Why The Best Place To Start With Research Is Often At Home

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Recent employee surveys and staff focus groups reveal two key concerns: the need for more effective training and frustration with incentive pay programs. Weaknesses in both areas stem from diverse sources but always lead to inconsistent service delivery.

The bad news is most employees find their training inadequate. The good news is employees want more training, better tools to do their jobs and greater growth opportunities. Most noticeable is the absence of formal training departments, especially in smaller institutions. When training is on-the-job or otherwise informal, a "legacy of misinformation" permeates the organization.

Employees suggest four specific training opportunities: product knowledge that enables effective cross selling of complementary products; etiquette/service, particularly for younger employees; interdepartmental cross training and sales training.

Sales training ties into the second concern expressed by employees: incentive pay. Employees lament both mandates to sell additional products and resent the tease of bonus compensation that accompanies growth goals, especially when requisite skills training is lacking.

In addition to weak training and the difficulty of fostering a sales culture with employees who did not "sign on" as salespeople, incentive programs carry the challenge of perceived inequity in the minds of employees. For example, back-office staff resent incentives offered only to member contact staff. High performers resent lower-performing peers when incentives are strictly team or organization-based. And when incentives are based on individual performance only, the fear is that the same stars will win every month, making the effort futile for others. It follows that a hybrid program with incentives for both individual and team contribution has the greatest opportunity for success.

While research that looks outside the organization to identify growth potential is critical, sometimes the place to start is right at home. Employee research provides valuable performance observations, service enhancement and process improvement ideas and identification of managerial strengths and weaknesses.

Neil Goldman is President of Member Research. He can be reached at (310) 643-5910 or by email at ngold1 aol.com

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