In the New Digital World, Employee Engagement is as Important as Customer Engagement

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Most companies today can tell you the approximate lifetime value of their core customers and what they are doing to realize the full potential of that value. How many companies can tell you the lifetime value of their most valued employees and what they are doing get that contribution from them?

Many companies have now adopted the Net Promoter Score metric created and introduced by Frederick Reichheld in 2006 which asks customers, “How likely is it that you would recommend this company ( and its products and services ) to a friend or colleague?” By contrast, how many companies ask their employees, “How likely is that you would recommend to a friend or colleague that they come to work at your company?”

One of the biggest challenges for companies today is to think about their employees the same way they think about their customers. What do you need to do to engage them? What do they need so they can improve their performance faster?  What is the lifetime value of an employee who is highly engaged and able to deliver optimal performance every day?

How many of your employees are highly engaged?

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When you apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs chart to employee engagement, you see that there are five distinct levels of engagement. As a starting point, if you conduct your own internal employee engagement survey, I suggest you allow the responses to be anonymous, then you can see what percentage of your employees fall into each of the five categories.

As I recently learned, Gallup does its own annual three stage employee engagement survey and the results from 2015 show a continued stagnation in employee engagement.

  • 32% said they were “engaged”
  • 50.8% said they were “not engaged”
  • 17.2% said they were “actively disengaged”

As the chart below confirms, the 2015 survey results mirror the results from the previous four years.

U.S. Employee Engagement, 2011-2015, yearly

The lack of any significant increase in employee engagement over the last five years suggest that a new approach merits consideration.

Rather than treating employees as costs, why not treat them as assets who, when fully developed and equipped can deliver ever-increasing value to the company and its key customers and constituents? In today’s digital enterprise, the old vertically integrated, hierarchical organizational structures have given way to horizontally structured business networks. These new networks require increased demand for communication, coordination and collaboration among peers both internally across the enterprise and externally with customers, supply chain partners and other key constituents. To carry out these new roles employees need new tools:

  • They need to be equipped with the latest cloud, mobile and social media tools at work.
  • They need to have better access to real-time data analytics to help them learn faster than the competition.
  • They need training and development programs that are focused on creating sustainable customer relationships not just efficiently handling customer transactions.  
  • They need to be measured by new metrics that more accurately reflect the increasing value they bring to the organization.
  • They need to be compensated for delivering both short term results and increasing the company’s long term power to grow.

Re-engaging With Your Employees

In order to re-engage with your employees, create customized training and development programs designed to move them from the step they are on to the step above. These programs could include the following:

  1. Validate and document the increased demand for communication, coordination and collaboration among peers both internally across the enterprise and externally with customers, supply chain partners and other key constituents.
  2. Identify the company’s key moments of customer engagement and who represents the company at that engagement.
  3. Determine what social media and technology tools an employee needs to be equipped with in order to create a successful moment of engagement.
  4. Develop a set of metrics that measure the lifetime value of an employee who is fully engaged and able to deliver optimal performance every day.
  5. Develop an employee net promoter score that lets you know how many of your employees would be likely to recommend to their friends and peers that that come to work at your company.
  6. Create customized employee training and development programs designed to move from the step they are on to the step above.

Creating a cultural DNA that breeds full engagement

At the core of any high-performance organization is a culture that expects nothing less than the best that each employee can give and acknowledges and rewards their efforts to achieve that end state. I recently read the book The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown and found that it gets down into the marrow of what it takes to deliver peak performance and total engagement

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On the surface, it tells the story of 9 collegiate rowers and their heroic quest for a gold medal in the 1936 Olympics. Underneath that surface, it tells the story of trust, harmony and total confidence in each other as eloquently described by world renowned rowing shell builder George Yeoman Pocock:

“To be of championship caliber, a crew must have total confidence in each other, able to drive with abandon, confident that no man will get the full weight of the pull. The 1936 crew rowed with abandon, beautifully timed. Having complete confidence in one another they would bound on the stroke with one powerful cut; then ghost forward to the next stroke with the boat running true and hardly a perceptible slowdown. They were a classic example of eight-oar rowing at its very best.”

With their total submission to that kind of teamwork and trust, they represent the very best of what full engagement is all about. As such, I commend this book to anyone who aspires to build that kind of commitment within their organizations. I hasten to add that success in that endeavor will produce transformational results.

As always, I am interested in your comments, feedback and perspectives on the ideas put forth in this blog. Please e-mail them to me at pdmoore@woellc.com

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