Right now, the term employee engagement seems to be everywhere. So I thought it a good idea to break down exactly what the term refers to and explain just how much of a positive effect an engaged workforce can have on your customer service levels. After all, building and maintaining the highest standards of customer service is essential – whatever industry you’re in.
Recognising an organisation’s chief concern
As it is still a relatively new buzz term, employee engagement doesn’t yet have a distinct definition. In fact, I recently read some research by Ashbridge Business School which found that while CEOs knew it related to employees giving their all, they couldn’t go much further. Personally, I define employee engagement as a state where an employee is so connected to an organisation that everything they do adds to the overall output, increasing the organisation’s overall value. Almost unaware, they go into work and give themselves without consciously making a choice to engage. Unfortunately, this is something traditional organisational structures practically go out of their way to discourage.
Traditional hierarchies wreak havoc when it comes to employee engagement. This structure places the CEO at the top, followed by layers of management and supervision, finally ending with frontline personnel at the very bottom. This effectively means that the organisation’s customers always come last. It also completely ignores the customers’ ultimate power in the fortunes of an organisation – whatever the market. For employee engagement to work, this backward structure needs to be turned on its head, with the customer put in their rightful place at the top.
The importance of being human
Included in the research paper was a quote from one of the CEOs interviewed. “By not engaging with my staff, it makes it easier for me to be less humane as a leader,” he stated. “I spend a lot of time with my staff, but it is very difficult then to not give them any kind of pay rise.” This quote is a good example of how separate many leaders purposefully keep the different layers of their organisations. Interpreting being “less humane” as a good thing is the antipathy of employee engagement.
To be a good leader you need to lead by example. If you hide your human side as a leader, the culture of your organisation will follow suit, which will result in frontline staff alienating customers.
To be a good leader you need to lead by example. If you hide your human side as a leader, the culture of your organisation will follow suit, which will result in frontline staff alienating customers. When leaders only measure profit and loss, rather than think about the things that are hard to measure, such as how to truly connect with customers, then something very important is lost. If you reduce head count and costs too far in the name of financial success, the outcome can leave people without time to engage. The end result is a system that doesn’t provide people, throughout all levels of the organisation, with the time or opportunity to empathise and connect with the most important element of their business: their customers.
Following good sense instead of trends
The problem is systemic. To deliver shareholder value, leaders are forced to stop thinking about what is right for the customer, and start thinking about what will turn a profit year-on-year. This approach needs to be corrected. What they should actually be doing is thinking about the values that show they look after their people, who are in turn responsible for looking after the customers. By focusing on ways to increase customer satisfaction, this will drive profit over the long-term.
At Potential Squared, we encourage leaders to see that being able to admit to your vulnerabilities is a strength not a weakness. While standing up to shareholder’s short-term demands and associating with your workforce on a personal level will take increased effort, it should be viewed as an investment into both the future of your organisation and your role within it. In the end, the focus should not be on control and toughness, but rather on empathy and connections. It’s about being engaging and being engaged.
We’re passionate about customer service and employee engagement. To find out how we can expand the scope of your organisation’s leaders, contact us today.