Six steps to building an engaged workforce and reaping the benefits of engaged employees (part 2)

29th May 2019

This was first published by Servicetick, a Davies company.

Employee engagement is a crucial ingredient of great customer service and business success. In our last blog we considered three of the six actions highlighted by the Institute of Customer Service as essential to effective employee engagement: bringing vision and values to life in a way that can be understood by everyone in the organisation; equipping managers with the skills to engage effectively with employees; authentic, regular, relevant communications with employees.

This week we’ll look at the remaining three key actions:

  • Giving employees clear opportunities to voice opinions
  • Ensuring every employee has appropriate training and a personal development plan
  • Recognising excellent customer service performance

Giving employees clear opportunities to voice opinions

Finding and recruiting great employees is one of the top priorities of any organisation. Once you have your great people on board understanding how they feel about your business (what are their needs, preferences and hopes; how committed are they to the business; how much do they share the company vision and values) will help to shape the extent to which they are engaged with your brand.

As Richard Branson said, “The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers” and knowing how they feel is a cornerstone to improving your employee engagement.

Good employee engagement is built on a strong platform of feedback. This can be an informal process – feeding comments from teams back up the hierarchy, but for a clearer picture of how your people feel a Voice of Employee (VoE) programme is a vital tool.

Traditionally, these have taken the form of an annualised survey seeking opinions on areas relating to the employee experience within the business such as career aspirations, remuneration package, training and development, experiences with management etc. But increasingly the need is recognised for a more frequent perspective on your employees’ attitudes at work. Regular ‘pulse’ surveys can be swift to complete and provide an up to date view on how your staff are presenting your brand.

When designed appropriately and executed well these feedback loops can deliver fantastic insights to HR Directors and just as importantly to Divisional Heads for them to understand what’s going on at grassroots level within their teams (If you’re interested you can read more about our VoE offering here).

Ensuring every employee has appropriate training and a personal development plan

Companies that have engaged employees tend to place attitude above aptitude when recruiting. Put simply they hire for attitude and train for skills. At Southwest Airlines a core value is a ‘Fun-LUVing Attitude’ (LUV is their stock symbol). The airline consciously seeks out people who want to have fun, don’t take themselves too seriously, enjoy their work and are passionate team-players. Having found them, they then teach them how to do the job. The pilots do need a bit of experience but for other roles they are happy to recruit from outside the airline industry, refreshing the employee gene pool and regularly topping customer satisfaction charts.

Having recruited employees with the right mindset there is not just a duty to provide them with the right skills to do their job but also significant business benefit from doing so. The U.K. Learning & Development Report: 2018 showed that organisations with above average investment in training enjoy better retention rates and almost twice the levels of employee satisfaction.

Organisations that embrace and invest in training are more likely to be: attractive to new recruits and existing employees; brands whose customers experience improving standards of service; places where teams work more effectively together; companies that recruit from within (saving on costly recruitment fees). Higher engagement can also mean greater productivity. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report suggests that teams with highly engaged members are, on average, 17% more productive than those with lower average engagement.

Training is also a powerful motivational strategy for staff. The sense that their boss thinks sufficiently highly of them to invest in their skills and future will deepen the relationship of trust between employer and employee. Which brings us neatly to our sixth step for engaging employees.

Recognising excellent customer service performance

The renowned psychologist Abraham Mazlow’s placed “Self-esteem” (the concern with getting recognition, status, importance, and respect from others) above the needs for social belonging and safety, giving credence to Dale Carnegie’s view that: “People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards”.

Saying thank you for a job well done is the simplest, most effective way to reinforce positive behaviours and a strong corporate culture. It creates happy employees and, some research suggests, healthier employees. It can also make your business more productive. A study reported by Harvard Medical School and carried out by researchers at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania found grateful leaders motivated employees to become more productive. The study found employees who were thanked by their managers made 50% more fund-raising calls.

Recognition is as much a part of a successful employee engagement programme as basic ‘pay and rations’. But putting them both together is a real ‘win/win’ Last week we heard that the founder of Richer Sounds, Julian Richer, has handed over a 60% stake in the business to over 500 staff. The immediate benefit to staff was a £1,000 bonus for every year worked. But, longer term, they will have a say in how the business is run and enjoy a sense of ownership that will set their business apart.

Mr Richer told the BBC: “I’ve been running my business for 40 years and the overriding thing I’ve learned is that it’s all about the people. If you treat your people right, then they are going to be happier, give a better service, stay with you”.

It’s a philosophy that more and more businesses are embracing either through employee ownership (John Lewis, Riverford Organics, Aardman Animations) or through employee engagement. And it seems to be a winning formula that any business would do well to adopt.

Next week we’ll be looking at how best to construct a Voice of the Employee programme that will let you gauge the extent to which your employees are committed to your business.

    Keep up to date with Davies