New Worlds of Customer & Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement goes far beyond the existence of technology and tools – it is something that needs to be well baked into the culture of the organization. I stumbled upon a wonderful paper on a great site I found that was chock full of interesting articles on employee engagement and the psychology of work and employment and living life to the fullest being personally satisfied and rewarded. The article entitled, “A call for the HIGH PERFORMANCE HUMAN WORKPLACE” by Dominique Giulini, General Manager Novartis Healthcare, Canada talks about the shift in thinking that is required now to promote full employee engagement. Companies are increasingly challenged to create opportunities to fully engage their employees to increase both retention as well as quality of work. I’m sure that many won’t like his approach or suggestions as they do challenge the historic sacred cow of corporate culture – Profit. His premise is quite simple yet presents a significant challenge for today’s leaders:

“This shift is from seeing profit as the goal to profit as the result of meaningful things done in fulfilling ways.”

This shift is best described by using the examples from his paper that talk about one major aspect to this shift – based on numerous studies, employees prefer to have a "Noble Purpose."

This is Noble Purpose - Some Examples:

  • Banking sector: Instead of profit only: Giving credit allows entrepreneurs to realize their dreams and contribute to innovation in society.
  • Insurance: Instead of premium increase: Increasing quality of life by allowing people to focus on the possibilities in their live because their big worries are insured.
  • Computer: Instead of “Selling more computers”: Revolutionizing the access to communication and entertainment.
  • Pharmaceutical:  Instead of “more blockbusters”: Increasing access in the world for Cures.”
  • Books: Instead of selling more books: Being the most customer oriented company in the world. (Amazon)

Noble Purpose is not jargon or a slogan. If it is not genuine it doesn’t work. It starts in a leader’s heart and mind. It is always available if you become 100 percent responsible for it in your company culture.”

When one starts doing research on "Employee Engagement", there are a couple of very well known groups that appear frequently having conducted major research on employee or "human capital" patterns of behavior. Both Aon and Towers Watson have provided insightful research on the topic.

From Aon's "Trends in Global Engagement" Report:

"Engaged employees deliver better performance, which is critical for business success. They understand their role in the business strategy, have a strong connection and commitment to the company, are more involved, and strive to go above and beyond in their jobs. The bottom line is that employee engagement matters—now more than ever. And the solutions for maintaining or improving engagement are increasingly complex for companies operating in an environment of instability and varied economic conditions. Striving to maintain a higher level of employee engagement not only contributes toward short-term survival during economic volatility, but is also a key factor for longer-term business performance and better positioning when market conditions become favorable. The companies that get engagement “right” will enjoy a source of competitive advantage in talent strategy and business results that is hard for others to replicate."

Embed engagement into business practices - engaging employees can't be a side thought. It needs to be part of the culture and fabric of the organization. Growing a culture of collaboration that allows employees easy and rapid communication speeds up both internal and external, employee and customer satisfaction.

From the Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study — conducted with 32,000 employees across 30 countries:

“The first gap is effectively enabling workers with internal support, resources and tools, which can take a variety of forms. Think of the helpful supervisor who prioritizes and organizes work, regardless of whether the employee is in front of him or her, or 1,000 miles away working at home or in a remote office. Think of efficient technology that works (and a helpful help desk when it doesn’t). Think of a collegial work team ready to jump in to help. Or of online tools and processes that give remote or contract workers access to information and guidance to make good job-related decisions in real time.”

“When engagement starts to decline, companies become vulnerable not only to a measurable drop in productivity, but also to poorer customer service and greater rates of absenteeism and turnover.” (from Towers Watson 2012 study)

Keeping employees engaged leads to happier employees and ultimately that translates to happier customers. This is outlined clearly in a post on the Harvard Business Review Blog by Tony Schwartz, entitled "How Employee Engagement Hits the Bottom Line". In this post, Tony Schwartz praises the results of the 2012 Towers Watson study that "makes the most powerful, bottom line case yet for the connection between how we feel at work and how we perform." 

He writes further; "For leaders, the key is to begin thinking of themselves as Chief Energy Officers. Energy is contagious, for better and for worse, and disproportionately so for leaders — by virtue of their influence. "The manager is at the heart of what we might think of as a personal employee ecosystem," the Towers Watson study concludes, "shaping individual experience ... day in and day out.""

Side Note: Interestingly enough, Tony Schwartz also has the record for the most read blog post in 2012 on the HBR site with a post that everyone should read to reset their multitasking behavior and expectations for more depth and productivity. "The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time" by Tony Schwartz

Most of the social engagement rhetoric comes down to directing an organization’s focus on building a customer-centric organization starting from the inside out. Without the employee and customer-centric internal health of the organization, the external or customer-facing engagement is doomed for failure. Here’s an interesting video from the 2012 Oracle OpenWorld Customer Experience Summit Keynote with one of our partners, SapientNitro speaking with customer, Vail Resorts, on the importance of building a customer-centric corporate culture.

There has been a lot written about how to better engage with your customers across all of the new and existing or "legacy" channels of communication. Most companies were used to evaluating how well they were doing in retail or other face to face engagement modes. With the rapid growth of online and social engagement venues, today's successful organizations have been forced to align their channels for message consistency, culture, and context. 

For a deeper dive into this subject, not so long ago, we hosted Ray Wang, Principal Analyst & CEO from Constellation Research as part of our Social Business Thought Leaders Webcast Series where he spoke on the 9 C’s of Customer Engagement - How to Engage Your Customers and Employees.


As you say Michael, there is a lot of rhetoric out there about engagement. What one almost never finds is how precisely to create a fully engaged workforce, probably because the writers have never created such a workforce or even watched as someone else did it.

I have created several fully engaged workforces and created a short video on what it takes to do so that might be of interest. There are many more details but the process is really quite simple. Take a look

Best regards, Ben
Leadership is a science and so is engagement

Posted by Ben Simonton on January 28, 2013 at 04:58 PM EST #

The Noble cause is an interesting approach, and from expereince of helping senior teams in a business, it will only work with 100% support from the senior team. It can not be flavour of the month and cannot be put to one side when it looks like there is a tough financial period coming up.

However the good news from this is that if companies are able to follow this through, the commercial benefits are significant. For the CFO who still thinks that Employee Engagement is not a bottom line priority, Towers Watson also reported that a company with higher levels of employee engagement is likely to deliver an operating margin 3 times higher than those with low employee engagement. It also relies on business leaders being able to break the cycle of labour reduction = reduced engagement = reduced productivity = reduced profit = more labour reductions etc etc.

Finally, the link between employee engagement and customer engagement cannot go unnoticed. The link between the two creates an area of "Business Optimisation" which will become the engine room for future business success. Can we really expect to have satisfied loyal customers without engaged employees.

Posted by Frazer Rendell on March 19, 2013 at 08:24 AM EDT #

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