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Increasing Productivity

Zappo’s Customer Service Excellence Comes Down To Company Culture

What’s Zappo’s secret to success? According to the company’s CEO, Tony Hsieh, the difference is customer service, which all comes down to company culture.

GG van Rooyen

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“After a late night of barhopping, I bet a Skechers rep that if he called the Zappos hotline, the employee who answered would be able to locate the nearest late-night pizza delivery in our area. The call centre employee returned two minutes later with a list of the five closest late-night pizza restaurants.”

Since its launch in 1999 Zappos has not only grown into one of the world’s largest online shoe stores, but it was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for an all-stock deal worth about $1,2 billion.

Related: Don’t Let Expansion Ruin A Great Company Culture

Hsieh had no way of knowing who would answer the call — he just had faith in the culture his company embraces.

Culture begins at the top of an organisation, but is lived throughout the business. If you want employees to go above and beyond, give them the inspiration and latitude to do just that.

Ask yourself

  • Does your style of leadership encourage employees to go that extra mile for every customer who walks through the door (or picks up the phone)?
  • Does your company embrace a culture of servant leadership, where its leaders serve its employees so that they can better serve your customers?

Read next: 5 Inexpensive Ways to Create a Company Culture Like Google’s

GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.

Increasing Productivity

How Training Your Employees Will Prepare Them For The Future

Below are just some of the ways in which training your employees will help to prepare them for the future.

Amy Galbraith

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Employee training is an important part of any growing business. Your staff are the backbone of your business and so should have their skills improved whenever possible. By investing in training courses for your employees, you will be preparing them for the future and helping your company keep ahead of the competition.

In order to be prepared for any future trends, you should invest in training courses for companies that focus both on your industry and on more general skills. Not convinced? Below are just some of the ways in which training your employees will help to prepare them for the future.

They will stay on top of evolving skills

In today’s technological and digitally focused world, the skills we are used to are continuously evolving. This might mean that your administrative assistant will need to be able to use chatbot technology in order to deal with client queries or that your marketing team will need to learn about a new Google algorithm as it comes out.

Having a team that is up-to-date on all the latest skills and trends is one of the major benefits of training courses for companies. It prepares them for the future by allowing them to stay on top of evolving skills that they need for working in a fast-paced environment. Their knowledge and abilities will improve, making it easier for them to adapt to any new changes that occur in technology and their skillsets.

Related: What To Include In Your Induction Training

They will be able to use the latest technology

This goes hand-in-hand with staying on top of evolving skills. Being able to use the latest technology is vital to your business’ success, and sending your staff on training courses for companies which operate in the technological world will help with this.

Imagine if you had a personal assistant who was unable to answer emails because they did not know how to access them? Or if you had a content marketing team who did not know how to resize images in Photoshop for a new campaign? This would cost you both time and money, making it difficult to keep your business operating smoothly. But sending your employees on training courses will teach them the basics of technology so they can stay abreast of new developments.

The entire team will build their knowledge

Sending your staff on a training course will help the entire team to improve and increase their knowledge. And this will help with productivity, collaboration and efficiency, all of which are expected by consumers in a world that is becoming increasingly fast-paced.

You will also be allowing those staff members with different levels of understanding of a topic to increase their knowledge on the topic. This will bring the whole team to the same level and allow everyone to have opinions and offer suggestions on issues. By having everyone on the same level, you will be creating employees who can share knowledge and collaborate on projects, finishing on time, within the budget and exceeding customer expectations.

They can prepare for redefined roles

Technology brings with it new and redefined roles for your employees to adapt to. And with new skills becoming difficult to find, smart business owners will send their staff on training courses for companies so they can learn new skills and be prepared for redefined roles.

In some cases, it might mean that your staff have to learn new automation programs that deal with workflow. This will change their role significantly as they will be working hand-in-hand (so to speak) with new software. Your employees will have to be able to adapt to and deal with a change in their role without any issues.

You might even have to assign them new roles if technology continues to advance, such as bookkeepers becoming data analysts once their roles have been automated.

Related: The Importance Of Training In A Small Business

You can address weakness in abilities

Preparing for the future means that you will need to look at your employees’ current performance levels. One effective way to do this is to take part in training courses for companies. This will allow you to see what weaknesses your employees might have and address and rectify them.

You can prepare them for the future by working on their present. Training courses will show them what areas they might need to improve on and work towards bettering their skills. Not only will this help to build their futures in your company, but you will also be helping your company have an edge over the competition. Well-informed and well-trained employees are ideal for building business success.

Sending your employees for training courses not only helps to improve your business but can build up their futures immensely. It will also help your employees to prepare for the future and allow them to easily adapt to any new roles, technology and trends. Their skills will improve and they will be able to stay up-to-date with everything that is happening in your industry.

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Increasing Productivity

Take Responsibility For Your Company’s Culture To Boost Productivity

A healthy culture isn’t a nice-to-have but a must-have.

John Rampton

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Whether you’re running an early-stage startup or a fast-growing company, every organisation has a culture. And it can determine whether your business succeeds or fails.

Your company’s culture comprises the actual work environment for your team and the standards everyone is held to. It also dictates how colleagues interact and communicate and the values and beliefs of your team. In fact, one survey shows that 86 percent of employees believe their company’s culture influences how productive they are.

No wonder Arianna Huffington has described corporate culture as “a company’s immune system.”

“Ultimately,” she says, “your health depends on your immune system.” Here are four ways a healthy company culture boosts morale and productivity.

It makes employees happy

A study conducted by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12 percent spike in productivity, while unhappy workers were 10 percent less productive. As the research team states, “We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”

If you have employees who dread coming into work and are spending more time looking at the clock than working, how productive do you really think they are? What’s more, happier employees tend to work better with others, solve problems instead of complain about them and make fewer mistakes. They also have more energy and motivation, which helps them learn faster and make better decisions.

Related: Wasted Employee Time Adds Up: Here’s How To Fix It

It promotes collaboration and stronger relationships

A healthy and positive company culture encourages your teammates to get to know one another. That friendly chatter eventually leads people to feel comfortable enough to share advice, opinions and ideas.

When there’s a large project looming, your team members will be able to work together faster and more efficiently because they know how to communicate. More importantly, this leads to your team building friendships – which has been found to increase productivity and engagement.

“People are more creative and productive when they experience more positive inner work life, including more positive emotions, stronger motivation toward the work itself and more positive perceptions of the organisation,” says Harvard Business School Professor Teresa Amabile, who co-authored “The Progress Principle.”

It inspires creativity

Let’s say that an employee or colleague comes to you with a suggestion. If you immediately dismiss her idea, do you think she’ll come to you the next time she has an “aha” moment?

Healthy company cultures encourage people to be creative through brainstorming sessions and new responsibilities. This not only gives them a chance to be heard, but it also helps them look for unique ways to solve problems.

It influences individual mindsets

Company culture also affects how each team member views his or her individual performance. It shouldn’t comes as a surprise, then, that healthy cultures foster more high-performing team members. Aaron Schmookler, leadership coach and co-founder of TheYesWorks, a training and team-building organization, calls this positive peer pressure.

“Why do aspiring Olympians train with other aspiring Olympians?” he asks. “In part, they want the high-performance drive to rub off on them if they don’t have as much of it as they wish.”

According to Schmookler, even when someone already has a high-performance mindset, she’ll want to keep it and deepen it so she can keep pushing forward. Being surrounded by others pushing for greatness makes the hard work feel easy.

Schmookler also says the opposite is true.

“We’ve all heard of workplaces where a new person comes into a low-performance culture and people tell them, ‘slow down.’ ‘You’re making us look bad.’ High-performance cultures have people who instead say, ‘Pick it up. You can do it.’”

Related: 7 Ways To Get Better At Working With Others

How to avoid toxicity

There’s a strong correlation between morale and productivity. If you want your team to be more productive, you’re going to have to foster a healthy and positive work culture. Emma Seppala, Ph.D., and Kim Cameron, Ph.D., suggest in Harvard Business Review that you can achieve this by fostering social connections.

Encourage your teammates to get to know each other by hosting social events or having them eat lunch together. You must also get away from your desk and have face-to-face interactions with your team. Go out of your way to help as well.

Leaders who are fair and self-sacrificing inspire employees to become more loyal and committed. If your team is swamped, step in to help. Encourage people to talk to you – don’t brush someone off when he has a problem. It gets the problem off his mind, which means he can focus on work.

A healthy culture isn’t a nice-to-have but a must-have. Culture exists, whether we actively cultivate it or let it develop on its own. To get the most productivity you can, make sure to build an environment where people feel respected and inspired. It will not only make your employees happier, but it will also fuel high-quality work.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

Why You Should Gamify Your Business

Businesses do not succeed unless we understand why they operate and what their founder’s intentions are for creating the business.

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Sweat pouring down his forehead, staring intently at the chessboard, an anxious Bobby Fischer faces imminent defeat. A few uncharacteristic blunders at the beginning of the game has the audience on pins and needles. It’s the height of the cold war and a stalemate between Boris Spassky has an unnatural weight for a chess match. The cameras cramp the space, distracting Fischer and causing him to throw the game. Then another.

Anxiety is higher than ever. Finally, Fischer demands that cameras stop piercing the so-called “Match of the Century.” Then, suddenly, he began to win. He won again and again until finally, he was unstoppable. Final score: Fischer, 12 and one half, Spassky, 8 and one half. Fischer was now the undisputed world champion and the world couldn’t stop talking about it.

Why games motivate us so deeply

How could a game, a game that later wasn’t even televised, capture the world’s attention? How could a simple chess match capture the imagination of an entire generation?

Games are powerful things. Unlike real life, games have clear goals, constant coaching, and immediate feedback. There are points, winners, losers, upsets, dark horses, and reigning champions. Everything is organised in a refreshingly understandable, trackable way. Experiences are tallied into points, matches are organised into tournaments with the promise of prizes, advancement, and adulation.

Gamification, in this sense, is actually quite old. It has been practiced for generations. For time immemorial, games have taught us important skills, both technical and social. Now, however, a few game changers are using gamification to create outstanding products and drive business goals.

Related: 3 Ways Workplace Gamification Can Backfire – And How To Avoid Them

 How gamifying a business task works

In business practices, you can use gamification to help motivate employees and to understand the motivations of your customers, clients, and business partners. When put into practice, this can mean major surges in productivity and profitability. Think about it: We often have friendly competitions among team members to help motivate them to perform to the best of their ability. This is a simple gamification strategy that can be implemented in any business to a wonderful result.

Gamification, according to Yu-kai Chou, author of Actionable Gamification and pioneer within the gamification industry, is a mixture of game design, gaming dynamics, motivational psychology, user experience design, neurobiology, technology platforms, and behavioural economics. This may sound like a loose classification of complex and disparate fields, but it’s actually an adept definition of an all-encompassing philosophy on life and what motivates us to do what we do in our daily lives.

The drives that motivate us

What about gamification makes the philosophy so effective? There are eight core principles that are considered what is called the “octalysis,” a conceptualisation created by Yu-kai Chou. Basically, Chou posits that eight core drives motivate us in every facet of our lives. Not only can we use these drives in our personal lives, we can also use them in our work and business lives.

A mixture of drives can give us varying degrees of interest, dedication, and motivation. These core drives are as follows according to the octalysis: meaning, accomplishment, empowerment, ownership, social influence, unpredictability, scarcity, and avoidance.

The last three mentioned on the list can be used in negative ways to achieve participation. For example, using avoidance, or the feeling that you must act in order not to lose something can cause people to feel manipulated in the long-term. However, avoidance can be built into your motivation matrix if used properly and sparingly.

Truly, each drive has to be used with context, in the same way employing avoidance has to be monitored and managed. All these motivations can be employed to help better your organisation by finding those key intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that help you accomplish your business goals.

Gamification is the simple practice of identifying motivating factors and qualifying them through a myriad of ways.

In some cases, gamification boils down to simply analysing our motivations accurately so that we can either change them or manipulate them to better serve us. There is no better arena for this time of analysis and planning than business.

Businesses do not succeed unless we understand why they operate and what their founder’s intentions are for creating the business.

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