By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
The founder looked the crowd. They were waiting. The audience had assembled almost an hour early in the auditorium to attend the day-long session. They wanted to get the best seats. It was a free event being held for amateur photographers. The first session was to start at 10 a.m. Joshua Karthik, the founder and organiser of the conference, noticed this just as several other employees had.
Quickly, Joshua invited a speaker and asked him to answer any questions the audience might have. His decision was greeted with wild applause. The participants felt delighted to get a bonus session and to not have been kept waiting long. It is interesting that this move had not occurred to any of the 30-odd employees. The founder treated the audience as customers who needed to get value for their time.
Joshua demonstrated a perfect example of what is described as the “founder’s mentality”. They are customer-obsessed.
The founder’s mentality
What slows down a once fast-growing company? In the book The Founder’s Mentality two consultants from management consultancy Bain explored this question. Their answer: Growth creates complexity and that eventually slows down the corporation. It is inevitable. To regain growth, every employee needs to build a founder’s mentality. Can tech help?
There are enough startups and established players working on HR tech solutions to re-imagine the employee experience. Putting all the applications on the cloud makes it easy for employees to use their phones to interact with the organisation.
To build agility into the organisation, the decision-makers have to find ways of connecting with the employees – especially those on the front line. The front-line employees can pick up weak signals from the field and feed it to the leaders.
Use tech to make organisation agile
Organisations need to invest deeply in digital technology that can simplify and hyper-personalise the offerings. Making the leaders accessible through technology can bring agility into the organisation. Organisations can use technology to anticipate customer trends.
Starbucks uses Workplace by Facebook to connect partners across regions, levels, between field and headquarters. The technology allows mobile engagement from employees who do not sit at a desk all day. The front line of any organisation has the most insight into consumer tastes. The company’s famous Tweet-a-Coffee Twitter campaign, for instance, generated $180,000 in direct sales in less than a month.
Mother tongue matters
ZingHR is a mobile-first, cloud-based human capital management company. It uses natural language processing to enable employees to fill forms using voice and get their queries answered. The technology allows employees to use one of the many Indian languages.
This works especially well for organisations that have front-line employees in different locations. Enabling interaction in their mother tongue is very empowering for a front-line employee not fluent in English.
They can share ideas or concerns from the customers in real time. I tried out the features and was quite impressed with its accuracy. Filling forms by speaking into the mobile is one of the most powerful differentiators of HR Tech – being able to use voice as a way of engaging with the employer. From interviews to onboarding, from expense claims to helpdesk, ZingHR has leveraged technology to make HR truly mobile-first.
The language of feelings
Southwest Airlines encourages its employees and customers to share their stories. Most employees share moments from their life on Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram. These have become the language in which emotions and human bonds are expressed.
The CEO of a major Fortune 100 company in India uses WhatsApp to connect directly to employees. The result is the feeling of empowerment. Every employee knows that their views and suggestions can reach the CEO directly.
The leaders need to leverage the new media to be able to engage customers and employees alike. Used imaginatively, social media can erase the divide between employees and customers.
In the next three years 50 per cent of the workforce will be millennials. These people did not grow up with e-mail. They grew up with WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger, Google Hangouts, and such. For a generation raised on emojis it is only a matter of time before business leaders have to blur the lines between business and personal communication styles.
“Freight-booking startups Convoy, Transfix and others are matching independent truck drivers to available loads through an app that the driver uses on his or her own smartphone. Freight-services startup Flexport Inc even designed a cargo-handling system based on emojis.” Leaders across generations have had to learn how to communicate the medium in which emotions are expressed. The rise of new platforms has made this a new skill leaders have to learn.
Blurring the divide
When Airtel launched its Payments Bank, it encouraged each store employee to see a training video on his or her mobile. The employees were encouraged to post videos of themselves pitching the Payments Bank solution. Ginger Hotels has brought all its employees on to a common platform. Being able to communicate using Facebook has made the organisation more agile. The time taken to capture customer feedback has come down by 70 per cent.
Being able to blur the dividing lines between employees inside the organisation means not just investing in technology. More than anything, it means being able to change the culture of the organisation. It means empowering the employees to speak in their own mother tongue and across the hierarchical divides. It means being able to leverage the front line to translate the customer’s voice to innovate. And it is leaders – more than the front line – that need to adopt the cultural tenets of the digital world.