A new IBM study of more than 1,700 Chief Executive Officers from 64 countries and 18 industries worldwide reveals that CEOs are changing the nature of work by adding a powerful dose of openness, transparency and employee empowerment to the command-and-control ethos that has characterized the modern corporation for more than a century.
The advantages of the fast-moving trend are clear. According to the IBM CEO study, companies that outperform their peers are 30 percent more likely to identify openness – often characterized by a greater use of social media as a key enabler of collaboration and innovation – as a key influence on their organization. Outperformers are embracing new models of working that tap into the collective intelligence of an organization and its networks to devise new ideas and solutions for increased profitability and growth.
To forge closer connections with customers, partners and a new generation of employees in the future, CEOs will shift their focus from using e-mail and the phone as primary communication vehicles to using social networks as a new path for direct engagement. Today, only 16 percent of CEOs are using social business platforms to connect with customers, but that number is poised to spike to 57 percent within the next three to five years. While social media is the least utilized of all customer interaction methods today, it stands to become the number two organizational engagement method within the next five years, a close second to face-to-face interactions.
Coming after decades of top-down control, the shift has substantial ramifications – not just for the CEOs themselves – but for their organizations, managers, and employees, as well as for universities and business schools, and information technology suppliers. IBM’s research finds that technology is viewed as a powerful tool to recast organizational structures. More than half of CEOs (53 percent) are planning to use technology to facilitate greater partnering and collaboration with outside organizations, while 52 percent are shifting their attention to promoting great internal collaboration.
Greater openness is not without risks. Openness increases vulnerability. The Internet – especially through social networks – can provide a worldwide stage to any employee interaction, positive or negative. For organizations to operate effectively in this environment, employees must internalize and embody the organizations values and mission. Thus, organizations must equip employees with a set of guiding principles that they can use to empower everyday decision making. Championing collaborative innovation is not something CEOs are delegating to their HR leaders. According to the study findings, the business executives are interested in leading by example.
By the numbers
CEOs regard interpersonal skills of collaboration (75 percent), communication (67 percent), creativity (61 percent) and flexibility (61 percent) as key drivers of employee success to operate in a more complex, interconnected environment.
To build its next-generation workforce, organizations have to actively recruit and hire employees who excel at working in open, team-based environments. At the same time, leaders must build and support practices to help employees thrive, such as encouraging the development of unconventional teams, promoting experiential learning techniques and empowering the use of high-value employee networks.
The trend toward greater collaboration extends beyond the corporation to external partnering relationships. Partnering is now at an all-time high. In 2008, slightly more than half of the CEOs IBM interviewed planned to partner extensively. Now, more than two-thirds intend to do so.
The IBM study found that a majority (71 percent) of global CEOs regard technology as the number one factor to impact an organization’s future over the next three years – considered to be a bigger change agent than shifting economic and market conditions.
Across all aspects of their organization – from financials to competitors to operations – CEOs are most focused on gaining deeper insights about their customers. Seven out of every ten CEOs are making significant investments in their organizations’ ability to draw meaningful customer insights from available data.
Survey Uncovers Significant Gap in Delivering a Superior Customer Experience
Delivering an exceptional customer experience has proven to be a significant challenge to most organizations, even though they understand the critical impact it has on their businesses. These findings are highlighted in a recent survey jointly fielded by nFusion and Pegasystems Inc.
The survey, titled Designing and Managing Customer Experiences for Improved Brand Performance, found that while 95 percent of organizations questioned said the customer experience was important, only 6 percent considered their organizations best practitioners. Such results highlight a significant disconnect between understanding the impact of customer experience and actually being able to deliver a positive experience. The majority of executives surveyed cited disjointed customer touch-points across channels and customer facing organizations as one of the key factors contributing to an inconsistent and often negative customer experience. As a result of channel and organizational silos, companies are lacking transparency and integration in customer facing initiatives across the organization. Sixty-nine percent of executives surveyed believed that the lack of coordinated customer touch points is resulting in a negative impact on their brand.
The survey also highlighted a strong correlation between companies who successfully deliver great customer experience and the positive impact on their brand reputation. Successful organizations have been able to move beyond generic customer experiences to deliver more personalized, relevant experiences during every customer interaction. Responses cited that such efforts are usually driven top-down from the CEO, with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) best equipped to lead such initiatives.
Why should people who take pride in -- and businesses that depend on -- serving customers embrace self-service? Because, as Micah Solomon, a “new guru of customer service excellence” (Financial Post), states: as an adjunct to great human-provided service, “great self-service offers a way to provide great anticipatory service.” As he shows in his new book, HIGH-TECH, HIGH-TOUCH CUSTOMER SERVICE (AMACOM 2012), great self-service helps suggest choices and behaviors to customers via details volunteered by those very customers. Here are his seven rules for successful self-service:
1. Customers need a choice of channels. When customers call on the phone, they shouldn’t be told to go to your website. “A choice means they choose, and you respect their decision,” Solomon stresses.
2. Self-service needs to have escape hatches. For starters, automated confirmation letters need to prominently feature a reply-to address. And when you end FAQs and similar self-help postings with “Did this answer your question?” contemplate what should happen if the customer’s response is “No.”
3. Usability is a science that needs to be respected. It pays to play by the hard-and-fast rules of what customers can easily process and have come to expect. For example, “O” on a telephone menu should always take you to a human, and the search bar needs to be at the top of a web page—right where the customer expects it. “Reinventing the wheel as far as usability is self-defeating,” Solomon guarantees.
4. Customers need to be able to shift lanes. Whether a customer enters through your website, a phone line, or an email, the experience of connecting with your company should be cohesive. Customers shouldn’t have to start from scratch if they’ve already shared information with your company in another channel.
5. Self-service has to be monitored and reviewed regularly. “Modern self-service can’t be set and then forgotten,” Solomon emphasizes. “It’s an endless work in progress.”
6. Your staff needs to have used—recently—your self-service channels. “Otherwise,” warns Solomon, “they won’t ever recommend, understand the issues with, or be able to converse intelligently with a customer about using them.”
7. Ugly upsells through self-service are a brand killer. Amazon.com handles upselling in a gently suggestive way, with a “frequently bought with” message. “Harder sells are especially hazardous in self-service, as there’s no human tone of voice,” Solomon asserts. He strongly suggests trying to soften a direct upsell with tongue-in-cheek humor.
Adapted from HIGH-TECH, HIGH-TOUCH CUSTOMER SERVICE: Inspire Timeless Loyalty in the Demanding New World of Social Commerce by Micah Solomon (AMACOM 2012).
Over 80 percent of IT managers think that enterprises with a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy hold a competitive advantage over other organizations, according to research commissioned by BT.
The research, which surveyed attitudes towards employees' use of their own laptops, tablets and smartphones for work, covered 2,000 IT users and IT managers in 11 countries and from a range of sectors. It suggests that BYOD has arrived -- over four in five companies say they already allow BYOD or will do so within the next 24 months and sixty per cent of employees claim they are already allowed to connect personally-owned devices to the corporate network.
The study reveals that both employees and decision makers are positive about the opportunities presented by the growing use of personal devices on corporate networks. Sixty-four percent of IT managers think that having a BYOD policy will enable employees to be more productive. Forty-eight percent think it will also allow employees to work more flexibly and 47 percent think it will enable employees to serve customers better. This sentiment is shared by employees -- 42 percent of employees using their own device for work believe that they are more efficient and productive as a result.
Despite these benefits IT managers are nervous. Only one in ten think that all BYOD users recognize the risks and less than one in five believe all users understand the access/permissions related to their mobile devices. And it appears IT managers are nervous with some justification. Of employees who use their own device for work, one in three see "no risk" in using their own device in a work context and just a quarter recognize the significant risk they pose to company security.
Thirty-nine percent of enterprises have experienced a security breach due to employees bringing in unauthorized devices -- most commonly in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and pharmaceuticals sectors. More than four out of five (83 percent) of IT decision makers believe that putting 24/7 access to corporate systems into the hands of an increasingly mobile workforce is now the main threat to corporate IT security.
Mid-Market Executives Focus on Moving Forward During Uncertain Economic Recovery
In the wake of a slower, less predictable economic recovery, mid-market executives are adapting to managing uncertainty, according to Deloitte’s “Mid-Market Perspectives: 2012 Report on America’s Economic Engine.” The annual survey of 528 U.S. executives indicates that 86 percent of respondents believe that continued uncertainty is tempering their expectations for economic growth. To prepare for continuing, uneven market conditions, mid-market executives are taking careful actions in three key areas in 2012; talent, finance and technology.
In last year's survey, respondents were overly optimistic about hiring plans. This year, executives are investing in their people and moderating plans to hire new employees:
The percentage of executives planning to expand their domestic workforce dropped to 42 percent from 48 percent in 2011.
Despite high unemployment, every executive interviewed acknowledged that it is difficult to find certain categories of skilled talent especially in engineering, healthcare, and IT.
More companies (51 percent) plan to invest in their existing workforce through training compared to last year (34 percent). Additionally, fewer firms plan to increase the number of part-time workers (only 13 percent compared with 18 percent in 2011).
Mid-market companies remain focused on balance sheet health and improving their cash positions while continuing to invest.
Thirty-five percent of respondents are predicting higher cash balances.
Ninety percent expect capital investment to grow or at least remain stable.
Twenty-seven percent are not planning to secure external financing this year, compared to 14 percent last year.
Interestingly, only 7 percent of privately held mid-market companies would consider going public in the next year.
Last year's survey showed that mid-market executives understand the importance of technology to their business. This year, respondents re-affirmed that technology continues to be vital to increasing productivity.
Business process automation remains the top investment pick to increase productivity for 46 percent (down from 52 percent last year).
Forty percent– up from 29 percent last year – recognize cloud computing and Software as a Service (Saas) as one of the top three technology investments for 2012.