Engaging Employees and Customers in a Connection Culture
What is a culture of connection and what does it do for the profitability of a company?
In your industry who is eating who for lunch? (yes you’ll understand what I mean if you read through the article.)
Years ago when I had my IT company we received a $1,000,000 RFP. It was a bigger job than we ever had done before. We knew we had a good chance to win it. Everyone in the company worked on parts of it. The accounting department worked on the financials we had to submit with it. Our purchaser got best pricing from our product sources. Our trainers estimated the training costs Our word processing expert figured out how to respond in the format that was required.. I created a document and the verbiage that pulled everything together. We worked on it for a couple of weeks. We were close to deadline and one of our inside sales people offered to call and find out how late the office was open and drive it right to the location and deliver it. Twenty of us really worked together as a team because we had a common purpose, respected each others talents and abilities, and listened to each other’s suggestions. Our company had to meet with a committee and defend it like a doctoral dissertation. One of my salespeople and myself were the key people in that meeting. We had gone over the questions they had sent ahead and we were prepped. We went in and bowled them over with how much we were on the same wave length about how our company’s capabilities matched their needs. We were completing each other’s statements, sensing together when we needed additional clarification, working the committee like a couple of pros. It just flowed and it felt wonderful and exciting.
In this example from my own background I’ve experienced working as part of a team that connects. Each person contributed. No one watched the clock to see if it was 5pm. They were all about getting the project won. Each person was engaged and connected to each other. What are the three elements that come together to form this high level of engagement, enthusiasm and connection?
- Purpose. People feel they are working toward something bigger than themselves. It captures their imagination and their motivation and helps them focus on a target outside themselves.
- Respect. When each person is recognized as special and valuable, each individual feels worthy and unique.
- Contribution. When each person feels his/her opinion is heard, even if there isn’t agreement, they feel a sense of belonging and giving. Listening, contributing, and accepting reinforce our bonds to others.
In the ebook “The Connection Culture: A New Source of Competitive Advantage” By Michael Lee Stallard the author defines a connection culture. He writes: “Unless the people who are part of a business feel a sense of connection—a bond that promotes trust, cooperation and esprit de corps—they will never reach their potential as individuals, nor will the organization.” An organization with a high degree of connection has employees who are more engaged, more productive in their jobs, and less likely to leave the organization for a competitor. Organizations with greater connection also have employees who share more information with their colleagues and, therefore, help decision-makers make better-informed decisions and help innovators innovate. Connection is what transforms a dog-eat-dog environment into a sled dog team that pulls together.
So what is connection anyway? When we interact with people, we generally feel that we connect with some and not with others. Phrases such as “we really connected” and “we just didn’t connect” are common in our daily conversations. Connection describes something intangible we sense in relationships. When connection is present, we feel energy, empathy, affirmation and are more open. When it is absent, we experience neutral or even negative feelings. Although we know what it’s like to feel connected on a personal level, few among us understand the effect connection has on us and on the organizations we work in.”
So if you grow a connection culture in your business, how would it help the bottom line?
- 32% more productivity per person according to some studies
- More employee retention, it cost 2 to 3 times an annual salary for someone new to be recruited, hired, trained and come up to speed
- The level of engagement among employees is directly connected to the level of customer loyalty according to many studies. Loyal customers refer more, sing your praises in word of mouth advertising and social media
- Your customer acquisition costs go down, It costs 5 times as much to get a new customer than to keep an existing one, according to the finding of Frederick Reichheld, Bain & Co,
- A 5% improvement in customer retention translates into a doubling of margins, same source
- If a majority of your customers are predictably loyal, you can buy or staff up in predictable patterns – saving you money in the long run
- Loyal customers buy more and cost less to service
- Loyal customers don’t require heavy discounts, they accept higher prices because they understand the value of the relationship and the product/service
- More fun at work, less stress, less money spent on sick time, late arrivals, etc.
- They innovate more and create new products/service/processes that help move the company forward and gain/maintain market share
- They take initiative and handle more responsibility allowing owners to take worry-free vacations, ‘think days’ for strategic planning, and leadership training, ultimately allowing the company to grow exponentially
We did win that RFP.
If you are not fostering a ‘connection culture’ in your company, and if you don’t think it can be a competitive advantage, then your head is in the sand. Your competitors who do will eat you for lunch.
I’d love to read your comments and experiences on this topic.