Being “customer obsessed” is a modern day must for building long-lasting customer relationships and boosting profits. But an essential predecessor to a positive customer experience is employees who are engaged and happy, too. You just can’t expect your employees to delight customers if they themselves are just mechanically (or even miserably) going through the motions to survive the workweek.
If you’re concerned with improving or maintaining your customer experience (CX) strategy, then it’s time to take a hard look at your employee experience strategy as well.
What is employee engagement, and why does it matter?
More than satisfaction: Engagement goes well beyond employee satisfaction. In their 2009 book Employee Engagement: Tools for Analysis, Practice, and Competitive Advantage, authors Macey, Schneider, and Young parse out the difference between these terms: “Employee satisfaction implies satiation with what has been obtained, whereas engagement implies going after, seeking, and striving”.
Workplaces are falling short: A 2017 Gallup Poll revealed that 70% of employees are disengaged at work.
The bottom line: But it’s not just about your employees having good vibes and high aspirations. Workplace engagement has startlingly positive (or negative) implications for your company’s bottom line. From Return on Assets (ROA) to Profitability to Shareholder Value, the top 25% most engaged employees influence significantly higher numbers than their bottom 25% engagement counterparts.
Using surveys to measure the employee experience
We’ve already addressed one of the biggest pitfalls of measuring the employee experience: confusing employee “satisfaction” with engagement. So how can you meaningfully determine what kind of experience your employees are having working for your company? The key is a good survey.
To truly measure employee engagement, and thus get a finger on the pulse of the overall employee experience, you have to ask the right questions. After analyzing four widely-used metrics for employee engagement, consultant Bob Hayes of Business Over Broadway (B.O.B.) concludes that the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) has the best potential for reliably and meaningfully indicating employee engagement.
This 17-item survey asks respondents to rate themselves on a frequency scale from 0 (Never) to 6 (Always/Every Day) on statements such as “Time flies when I am working” and “I am proud of the work that I do.” If you’re looking to design a great employee experience survey, this list would be a great jumping off point.
Strategies for a happy, high-functioning team:
- Examine your hiring practices. Understand that some people are more engaged in their lives overall than others-- including their work lives. Trying to get a sense of engagement as an overall trait of a potential employee, rather than merely looking at their qualifications and experience, is a worthwhile consideration during the hiring process. Interview questions that might allude to a candidate’s intrinsic trait of engagement might be “Describe a task- workplace or other- which is difficult yet enjoyable for you” or “Describe a time when you went above and beyond to pursue a ‘passion project’”.
- Keep customer service agents in the loop. Employees who work directly with customers are often subject to the emotional strain of putting on a happy face even when being confronted by angry people. Make sure these frontline spokespeople for your company maintain awareness-- or, better yet, agency-- about the larger goals and principles of the company. Agents are the eyes and ears of the company; keeping them connected to the mind, heart, and soul of the organization will enable them to find more purpose in their work.
- Incentivize. In a perfect world, a satisfied customer or a job well done would be reason enough for every employee to stride through the doors each morning energized and ready to give their all. But this is real life. Offering rewards, recognition, and maybe even a friendly competition might be the boost an employee needs to get through an arduous or mundane day.
- Offer opportunities for skills advancement. Employees who feel that their jobs offer challenging work are more likely to be satisfied with what they manage to achieve. Feeding employees with opportunities for more skilled work or fresh strategies for success means they can continually strive for new challenges and feel satisfied in achieving them. Bonus: Choosing advancement opportunities and avenues increases an employee’s sense of autonomy, another surefire way to boost engagement.
Customer experience and employee experience go hand-in-hand
If you expect customers to have a positive experience with your company and your brand, then it stands to reason that the employees who serve these customers directly need to have a positive experience, too. Marrying these two strategies- customer experience and employee experience- is a no-brainer. Your customer service agents are the liaison connecting a brand to the customer. Keeping them happy means putting your company’s best face forward.