Why is 2015 the Year of the Employee for customer-centric organisations?by
While it may seem counterintuitive, any organisation that wants to deliver a great customer experience shouldn’t focus on its customers first, but rather should focus on its employees.
Engaged employees are valuable assets, and they trigger a virtuous cycle that drives great customer experiences, leading to more loyal customers and stronger financial results. Temkin Group’s Employee Engagement Benchmark, 2015 found that:
- Companies with above average customer experience (CX) in their industry benefit from a workforce where 75% of their employees are highly or moderately engaged compared to only 47% of employees at other companies. Employees working for CX leaders are more committed to their jobs and work harder.
- Engaged employees demonstrate a higher commitment to their work across a spectrum of activities. For example, they are more than twice as likely to help someone at work even if they are not asked, three times as likely to make a recommendation for an improvement to the company, and over three times as likely to do something good for the company that is not expected of them. They are also less likely to take a sick day or look for a new job in the coming six months.
- Better performing companies have more engaged employees. 77% of employees at companies with strong financial results are highly or moderately engaged, as opposed to only 49% at underperforming companies.
As we entered 2015, Temkin Group not only began to see more companies rolling out CX programmes, but we also saw companies that have been doing this work for a while extending their CX focus in new ways and touching more employees across the organisation as a result.
While we’ve been saying this in our research for years - it’s why employee engagement is one of our four customer experience core competencies - we recently noticed that more and more of the companies we work with and talk to for our research have started recognising that the only way they will be able to deliver consistently great experiences to customers is to pay attention to their employees. More and more companies are putting employees at the centre of CX efforts, which is one of the reasons why we dubbed 2015 “The Year of the Employee.”
The current state of employee engagement activities
Even for companies that recognise how important employees are to their CX efforts, the road ahead is not easy. To understand how companies are working to improve employee engagement, Temkin Group surveyed executives from more than 200 large organisations. We found that while nearly all companies had at least some employee engagement efforts underway, only 43% of respondents classified these as significant efforts that are well-coordinated across the entire company.
When it comes to identifying the top obstacles getting in the way of their efforts, 53% of executives cited the lack of a clear employee engagement strategy, followed by inconsistent buy-in from middle managers and the lack of a clear owner leading the effort. The collective result? Only 19% of companies earned a strong or very strong rating in a self-assessment that analyses how effectively companies apply employee engagement approaches across their organisation.
Making this the Year of Your Employees
Companies interested in benefitting from the numerous advantages that an engaged workforce brings to their customer experience efforts need to fuel the front-end of the employee engagement virtuous cycle. While a number of factors influence how a company approaches employee engagement - including its existing culture, size and customer experience maturity - there are some universal practices that all companies should apply when seeking to engage employees in the customer experience journey. We call these the Five I’s of Employee Engagement:
- Inform. Ad hoc, inconsistent communication messages are not effective in engaging employees. Instead, organisations should develop a thorough communication plan and deliver key customer experience messages through multiple channels on a regular basis. CX leaders recognise the importance of delivering their CX messages consistently and persistently to ensure they are heard, understood, and internalised by employees.
- Inspire. Leaders play a key role in inspiring employees to believe in the company’s vision and values and to understand how their role contributes to the company’s success. Whether it’s meeting directly with employees to share organisational stories or demonstrating commitment by holding company leaders and managers accountable for changing their own behaviours, successful organisations should identify specific ways to tap into the positive influence of the senior executives to inspire and motivate employees.
- Instruct. Organisations cannot decide customer experience is important and think employees will magically know what that means or how to behave. Training, coaching, and feedback are required for employees to be successful. And this training should touch more than front-line employees. Middle managers and those with little or no direct customer interaction need to be prepared to do their part in helping the company become more customer-centric. This is a prime opportunity for CX professionals to work with their colleagues in human resources to design and deliver training programmes that are aligned with the customer experience strategy.
- Involve. Raising employee engagement isn’t a one-sided effort. Leading CX organisations find ways to involve employees, whether it’s through a formal voice of the employee programme, customer journey mapping, employee-driven improvement processes, or the company’s employee social network. Even if early efforts are informal and simple, successful organisations take action to raise employee engagement from the ground up, not only top down.
- Incent. One of Temkin Group’s Six Laws of Customer Experience is that employees do what is measured, incented and celebrated. Employees and teams who deliver excellent customer experiences should be celebrated with meaningful gestures of appreciation along with formal awards and incentives. And if employee engagement is truly important, then organisations should establish and measure engagement levels as a management metric with defined goals, action plans, and progress tracking on a regular basis.
Organisations that come out ahead will be those that understand that raising employee engagement is not the charge of any single function but a team effort that involves senior executives, middle managers, HR, CX, marketing, communications, IT, etc. They will be the ones that take a look inside their four walls and ensure that there is an environment in place where the culture and operating processes are aligned with the goals of the organisation, and that this environment enables employees to deliver consistently great customer experiences.
This will require a shift away from occasional, narrowly-focused actions and towards a sustained commitment to employees and customers across the organisation every day. The work involved is not easy, but it is worth it.
Aimee Lucas is a customer experience transformist & vice president at Temkin Group.