The Customer Boundary Is Where EVERY Employee Should Start

Paul Hebert Employee Engagement, employee experience, Engagement and Satisfaction, HR, Innovation, Onboarding, Paul Hebert, Performance, Trench HR

A big part of employee engagement is connecting the “why” of the company to the “why” of the individual. The better a company does that, the better the individual will engage and succeed. And, not coincidentally, the better the company will do as well. When you’re connected to the company and its mission, it’s easier to put up with minor (and major) inconveniences. And let’s not fool ourselves. Every company has them. Printers that may not work perfectly, a phone system that cuts out now and then, a lousy Taco Tuesday in the company cafeteria. If I’m engaged with the company at a deeper level, those surface issues fade and become minor nuisances—not deal breakers.

But companies need to really work at getting employees to see and incorporate the company mission and meaning first. THEN help them connect to their internal goals/objectives.

For most of us, finding out about our company’s “why” is a function of on-boarding meetings with members of management and a painful half hour with the aging founder where you listen to stories about “back in my day.”

But for some, it is entirely more glamorous than that.

There are No Small Jobs – Only Small Employees

At Managed by Q you get to clean toilets!

You read that right. And no, it’s not some sorority/fraternity prank gone wild; it is the on-boarding process for the on-demand cleaning company. They call it the “deep clean.” Born of the need for more staffing during a rapid growth phase when they started, executives of all levels chipped in and helped clean clients’ offices. The deep clean brings everyone in the company face-to-face with the business end of the business—the boundary where employee and customer meet.

That is where meaning begins for the company and for the individual.

Managed by Q does a lot of things differently—from paying people above the level their competitors do, to giving employees 5% of the company. They’ve raised over $42 million in investment from Google Ventures and Home Brew and now employ over 500 people. From the FastCompany article:

That is what Linder is discovering now, as he searches the bathroom for a toilet brush. He tells me that he only learned of the deep clean ritual yesterday, and was a bit daunted when he learned today that it could take as long as four hours. Still, he says, he understands why he’s doing it. “It helps me understand what I’m building, who I’m helping, and how,” he says, his voice echoing from inside a stall. “It’s an equalizer at the organization. No one’s special.” Flushes punctuate his musings.

Putting employees at the boundary of customer and company brings it home. But do you even know where or what your customer boundary condition is and has every employee in your organization worked at that boundary?

I know when I started in the incentive and reward industry we would have to work “Travel Staff.” Everyone took turns being one of those people at meetings and events who made sure the top performers on the award trip to Hawaii were treated well and made it to their activities and functions on time. We called them “human signage.” We had to be up at 5:00am and rarely went to bed before midnight and were on our feet all day. It gave each of us an appreciation of how important our work was and how others relied on all the work that goes into the logistics of an award trip. Even the programmers knew why they needed their code to be good.

We worked at the boundary of employee and customer.

I know it made a difference in how I viewed the work I did in designing the programs. If I did my job poorly it might not only affect the person earning the trip but could put my fellow employee—The Travel Staff—in a position to have to be up all night fixing my mistake. It made me more conscious of my role in the machine.

I urge you to make sure EVERY employee works at the boundary of your company and your customers.

After all, that is why you exist.