Last week, one of the trending articles on HBR.org caught my attention – “The Behaviors that Define A-Players.” The authors surveyed and studied thousands of employees to understand what distinguishes merely “good” from truly “great” individual contributors—identifying nine traits.
So how does a service organization embrace these traits rather than fall into typical traps? Technology can play an enabling role. Below are three of the traits from the article with a simple example of how to amplify each:
Set Stretch Goals. Many service organizations have set the same targets for all employees in a department – the same handle time, customer satisfaction, quality and other goals. Is this motivating? No! What if Agent X handles the most frustrated customers with the most complex issues, while Agent Y gets the simplest contacts? Should they really have the same goals? If you want to inspire your A-Players you should be using technology to set individual-specific goals, and to constantly (daily, weekly) stretch them to improve.
Take Initiative. I believe that employees want to do their best work. To take initiative for self-improvement, they need to know where they stand today (vs. targets and vs. peers). Yet, surprisingly few employees have access to data about their performance. That’s why many of the best organizations to work for are the most transparent—and why we make it easy for our customers’ employees to own their performance. They can see skills that need work or knowledge gaps that must be closed, and then access a library of best practices on their own to brush up.
Work Collaboratively. The study named “willingness to collaborate” as a distinguishing characteristic of great performers. So, how do you foster and reward collaboration? Do it with gamification. Did you think gamification was only about competition? Nope. For example, companies can award points to employees for submitting ideas to the best practice library, or let employees recognize peers with badges for collaborative behavior. Highlight your top performers via a gamification platform, and make it easy for peers to reach out and solicit advice (across time and geographies). Gamification can be a powerful way to build teamwork and inspire more collaboration.
If you wish your service organization had more A-players, focus on differentiating behaviors. Use technology as an enabler to feed these behaviors into your recruiting and training process, and into coaching and rewarding employees. It’s a virtuous cycle that makes it easier to attract and retain top talent.