We are happy to introduce Michelle Daigle, our Head of US Business Development at Eko. Michelle believes firms that engage their frontline workers are on the highway to success — let’s learn more about her unique perspective and experience from our interview.
Eko: Can you briefly introduce yourself?
Michelle: My name is Michelle Daigle and I’ve been in Sales and Business Development for about 15 years now. I focus on startups, they’re my passion and I love the organised chaos of it all. I’ve primarily been working in the software industry, both in The States and internationally.
Prior to Eko, my experience revolved around companies who dealt in communications and engagement. That means I’ve been with firms who develop employee loyalty programs and corporations that offer business intelligence data. Both monitor different aspects of the bigger picture, which is to help the employees within the organisation.
All of this has lead to me joining Eko and bringing those pieces into one whole.
Eko: What are your responsibilities as Head of US Business Development?
MD: Let me preface this by saying that I have a degree in Psychology so even though my title sound primarily sales-focused, I don’t think of it like that! Instead, I believe my job is all about creating dialogue and partnerships.
With experience, I’ve realised that a consultative approach is better than a pure sales pitch. When I have real conversations instead of trying to sell something, I can understand a company’s challenges and learn how we can assist them better.
I guess you could say I’m Eko’s evangelist in North America. My role is to create relationships one conversation at a time, and since I’m dedicated to making employee lives better, that passion becomes contagious and our referrals are our validation.
Eko” You work a lot with industries like construction, manufacturing, and logistics. What is the key challenge internal communications faces in these sectors?
MD: A lot of these organisations are reluctant to change.
Oftentimes they think along the lines of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” unless a necessity arises, like the desire to reduce turnover or minimise other costs.
So generally, there’s an alternative reason until they realise internal communications can solve many of their challenges. That’s the key, seeing the impact of open lines of communication.
I’d like to add that good communication improves the work-life quality for frontline workers, and as a result boosts employee productivity, retention, and engagement.
Eko: Some leaders would argue that their current methods do the job when it comes to communicating with frontline workers, do you agree?
MD: From what I’ve seen, some organisations still use bulletin boards to spread information. Plus, they hardly ever see their shift workers. To top it all off, a lot of frontline workers — here in the USA at least — speak English as a second language.
My questions are: How are you truly communicating with your staff when you’re not seeing them? How are you sure you got the message across when you’re not having a dialogue?
Broadcasting information is not exactly communication, and yes your employees may be used to it, but imagine if they had a platform to voice their opinions and ideas. That would change everything monumentally, especially since they’re the ones interacting with your customers on a daily basis.
Eko: We hear the term engagement a lot these days, what does it mean? And is it the same as employee happiness?
MD: Generally, we are more engaged when we are passionate about something. So there is a direct correlation between the two.
An employee needs the correct platform to become engaged, they need to feel like their voices are heard and matter.
In any situation, if you change the dynamics from “top-down” messaging to a back and forth dialogue you are truly engaging with your staff and they’ll be happier for it.
Eko: Our partner, Andrew Main, who spent thirty-five years working in people-intensive industries and lead a multi-billion dollar dining business, told us staff engagement directly influences organisational culture. What are your views on this?
MD: To spread company culture you need interaction. So if you’re not engaging and everyone is in their own “bubble”, that’s the type of culture you’re promoting.
True culture is built when lines of communication are open, and the message can be spread with ease.
I think a company that’s doing a great job with engagement is Amazon. The employees seem to be happy and say nice things — all the way down to actual frontline workers such as delivery drivers. Amazon pays employees well but also focuses on non-monetary rewards and competitions to keep staff involved.
Eko: Do engaged staff influence customer experience? Can you give us an example?
MD: Absolutely, let’s take a trip to the supermarket as an example.
When you’re the consumer your experience at the store is shaped by a few factors, but the biggest influencer of all is customer service. As a client, you expect to feel appreciated and attended to.
So when you have staff that are happy, feel appreciated, and are proud of the place they work in, their feelings emanate back to the customer. It creates a cycle where the client walks out feeling good, becomes a frequent shopper, and tells his or her network about the experience, ultimately bringing in more business.
The staff, in turn, gets kudos from the employer and want to work harder to achieve more. Seeing this, their colleagues follow suit and the standard of the establishment gets raised.
Engaged employees not only impact customer experience but can improve the business as a whole.
Eko: How can labor-intensive industries leverage Eko to improve internal communications and staff engagement?
MD: We are able to work with an organisation, understand their particular challenges and goals, and help them achieve these. Whether that’s digitising tedious workflows, keeping a log of stand up meetings so nothing is missed, or simply bridging a language gap so that people are not afraid to engage with their colleagues.
Eko: How does digital transformation happen in these sectors?
MD: It’s either a ‘land and expand’ deal or a need-based process.
If it is the former, it starts with one department, usually HR or Internal Communications. Mostly because they understand human relationships and work on communicating with people.
If it’s the latter, the desire to change comes from a necessity like reducing employee churn.
The ideal scenario is when one department can show the entire organisation the benefits of digital change.
Eko: And what are the costs of not adopting technology altogether?
MD: Interestingly enough, most companies often end up answering this question on their own during our conversations.
When I generally speak to organisations about the younger workforce and how important technology is to them, businesses realise that it’s either adapt or get left behind.
Without technology, firms may end up spending more money on recruiting, training, and retaining top talent. When you have employees leaving, that hurts overall company morale.
Eko: Last one! Will technology shape the future of the industries we’ve talked about?
MD: Technology is meant to make things easier. If I’m at home I speak to Alexa and she tells me everything (or almost everything!).
At the workplace, new tools improve the quality of work for your employees and I think most businesses understand that. For example, a manufacturing company may spend millions of dollars on safer machinery, a logistics firm might spend hundreds of thousands on upgrading their fleet.
But I think companies don’t see ‘smaller’ solutions like communication software as something that can make an impact. I understand that too because it’s a relatively new concept.
However, once that mindset shifts from ‘this might be nice to have’ and becomes a ‘must have,’ how these industries operate, and how we interact with these industries will change dramatically.