Begin at the beginning
Henrietta: Christian and Erik, how did the whole idea of People On Point come about? And why did you decide to work together on this?
Erik: All companies are looking after results and performance. After 20 years spent helping businesses at my previous company Luxury Attitude, I thought that performances were solely depending on the Client Engagement. I forgot that that Client Engagement was totally depending on Employee Engagement. There were really two things that made me want to create People on Point with Christian. The first was the absolute conviction that firms need to increase the level of Engagement of their teams; and the second was that Christian and I complement each other extremely well when it comes to working out how they should do this.
Christian: I originally met Erik when I was CEO of Delvaux more than 15 years ago. Despite its fantastic brand and positioning, the company wasn’t in good shape financially. We made it a goal for our sales team to become the most extraordinary, smart and sympathetic in the luxury world, so we enlisted the help of Erik’s consultancy Luxury Attitude. I was so impressed with his approach: he was extremely efficient, and totally results-driven, and thanks to this Delvaux’s fortunes turned around.
Erik and I have talked a lot about the importance of ‘Customer Engagement’ over the years, and how this concept was not enough on its own. Erik has a great deal of experience and he felt there was something being drastically overlooked, which was the impact of the people within the companies.
Henrietta: Could you elaborate on that a little?
Christian: It’s about fostering ‘Employee Engagement’ which means putting as much effort into fostering a good team dynamic as businesses currently do into impressing their customers. Although companies talk about ‘Employee Engagement’ they don’t see it as much more than a few boxes to tick: productivity, professional development, happiness, etc. Which is good but no guarantee for success. This is about creating a genuinely good balance at every level.
Henrietta: Could you explain a little more about your experience in ‘Customer Engagement’ and how this comes into play for People On Point?
Erik: I think a business’s performance today depends mainly on the Engagement of the front line – the people who are in direct contact with the clients and customers. It’s so important for these people to be engaged, and that’s what I did for 20 years: working for industry, services and retail so that every Employee on the front line would really be 100 per cent involved.
But I also believe that this front line only represents a small part of the total workforce. At Louis Vuitton, 20 per cent of the firm is in contact with the clients, but at Airbus Industry, it’s only 0.001 per cent of the workforce are in contact with the clients. In my opinion 100 per cent of the workers of a company must really have an extremely high level of Engagement to improve the performance of the business. Because whether they’re at the front desk, in the middle office, or in the back office, it’s the level of Engagement that makes them feel, in the morning when they get up, that what they’re going to do that day will create value for their company.
So, to summarise, I believe that while for 20 years I dealt with the Engagement of a small number of the Employees of a business – the ones in contact with the clients – I forgot the great majority of the people. These people are also important – or perhaps even more important – because they’re the ones who design and redesign the service, the work and the products.
Henrietta: As you say, many businesses already have systems in place to improve their Employee Engagement, so what is it you’re doing with People on Point that’s really new?
Christian: I think there are three major points of difference. Firstly, there is the bridge – in our philosophy, approach and technique – between Employee Engagement and Customer Engagement, and in this area there is no one so experienced as Erik. Secondly, there are our Eight Golden Rules. We have identified – and these have been statistically and scientifically proven – eight environments or areas for improvement, and by focusing in depth on these we are able to drive real change. The third aspect is that People On Point offers the only solution that takes the whole supply chain into account. This means that we won’t single out any single department or treat people in isolation – we take a diagnostic approach and we are able to measure the tangible improvements in relation to a set of objectives and business results. Finally, we can also operate on a kind of plug and play basis, and where companies have already been developing some of the items we can just plug in and help direct everything towards the desired business results.
Erik: There is just perhaps one more point to add. When most companies talk about ‘Engagement’ it is usually seen as relating purely to the individual. A lot of firms work on the basis of commitment being ‘top down’ or ‘bottom up’ but we believe that the work we do should lead all the workers individually to increase their own Engagement. That changes things a great deal, because it forces one to think and to act in the value chain, which concerns every team member.
So where many firms work on Engagement in terms of wellbeing in the workplace and quality of life at work, what we do is take the smallest unit, three or five people, and work with this unit to increase the individual Engagement.
Engagement should not be a goal in its own right but a way of improving the business.
Henrietta: What does this mean for businesses looking to start a POP programme? How do you work with clients?
Christian: This is actually another point of difference for People On Point. Where most Employee Engagement programmes are viewed as the responsibility of HR, we go a lot further. We are looking to work directly with CEOs, Boards and executives – this is the way we can be most effective systemically. We want to be integrated within the company budget, to be seen as an investment rather than an overhead. And everything in partnership with the HR executives of course.
Engagement should not be a goal in its own right but a way of improving the business.
Henrietta: Who will be the first adopters of this new school of thought? Because to me the companies who seem to be the most progressive in terms of attracting and retaining talent today are the tech giants, who are seen to be investing a lot in making their offices attractive, in wellbeing initiatives and other perks… I understand that People On Point is about much more than lunchtime yoga and designer interiors, but would you say that these are the companies that are most likely to understand the POP philosophy?
Christian: From the very beginning Erik and I had specific businesses and markets in mind for POP. However, we’ve come to realise that the wonderful thing about this approach is that it’s applicable almost across the board: no matter what the industry or the geographical location, from banks to aviation, digital startups to international publishing companies, retailers and distribution companies. In B2B or B2C. All companies acknowledge the importance of Employee Engagement as a key towards performance and resultats, at least for the upcoming decade.
Erik: I think that the clients who will be most open to our approach are also the ones who have products which have no USP. Banks, insurance companies, telephone companies. All these firms, who have traditional products with little in the way of differentiation, know that unfortunately the only difference is the Engagement of their staff. Further to that, we’re also seeing it’s the businesses who’ve asked their Employees to work very hard on customer experience over recent years, telling them, “be kind, be polite, be totally dedicated to our clients”, and who have workers who are now saying, “it’s time to look after us, it’s time for this attention to be reflected back to us, for some symmetry, I want some kindness, too.” As with a Client, the Employee is expecting that the Promise is well respected. As with a Client, the Employee is looking after experiences. Before entering within a community, the Employee wants to be considered as a unique individual. And finally, as with a Client, there shouldn’t be any gap between the Promise and the Perception. Therefore, one should bridge the Client Promise with the Employee Promise.
Henrietta: People On Point talks about making a difference that is actually tangible. This is surely quite difficult to achieve… Can you tell me a little bit more about the diagnostics side?
Erik: OK. We have two possible types of diagnostic. Both are based on what’s known as ENPS (Employees Net Promoter Score). The first is the question of ENPS: “Would you recommend a friend to work for this company?” And then a range of other questions which make it possible to measure the loyalty and the strengths and weaknesses across the business, all relating to the eight Golden Rules of POP.
The second is an approach with fewer questions, but these are very global, very open questions, and here again they make it possible to produce a precise analysis of the eight Golden Rules. In both cases, what we provide is not a Human Resources survey, but a survey of the eight Golden Rules. Our idea is, knowing exactly where the company stands on each of the Golden Rules, to be able to go ahead and build a specific action plan to strengthen and support certain Golden Rules that one would like to develop.
Henrietta: Great. And how quickly will clients start to see results, do you think?
Christian: Depending on the type of business, we’d normally expect to start seeing results in between six and 18 months. That’s when our first targets and first results need to be reached.
That said, however, it’s important to see this as an ongoing process: we do the diagnosis and analyses, we talk because obviously, the world is changing, the world is moving, so we need to be really partners in crime of this evolution The very first thing we do when we start to work with a client is to establish what the results should be, because these are going to be different in every company. For example, it doesn’t mean only financial improvement, it might be a decrease of turnover of personnel.
Henrietta: Thank you so much Erik and Christian, we’ve run out of time for today but let’s continue this fascinating discussion next time.
Next time: Who is the Employee anyway? How the world of work is changing, and what that means for Employee Engagement.