Drawing Business Value from Employee Engagement

By including the voice of the employee in voice of the customer programs, companies will gain a lucrative piece of the customer experience puzzle.
Customer Experience

For years businesses have recognized that customer satisfaction is a key component to business success. They implement Voice of the Customer programs to properly gather, review, and respond to customer feedback. While these programs tap into the Voice of the Customer, many omit the Voice of the Employee which can also be a key driver of business results.

In a Business Week Magazine article from May of 2006, legendary business leader Jack Welch shared insight into the value of employee engagement for business success. Welch stated, "If you're running a business, whether it's a corner store or a multi-product multinational, we would say there are three key indicators that really work:employee engagement,customer satisfaction, and cash flow."

Fast forward to a 2013 Temkin Group study[1] of more than 200 customer experience professionals from large organizations. Participants reported that most companies measure employee engagement but less than half place a high priority on taking action based on that feedback.

Why then, if analysts and well-known business icons are stating the importance of employee engagement for business success, are companies not taking their advice? Organizations continue to only take action based on customer satisfaction levels which is only one piece in the larger business puzzle. These companies must start using the insight drawn from employee engagement. No organization, large or small, can succeed without this piece of that puzzle.

Having employees who are engaged and invested in their jobs provides significant benefits to the organization. For instance, engaged employees:

  • Cost businesses less in staff turnover and sick leave;[2]
  • Advocate for their company or organization;[3] and
  • Show a greater than 50 percent higher understanding of customer needs than unengaged employees[4].

It's not hard to believe that engaged employees lead to engaged customers. Companies understand that connecting employees and customers is an important facet in organizational success; however, drawing an association between the two is often very challenging.

Engaging employees effectively is crucial for two important reasons:

  1. They will be able to engage customers, provide better customer experience, and drive greater profitability.
  2. They are able to provide valuable insight into customer experience and offer a view that an organization may not derive from customer feedback alone.

To engage employees, but also ensure an uninterrupted circle of customer and employee engagement, it's important to put some key pieces in place; this means moving beyond the traditional annual employee survey. Building an actionable employee engagement program to drive customer engagement means implementing Voice of the Customer best practices.

To bring theory to reality and achieve results that provide significant ROI, follow these five steps to build a combined Voice of the Customer through the Employee (VoCE) program.

1) Capture all relevant moments in the employee lifecycle. As with VoC initiatives, an annual survey isn't enough anymore (if it ever was!). It is important to think about key moments in the employee lifecycle, and capture feedback at those moments. Onboarding and exit are two of the major milestones that many companies think about, but we also suggest thinking about training, new site openings, and more depending on the nature of the business. By automating a cycle of 30, 60, or 90 days post-event, companies can build a continuous evaluation system.

2) Distribute surveys through the right channels. Short, relevant and timely surveys, using the right feedback channel, can maximize responses and elicit accurate insight. Utilizing the correct channels is essential to obtaining the feedback your company needs to succeed. The younger generation of employees may want to provide feedback via SMS, while your management team wants to share comments using a dedicated iPad after key corporate events. Boost your program with web, offline, and social media listening, when internal corporate networks are available, to augment active with passive measurement.

3) Ensure a strategic view alongside other key insight. Employee engagement must not be a silo in your business data. Not only will you lose valuable information and deeper insight, but you'll struggle to make the connection between employee and customer engagement which is necessary to generate ROI along with a host of other business benefits. Bring your employee data into the same reporting hub as customer feedback, industry benchmarks, and financial data to create a holistic view that will uncover drivers of employee, and customer, satisfaction.

It's essential to ensure that you can build a top-level view of what's happening in your business from an employee engagement perspective. Build trackers within your reporting dashboards to see when something significant happens. If there's a sudden drop-off in engagement levels in a particular region or department, use feedback data to understand what's going on. Then act in a manner that will help re-engage whole employee groups at once.

4) Show employees the impact of their actions. To engage employees you need to prove to them that what they do really makes a difference to customers. Make customer feedback available to all employees, through the right channels and with the right level of detail, and recognize their role in delivering great customer experiences.

In addition, take the opportunity to ask employees about what they see happening on the front line. Often, employees have much greater insight as to what's happening in stores and call centers, so give them a way to share this as part of your engagement program. Create a transparent process and share what you're doing with your employees so that they continue to share their experiences with you.

5) Create actionable insight to gain business value. However you choose to gather feedback from employees, you must be able to act on it. Often, it's the smaller, more tactical actions which generate crucial short-term ROI and allow you to expand your program. For example, use feedback to identify employees who are likely to leave so you can take steps to retain them. Remembering to close the loop with employees and telling them what you've done with their feedback is a huge boost. Doing this lets employees know that you're really listening and that their feedback makes a difference.

Even if businesses acknowledge that employee engagement is important, few take strategic action here. Fewer still are able to consolidate all the VoC and VoE data into one report. With built-in action planning and accessible online, the VoCE dashboard provides a real-time view of employee engagement data and enables companies to actively retain and develop engaged employees who can deliver outstanding customer experiences.

If you're able to pull all the pieces of a VoCE program together in a way that helps you drive action, you'll be able to clearly demonstrate significant ROI and that's a piece of the puzzle no company can afford to lose.

[1] Temkin Group Insight Report "The State of Employee Engagement Activities, 2013" (July 2013)

[2] MacLeod, D., & Clark, N. (2009). Engaging for Success: enhancing performance through employee engagement

[3] Gallup, 2003, cited in Melcrum (2005), Employee Engagement: How to Build A High Performance Workforce

[4] Right Management (2006), Measuring True Employee Engagement, A CIPD Report