Top HR people and line managers are always concerned with motivation, which has to do with how positively (or otherwise) employees feel about their jobs, and engagement, which measures how far beyond the required minimum employees will go in performing those jobs.

One method of improving both motivation and engagement, you may have heard, is to connect employees with the people they ultimately are working to serve: i.e., your organization’s customers. This strategy, known as “line of sight,” emphasizes the fact that when each employee does his or her job well, their good work benefits the customers at the end of the chain.

And there are many ways of putting employees into that line of sight. You can collect testimonials from customers about how your products and services helped them, introduce key customers to employees when they visit your office, or even arrange site visits by employees to the facilities of such customers.

Photo evidence
But one way of connecting with customers has a particularly strong impact on employees, and is perhaps the simplest of all: Let them see photos of these customers.

Psychologically, human beings react differently and more viscerally when they see other human faces than if they merely read about the people those faces belong to. The point is demonstrated by a recent study done at a large hospital, which found that when patients’ headshots were included in their medical files, it improved doctors’ diagnoses by nearly 50%. What happened, the researchers said, was that the doctors felt more empathy with patients whose faces they’d seen, and as a result took more care in assessing their conditions.

What can you do to take advantage of this kind of empathic motivation? You could, for example, hang a selection of customer photos up in common areas like a break room or around the offices. Include a brief caption describing who they are and what your organization has done for them. Rotate the photos every few months to keep people interested.

You may not be in the business of ferreting out your customers’ physical ailments, but you certainly are concerned with diagnosing and meeting their needs. And if your employees actually see the people on whose behalf they’re working every day, it will help spur them to do a better and more thorough job.

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