These days, brands are taking a keen interest in employee engagement because current research shows it brings valuable benefits to business. For instance, it can:

  • Improve the customer experience
  • Increase revenue and ROI
  • Attract top talent to your business
  • Improve brand reputation
  • Increase productivity
  • Lower absenteeism

* To learn more about the benefits of employee engagement, read our blog “The Case for Employee Engagement: How It Increases Revenue, ROI, and More

Case in point, “… for the first time, executives cite culture and engagement as the most important challenge facing their organisations. In fact, the percent of respondents citing culture and engagement as very important doubled from the 2014 [Deloitte “Global Human Capital Trends Report”] study to 50%.”1

However, knowing that engagement is important and actually putting engagement plans into action are two very different things—and many companies aren’t sure how or where to start. While there are many differing schools of thought on how to achieve engagement, most current research has the following core principles in common:

1) Create a Vivid Company Culture that People Want to Be Part Of

How many times have you read a generic company mission statement filled with unoriginal rhetoric and vague promises? Likely, it left you feeling less than enthusiastic about the company and its mission, and more importantly, left you wondering what the company actually wants to achieve in the grand scheme of things. Without a meaningful, specific and sincere company vision, you won’t attract employees who believe in and can execute your beliefs. Take, for example, Google. The archetype for what it is to be a forward-thinking, innovative company full of talent, their mission statement spans over 1,500 words, and is entitled “ten thing we know to be true.” Some of their unique beliefs include: “You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer,” “You can make money without doing evil,” and “You can be serious without a suit.”

Breaking business stereotypes since inception, they have created a company vision and culture that is synonymous with innovation and collaboration—a mix that has made them one of the most sought after employers in the world. In fact, according to Business Insider, the tech giant was ranked the “World’s Most Attractive Employer” in 2016 by global research and advisory firm Universum, and they earned the No. 1 spot on Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards, Best Places to Work in 2015.

Creating a clear and compelling company vision also helps motivate employees to achieve that vision, especially if it is well communicated and practised throughout the organisation. Or, as Gartner states, “A clearly defined and communicated customer experience vision gives a sense of purpose for employees. Employees want to be part of something that is bigger than they are, and they want to know ‘what is in it for me?’”2

2) Hire Employees Who Believe in and Can Execute Your Vision

Having a compelling company vision will only go so far if you don’t hire the right people who can and want to execute it. For example, while Google is one of the most sought after employers in the world, they have a very thorough and difficult hiring process that can span as long as 5 separate interviews, according to Business Insider.3 This process ensures they hire the right type of candidates that possess leadership or that unique personality that makes them fun, creative and a right fit for the team.

Finding the right personality type is so important for some brands that, “Leading companies such as Nordstrom, Four Seasons Hotel and Southwest Airlines follow a ‘hire the attitude and train the skills’ hiring philosophy. This reflects their belief that a new hire with a positive attitude can be trained for new skills, where as a skilled hire with a bad attitude is far more toxic to customers and other employees alike.”4

The common theme between these companies is that they want their employees to be the right type of people to believe in and bring the vision to life, because by doing so, employees will be motivated to do a good job, not just for their pay check, but for themselves, the company, and, most importantly, the customer.

3) Give Employees Autonomy in their Position, and Empower Them to Make Recommendations to Better the Customer Experience

According to Forrester, “In a survey of 1,000 frontline employees, while 78% report that their leaders claim that customer experience is a top priority, nearly 60% feel that their ideas for improving customer satisfaction often go unheard.”5 These stats should come as no surprise as many companies still operate with a “do as you’re told” philosophy, where managers and C-suite players are in charge of making the decisions, and frontline employees simply have to follow the rules. Operating in this fashion results in the loss of valuable employee ideas for improving the customer experience, considering that frontline workers see the most pertinent CX problems first hand. Additionally, when these same employees are not given the opportunity to be part of the solution, they can end up feeling devalued and demotivated.

Many studies also show that when employees have freedom within their role to make carefully guided choices, they become more engaged. “Creating an environment where individuals feel a sense of autonomy—within reason—inspires intrinsic motivation for the work and engages employees more fully,” states Forrester. “For CX pros, autonomy has another benefit: Employees must be free and able to respond appropriately to customers in the moment to ensure sustained delivery of great experiences.”6

4) Make Sure Employees Are Challenged with Their Work

A fundamental aspect for growth, whether in the workplace, family life or elsewhere, is learning. Without learning, people get stuck in a rut, and become bored and demotivated. For many, knowledge and wisdom is its own reward, and these two assets can outweigh material gains such as money or bonuses. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor of Business at Harvard Business School and Director and Chair of the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative, says of her research on what motivates people at highly innovative companies that, “Money acted as a scorecard, but it did not get people up and at ‘em for the daily work, nor did it help people go home every day with a feeling of fulfilment.” Conversely, “When workers feel like they can make a difference, it leaves them more fulfilled. That’s a deeper level of happiness that money just can’t buy.”7

One of the more surprising benefits of challenging employees at work is the effect it has on their well being. One might think that challenging work would exhaust an employee, but studies are finding that scenarios where employees feel challenged by their work, “… are associated with lower emotional exhaustion, greater job satisfaction and better daily customer conflict handing” too.8

5) Create a Comfortable and Relaxing Work Environment

It doesn’t take a scientist to tell you that if your employees dread coming to work because of hostile coworkers or an unpleasant work atmosphere, they aren’t going to perform their very best.

It is essential then, that employees feel they can relax at work without repercussions—especially if they are customer-facing. In fact, Forrester recommends that companies “Ensure that employees replenish emotional reserves that customer interactions deplete. Being ‘on’ all of the time takes an emotional toll on people, particularly customer-facing employees. The good news, though, is that when employees believe that their work environment affords them the chance to relax during breaks, they are able to replenish lost emotional resources.”9

6) Recognise Employee Potential, Achievements and Value

Not every employee is a top performer, but many have the potential to be. By simply acknowledging that an employee has the potential to do something great, you are already setting them on the path towards a goal that they may have otherwise felt was unattainable. This is, essentially, the Pygmalion effect in action, a now famed theory that “… has been proven in setting ranging from classrooms to corporations,” and exemplifies how “people will rise or fall based on the expectations that authority figures have of them.”10

Recognising employees, whether for their potential, achievements or value within a company, can also help establish good leadership and examples among the workforce. “Initiatives like champion or ambassador programmes help more directly make the connection between CX and purpose,” states Forrester. “The best programmes ensure that champions know that part of their responsibility is to serve as customer-centricity role models for their colleagues.”

7) Make work beneficial to employees

According to CareerBliss, the 50 Happiest Companies in America for 2016 and 3017 excel at creating career development support, a positive relationship for employees with managers, a strong company culture, a great work environment, growth opportunities, fair compensation and employee satisfaction with their specific position. The 2017 list took into account more than 22,000 reviews, and saw pharmaceutical and financial companies gain prominence because they offered their employees more career development programmes and opportunities for growth.11

Similarly, Google, who ranked first in Forbes 2016 100 Best Companies to Work for List (a position it has achieved seven times in 10 years), offers its thousands of employees a long string of benefits, including high compensation, a welcoming atmosphere for imagination, enhanced health care coverage (which includes virtual doctor visits, second opinion services and breast cancer screenings at headquarters), prepared organic meals, unlimited snacks, artisan coffee, fitness classes, haircuts, nap pods, onsite laundry rooms and more.12

There are many ways to foster engagement among employees in the workplace, but in order to truly ensure you are doing a good job of it, you need to also measure employee engagement. To learn more about how to do this, read our blog, “How to Measure the Employee Experience to Create Engagement.”

Looking for in-depth research and advice on employee engagement in today’s CX landscape? Download our free whitepaper, “How Employee Engagement Leads to Revenue, ROI and Better Customer Experiences.

 

[1]  Forrester Research Inc.. “Customer Obsession Is An Employee Engagement Strategy Too: Focus on Purpose, Mastery, and Autonomy to Drive Deeper Employee Engagement and Better Experience Delivery”, February 2016.
[2] Forrester Research Inc., “How to Get Your Customer Service Employees to Care About the Customer.” April 2015.
[3] Forrester Research Inc., “Here’s what it’s REALLY like to work at Google, the ‘world’s most attractive’ employer.” www.businessinsider.com. Sept. 6, 2015.
[4] Forrester Research Inc., “How to Get Your Customer Service Employees to Care About the Customer.” April 2015.
[5] Forrester Research Inc.. “Customer Obsession Is An Employee Engagement Strategy Too: Focus on Purpose, Mastery, and Autonomy to Drive Deeper Employee Engagement and Better Experience Delivery”, February 2016.
[6] Forrester Research Inc.. “Customer Obsession Is An Employee Engagement Strategy Too: Focus on Purpose, Mastery, and Autonomy to Drive Deeper Employee Engagement and Better Experience Delivery”, February 2016.
[7] Tuttle, Brad. “Who Is Happiest At Work? Probably Not Who You Think.” www.time.com April 25, 2013.
[8] Jason L. Huang, Dan S. Chiaburu, Xinan Zhang, Ning Li, and Alicia A. Grandey, “Rising to the challenge: Deep acting is more beneficial when tasks are appraised as challenging,” American Psychological Association, September 2015.
[9] Forrester Research Inc.. “Customer Obsession Is An Employee Engagement Strategy Too: Focus on Purpose, Mastery, and Autonomy to Drive Deeper Employee Engagement and Better Experience Delivery”, February 2016.
[10] Hedges, Kristi, “Four Ways to Challenge Employees to Reach Their Potential.” www.forbes.com Feb 19, 2015.
[11] “50 Happiest Companies in America for 2016.” www.careerbliss.com Dec 03, 2015.
[12] “Best 100 Companies to Work For.” www.fortune.com 2016.