised with sometimes severe work ethics, eager to work long hours for job security and hopefully to get promoted a few times along the way. Let’s just say today’s 18 year olds have a different attitude about work/life balance, willingness to work long hours, and willingness to put in years of effort in order to be rewarded.

In my book, Lessons Unlearned, I talk about the importance of loving your employees, and how to work with people who have bad attitudes to help them understand, and be empathetic,  to the plight of the customer.  I realize none of this may be revolutionary, but here are some hints for service management on how to turn around bad attitudes in the workplace.

  • Catch ’em doing something right. Today’s managers are usually so overworked they rarely have time to do more than react. I’ve fallen into this trap myself a few times, becoming so busy I let my employees fend for themselves, and only step in when someone messes up. This isn’t good, and sends the message that you are only there to complain and punish. It is critical that you actively look for things employees are doing right, and praise them for it. Positive reinforcement costs nothing and is hugely motivating. If you give frequent, sincere compliments to someone who is actively disengaged, you can really start turning their attitude around.
  • Ongoing coaching. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life, and front line customer service is hard. Even the best employee in the world may have a bad day, and spending the day listening to customer problems–and having customers often taking their frustration out on you–can put anyone in a bad mood. I had a part time job once working at the Atlanta Symphony box office ticket line, and I started using the name Hector because when I told someone the front row seats they wanted weren’t available, it was easier to hear, “Hector, you are a worthless piece of ##$$%!!!” 5o times a day than, “John, you are a worthless piece of ##$$%!!!” (And  yes, my boss knew about my pseudonym in case someone complained about or complimented Hector.)
  • Role play. I’m a big believer in role play, in which you play the angry customers and put your employees through a training scenario. If you can adequately train workers to handle difficult customers, they are able to see past the emotional outburst, and move the interaction forward. I also talk in the book about ways to relieve the stress of angry customers. My favorite is “Magic Slate Therapy” on page 18–check it out!
  • Open, honest assessments. I write about how much trouble managers get into when they sugar coat the truth, not giving an honest assessment–particularly to volatile people–usually to avoid conflict, which never gives them an opportunity to learn, grow and change. These days, I think almost the opposite is happening. I’m so sick of policies like “everyone is a 3” and “to us, a 3 rating is good!” which sends me one message: stop over achieving because no one cares. If your policy is “everyone is a 3,” I guarantee you have even higher rates of actively disengaged workers than the Gallup poll suggests.

Are you feeling this shift happening? What are you doing in your company to hire motivated workers, and identify disengaged workers so you can turn them around?  Love to hear some insights from the field. And as always, thanks for reading!

 

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Gamification At Work: New Book Provides Rich Examples for Enterprise Apps

June 12, 2013

I did not jump on the gamification bandwagon early. I’ve attended a lot of webcasts and conference presentations on the topic, and I kept hearing the same unconvincing stories over and over, with no great examples of how this applies to the world of enterprise applications. Too many vendors have added a “Like” button somewhere in an application and call it gamification. I’ve seen people talk about revolutionary gamification strategies to drive worker productivity, but it was the same old incentives for extra effort we’ve used for decades. I had started to think that gamification was like the infamous emperor–maybe not completely naked, but at the least scantily clad.

I’m happy to say there is a new book about to be published that finally convinced me the gamification movement is real, it is revolutionary, and it definitely has a place in enterprise software and service operations. The book,”Gamification At Work,” was co-authored by two prominent design professionals, Janaki Kumar, Head of Strategic Design Services at SAP and Mario Herger, a Senior Innovation Strategist at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, California. With a real background in enterprise software, Janaki and Mario provide a deep dive into gamification examples for software, productivity and even support communities (using actual examples from the SAP customer community). “Gamification At Work” will be published later this month, but the publishers have provided a link to access an online version of the book, just for “Ragsdale’s Eye On Service” readers, so please click through and check it out: http://www.interaction-design.org/books/gamification_at_work.html?p=c782

I knew I was onto something when on the very first page, I found this: “[The authors] caution against taking a ‘chocolate covered broccoli’ approach of simply adding points and badges to business applications and calling them gamified.” This has been my exact complaint, so I knew these guys had figured it out.

The previous presentations I’ve seen on gamification give gaming examples and say, “Think how we could use that in corporate America!!!” But they don’t give examples. This book gives examples. Not only does it provide a look at the psychology of gaming, and walks you through the typical push backs on the topic and why they aren’t valid (things like it only works for kids, or women won’t use it), but it also details gamification elements, gives the root of the idea from the gaming world, then shows how it can be leveraged in enterprise apps or corporate processes. My favorite part of the book is Chapter 6, describing various gamification elements, and not just points and badges, but interesting concepts like Scaffolding, Narrative and Emotion.

This book is must read for enterprise application designers, and the examples about online communities and worker productivity make interesting reading for service management as well. Please take advantage of the free online version while available, or order now from Amazon!

Thanks to Janaki Kumar and Mario Herger for sending me an advance copy, and to Lee Traupel of the Interaction Design Foundation for extending the free online version to my blog readers. And as always, thank you for reading!

93% of Service Organizations have a KM initiative in progress: Separating “Big K” and “Little k” KM

June 7, 2013

In the last few weeks something has become very clear to me: I needed a new vocabulary for knowledge management. As I blogged previously, I noticed at our recent Technology Services World conference that the questions around KM seemed to be shifting. I’ve thought more about this, especially in light of a 2 part webcast series we are doing on knowledge management–both webcasts from very different angles. In the first webcast yesterday, we asked a poll question to see how many audience members were in the middle of a KM project, and the results surprised me:

Are you working on a knowledge management initiative currently?

A full 92.7% of the audience said yes. Actually, the follow on poll question, a bit tongue in cheek I admit, asked, “Are you ALWAYS working on a knowledge management initiative?” and 65% of the audience said “Yes, it sure seems like it.” So I went back and reviewed the KM inquiries I’ve received over the past few months, and they seem to logically break down into 2 categories, which I’m calling “Big K KM” and Little k KM.” Here’s what that means:

  • Little k: By little I certainly don’t mean less important or strategic, so let’s get that out of the way up front. Little k knowledge management is the tools and processes around capturing tacit knowledge, as defined by knowledge centered support (KCS). This is how support organizations (and increasingly field service and professional services) are capturing new knowledge gleaned through solving customer problems and sharing them with employees and customers. This has traditionally been the “hot” area of KM with TSIA members, with companies looking for best practices on getting support techs to contribute, how to incent workers to participate, publishing processes, and tools to easily capture the content and make it easy to find later. This is the focus of an upcoming webcast with RightAnswers.
  • Big K: Separate from capturing tacit knowledge is the whole concept of how to easily index and search your explicit knowledge: all the product manuals, release notes, test plans, development notes, case histories, community and social content, etc.  In the past I referred to this part of KM as content management, but I n0 longer think that is accurate, and here’s why: the goal of content management projects from IT is typically to establish a data warehouse where all corporate IP is stored. The problem is, these data warehouses come with basic full text search capabilities, so if you know what you are looking for (project plan for release 3.2.1 in July, 2009) it works great. That is content management. However, if you are trying to mine that data warehouse to solve a customer problem (Error 204 during the create process) you need a concept-based search engine to research content as you don’t necessarily know what you are looking for.

The technology side of Big K KM is about intelligent/faceted search technology that does 4 things: 1) indexes the content to supplement the basic or nonexistent indexing in the data warehouse, 2) add additional layers of meta data around each piece of content to allow concept based searches,  3) automatically prompt the employee/customer with contextual data, eliminating the need to search, rephrase, search, rephrase, search, etc., and 4) provide the user with ‘facets’ so they can drill down into the data based on filters like data, content source, author, related product or release, etc. This was the topic of yesterday’s webcast with Coveo.

The third poll question in yesterday’s webcast asked: “Do you believe your organization is getting the most from all of its knowledge assets, across systems, the web and social media?” Not surprisingly, 87% of the audience said, “Not even close to all of it.” Technology service organizations are increasingly understanding that while they must continue to focus on knowledge fundamentals (Little k), they also need a separate but equal focus on mining the rest of corporate content (Big K). I used to lump all of this together into one big KM category, but no more. The companies I see being highly successful at KM–with reduced talk times, resolve times and higher first contact resolution to prove it–are tackling both Big K and Little k. And moving forward, that is going to be my recommendation for members.

What do you think? Which do you see as the biggest challenge, successful Big K or Little k? Are you tackling these challenges as one big problem, or as separate issues? Feel free to add a comment and let me know your thoughts. And as always, thanks for reading!