Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

Exploit the Unique Talents of Your Employees

employee-engagementMore Engaged Workforce

The Kimpton hotel chain continues to impress and amaze me.  I just had a wonderful stay at their Alexis Hotel in Seattle.  The staff was nothing short of amazing.  I did some “mystery shopping” for this article by engaging with several of the employees to find out a little about their culture.

One of the first things that impressed me was the longevity of the employees.  One of the front desk people had been there for 13 years.  Another since the hotel had opened.  The concierge had been with Kimpton for a number of years and had transferred to Seattle.  One of the servers at their restaurant, and I’ll get back to him in a moment, had only been there three years, but gave me the same answer that the more tenured employees had given me about why they love working at the Kimpton.

The general answer the employees gave me is that they love to service customers and Kimpton has given them the freedom to do so.  The lesson here is that Kimpton has created a culture that encourages their employees to meet and exceed their guests’ expectations.  Sometimes that means a little extra effort and even spending a little extra money to do so.  Service doesn’t always come cheap, but if the result is creating a loyal customer, the investment into the guest’s experience pays off with large dividends.

Carlos is the server in the restaurant I mentioned above.  I overheard one of his colleagues complementing him on a video.  I asked him about it.  He said he loved to create videos.  His manager, Jenne Neptune, encouraged Carlos to create a Kimpton video.  She gave him permission to film at the hotel and post it to YouTube.  Carlos said it meant so much to him that his manager would respect his passion enough to let him use it to serve the hotel.

This is the perfect example of a culture that exploits the uniqueness and the talents of its employees.  While hired to work in the restaurant, Carlos was given the latitude of using his talents and passion as part of his job.  As he told me his story, you could tell he was beaming with pride over his video project.  As a result, Carlos is more appreciative of his job, has great respect for his manager and has an overall sense of fulfillment.

Let’s take a lesson from another very cool company, Google.  Google wants its engineers to take 20% of their work-time – that’s one day a week – to focus on company-related projects of their own design.  They actually refer to it as “20% Time.”  This gives the employees a powerful sense of fulfillment deriving from their lead role in the new concepts being developed.  I’m not suggesting that every employee be allowed to work a certain amount of time on self-chosen projects, but this may be very appropriate for some of the people in your organization.

The concept of letting people do what they love and what they’re good at is powerful.  It doesn’t have to be 100% of their job, although that would be nice.  But there should be a part of everyone’s job that allows them to do what they love to do, exploiting their unique talents along the way.  The result is a more engaged workforce that will work for your company, and most important, your customers.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times  bestselling business author. For information contact (314)692-2200 or For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXIII, Shep Hyken)

  1. I once worked in an HR department where we used to joke that your resume became irrelevant as soon as you joined our company. People just naturally looked at employees based upon what they did for the company, not what they could do or have done.

    Your post is a great reminder that people often bring a lot of unique qualities to their job that can be used in such a good way.

    I do have one question — executives often get nervous about this idea of giving employees free reign to express their personalities. How do you advise leaders who ask this question?

    • Hi Jeff – I don’t suggest giving free reign to employees to express their personalities as much as knowing the personality or talent and figuring out a way to use it. The key is to be open and even creative, if necessary. Always enjoy your comments. Thank you!

  2. Sometimes your best skills aren’t directly related to the task at hand, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have some impact on your company. When your team feels like they can grow and leverage their talents and do what they like to do for your company chances are you are going to have a much happier workforce! Happy and satisfied employees share their attitude with your customers.

  3. Indeed, Shep, when it comes to customer service, motivated and passionate employees mean everything! Still, they can only do as much as their company enables them to. Good customer services requires managers who are capable of motivating and stimulating their support team without stifling them. And good customer service requires company policies that ‘enable’ rather than ‘disable’.The way the guys at Google handle these things is rather amazing. Their entire corporate culture is based on self-empowerment. I’m aware of the fact that only a few companies are in the position to offer such awesome working conditions, but wouldn’t it be great to see more open-minded companies like Google?

    • Well said, Mike. You are right in that not all companies are in the position that Google is to create their amazing culture, however it is a company to look up to and admire. While most companies may not be in the same position as Google, what can we learn from them, adopt from them, etc.?

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