New data about the return on inspiration.
By Aimee Lucas
Employee engagement is becoming an increasingly hot topic. And the attention is justified. Engaged employees are assets that help companies outperform their peers in financial performance and customer experience.
This year’s Temkin Group Employee Engagement Benchmark Study examined the current state of this workforce dynamic. In this survey of more than 2,400 employees in the United States who work at for-profit organizations, 57 percent of respondents are moderately or highly engaged, a 13-point gain from last year. It turns out that leading firms have more engaged workers. Other findings:
• In companies with above average financial performance,
75 percent of employees are moderately or highly engaged, compared with less than half of firms with below average results.
• Companies with above average customer experience also have 75 percent of employees who are engaged, compared to only 25 percent of employees in companies that deliver sub-par customer experience.
Why do the best companies seem to have the most engaged workers? Engaged employees create a virtuous cycle of positive customer experiences that result in more loyal customers and superior financial results. Simply put, when employees are engaged, good things happen. According to the study, engaged workers:
• Are more committed to their work. They are more than twice as likely to work after their shift ends, help someone at work, and do something good on the job that is not expected of them.
• Attempt to make things better. When it comes to making a recommendation for improvement at the company, engaged employees speak up more than their disengaged coworkers by a three-to-one margin.
• Try to do their best. Ninety-six percent of highly engaged employees always or almost always try their hardest at work, compared to only 71 percent of disengaged employees.
• Advocate for their employers. Engaged employees are more than six times as likely to recommend a friend or family member to take a job at the company.
Although employee engagement is on the rise, these advantages vary by industry and company size. Employees are more engaged in smaller companies. About 60 percent of employees in companies with 100 or fewer employees are moderately to highly engaged, compared with only 48 percent at companies with more than 10,000 employees. And when it comes to employee engagement by industry, professional, scientific, and technical services organizations are the leaders. In this industry, 62 percent of employees are engaged, compared with only 50 percent of retail employees, the poorest performing sector of the nine industries analyzed in the report.
Engagement also differs by type of employee. The research found that:
• As employees move up the organizational chart, their engagement level increases. The percentage of highly engaged executives is nearly three times higher than that of highly engaged individual contributors.
• Customer contact breeds engagement. Sixty-three percent of
employees who always interact with customers are at least moderately engaged, compared to only 40 percent of employees who never interact with customers.
• Engagement differs by income and age. Employees who earn more than $100,000 are the most engaged. And it turns out that the youngest (aged 18 to 24) and oldest (aged 65 and older) employees are also the most engaged.
So how can companies reap the benefits of a more engaged workforce? To raise employee engagement, they should focus on five types of activities with their people: inform, inspire, instruct, involve, and incent.
Inform. Employers must start by providing the information employees need to understand the organization’s mission and brand values, along with what’s expected of them in their individual roles. This means delivering content that is interesting and relevant to employees through multiple channels to reach audiences that are often generationally and geographically diverse. Safelite AutoGlass’s communication team takes advantage of a variety of tactics including in-person meetings, audio podcasts, webinars, text messages, and newsletters for associates and technicians, some of which are mailed to their homes.
Inspire. Employees also need to be inspired so that they believe the missions matter and take pride in their jobs and companies. Senior executives are an important source of inspiration for employees. The first day of work for new ZocDoc employees includes lunch with the founders, where they hear about the early days of the company, what the leaders are focused on now, and ZocDoc’s seven core values, which permeate the culture and how it does business.
Instruct. If companies want employees to be engaged, then employees need training on the knowledge and skills required to succeed at their jobs. And because lessons learned in the “classroom” can fail to stick, feedback and coaching are an important part of reinforcing employees’ knowledge and skills over time. Contact center managers at Hershey Entertainment and Resorts have a weekly review with each of their agents. This is an opportunity to share performance feedback and provide coaching, while at the same time learn from the employee about what he or she is seeing on the job and which company activities are making the agent’s or customer’s experience more difficult. The company rebalanced managers’ work tasks to ensure time is available for these valuable discussions.
Involve. Companies can create a groundswell of engagement by getting employees involved when improving work processes and solving problems identified through customer or employee feedback. A powerful tactic is to listen to employees and take action on what is learned. Nicor National listens to its employees through a three-part program. It conducts a biannual employee survey to measure employee engagement and related key drivers. It supplements the survey process with the Employee Voice program to capture employee-initiated feedback submitted online and its monthly employee roundtable discussions, which include 20 randomly selected employees. All of this feedback is used by both the Nicor executive team and a group of employee ambassadors to develop action plans to address trends and opportunities.
Incent. Employees do what is measured, incented, and celebrated, so companies need to put systems in place to reinforce desired behaviors and motivate employees to give their best. Peer-to-peer recognition is one way to do this; peer pressure and support can be a powerful incentive to change. At JetBlue Airways, crewmembers can send messages of thanks and nominate their colleagues for living the company values through the Lift program, which includes awards redeemable for gift cards. By mining the data captured through the recognition platform, JetBlue is also able to identify employees who consistently and frequently deliver exceptional experiences to their co-workers and passengers.
Finally, if employee engagement is important, then companies need to turn it into a management metric. Once the measurement is in place, companies need to define goals, identify and act upon improvement opportunities, and track progress on a regular basis.
The bottom line: Engaged employees are an incredibly valuable asset. Don’t under invest in them.
Aimee Lucas is a customer experience analyst with Temkin Group.