The Way I See It... Secrets of Employee Engagement

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ladder Engaged employees estimated to increase their efforts at work by up to 30%, which can only be good news for productivity. Simon Hayward, CEO of Academee, looks at how to create a workforce that is willing to put in that extra effort.

Engaged employees tend to be more content in their work, and therefore tend to provide better service to colleagues and customers. The service profit chain is now well established, and the links between leadership, employee engagement, customer service, loyalty and performance improvement are robust.

Why is employee re-engagement important?
When employees are disengaged or in some way distant from their organisation, separated by distrust, resentment or apathy, the negative effect on performance can be significant. One leading US vehicle manufacturer cites the discretionary effort from employees that creating an engaged climate can deliver as being typically 25-30% higher than average. If we translate this into increased productivity, the economic impact is clearly significant. If this effort is withheld, the impact on organisational performance is also not to be ignored.

Employee re-engagement in practice
In our work with blue chip organisations across the UK and internationally, we have found it is very helpful to use a range of engagement techniques to enable employees to engage positively with proposed changes in strategy, structure or process. Employee commitment can make the difference between costly failure and long-term success for such projects. It is also key to achieving the sustained discretionary effort described above.

The range of engagement techniques we find most helpful in enabling organisations to engage effectively with their employees falls into the following categories:

  • Leadership management engagement.
  • Meaningful internal communications.
  • Relevant support and help line provision.
  • Just-in-time web-based communications and access to resources.
  • Project management and evaluation to demonstrate payback.

Some of the tools we use to achieve this engagement in times of change are listed below, with some examples of how organisations have used them in practice:

  • Structured dialogue workshops so that people can make sense of the case for change.
  • Scenario-based activities to explore inter-departmental working.
  • Professional role players to simulate real situations and to invite real interaction and feedback.
  • Games to encourage enjoyment as well as exploration.
  • Video to create energy, show reality and record significant outcomes.
  • Experiential activities such as drumming, outdoor activities, group art to draw people together in an active metaphor.
  • Using external speakers to develop fresh perspectives and help people to benchmark their experience with organisations they trust.

Each intervention needs to be designed collaboratively to ensure it is highly focused on achieving relevant objectives, and congruent with the culture and style of the particular organisation. Off-the-shelf solutions rarely stand the test of employee scrutiny – especially if they are not demonstrably relevant and couched in the customs and language of the particular organisation.

Service is a key source of competitive advantage for service-based organisations. Getting customer service right is critical to having satisfied customers and building loyalty. Service is delivered primarily through people. For many organisations their reputation for service can be damaged all too easily, so maintaining high levels of employee commitment and skill to deliver great service is a critical business activity.

Branding
We live in a branded world. We know that consumers and business customers increasingly expect standards of service from particular brands based on the brand position they have accepted. Only through employee living the brand can we ensure that the brand promise is borne out in practice through each customer’s experience.

In our work with national and international clients we find that it is essential to define the customer experience their brand requires in some detail if the brand promise is to be delivered in each service experience.

Each organisation needs to find a relevant way to deliver that experience across their organisation, whether in consumer services such as leisure or hotels, or business-to-business areas such as IT services or petrochemicals.

We recommend an approach that is simple:

  • Understand the brand promise.
  • Define the service experience that makes that promise a reality every day.
  • Implement that experience through leadership, and the service delivered by all employees.
  • Ensure that processes support people to deliver.
  • Support the learning through effective communications and review processes.

Our clients have won awards in the UK, across Europe and globally. We believe that their secret is making the link between brand, learning and the customer experience. At the end of the day, it’s the customer who decides.

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