Inspiring employees to higher performance is a matter of tying management's vision to the reality of employee efforts. One of the best ways to do that is to connect employees with the people who benefit from the work those employees are doing, according to two studies in a paper by Adam M. Grant of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania that appeared in The Academy of Management Journal.
One of the best ways to inspire employees is to bring those employees into contact with end users. For example, Grant points to Bill George, the former CEO of Medtronic, who made it a point to communicate with employees about the difference Medtronic's products make to people's health and well being. The company even goes so far as to send employees out into the field to see medical professionals doing procedures on patients using Medtronic technology. The company also invites patients to the company holiday party so that they can share their stories about the impact Medtronic technologies have had on their lives and health.
Of course, not all companies can create such a dramatic event. However, a bank or a software company can bring employees into contact with customers who can tell those employees why a loan made a difference in their lives or how a software upgrade enhanced their work productivity. "Face-to-face contact with the end-user enables employees to see the tangible, meaningful consequences of their actions for a living, breathing person," says Grant.
Grant highlights two studies that illustrate this phenomenon. One study that surveyed 329 federal employees found that inspiring leadership and beneficiary contact resulted in high employee job performance. The other study focuses on salespeople who are involved in selling educational and marketing software over the phone. The salespeople were divided into four groups for training purposes. However, only one group received training that included time with a colleague from another department who spoke about the important role the revenue these salespeople would be generating plays in supporting the beneficiary's unit. After seven weeks, the group of salespeople with beneficiary exposure generated almost 30% more in sales per shift than the other three groups that did not have direct exposure to someone who benefited from their efforts.
Grant notes that more companies understand the importance of tying employee efforts to end users and, as a result, are building beneficiary contact into jobs that previously involved few if any dealings with the public. He also notes that employees who are not sensitive or responsive to the public when doing their jobs often assume that the products and services they provide have little impact on beneficiaries. However, he emphasizes that leadership can address that and create a closer tie between employee efforts and end user satisfaction by sharing anecdotes and feedback that clearly show how people benefited from the company's products and services.
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