‘Employee engagement’ has graduated well past jargon to an acceptable and valuable measure linked to productivity in the workplace. But what does ‘engagement’ mean – and how can it be quantified?
If you are seeking awards or hope to tick the engagement box then there is a plethora of questionnaires and benchmarks to use. But employers should really go deeper to assess not only engagement but the emotional intelligence and culture of the company. In short – employee engagement should not be measured in isolation and employers should be clear not only what they are measuring but how they intend to use the information gathered to achieve ideal relationships.
The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development) has produced a variety of papers on the subject and quote a definition from Utrecht University stating that work engagement has three elements:
- vigour (energy, resilience and effort)
- dedication (for example, enthusiasm, inspiration and pride)
- absorption (concentration and being engrossed in one’s work)
The CIPD also states that ‘positive relationships are evidenced with profit, revenue growth, customer satisfaction, productivity, innovation, staff retention, efficiency and health and safety performance’. Perhaps this is a little more helpful definition– but it doesn’t really reach the heart of the matter. A company can measure highly on all of the above but may not necessarily have a team of ‘engaged employees’. You can have accompany car park full of high performance cars owned by a successful sales team – but could they be even more successful or maybe the performance is unsustainable? How much do they actually care about their customers and colleagues?
At the risk of sounding fluffy – I believe that true employee engagement is about love. Passion for your job, care for your colleagues, love for the company and an emotional investment in your customers. And this is where the measure of engagement should start – with your customers – do they feel the love?
Kevin Kruse, a contributor to Forbes magazine refers to employee engagement as ‘a feeling’ and he compares corporate relationships with ‘the quantity of love you may have for your spouse’ He goes on to say that although you cannot truly quantify love, maybe you could use the five point Likert scale (1- strongly disagree to 5- strongly agree) to rate the key relationships. For example: A person deeply in love is …
Ø More likely to brag about their partner (employer) than someone who isn’t in loveØ More likely to tell their friends (colleagues and customers) how good their relationship is
Ø Less likely to fantasise about ‘hooking up intimately’ with another person or think about divorce (talking to a head hunter or seeking employment with a competitor)
I would add another measure to this list – they are more likely to act in ‘loving ways’ (helpful, positive) with their customers and colleagues.
I have been reminded of the damaging the lack, or loss, of love can have on relationships with customers twice over the past couple of days. A friend of mine was referred to the Accident and Emergency department of an NHS hospital the other day. Heavily pregnant, she was in a potentiallybut not imminently urgent situation and accepted that a certain amount of delay and hanging around would be involved. But what she wasn’t prepared for was the ill humour of the doctors. She was seen by several of them during her 7 hour stay during which time they were professional and undertook the medical investigations required but, in the words of my friend, ‘all had faces liked slapped a*ses’. Yes – they are royally p*ssed off with the current contract debacle and the lack of love they are feeling from their employer is translating directly into the emotional intelligence of the group and therefore the customer (patient) experience.
How sad that so much goodwill has been lost and I wonder how long it will take for that group of employees to become re-engaged. In the meantime, patients may not suffer clinically but they certainly won’t have such a good customer experience because of this lost love.
A more trivial example of poor employee engagement was clear at the restaurant I visited with my family for a birthday celebration on Friday night. One of the top veggie restaurants in London and only Michelin-listed one around, we were expecting exemplary service and great food. Alas we had neither. Luckily we were in good enough spirits (both metaphorically and literally) not to let the unhelpful and grumpy waiting staff spoil our evening. But on refection the lack of warmth we encountered was shocking. One of our group does not like dairy but every one of the main courses involved whey, curd, yoghurt or even ‘sheep’s milk’. When we asked if she could perhaps order two starters, and maybe have a larger portion of one as a main course she was told ‘No’. And no alternative was offered. There were plenty of staff around so we can assume that this waitress was not over-worked but she just didn’t care enough about her job, her employer and certainly not about the customer, to make any effort to enhance our experience. Maybe the employer doesn’t even care enough about the customer either to ensure that the staff offer good service. So there was very little love around (apart from our table of course).
I was sufficiently disappointed to be galvanised into placing a negative review on trip adviser in an effort to avoid other customers being disappointed. A clear example of how lack of caring for the business or the customer could have a detrimental effect on the bottom line.
An employee’s relationship with their employer is one of the most important relationships they ever encounter and companies should make every effort to ensure that this is healthy and positive and two-way.
The best way to ensure great customer satisfaction and employee engagement is to make sure that in the words of the song, each team member should… ‘Love the one you’re with’.