Fact: The employee experience drives the customer experience. I know I’m stating the obvious – but, shockingly, to many, it is not that obvious. So many companies still fail to recognize that important connection, to the ultimate detriment of the business.
Why is the customer experience so bad? Because when 70% of our workforce is “not engaged” or “actively disengaged,” according to Gallup, we cannot expect to have a great customer experience. If your employees aren’t engaged, it will be very difficult for them to delight your customers. If you don’t care about what you’re doing, it shows. If you’re not thrilled with — or passionate about — what you do, your heart’s not in it, and really, you are just showing up. Barely. That does not a great experience make. For anyone. In very simple terms, this describes “the spillover effect.”
Gallup defines engaged employees as “those employees working with passion and feeling a profound connection to their companies; they drive innovation and move the organization forward.” Disengaged employees, on the other hand, are “checked out and just putting time, but not energy or passion, into their work.” They’re actually a drain on the engaged workforce, and they “undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.”
As you can see, this is a huge problem! With such a small percentage of engaged employees, we can’t have anyone undermining the few. Not only do the disengaged impact the customer experience, but they also impact the experience of their fellow employees.
I love this quote from Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, which nicely sums up employee engagement:
“Engaged employees are not just committed. They are not just passionate or proud. They have a line-of-sight on their own future and on the organization’s mission and goals. They are ‘enthused’ and ‘in gear,’ using their talents and discretionary effort to make a difference in their employer’s quest for sustainable business success. I’ve never had control, and I never wanted it. If you create an environment where people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it.”
How, then, do we get to this state of nirvana?
First and foremost, no one can make an employee engaged. It doesn’t work that way. It cannot be mandated. Instead, there must be some confluence of: (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organization does (purpose, brand promise, who the company is and why, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment — then we have employee engagement.
Engagement comes from within the employee. It’s the emotional connection or commitment that an employee has to the organization that then causes the employee to want to put forth the additional effort to ensure the organization and the brand succeed. What the company can and must do is build a culture and an environment that facilitates employee engagement.
Here’s how companies can do their part:
- Start with hiring the right people
- Provide clear job descriptions that set expectations about roles
- Offer an onboarding process that includes details about what it means to work for your company
- The view from the top must be “employees more first”
- Communicate your brand promise and your purpose clearly and consistently
- Define, communicate, and live by your core values; find and hire people who are predisposed to living by those same values
- Provide clarity — of purpose and more
- Give employees direction and (then) freedom
- Empower employees to do and to think for themselves, which means/translates to responsibility, accountability, and ownership
- Treat employees well; respect them, and they’ll reciprocate
- Develop and support a culture of employee ownership. Facilitate a grassroots effort to help employees make the brand their own.
- Provide ongoing training and coaching
- Provide a career path and career development
- Ensure that employees have a clear line of sight to the big picture, e.g., company vision and mission, as well as to customers
- Recognize employees for a job well done
- Show appreciation
- Provide performance feedback on a regular basis
- Let employees know how they contribute and how their work matters
- Listen to employees and act on their feedback
- Map the employee journey to really understand their experience
- Communicate openly, candidly, and with transparency
- Eliminate barriers to employee success, e.g., bad policies and processes
- Trust employees
- Lead with integrity
An important thing to remember is that much of this effort on the company’s behalf begins with the employee’s manager. Yes, company leaders and executives drive a lot of the higher-level items on the list, e.g., vision, mission, etc., but the employee has a much closer relationship with his manager than he does with the CEO. You know how the saying goes: Employees leave managers, not companies. The manager is critical to the employee experience.
Make no mistake. Employees who enjoy their work — those who are passionate about what they are doing and for whom they are doing it — deliver results. Because of that enthusiasm and that passion for the brand, for the business, employees are eager to contribute to its success. And when we’re all working together for the success of the business, I believe that, ultimately, customers will win, too. As will your shareholders.
The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers. -Sybil F. Stershic