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How Good Is Your Coffee?

One of my clients has recently been investing heavily in making improvements in both, client and employee experience. For employees, various HR initiatives had been kicked off, including new compensation plans, organizational changes, engagement and volunteering opportunities and better administrative tools. Also, various departments had started implementing new technologies to increase employee productivity and quality of work.

Similarly, a client experience transformation had been kicked off for the same reason as any such project gets started - to make clients happier and improve the overall client relationship. As it commonly happens, a large consulting firm was brought in to review and change client experience. This had added another set of complex initiatives on top of an existing backlog of projects, increasing employee stress levels and anxiety.

Having observed this, I couldn't help but think that most of these projects were a waste of time and money, at least at that moment in time. Why? It's because people looked at all of these projects with a lot of skepticism and many felt - "Oh no, another change!". The problem was that at the core, people did not feel appreciated, felt they were taken for granted and treated as resources, not people. Many wanted to leave, but couldn't, others left at the first opportunity they got. While management recognized this high turnover as a problem, they believed that the initiatives kicked off would address the issue. My advice was - pause most of those projects and look at the basic needs of the people. Until that time, no meaningful change to employee productivity and client experience would be possible.

And what were some of those basic needs and why did people feel so unappreciated? While it was a combination of experiences over time, one in particular kept haunting them daily. Coffee that people drank in their break room was really bad, while senior management enjoyed good quality Keurig coffee in their lounge, a place where regular employees had no access to. This showed the regular folks, doing the day to day work, that they were second class citizens, that they were less important than senior management. They did not trust management's intentions and took most other initiatives negatively as the result. When people creating the value for the company and taking care of clients are not good enough for the same coffee that executives drink, then all client and employee experience efforts will be fruitless, or will have a very moderate impact, at most.

So, before you embark on an expensive transformation, let me ask you - how good is your coffee?

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