Wednesday, December 6, 2017

5 Ways to Effectively Engage Your Employees

Culture / Strategy

It is now widely agreed that there is a direct correlation between employee engagement and customer experience. Customer experience refers to the total of all experiences the customer has with your business, based on all interactions and thoughts about the business. It starts the minute people encounter your brand, and ultimately, directly or indirectly, your employees.

According to a 2017 Temkin Group Employee Engagement Benchmark Study, companies whose customer experience is significantly better than their competitors have 60% more engaged employees.

So what?

Even though 90% of leaders think an employee engagement strategy impacts the bottom line, only 25% develop one, and those who do are among the most successful in their business. For example:

  • Southwest encourages employees to stay inspired to do things differently; the company created a program that allows employees from any department to apply to collaborate on new uniform designs. The results reflect the personality and company culture around keeping things fun and unique, while creating a great experience for customers and employees alike.
  • Google created a “20% rule”, stating that one day a week employees should spend at least 20% of their time on side projects. This gives employees room to explore, and builds a “change engine” culture through the focused free-thinking time.
  • Apple uses an engagement strategy to make employees fans and ambassadors of the brand by giving employee discounts, first dibs on company technology that is going to be recycled, and employee gifts and handwritten notes from managers congratulating them on any success they experience in their job.
  • Zappos created several ways to engage its employees; for example, they created a Zappos Zollars program where employees can earn the company currency by going above and beyond in their work. Employees can use the Zappos Zollars for branded goodies, charitable donations, or in raffles for bigger prizes.

Stronger employee engagement leads to higher customer satisfaction and retention, a more energized workforce, and lower employee turnover, and can also provide significant cost savings. According to Gallup, companies lose an average $2,246 per disengaged employee per year, and studies show that more than 1 in 10 employees are completely disengaged at work. So just to put it in perspective, in a company like Rightpoint, with ~400 employees, assuming 2 out of 10 are not fully engaged, we are looking at ~$180,000 loss per year. Now scale that to the size of an enterprise corporation and you are looking at millions of dollars lost every year just on disengaged employees.

Here are five ways that you can more effectively engage your employees (your internal customers):

  1. Give and receive feedback on a regular basis – Shorten feedback loops to increase employee engagement. Make your expectations clear and guide employees in areas that need growth. 43% of highly engaged employees get actionable feedback at least once a week, compared to 18% of employees with low engagement.
  2. Communicate your goals – Employees can only help you to achieve your objectives if they know what they are. Transparency in communication is critical for both your external and internal customers. Create employee communications vehicles that are safe, inspire a sense of belonging and mattering, and that tend to boost positive feelings. For example, Rightpoint has a number of in-person and written communications to keep people “in the know”. Every other week written communication pieces go out through the “In a Blink” email series from one of our co-founders, there are “Ponder” posters hung around the office to report on our statistics, and a “Quick and Dirty Newsletter” is sent out to inform people on progress throughout the company.
  3. Listen to your people – Employees are a valuable source of information; they are typically the front line of customer interaction, so they are seeing things differently. Create employee listening programs: ask for their thoughts and ideas; hear, discuss, and consider what they have to say. For example, we send out a “People Pulse Survey” twice a year at Rightpoint to gather feedback on what is working, what should change, and what people care about company-wide.
  4. Gain leadership buy-in – Engage leaders to create and share a strong mission, vision, and values. Set the tone for your employee’s code of conduct from the top down. Leaders should be engaged and model effective performance for their people. Leadership engagement and passion will be contagious.
  5. Celebrate achievements – Awards, celebrations, and incentives can be a great motivators. Few things will engage employees more than a handwritten note from a leader to commemorate even small achievements. If your employees matter to you, make sure they know it.

To engaged employees, the organization’s success is personal. It matters, and is a reflection of them and what they believe in, who they are, and how they show up in the world. Engaged employees can fuel a virtuous cycle for great customer experience, loyal customers, and strong financial results. By developing an organizational culture that promotes employee engagement, companies will enhance customer satisfaction, increase productivity, lower employee turnover and ultimately improve the bottom line.

Giulia Sergi is a Change Enablement Manager at Rightpoint.