It is time for the ever-popular mid-year priorities check for CEOs and other top executives. How are you doing? Specifically, what progress have you made in dealing with the top priorities for your firm? At the mid-year point, you should expect to be making measurable progress.
As the year began, the Conference Board released the results of their CEO Challenge, 2014. This survey of CEOs, Chairpersons, and Presidents asked leaders from more than 1,000 companies worldwide to summarize the most pressing challenges they face. The top challenges revealed were:
- How to develop, engage, manage and retain talent.
- Customer retention and relationship building.
- Improving leadership development programs in order to improve management performance.
In light of the consensus about these three top challenges, it is likely that your firm faces some or all three challenges. They noted that the ability of corporate leaders to meet these challenges may be the difference between growth and mere survival in 2014.
Developing Talent Already in Place
The focus of these business leaders clearly slanted toward developing the people already in place – not hiring new people. Nine of the ten human capital efforts cited by respondents focused on current employees. These included:
- Providing training and development
- Increasing employee engagement
- Upgrading talent retention programs
- Building a strong internal talent pipeline
Your firm typically will be developing your existing employees. Efforts to develop existing employees suggest two things: the firm is building for the future, and it has recognized the value of a performance culture. Among steps taken by many firms to meet this first challenge are some of the following:
- Understanding and providing the type of training and development needed by current employees in order to strengthen both the individual and the company.
- Improving the listening skills of managers at all levels of the organization.
- Measuring listening effectiveness by managers.
- Developing and implementing a process for conversations about employee ideas and suggestions to increase productivity, retain employees, compensate employees and help the firm achieve greater success.
- Adapting or modifying compensation and bonus structures to reward and retain valuable employees.
- Discovering what is most important to employees in terms of compensation and re-structuring compensation plans accordingly.
- Creating new programs to recognize and reward the valuable contributions of employees.
- Designing and implementing a process for identifying high potential employees and providing a mentor or coach to help them reach their full potential and promote to appropriate leadership levels to build a talent pipeline.
- Create succession plans and identify successors for key employees.
Customer Retention and Relationship Building
A performance culture and programs to retain and develop current employees are essential to success in meeting the third challenge of customer retention and customer relationship building. Today customers – B2C and B2B – are demanding a higher level relationship with firms from which they will make purchases. The responses of survey participants regarding customer relationships indicate that these leaders are hearing and responding to customer demand. Customer-facing or customer-interacting employees are the living, breathing embodiment of your brand and your corporate culture.
Three messages in particular from customers and prospects have become quite clear via the Internet and social media platforms.
- The first is that customers want a relationship with brands. Customers know they have the power of the purchase decision. They expect to know a good bit about companies and their employees. They expect immediate access to corporate information, as well as to product/service information. Recent estimates suggest that as much as 70 percent of the research and reflection that precedes a purchase decision is made by customers before they have any contact with someone within a company.
- Customers want to know what your company stands for – corporate values, goals and culture. Many of these customers, especially Gen Y (and many Baby Boomers) also want to know what a firm is doing to give back to the community. This information needs to be accessible to customers and prospects.
- Customers know how much data businesses are collecting about them. They expect firms to use the information wisely, to protect their privacy (to some extent), and to understand what they need to know prior to making a purchase. They expect you to know the questions and anticipate them by providing answers online.
- The needs and expectations of B2B customers are not significantly different from B2C customers.
Leadership Attributes to Meet the Challenges
The leaders participating in the CEO Challenge 2014 also identified five leadership attributes they believed necessary for corporate leaders to meet these challenges. They cited:
- Integrity/ethical working
- Leading change
- Managing complexity
- An entrepreneurial mindset
- Ability to retain and develop talent
Developing these leadership attributes is, in fact, the third of the top challenges they identified. The particular challenge of leadership development is that many of these attributes cannot be taught in the same way that other knowledge is conveyed. Indeed, cultivating these attitudes and thinking styles required to embody these attributes is perhaps best “instilled” rather than taught through mentoring, coaching, and experiential learning.
At this point in the year, your firm should be well along the way to meeting these challenges facing most organizations today. Clearly the three top challenges are inter-related. Your firm must have leaders with the requisite attributes to ensure a team of employees that are engaged happy in their work. Your employees’ level of engagement and satisfaction in their jobs will directly correspond to the level of customer engagement and satisfaction.
So, how are you doing at mid-year?
If you find that you need help planning or implementing a response to these challenges we hope you will call upon Trilogy Partners. Our team of experts can help you succeed. Call us today to discuss how we can help your firm overcome these and other challenges to your success.