Between my years of experience as the CEO of ContactPoint360.com and my observations of the business ecosystem around me, it is now more evident than ever that people are the biggest asset of any business. And therefore, employee engagement, among several other things, plays a critical role in a company’s success.
All other levers of growth — brand, culture, leadership, bottom line, etc. — are built on a company’s human capital. Your company’s investments, technologies, IPs, and other resources, for example, are secondary enablers compared to the optimism that employees exhibit. Employee engagement, in that sense, is the Archimedes’ lever that boosts operational excellence.
- Headquartered in Ontario, Canada, we have expanded our contact center operations beyond North America to include several new sites in Bogota, Colombia.
- Our geographical diversification goes hand-in-hand with our workforce diversity. From the leadership level to contact center associates, we have an eclectic mix of people who are representative of different thoughts, beliefs, ideologies, and nationalities.
- This array of cognitive diversity has proved to be our secret ingredient for success and has helped us scale to new heights.
- Last October, the Great Place to Work® Institute of Canada conferred us the recognition of “Great Place to Work” after taking a thorough stock of our workplace culture.
- We are now launching the CP360 University Program, intending to equip our teams with tools to succeed in their everyday lives.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”
As an astute business consultant, Peter Drucker didn’t devalue the importance of strategy in business when he wrote this quote. He was acknowledging the importance of placing people over policies in the context of business growth.Thankfully, more and more organizations nowadays realize this and are reframing their employee experience strategies. Luckily for them, the statistics are also in their favor — research shows that engaged employees perform beyond their paychecks, positively impact their company’s bottom line, and are more loyal to their companies.
Image source: Gallup survey
This global shift towards improving employee experience has also given way to a new market altogether — i.e., the employee engagement software industry — which, according to one report, is expected to reach a market cap of USD ~346 million by 2025.
For businesses that are aspiring to grow and remain sustainable, there has never been a better time to redefine their employee experience as we step into the new decade of the 21st century.
How to approach employee engagement in 2020
Experience management is proving to be the new business imperative in today’s hyper-competitive market. Until the recent past, most businesses limited their experience management practices solely to their customers. But the new rules of the game demand that experience management is ingrained from within — companies who want to ace their customer experience (CX) must first master workplace experience for their employees (i.e., internal customers), partners, vendors, and other relevant stakeholders.
Companies that win at employee experience (EX) can easily replicate the formula to deliver a world-class customer experience.
In our case, we have tried and tested (and, on a few occasions, failed in) implementing different methods to improve engagement at ContactPoint360. There are several ways to approach employee engagement; however, most of them invariably fall into one of the following buckets:
1. It starts from day one
In the business recruiting circles, there is an unspoken rule that says that a candidate’s interview begins from the moment he or she steps out of their car in the parking lot. The hiring managers might give the impression that they select applicants based on their face-to-face interactions or their outstanding resume. But thorough managers often look for subtle non-verbal cues at a deeper level, such as their general attitude, their treatment of people around them, their ability to handle tough questions, etc.
This narrative holds even when you reverse the context around. The seed of good employee experience is often planted when they first come into contact with your company. It could be the first email a candidate receives after applying for an open position in your company, or during a five-minute phone call with a human personnel. At a more tactile level, it could be the onboarding experience for a new employee on their first day at work or avenues for career growth they see in your organization.
The first step towards improving your employee engagement is optimizing all touchpoints that employees interact with.
“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. You can buy a person’s hand, but you can’t buy his heart; his heart is where his enthusiasm is. Treat employees as volunteers just as you treat customers as volunteers because that’s what they are. They volunteer the best parts – their hearts and minds.”
– Stephen Covey, Author, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
2. Articulate the why behind the business
One of the best quotes that I have read about aligning our business values with that of an employee’s aspirations comes from Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, where he encourages business leaders to articulate and investigate “why” their business exists and “why” should people care.
The book is filled with enlightening quotes that change your perspective on people management. But one of the fundamental things that stand out is this — employees will do what is asked of them when businesses hire people solely to fulfill a job. When the company’s relationship with employees is transactional, people will come in, finish their duties like clockwork, and punch out. That’s it.
But when you hire people whose value systems match with that of your company ethos, it creates an unparalleled synergy. It creates a sticky engagement model that leads to path-breaking discoveries. The shared vision leads to a culture of innovation and greatness. It helps people find their purpose, mastery, and develop autonomy.
The best way to develop this kind of strategic alignment is by creating a system of frequently interacting with your employees and giving them a conducive work environment that helps them find their life’s callings.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t tell people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work. Instead, make them long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
3. Devise an employee engagement plan
I have noticed that most businesses treat employee experience as a low-hanging fruit; they wing it by organizing Halloween parties, potlucks, all-hands meetings, and similar other perfunctory events. Of course, I am not denying the importance of having open mic nights or beer Fridays at work. I look forward to breaking pizza bread with my colleagues at work while rooting for Toronto Raptors every year.
But good employee experience is much more than casual office events. It’s about empowering employees to bring out their whole selves to work and inspire them to perform at their peak human level. Employee engagement is too big in scope to be left just to the HR.
Employee engagement is a perpetually evolving practice that requires dedicated internal agencies and people to drive it. You have to build employee advocacy forums to give them a safe space to be themselves while cheering them on their employee branding efforts.
Therefore, you need to draft a proper employee engagement model that impacts employee morale and performance daily. You will have to identify the internal champions within each department to drive this initiative at the ground level and create a healthy feedback loop to make it work.
When you succeed in creating a robust engagement plan, it will eventually help your business lower your employee turnover rate, increase team productivity, and improve your employee loyalty.
4. Measure and manage to master employee engagement
Nothing in the business environment should go unchecked, especially not even human sentiments. Many businesses grow either complacent or become threatened about measuring their engagement because:
- they develop a hubris about their existing people management standards, or
- they fear the dissent that might come out in carrying out such an exercise
But just like Peter Drucker suggested, we can’t optimize what we can’t measure. Therefore, you should have diligent rituals in place to measure employee engagement and the impact of your engagement strategies. You can choose from a plethora of options to monitor it — anonymous surveys, employee engagement management software, 1:1 discussions, exit interviews, etc.
But measuring is not enough; you should close the loop by implementing relevant feedback to your company’s work culture. Don’t be discouraged by the feedback; treat this process as a way to reflect on your company’s goodwill (of the lack of it) and find ways for course-corrections. The way I see it, it is always better for your family members to point out your foibles than leaving it for outside critics to find out. The former might be a bittersweet experience, but at least it’s sincere; the latter, on the other hand, might just.
Employee engagement drives growth
The goal of any business is to grow profitable and create wealth for its stakeholders. Your products and services or your out-of-the-box marketing ideas will not succeed unless you tap into the potential of the most valuable business asset — the human capital.
The importance of having a good employee experience plan in place becomes especially critical at a time when the business world is growing increasingly remote. Organizations that outsource their business processes to offshore or nearshore partners have the responsibility to manage employee engagement because it is mission-critical to your overall organizational effectiveness.
Therefore, if you want to drive hyper-growth, start with employee engagement. It will eventually reflect on all aspects of your business, including customer delight.
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