Businesses need to empower staff to become more customer-centric
Businesses need to empower staff to become more customer-centric
A view from Mhairi McEwan

5 ways businesses can empower staff to become more customer-centric

The way marketers learn, and the breadth of knowledge they need to develop their capabilities and drive growth, is changing fast, writes Brand Learning co-founder...

With global talent a high priority and capability development now at the top of many corporate agendas, there has been significant change in the way in which leaders help marketers and other professionals become more customer-focused to drive sustainable growth. More specifically, there has been a big change in how people learn the skills, attitudes and behaviours needed to deliver customer focus: learning ‘how to learn’ in order to sustain those changes over time.

The scale of learning, for example, is shifting from ‘mass’ to ‘agile’. Organisations therefore need to optimise their organisational design before they create learning programmes, to avoid developing disconnected skills, and the wrong people, unnecessarily. They also need to focus more on ‘spiking’ performance around the big business priorities.

Digital technologies are intensifying the pressure for more fluid, cross-functional ways of working and the need to lift customer-centred capabilities to create better value for customers across functional divides

Meanwhile, digital technologies are intensifying the pressure for more fluid, cross-functional ways of working and the need to lift customer-centred capabilities to create better value for customers across functional divides. Companies are therefore initiating ‘joined-up’ learning programmes, such as the sales/marketing capability schemes recently announced by Diageo, among others.

Learning professionals have also become much more skilled at using elearning technology and understanding its role – alongside face-to-face initiatives – in delivering effective, customer-focused learner journeys.

In light of these trends, it’s worth understanding the factors that are making a genuine difference to the effectiveness of customer-focused capability development programmes:

1 See for yourself

‘A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world,’ warned author John le Carré. Those developing corporate capability development programmes need to personally spend time with ‘their’ customers – and by that I mean the ‘learners’: What are their working days really like? What support do they need to get their jobs done? What are the biggest drivers of and barriers to change?

2 Context is king

Consider the whole cycle of learning, not just the formal part. What could be done to support more effective and efficient ‘on-the-job’ learning, delivered at the moment of need?

3 Don’t cross the lines

Line managers can make or break a capability development programme. Factor in their skill levels and requirements and ensure they are able to coach their teams, explain the changes and foster and ‘role-model’ the right behaviours for the shift in desired attitudes, skills and performance.

4 Learning how to learn

The CEB 2014 Learning Culture Survey reported that only 20% of employees thought that they were effective at learning and only 16% of heads of learning and development reported providing support in this area. Learning is a skill in its own right, and learning ‘how to learn’ should be incorporated into any capability programme.

5 Future fund

Things change – so innovation funds should be put aside to ‘test and learn’ as capability needs emerge during the course of the year.

But it’s not just how organisations can help customer-focused teams to learn. Employees need to be supported and equipped with an emotional connection to understanding the ‘why’ of learning, and able to see tangible benefits for themselves.

In essence, it comes down to a new model (pictured, right).

So don’t just assume that ‘going on a course’ is the right solution in isolation of the day job. Connect the motivation of the learners and the goals of the business in an inspiring learning environment – and you’ll be amazed at the capability development that’s possible.