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Employee Engagement

Via Forbes : Engage Your Front Line To Increase Your Bottom Line

Your frontline employees, like your sales associates, technicians and customer service reps, often know what’s wrong in your company before you do. They can tell you what delights customers and what frustrates them and, perhaps more importantly, they can tell you “why.” They can tell you why some customers are buying more of your services, while others are returning products, canceling contracts, and taking their business elsewhere.

The problem is that many companies aren’t listening.

Engagement, loyalty, and the bottom line

Fred Reichheld, creator of the well-known Net Promoter System, says companies “can’t earn the loyalty of customers without first generating enthusiastic engagement and loyalty from employees, especially frontline employees.” The evidence bears this out. When the Medallia Institute compared employee engagement and customer loyalty across more than 130 retail outlets, we found that stores with more engaged employees, measured by the likelihood that they would recommend the store as a place to work, had customer loyalty ratings that were 12 percent higher than stores with less engaged employees. Stores with high employee engagement also achieved greater increases in customer loyalty year-over-year, while stores with low employee engagement saw loyalty drop.

A five percent increase in customer loyalty can increase a company’s profitability by 25 to 95 percent, according to Bain & Company. That’s a nice boost to your bottom line.

The unique, untapped value of frontline employees

To increase customer loyalty, companies often turn to market research firms and expensive analytics to determine what their customers like and dislike. Market research and fancy algorithms might be able to tell you how satisfied your customers are, but they rarely tell you how to change your operations to make things better. Fortunately, your frontline employees can.

To understand why, and what creates greater customer-centric engagement at the front line, we surveyed 1,000 customer-facing employees across five U.S. industries—automotive, banking and financial services, retail, telecommunication services, and travel and hospitality.

While 78 percent of employees surveyed said their leaders had made customer experience a top corporate priority, nearly 60 percent also said their ideas for improving the experience often went unheard. These included ideas for delighting customers in new ways (61 percent), improving processes or practices to enhance the customer experience (56 percent), or providing better training so that employees could serve customers more effectively (47 percent).

As in most things, the devil is in the details. Many executives know they ought to be engaging their front line more effectively, but how? Our research suggests that the secret to enthusiastic, customer-centric engagement is empowering frontline employees to make a difference, which starts with listening to them. Based on our survey, we offer four practices that can help you find the way to happier customers through the voice of your employees.

1. Solicit feedback regularly. In our study, 51 percent of frontline employees said they had suggestions for improving customer satisfaction at least quarterly, and 22 percent said they had feedback to share weekly or even daily. Yet nearly 20 percent said their companies never asked for their thoughts on improving customer service, and a third said they were asked for their opinions once a year or less. Thirty years of research have shown that employees are highly accurate in their assessments of customer satisfaction and the quality of their company’s service delivery. If you give them more opportunities to share their insights and suggestions, you’ll be far better equipped to understand and respond to your customers.

2. Ask the right questions. Even when companies do ask frontline employees for feedback, they often ask about inconsequential things that have little impact on the business. Less than half of the employees we surveyed (46 percent) said their companies asked the “right” questions when asking for feedback. Instead, employers tend to ask generic, often irrelevant, questions that offer little opportunity to provide meaningful input. The best way to solicit feedback from employees is to ask questions about relevant, actionable topics that are central to their ability to deliver a great customer experience.

3. Communicate before and after. Only three out of five frontline employees said their company shared the results of employee surveys, and only half said the company informed them about actions taken in response to the feedback. When companies fail to keep employees informed about what they’re doing in response to feedback, employees stop providing their input. If you think your ideas go into a black hole, why bother to give them? This not only diminishes the quality of feedback loops, it also slows learning. Knowing which suggestions are being acted on allows employees to track the ideas that are implemented, assess their impact, and calibrate accordingly, thereby improving future suggestions.

4. Take action. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is ask employees for input and then do nothing with it. But that’s precisely what many companies do. Thirty-three percent of the people we surveyed said their company never took action on employee feedback and another 24 percent said it acted once a year or less. Perhaps most surprising: Less than half of frontline employees said they could count on their leaders to remove obstacles to delighting customers.

A poorly managed employee feedback system can be more detrimental than having no system at all: It sends a strong signal that employee suggestions are not valued and that management is only paying lip service to creating a great customer experience. If management doesn’t care about improving customer service, why should employees?

On the flip side, if you ask your employees for ideas to improve the customer experience, make use of the best suggestions, and communicate what actions you’re taking and why, your efforts will go a long way toward increasing customer-centric engagement among employees, and also dramatically improve your ability to deliver a great customer experience.

A recent Gallup review found that business units in the top quartile of employee engagement had 10% higher customer loyalty and 20% higher sales than those in the bottom quartile. Our results suggest that listening and acting on feedback from your front line is a great place to start building engagement, loyalty, and your bottom line.

Via Huffington Post : 10 Reasons Employee Engagement Matters

When your employees are so emotionally invested in your company that they’ll do everything in their power to help it succeed, you’ve achieved the illustrious “employee engagement.” But how important is it to contributing to your success? In a word, very. Let’s just say your company’s productivity, customer happiness, and even profitability is at stake. Here are 10 ways employee engagement matters.

1. Increase in profitability. Your bottom line is always top of mind. A critical factor in shoring that up is investing in employment engagement strategies. A fully engaged workforce will outperform a disengaged workforce any day. Numerous research studies back this assertion. For example, a recent Gallup study revealed that companies with engaged workforces have higher earnings per share and recovered at a faster rate from the recession.

2. Improved retention rates. It’s common sense that employees who are most engaged are less likely to leave their jobs and search for new ones. In fact, research shows that engaged employees have lower turnover rates than their disengaged peers. And increased retention rates lead to lower recruiting and hiring costs, which helps boost morale.

3. Boost in workplace happiness. Only 12 percent of employees leave for a new job solely because they’re chasing a fatter paycheck. Many employees are seeking recognition for their efforts and contributions—not necessarily a raise—and are a lot more satisfied working for companies that emphasize timely feedback and praise. Happy employees lead to increased productivity and improved morale.

4. Higher levels of productivity. A Gallup poll analyzing more than 1 million employees found that teams with highly engaged employees outperformed similar teams with disengaged employees. In addition, companies with engaged employees outperform those with lower engagement levels by up to 202 percent, according to a Dale Carnegie study.

5. More innovation. Employees who are engaged are more open to innovative ideas and new tools. They’re thinking about ways to enhance the work they do, rather than just performing the bare minimum required. This attitude is a prerequisite for innovation.

6. Connected employees. Companies voted “Best Places to Work” tend to value and foster connections among their teams. In doing so, these companies are “meeting the more altruistic and basic human needs of feeling connected and being an important part in something bigger,” says Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith, senior vice president of research at PageUp People, a company that provides HR professionals with a cloud-based, talent management system. A connected culture encourages communication and leads to an increase in productivity. In many cases, connected employees will choose to spend their after-work hours with co-workers, increasing company loyalty.

7. Better communication. Employees who are engaged are more likely to communicate openly with their colleagues than those who are disengaged.

8. More collaboration. Employees who communicate are more likely to collaborate. Collaboration leads to a reduced workload for overburdened teams and can diffuse and decrease conflict. Thanks to the Internet of Things, cloud technology, and apps like Buffer and Slack, team collaboration much is easier. Daniel Newman, principal analyst of Futurum Research and CEO of Broadsuite Media Group believes, “Predictive devices catch mistakes, offer intelligent advice, and take the struggle out of collaboration efforts.”

9. Commitment to the company. Employees who are engaged are more likely to remain committed to their company, even during difficult times or busy periods. This often helps with continuity and efficiency, not to mention building a stronger employer brand.

10. Improved recruitment rates. A workplace known for its engaged workforce will attract highly productive employees who will be as engaged as your current team. Not to mention that happy, connected employees are far more likely to recommend their employer to friends and acquaintances.

For these 10 reasons and more, employee engagement is perhaps the most critical ingredient to achieving your company’s top goals. It’s in your best interest to invest in your employees because they’ll become invested in your company’s success—and that’s a sure way to boost your company’s bottom line.

Via INC : What’s the Difference Between Employee Engagement and Experience?

Are engagement and employee experience are at odds with each other, or has experience just replaced engagement?

We talk a lot about employee experience and engagement, but what does that actually mean and can the two work together? Is it just free meals and on-site yoga, or does it go deeper? In doing research for my latest book on employee experience I found that the truth is that employee engagement and experience are vital keys that work together to improve culture.

Organizations used to view employees just as a way to make more products and earn more money. A few decades ago, the idea of engagement was born–a radically new concept where businesses started caring about and valuing employees. This shifted some of the focus away from how the organization can extract more value from employees to focusing on what it can do to benefit the employees. The more engaged an employee is, the better! There have been all sorts of studies that have shown engaged employees are more productive, stay at the company longer, and are generally healthier and happier.

We’ve been in the engagement era for the past two or three decades, but the new wave is employee experience. Some people think that engagement and employee experience are at odds with each other and that experience has to replace engagement. That isn’t true; engagement and experience can actually work together–in fact, they need to. Still, our current definitions and understanding of employee engagement need to evolve. Many of the questions and frameworks used to explore engagement haven’t changed since they were first introduced, which creates some challenges.

Many organizations use the terms employee engagement and employee experience interchangeably, but that is incorrect. Let’s say you buy an old car at a junkyard and then spend thousands of dollars to make it look brand new. Even though the car will look beautiful, it will still drive like the same old junkyard car. To improve how the car performs, you need to replace the engine. Organizations are investing considerable resources into things like corporate culture programs, office redesigns, employee engagement initiatives, and well-being strategies. These things make the organization look better but have little impact on how it actually performs. Employee engagement has been all about short-term cosmetic changes that organizations have been trying to make to improve how they work. If this approach doesn’t work for a car, then it certainly won’t work for an organization. If employee engagement is the short-term adrenaline shot, then employee experience is the long-term redesign of the organization. It’s the focus on the engine instead of on the paint and upholstery. Employee engagement has become this concept of forcing employees to work inside of outdated workplace practices but while giving them perks to distract them from their reality. Employee experience on the other hand is actually changing the core workplace practices of the organization.

So what is employee experience? For the people who are a part of your organization, their experience is simply the reality of what it’s like to work there. From the perspective of the organization, employee experience is what is designed and created for employees, or what the organization believes the employee reality should be like.

You may have seen The Truman Show, a film about a man who is living in a world that was designed for him by an organization. His entire perceived world was constructed from a massive stage, and although he didn’t realize it, every action and event that took place was planned. Regardless of how hard the organization tried to keep Truman from leaving the world that was created for him, he eventually did break free. In some ways this is how our organizations operate. They tell us when we can work, what tools we should use, what to wear, when we can get promoted or learn something new, whom we can talk to, and when we can eat or take breaks. As an employee you have virtually no say in what happens for around 8 to 10 hours of your day. Although our organizations aren’t exactly Truman-izing our lives, there are parallels that can be drawn here. So where does that leave us? The ideal scenario is when the organization designs or does something and the employees perceive it in the intended way. This is possible because employees actually help shape their experiences instead of simply having them designed by the organization. Taking that viewpoint, one can define employee experience as “the intersection of employee expectations, needs, and wants and the organizational design of those expectations, needs, and wants.” However, what resonates more with people is saying “designing an organization where people want to show up by focusing on the cultural, technological, and physical environments.” Phrasing it this way encapsulates the entire relationship and journey that an employee experiences while interacting with an organization, but it also breaks it down a bit into three distinct environments.

Every organization in the world has employees who have their own experiences. Whether you help create them or not, they still exist. Employee experience is simply too important and too key of a business differentiator simply to be left up to chance. This employee experience design process isn’t just done for employees; it’s done with them. By combining employee engagement and experience to work together, organizations can build an environment where employees feel valued.

Via Raconteur : Engaging the disengaged leaders is key to employee engagement

The pivotal importance of engaged leadership must not be overlooked in the drive to achieve employee engagement

Take a look at almost anything written about engagement and it is almost a given the words “staff” or “employee” will feature. Globally, 87 per cent of employees are not engaged, proclaims Gallup; employee disengagement costs the UK economy £340 billion a year in lost productivity, according to Hay Group; and so the list could go on.

But the eagle-eyed may have noticed all these statistics ignore one key person – the leader. If employees’ engagement oscillates, it’s surely common sense leaders suffer the same ups and downs. But here’s the $64,000 question: how much does this really matter?

“It’s absolutely the case leaders set the tone. It’s they who set the standard, so leaders actually need to be even more engaged,” argues Kate Cooper, head of applied research and policy at the Institute of Leadership and Management. “Even when things aren’t going well, they almost need to rise above this.”

Even though academics have veered away from the great leaders’ mantra, preferring a holacratic, everyone-in-it-together approach to organisational design, what has not disappeared is the notion companies can either have inspiring leaders or leaders who inspire disengagement.

A recent Bain & Company study found 60 per cent of employees didn’t know their company’s goals, strategies and tactics, so if leaders haven’t clarified this vital ingredient for creating engagement, responsibility for poor business performance lies squarely on their shoulders.

“It’s interesting lots of leaders still don’t focus on their own engagement or what I call their own energy,” says Charlene Li, author of The New York Times best seller, The Engaged Leader. “Yet it’s even more important they maintain this over time.”

According to Ms Li, the tale-tale signs leaders are becoming disengaged are when they go missing in action, take longer to return e-mails or calls, say “no” more often, and start to support and promote those who most agree with them. And when this attitude sets in, it can have a corrosive impact on the bottom line. Staff who are “actively disengaged” – around 20 per cent, according to Gallup – specifically say they do not find their work or their leader motivating.

“Leadership is a contact sport,” says Chris Bones, professor of creativity and leadership at Manchester Business School, and partner at Good Growth. “Being an engaged leader is about being visible and present. What’s interesting though is that a reason leaders often become disengaged is because it can take time for staff to believe them. Paradoxically, leaders can become disengaged just at the point when their staff start to buy in to their vision.”

THE POWER OF ENGAGED LEADERSHIP

One leader acutely aware of the power of engaged leadership is Ken Allen, chief executive of DHL Express, who in 2013 launched what business journal HR magazine described as the “world’s biggest engagement scheme”. In what was a do-or-die decision, as the company had lost €2.8 billion between 2002 and 2009, the business has since transformed itself.

But according to Mr Allen, engagement starts from him and particularly from being imbued in the business. “I’m a company man,” he says. “I’ve been here since 1985. Today I see lots of leaders parachuted into businesses, but they will only inspire their staff if they embrace the good things that made the business successful and don’t try to do things ‘their way’.

“Until every employee thinks they can grow personally too, leaders can’t grow their business, so it’s leaders who need to create stories. I take it upon myself to be in front of people all the time, delivering my message. I don’t want to be seen as a suit from head office.”

Although Mr Allen admits leaders still “have to force themselves to be engaged”, Ms Li believes the very act of being in front of staff is not only engaging for employees, it’s engaging for the boss too. “When they challenge their people to be engaged, it’s engaging for themselves,” she says. “They reconnect; they rediscover their passion for the business.”

Because human resources literature focuses on “authentic leadership” and about being honest with staff, Ms Cooper argues leaders can be confused about the sort of engagement they have to present to staff. For instance, whether they should admit they’re feeling low or whether being emotionally bare facilitates better “followership”.

She says: “Authenticity is about saying ‘I’m having a bad day’. That’s fine, but the best leaders still need to present control. What leaders must do is create a team around them, one that has their backing rather than waits for them to fail.

“Engagement needs to be a strategic activity. Leaders need to recognise what sort of person they are. If they thrive setting businesses up and are engaged doing that, fine. But, if they also know their enthusiasm wanes, they need to know when it’s best to bring someone else in who has more energy.”

The good news is as more leaders understand the bottom-line value of having engaged staff, the more leaders themselves are understanding their role in it.

Eric Garton, partner at Bain & Company, and author of Time, Talent and Energy, says leaders need all three of these qualities, but it’s their energy or engagement that has the most power to transform. “All businesses suffer organisational drag, but the most drag is caused by lacklustre leadership,” he says. “Engaged staff are 44 per cent more productive than satisfied staff, but employees who are inspired are 125 per cent more productive than a satisfied staff.”

Mr Garton argues engaged leaders “presume trust and empower accordingly”. He says: “Millennial companies have inherently more energy because their leaders don’t tend to micro-manage. While some leaders get worn down by their own organisation, the best don’t worry about people challenging them. The best leaders demonstrate engagement by owning it – simple as that.” That’s the challenge. Now it’s up to leaders to embrace it.

via CMS WiRE : The Skills HR Needs to Sustain an Engaged Workforce

The role human resources (HR) play in the workplace is undergoing a major shift.

In the past, HR concerns took a back seat to bottom line business needs. This was due in part to a lack of strong HR metrics and methods of measurement, and the balance of power between employer and employee.

But with today’s increasing jockeying for top talent, the C-level has woken up to the importance of employee engagement, retention and development.

Translating Data Into Improved Employee Experiences

Employee engagement impacts loyalty, productivity, innovation and customer satisfaction — making it clear that an engaged workforce is not simply a nice to have, it’s a necessity for creating an innovative business that can withstand the constant flow of new competition.

This has led executives to look to HR to recreate and drive the shift towards employee-centered processes, environments and strong value-based cultures, otherwise known as the employee experience. However, a gap still exists between translating data into actionable changes.

Employee engagement is an abstract metric. Identifying a dip in your most recent engagement survey may not tell you why your people are less satisfied with their work life now than they were the month before, or how to address it. HR faces a challenge of how to make people data human.

At this critical moment, HR leaders need to open their minds to new ways of designing processes to create a totally customized and unique experience. The great thing is you won’t have to leave your organization to acquire the new skills you need.

5 Skills HR Can Learn From Other Departments

1. Marketing: Understanding the Employee Journey

Marketers have succeeded in reaching a better understanding of a customer’s mindset and emotions throughout their interactions with the company and the product. By creating customer journey maps they’ve found a way to categorically track each touchpoint a customer goes through until they make the decision to buy.

Studies have found that even one negative experience can deter customers from going through with a purchase. In fact, Oracle found 81 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. And 74 percent of senior executives believe a great experience is a key factor in driving customer loyalty. Furthermore, as marketers know, maintaining customers is more cost effective than acquiring new ones, making customer mapping extremely valuable.

Replace ‘employee’ for ‘customer’ in all of the above and you get a similar effect.

A negative experience with recruitment portals has been shown to deter potential hires from applying for positions. Many millennials are willing to forgo a larger salary for a better quality of work life. In fact, a recent survey by Fidelity Investments revealed that on average this new young workforce would be willing to take a $7,600 pay cut in exchange for immaterial incentives like purposeful work, work/life balance and company culture.

Finally, similar to customer retention, retaining employees has proven to be more cost effective than recruiting and retraining new people.

Given the success that marketers have had from creating customer journey maps, many HR leaders now utilize this methodology to create employee journey maps, tracking each phase from recruitment to exiting the company.

2. Statistics: People Analytics

Once you have your journey mapped out, it’s time to fill it in with the factors that matter in your work environment.

The best place to start is by collecting data. Where are you falling short and where would you like to improve? Are you having trouble attracting new hires? Is your goal to help develop more female leaders within the company? Do you see a dip in engagement after your annual performance review?

The key here is to collect data regularly. An engagement survey taken at the beginning of the year won’t reflect the attitudes that developed during your company’s sudden leadership change in March. The more data you have, the easier it’ll be to compare and identify potential causes.

An array of new HR tech gadgets makes capturing and analyzing data even easier. Need to find out how much time your managers spend on coaching or who the top performers are in your company? With the rise of HR technology, solutions are available that can make your life easier by collecting, analyzing and sending the data you need.

3. Psychology: Creating Personas

Creating buyer personas is another marketing tactic that can be extremely useful when mapping out your employee journey. Rather than thinking of your workforce as a whole, creating specific employee personas brings the human side to the process, enabling you to visualize each stage from the viewpoint of a specific person. This requires you to get into the mindset of the typical employee or the ideal hire and identify their key concerns at every stage.

Rather than looking at your workforce as a whole, thinking about a specific person with a name, role and personality will help you get a better sense of what they could be experiencing. How does Anna feel about your performance review process? What factors could be inhibiting her from gaining the growth benefits this practice should provide?

4. Design: New Ways of Thinking

Once you’ve identified the potential pain points in your employee’s journey, it’s time to rethink processes and propose new strategies specifically designed to eliminate these barriers. Design thinking can help you.

Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends found the HR departments deemed most valuable were five times more likely to use design thinking. Even executives are recognizing the exciting possibilities design thinking can offer, with 79 percent rating it as an important or very important issue.

After analyzing the pain points identified, design thinking helps designers create UIs that enable a comfortable and engaging experience for users. This means departing from traditional models of onboarding, performance management, etc. which have been HR cornerstones for decades.

5. Communications: Storytelling

Storytelling is a key skill every HR manager needs to learn. While executives are finally aware of the importance of metrics like engagement, HR continues to struggle to put their ideas on the agenda.

Even with C-level support, selling the major overhauls you would like to make to traditionally ingrained processes will not be easy.

Remember that people analytics is not just data. This information tells a story about the people in your company. HR’s role as a storyteller is essentially to translate this information into (at times provocative) stories that explain what employees are going through and what the company needs to do to improve. Learning this skill will pave the way for the new designs you have in store for your company.

The most important skill HR will need to learn is how to make HR data human. Low engagement cannot simply be solved by offering a new ping pong table or better lunches. Getting other departments to share their knowledge will allow you to improve your team’s skills and get HR that seat at the table.

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