Employee engagement, innovation and a free top-up from my bike-sharing service provider.
Innovation helps us to update our models and stay relevant. Values define who we are and are critical to our value proposition. Together innovation and values represent a powerful combination to attract customers and talent.
There is a strong appetite for purpose in our world. Most of us want to do business with companies that do what they say, make a positive impact to society, bring hope and positivity to our lives, are clear and transparent about what they do and why they do it, apologise and correct things when they realise something is wrong, way before the PR crisis grows out of proportion. We want to connect with companies that help us to feel human.
Our employees, partners, freelances, or potential employees happen to be human as well. They also crave for authenticity, goodwill and purpose. When they find it at work, they feel the connection and engage. When they engage, they thrive, make every effort to learn, go for it with their hearts. You feel it, they feel it, your customers feel it. Incredible work feels effortless. Great things happen.
Last week, my motorbike sharing provider here in Barcelona sent me an email. (moped or scooter depending on where you are from) Users have suffered from some errors trying to open and close the case at the back of the bike where helmets are stored. This issue not only created delays trying to start and end a journey, but it would potentially cost customers money since the meter keeps running until the bike is properly parked and helmets are inside the case. If you cannot open the case, you cannot start, or end your journey. You get the picture.
The email informed me about a workaround to resolve the issue. It also credited me and all customers with some euros for the inconvenience. It is important to say, I had NOT experienced this issue myself. I was not even aware of it. They could have avoided telling me about the issue, and they certainly could have saved the top-up. They decided to be open and generous about it and turned a nasty situation into a positive one.
I cannot comment on how they handled the situation with those users affected by the issue. What I can tell you is the impact their decision and their email had on me. Humans as we are, we know people and organisations make mistakes. Their reaction created a positive emotion and brought me closer to their brand.
Being an electrical bike provider, they have a positive story to tell about environmental impact and clean air. That is a given. Being open and generous about an issue like this, it is a choice. The way you react to your mistakes says a lot about you and your values. Acknowledging, fixing and compensating customers for a mistake is a powerful PR exercise. It is a moment of truth, one where we can see values in action.
A profit optimisation mentality could make people think there is no point in granting some hundreds of thousands of Euros for something many users do not know. Legally, the company did not have to do it. What a mistake, or wasted opportunity this would have been. Many organisations spend this sort of money every day in online marketing activities with a much more limited impact. This proactive gesture was more powerful because it felt genuine and was emotional. If I were an employee of that company, it would have also made me feel good.
There is a strong demand for coherence. Many employees and partners have emotional scars. Many have experienced beautiful words and ugly actions at work. They want to believe it is possible to care and to grow. Emotional connection to the company we work for is a strong motivator, sometimes even stronger than compensation and flexibility.
When it comes to innovation and employee engagement, there is a worrying abundance of theatre. Organisations talk a lot about both topics but often forget to live up to the expectations they set.
In the 90s and 2000s, we used to blame it on the ERP. Who does not remember the infamous ´computer says no´ moments? A justification for not doing anything beyond what our preferred processes dictated. Nowadays, we are replacing it with ´the algorithm says so´ excuse as a way to justify decisions that would make our values jump out of the window.
There is no such thing as ERP or algorithms tyrannies that makes us hopeless. We cannot outsource moral responsibilities to machines. The decision is always ours. We cannot hang banners in the walls about values, agility and innovation and act differently. Employees, partners and customers are watching. They had enough of company theatre, and they are tired of reading in the news about organisations using and abusing our data, overcharging or ignoring their customers.
Purpose drives engagement. Innovation requires involving people. Both present an opportunity to obtain loyalty, respect and admiration. It is a solid model for growth. It is the way to be relevant.