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Practitioner Interview: Hassan Al-Asaad on the Pursuit of Employee Happiness in Running a Successful Organization

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Hassan Khalid Al-Asaad, Strategist and Business Developer at Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority (GCCIA), believes that one of the future major challenges in managing performance is achieving employees’ happiness.

Employee happiness is one of the most important factors in running a successful, profitable company. Happy and engaged employees tend to miss less work, perform better, and support company innovation.

In this interview, he explains the critical role of pursuing the employees’ happiness, how it affects the performance of employees, and why organizations should exert more effort in research and development in attaining the happiness of employees.

Up the Career Ladder or Across It?

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Horizontal progression or lattices started to spread among employees, particularly millennials, years ago. Many individuals are working to progress their career paths horizontally instead of vertically. This raises two important questions: Is it better to move up the ladder or across it? Is it better for the companies to hire those who progress vertically or horizontally? 

Vertical career progression refers to usual career growth within the same field. Being promoted from a marketing executive to a senior marketing specialist, and then to a marketing manager is an example of that progression. As for horizontal career progression, it refers to growing skills in more than one field. For instance, an individual may start working as a marketing executive, and then decide to shift to the sales department to gain more experience in selling products and dealing with customers.

Vertical career progression has always been the common career path in the workplace across the industries. However, change has been going on at a fast pace. All types of organizations (profit, non-profit, public and private) are all experiencing quick changes in various areas. Especially after the pandemic, things have developed massively, and new skills and competencies are arising everyday in the workplace, particularly in companies working on creating innovative and agile environments. 

Benefits of Horizontal and Vertical Career Progression

Both types of career progression are essential and beneficial in the workplace as they will enable managers and leaders to have a wide range of skills within one department. With organizations reducing their boundaries every day due to the changes occurringmanagers, leaders, and recruiters need to look at career progression from a different point of view other than the traditional one. 

Employees going up the ladder will benefit their departments with their long experience and in-depth knowledge in terms of delivering their projects or tasks on time and with high quality. Even when they deal with their clients, they will be able to reflect easily using their long experience in the field. Moreover, they will be able to transfer their experience and knowledge to the younger ones via coaching, feedback sessions, and on-the-job learning.

Due to the wide range of skills, employees moving across the ladder are also vital and  bring a positive impact to their departments. Despite their short experience within one field, they are equipped with a set of skills that will be beneficial to various situations. For instance, an employee who spends some time in the marketing and the sales department will have some experience not only in promoting the company’s products but also in communicating with the customers.

The marketing department can benefit from such employees in enhancing their customer outreach and passing on knowledge to others through tips or advice in communicating with customers. This can be valuable in companies trying to embed agility within their cultures. Most common types of agile environments include scrum and lean. These types of environments require flexibility, continuous problem solving and discovering solutions. As a result, both types of employees will provide lots of ideas and solutions. They will look at problems from different angles. 

How Companies Support Employees’ Career Progression

According to Deloitte, due to today’s flatter organizational structures, businesses have less options for developing their employees and moving their career up the ladder. So, lattice organizations are expanding career tracks to incorporate lateral, diagonal, and planned descents as a strategy to help employees progress. They report that employees become more adaptable through career movements across organizational silos, improving their strategic flexibility.

Incorporating different options of career development will require companies to change the way their job structures, work cultures, and career development plans. However, companies will reap its sweet fruit through having more motivated and productive employees, innovative culture, better performance, as well as more flexibility and adaptability. Moreover, it will help companies face their current challenges such as high turnover rates and employees with limited skills that cannot balance the needs of today’s industry.

In the end, it is believed that even with all these changes undergoing in the world, both career paths are needed within the workplace. Employees get to choose the career path that suits  their priorities and future plans. But at the same time, their choices have to be well planned and thought of because there is a huge difference between growing horizontally in a structured manner and hopping from one job to another. In the same context , companies need to go beyond the traditional linear career path and embrace other ones to be able to come up with the changes going on.

Whether you go up or across the ladder in choosing a career growth, it is important to be competent. Invite your colleagues and join The KPI Institute’s Certified Performance Management Professional course to boost the knowledge and skills on improving performance at all organizational levels. Visit The KPI Institute’s website for more information.

   

Upskilling or Reskilling: Are You Ready for Tomorrow’s Workforce?

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Image Source: Geralt | Pixabay

The future of work requires transformation not just at the organizational level but also at the individual level. Changes in the job market induced by technological innovation contribute to the global skills revolution. 

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), believes that technical positions, such as data analysts/scientists, artificial intelligence specialists, big data specialists, and digital marketing and strategy specialists, will generate demand in the future. 

According to WEF, about 50% of companies expected their full-time workforce to decline by 2020 due to automation. Meanwhile, more than half of all employees may be compelled to reskill and upskill.

Upskilling is defined by the Cambridge lexicon as ‘the process of gaining new skills or teaching workers new skills,” while reskilling is ‘the process of acquiring new abilities in order to perform a different job or of training others to perform a different one.”

How can employees prepare themselves for the revolution? Should they reskill or upskill?

Key Strategies

If the last several years have taught us anything, work flexibility and an openness to change are essential for a successful career. Both reskilling and upskilling can help you future-proof your career and increase your employability. It’s critical to make the right decision, and here are some ways to help you determine your next career path.

Decide on your future career goal: Whether you want to stay in your current industry or move on to something new, it’s critical to be explicit. Decide where you want to go with your career and divide it into manageable chunks of information. With a clear plan, you can easily determine the steps aligned with your end goal.

Recognize your existing skillset: Before you try to better yourself, it’s important to understand your strengths, skills, and potential first. After you’ve written down your qualifications, ask bosses and friends to assist you to grasp your personal and transferable abilities as well as your role-specific ones.

Determine what you need to learn: A little research can go a long way here. Job postings, online career guides, attending industry events, and speaking with companies can all assist you in obtaining the information you need.

Choose a learning approach that works best for you: Online training is one of the finest solutions for reskilling and upskilling. Online courses are extremely adaptable, accommodating a wide range of learning methods and fitting seamlessly into even the busiest schedules. It is perfect if you want to maintain strong job standards while also preparing for the next big move.

The technological improvements of the last five years alone have caused enormous shifts in the types of skills needed today. Furthermore, an unprecedented pandemic has compelled sectors to rethink their approach to skill development.

On the other hand, the pandemic’s isolation protocols have resulted in a major push for remote workers. It appears that the shift is here to stay. Upskilling choices that are simple and accessible must be developed. Learning paths can make a difference in this area because of accessibility, flexibility, and effectiveness.

Businesses must invest in upskilling and reskilling in order to prosper. One approach to ensure this achievement is to use learning pathways. Upskilling has become a cornerstone of today’s business strategy that benefits both the individual and the company. However, it is also an investment to make. As more companies recognize the importance of upskilling and reskilling, now is an excellent moment to look for high-quality training programmes and certifications.

Both upskilling and upskilling are excellent options if you’re considering a career change but don’t want to work for a different organization. 

Top 5 Skills CSRs Should Master in 2022

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In the context of the pandemic, the face of customer service was drastically changed by accelerated digitalization. One recent study developed by McKinsey discovered that customer interaction is now accelerated within 3 to 4 years. What count the most nowadays are customer needs or expectations, influenced by remote working. 

Gartner developed a survey on customer service and 64% of respondents stated that the focus for 2022 is related to the growth of the business and client retention by using two main approaches: firstly, to prioritize people and processes, together with the best use of tech solutions, and secondly, improving the self-service-channel, by SEO optimization and organizational websites. 

If the customer service and customer experience have changed, this means that customer service specialists should develop new skills or refine their skills so they can achieve greater results. In 2022, customer service representatives (CSR) should blend technological skills with data and more specialized talent, which means it is essentials for the companies to invest in training and development. There are five skills that any CSR should focus on mastering and what skills talent management specialists should look for when they are trying to hire new customer service specialists. 

Technical skills

CSR agents are not IT specialists. However, they can influence and offer feedback on the tools they are using because they listen to the customer and know their issues best when they navigate on the company’s websites or chat boxes. 

  • Tip #1: Use WhatsApp like a Pro

    WhatsApp has become one of the most efficient channels to use in customer interaction. Having 2 billion users, following Facebook and YouTube, it has become the third most popular social media channel and the most popular global mobile messenger app.

    The most recent tool, integrated by WhatsApp is Click to chat, which works for both its mobile app and the web browser which allows you to chat with someone without having their phone number saved in your phone’s address book. You only need the phone number of the person you want to chat with and the country code using this link in HTML format: https://wa.me/<number>. Going to that link will open a chat function with the person.

Emotional intelligence

If having tech skills is a need that is making strides, having emotional intelligence is just right behind it. Service agents can hear and feel a customer’s irritation over the phone and can solve issues as quickly as possible. Another great way of using emotional intelligence is social listening

  • Tip #2: The Five-Minute Golden Window and Instant gratification

    Dr. James Oldroyd discovered in 2007 in his Lead Response Management Study, that agents who can answer to the client in less than 5 minutes from the inquiry submission can be 100 times more able to contact the client and 21 minutes to win a sale, than the agents with a later 30 minutes reply rate.

    A KPI which can be measured and can help improve the speed of answer is # Speed of Answer (SA). It measures the average speed of answering a customer’s call by an available agent after the call is being placed in a queue. Other variations are:

    # Average speed to answer a phone call (ASA)

    # Time of answer

    # Average time to answer (ATA)

    #SA is used to indicate the call center operators’ accessibility and rapidness. It can impact the caller’s satisfaction and long-term loyalty.

  • Tip #3: Improve Live Chat Speed of reply

    Millennials use to chat more on Live Chat than baby boomers. They value personal and instant interaction; they want to speak to a real person and are not happy if they wait long to receive a reply. This means CSR should master Live Chat communication skills and improve their #SA.

    A recent study developed by Super Office showed that the average reply to a chat is estimated to be 2 minutes and 40 seconds, with the fastest reply time being 7 seconds while the longest took around 9 minutes. The live chat should include pre-written templates, a personal welcome template, and some FAQs prepared, rather than having manually type out replies. The reply time can vary from each field of interest; as such, each business should benchmark its results with its competitors. 

Communication skills

Customer service means customer interactions, and the clients always seek a human touch when they need help with a product or service purchase.

  • Tip # 4: The mirror technique

    When interacting with a customer, the real success lies in the ability to adapt to the customer’s communication style and expectations, then to mirror and respond adequately. For instance, if the communication is performed on the phone, what matters the most is to promptly answer and solve the issue. It is also important to talk as some customers need this kind of interaction.

    Let’s see other useful tips:

    – Always introduce yourself

    – Feel the customer

    – Personalize the interaction

    – Avoid negative phrases

    – Empathize

    – Avoid customer interruption

    – Communicate clearly and concisely when offering solutions. 

Personalization and micro-moments

The customer is bombarded with content, and the most important fact is to use the right time or moment and to provide a quick solution. Micro-moments basically happen when people reflexively use their devices and search, watch, or discover something. If you can reach them at that time, the chances that they will buy from you are high. 

  • Tip #5: Send Live Chat transcript as a follow-up email

    CSR agents should use their imagination in various aspects of their jobs. They can make customers feel special by having a better understanding and response to their individual needs. CSR agents can send personalized email headers and subject lines, but finding the right time to send a personalized offer that will help the customer to reach his goals is essential. Live Chat transcripts can be also another smart way to reach the customer when following up.

Working remotely with skill and passion

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people work forever, and there is no sign of going back to normal soon.

Working from home is quite more challenging than working from an office. It can require having a dedicated home office, a dedicated phone line or a phone software solution, an updated PC, or a good phone headset, and that’s besides having a good internet connection. 

Apart from that, social isolation, issues with teamwork and collaboration, sedentarism, and finding a balance between life and work are also other challenging aspects.

  • Tip #6: Level up your motivation while working remotely

    Think positively and focus on telecommuting advantages such as working from the comfort of your own home, being closer to your family, and others.

    For some people, dressing for work at home can be a good tip. Others may find that eliminating checking social media channels during work or turning off notifications on their phone might work. Sometimes, a short break outside or taking in some fresh air can be the best remedy.

    Another useful activity to keep you motivated would be to invest in continuous learning and training. This will keep you focused and help you become more productive.

Customer service is now in an era of innovation, being anchored on customer experience. There are also other important skills a CSR agent should have and improve, such as product and industry knowledge, consistency, patience, perseverance, accountability, empathy, critical thinking, problem-solving, and many others. 

A great way to keep pace with 2022 trends is achieving The Certified Customer Service Performance Professional recognition, through which you will be able to manage, monitor, and evaluate your overall Customer Service Performance, and have a direct positive impact on customer loyalty.

Does a Founders’ Age Play a Role in Ensuring Start-up Success?

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Is the age of a founder an important determinant to start-up success? This is a question that a lot of people have sought to answer in recent years. The proliferation of start-ups has brought about a new age of successful billion-dollar companies that 5-10 years prior were not in existence. However, with every new entry into the unicorn league, there are other start-ups that are unable to achieve lift-off, and as a result, fail. Success in the start-up universe is not a given. 

Numerous attempts have been made to unravel the science behind start-up success. These led to various studies that sought to link founders/entrepreneurs’ personalities or traits to start-up success. In recent years, there has been growing interest to examine whether a relationship exists between the age of founders when they first got started and the success of their start-up. 

Studies between age and start-up success

There is a commonly held view that most start-ups are created by founders that are as young as age 35 and below when they first established their start-ups. According to existing research, reasons for this can range from the high risk-taking behavior of many young people to the numerous famous stories about young successful founders such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Peter Thiel are just amongst the examples of those who were quite young when they founded their start-ups. 

These reasons notwithstanding, a review of empirical studies has shown that there is no consensus on the connection between a founder’s age and the success of a start-up. Rather, existing research on the relationship between the age of founders and start-up success revealed findings that pose more questions than provide answers. An early study by Frick (2014), which sampled 35 Venture Capital-backed firms from Wall Street Journal’s Billion Dollar start-up cluster list, found out that the mean age of founders of successful start-ups was 31 years. 

This finding is in contrast with the widely cited study by Azoulay, Jones, Kim, and Miranda (2020) which studied 1,700 fastest-growing start-ups in the USA that were in the top 0.1% in terms of employment growth and found that the average age of founders was higher at 45 years. The authors cited the prior working experience of the founders as being a key reason for why they were successful. A more recent study by Tamaseb (2021) revealed findings that further highlighted the ambiguity in this argument by concluding that, although the average age of founders of successful start-ups was around 34 years, most of them had a minimum of about 10 years of work experience which may have played a role. 

Ultimately, the arguments made in these studies do not point to any consistency towards the existence of a direct relationship between the age of founders and the success of their start-ups. There are other factors to be considered too, such as the work experience of founders, the location of the start-ups, the type of industries targeted by most start-ups in an environment. These factors come into play when these arguments are being made but are not the key determinants of start-up success.

The process towards success

So, the question remains. What determines the success of start-ups? The answers to this question may lie in the concept of entrepreneurial actions. Looking at start-up success through this lens allows us to ask the question “What are successful start-up founders doing so well that others have not been able to emulate?”

A point to be made is the realization that the start-up activity is steeped in uncertainty; like any scientist will tell you, the process of scientific discovery happens after numerous rounds of experimentation, testing, and learning. Start-ups that have been able to achieve success have maintained this ethos of continuous experimentation, testing, and learning. This process ensures that they can properly identify problems that customers deem to be important, provide a solution that addresses such problems, study a market size that makes the solution economically viable, and create a culture that allows them to pivot in the event of poor problem-solution or solution-market fit.

We just may have been looking at the whole thing all wrong from the beginning, and not asking the right question. When looked at broadly, the age or other personality traits of founders when they establish their start-ups is irrelevant and does not determine start-up success. Rather, the focus should shift to finding how to create a blueprint of actions that founders can implement towards improving their chances of success.

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