(Post from Andrew Thorp)
A few weeks ago I attended a business seminar run by Hallidays, a Stockport-based accountancy firm. There was a marketing theme and the event provided some great ideas and many useful introductions.
When we arrived there was a nice array of drinks and breakfast goodies, but because I’m off caffeine at the moment I had to ask one of the hosts for a decaf coffee. She duly obliged and we went in for the seminar. Halfway through the morning we had a break and people filed out to the newly refreshed drinks table. I searched for that same lady, to make my usual ‘awkward’ request, but couldn’t see her. Suddenly she appeared, holding my very own personalised coffee – she’d anticipated my need!
I thought this was wonderful and in the latter part of the seminar we had an opportunity to share our thoughts. I told the group what had happened and everyone seemed to agree it was a nice piece of ‘customer service’.
But there’s a deeper significance here I think. Many organisations recognise the importance of case studies to provide some form of evidence that they’re good at something. These usually come in the form of a ‘what we did for a client’ story and that’s fine. But if you only focus on these examples of ’technical’ competence you’re missing out on other things that are happening within the organisation. This is one of the reasons companies often fail to get much buy-in when they put the call out for stories to be submitted by the employees. Many workers aren’t sufficiently ‘client-facing’ and don’t feel connected to this sharp end of the operation.
Where they ARE able to contribute though is by keeping their eye out for SMALL stories like the one described above. It’s these more modest versions which are in abundance (when recognised) but they convey a more personal, human side to an organisation. The coffee lady’s service towards me suggests that a caring, client-focused attitude pervades all levels of the business. It’s a small incident that says much about the wider strategic story the business wants to tell about itself.
Capturing and sharing these small stories (and recognising their significance) helps employees reconnect with the broader purpose and values of an organisation. This lies at the heart of employee engagement and helps drive productivity. It also makes it easier to get stories from the workforce when you ask them!