As we are focusing this week on Employee Engagement, I recently sat down with industry expert and thought leader John Brunswick on the topic. Here is the Q&A dialogue we shared.
Q: How do you effectively engage employees to drive business value?
A: Motivation, both extrinsic and intrinsic, combined with the relevancy of various channels to support it. Beyond chaining business strategies like compensation models within an organization, engagement ultimately is most successful when driven by employee's motivations. Business value derived from engagement through technical capabilities can be objectively measured through metrics like the rate and accuracy of problem solving for a given business function or frequency of innovation created. Providing employees performing "knowledge work" with capabilities that allow them to perform work with a higher degree of accuracy in the same or ideally less time, adds value for that individual and in turn, drives their level of engagement to drive business value.
A: Alignment through shared purpose. Zappos is an excellent example of a culture that arguably has higher than average levels of employee engagement and it permeates every aspect of their organization – embodied externally through their customer experience. I recently made my first purchase with them and it was obvious through their web experience, visual design, communication style, customer service and attention to detail down to green packaging, that they have an amazingly strong shared purpose. The Zappos.com ‘About page’ outlines their "Family Core Values", the first three being "Deliver WOW Through Service, Embrace and Drive Change & Create Fun and A Little Weirdness" – all reflected externally in my interaction with them. Strong shared purpose enables higher product and service experience, equating to a dedicated customer base, repeat purchases and expanded marketshare.
Q: Have you seen any trends in the market regarding employee engagement?
A: Some companies now see offering a form of social engagement similar to Facebook and LinkedIn as standard communication infrastructure like email or instant messaging. Originally offered as standalone tools, the value is now seen when these capabilities are offered in an integrated fashion in the context of business entities. An emerging area of focus is around employee activities related to their organization on external social platforms, implicitly creating external communities with employees acting on behalf of the brand and interacting with each other (e.g. Twitter). Companies have reached a formal understand that this now established communication medium requires strategies allowing employees to engage. I have personally met colleagues from Oracle, like Oracle User Experience Director Ultan O'Broin (@ultan), via Twitter before meeting first through internal channels.
Q: Employee engagement is important, but what about engaging customers and partners?
A: The last few years we have witnessed an interesting evolution from the novelty of self-service to expectations of "intelligent" self-service. From a consumer standpoint, engagement can end up being a key differentiator, especially in mature markets. Customers that perform some level of interaction with a brand develop greater affinity for the brand and have a greater probability of acting as an advocate. As organizations move toward a model of deeper engagement, they must ensure that their business is positioned to support deeper relationships, offering potentially greater transparency.
From a partner standpoint greater engagement can lead to new types of business opportunities, much in the way that Amazon.com offers a unified shopping experience that can potentially span various vendors. This same model can be extended to blending services and product delivery models, based on a closeness not easily possible before increased capability of engagement mechanisms.
Q: What types of solutions are available to successfully deliver employee engagement?
A: Solutions enabling higher levels of engagement do so on the basis of relevancy. This relevancy is generally supported by aspects of content management, social collaboration, business intelligence, portal and process management technologies. These technologies can help deliver an experience tailored to a given role or process within an organization that applies equally to work that is structured or unstructured, appearing in the form of functionality as simple as an online employee directory search, knowledge communities supported by social collaboration, as well as more feature rich business intelligence dashboards and portals.
Looking to learn more about how to effectively engage your employees? Check out this webcast, or read more from John Brunswick.