Front line employees are the key to any organization’s success. I enjoy interactions with those who are open to sharing their experiences. Yesterday at lunch the waitress, Tara, answered my how-long-have-you-worked-here-question with “eight years”. Without any further interrogation I knew that the Pappas Company culture surely valued sustaining working conditions that made wait staff loyalty a priority. I watched her make a tableside Greek salad for a nearby foursome in such a manner, that I was inspired to order the same just to see her enjoy that role all over again.
As I write this, I remember a year ago at an AT&T store how Hailey was so helpful and patient with transferring data from the “old” phone to new … and watched her figure out the solution to my dueling duplicated email account conflicts could be solved. She was so helpful that we changed our home phone line to digital service. I posted last week about another front-line employee, Suzie, at The Container Store. Some organizations are cognizant of the fact that their success is made or broken by those employees who are reflections of the company’s culture and come in contact direct contact with customers.
The flipside of that is sad. Recently, our church conducted a blood drive and I had a little awareness of the collection organization’s leadership and history. I asked my screener how long she had been employed there and she replied “four years”. I then asked her the name of the current CEO, and to my surprise, she struggled to remember but I think came up with a last name that I could not understand, but I didn’t press further. So then I asked her, with some familiarity of their history, “who was the name of the CEO previously … you know, the man who had been there for so many years?”. “Oh”, she said immediately and with emotion, “Bill Teague!” And without prompting, she continued with more enthusiasm “he cared about us!” Halfway into my pint donation, not going anywhere, I waited for more revealing from her heart. “Now”, she continued, “all they care about is the numbers … and the numbers are down.” That’s sad!
Waitresses, retail clerks, blood draw technicians … doesn’t matter the assigned task or job description. The first priority for any organization is to intentionally communicate, from the top, the importance of all work to the fulfillment of their purpose … their core ideology… their vision to make the world better. When people understand their role is significant to a cause … a TRUE North … they are inspired to perform every-day-all-year. It’s that simple: engagement is the outcome of meaningful work.