Our Guest Blog this week comes courtesy of Karen Wenborn. Karen is an expert customer experience professional with a passion for embedding the voice of the customer at the heart of an organisation and managing change through people, demonstrating and delivering high levels of employee engagement, which have seen industry recognition and awards success.
Engagement – Episode 1 – communication
en·gage·ment [en-geyj-muhnt] noun
There. That was easy, wasn’t it? The dictionary definition of that ‘engagement’ piece everyone is talking about.
Before we get to the (hopefully) interesting part – engagement practises that work – could I bend your ear for just a small rant?
Never in my career have I seen so much lip service being paid to a term. (Unless we go back to TQM, but that’s another story. And a long time ago!) Was that just a tad controversial? Lip service implies talking a good story but not following through with the actions that deliver, and isn’t that just what so many companies are doing? Otherwise wouldn’t we all be coming away from every telephone/email/SM contact raving about the fantastic service we have just received?
So why isn’t it happening? Because engagement takes effort, will, planning, leadership, enthusiasm, consistency and delivery. It may also have a cost.
But those who aren’t engaging are missing a trick. Because high EE has an ROI too. Not least in differentiation vs your competition.
In world-class organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 9.57:1.
- In average organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 1.83:1.
Shareholders, stakeholder, customers and employees all should be engaged. Of course they should.
What I’ve found is that by engaging our people, we engage our customers. Which means high retention rates, larger numbers of advocates, higher VOC and NPS scores, more repeat business, higher revenue per transaction. Which in turn tends to delight our stakeholders and shareholders too.
Don’t just take my word for it, I’ll share some links to articles on ROI and EE later.
Now I’ll bet that somewhere in your objectives there is a line that says ‘increase EE by x% points’. Or the more basic ‘engage the workforce’.
However, engagement is not a standalone or bolt- on option that can be plucked from a shelf and dusted off just before your next employee survey is due to run. That way lies a distrusting, cynical workforce who greets every new initiative with a wry smile and a sigh.
So where do we start? I remember eons ago someone pointing out to me a basic motivation technique. If given an instruction (or order) we will (probably) do it. Someone says “Shut that window”. You close it. You don’t know why they want the window shut, but being a well mannered person you comply. Imagine if they had said “Please could you shut the window, the rain is falling on my desk”. You now understand the request, empathise with the problem and close the window. Next time it rains (which this summer will probably be tomorrow) you’ll probably close it without being asked.
Now imagine you are at work and you’ve been told to tell all customers that your delivery charge has increased from £5.99 to £10 per item. That’s it. End of message. You question why and are told ‘because we need to increase the price’. Customers complain, you empathise with the customers. You report back the customer feedback. Nothing happens. You are now frustrated too. You don’t agree with the pricing change, you have no idea why it has happened, your customers are upset about it, and orders have been cancelled. You can see your bonus going out of the window. Your motivation and engagement hit rock bottom.
To cheer you all up, your manager organises a fancy dress day and free pizza. You spend your lunch break eating the pizza and moaning about lack of communication.
Recognise the scenario?
So the first step to engagement is – communication.
This is not about sending email instructions, having one way team briefs, running messages across wall boards. This is good old fashioned TWO WAY communication.
In an engaging operation, what would have happened?
The business rationale behind the price increase would have been communicated to everyone in the business. This would have started weeks ago when you took members of the team out for a discussion and feedback session. You know the one – where you explained the problem/issue and listened to ideas. Yours comms/engagement champions and team leaders then took the message out to the floor. That message explained the reasoning behind the decision, an overview of competitor pricing, ways to handle customer objections, FAQ’s and a review of the bonus system/targets. Oh, and a feedback mechanism.
Spot the difference.
Just one example of how a company can begin to change its corporate mindset and be truly engaging.
And the change starts with you.
Get the management team on board. Decide who the key stakeholders are. Present your strategy. Oh yes, you need an engagement strategy. Objectives, costs, ROI, timescales, plan, resource, measures of success. Big bang launch or viral messaging. Or both.
- Recruit your core team. You’ll need help with delivery – and ideas.
- Work out the plan detail.
- Use the results of your last EE survey as a starting point.
- Some things you might want to include/think about are:-
- Informal feedback sessions.
- More formal workshops on key areas
- Career paths and job families.
- Reward and recognition
- Briefings, blogs, intranet, video messaging
- Culture and behaviours
- Balanced score approach to performance evaluation.
- Recognising and celebrating success.
- Communicating progress – ‘you said, we did’
- Staff rep team
- Involve suppliers and customers
Remember, engagement is for life, not a bi-annual flurry of activity.
Not only can the results be spectacular, the programme can be great fun too!
What do you think of employee engagement? – Do you feel engaged with your organisation, or might you be embarking on an Employment Engagement strategy? We would really like to hear your thoughts. You can mail us directly, or to contact Karen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 0845 620 9720.
For some related articles with regards to Employee Engagement you can also go to the following links: