Finding your “Why” - the crucial starting point of employee engagement

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No leadership team will commit time and money to a plan to increase employee engagement unless they believe it will improve performance. So the first question any HR professional should ask themselves before committing to an employee engagement survey is, “What are we looking to achieve?”

This simple but thought provoking question sets the context and goals for your plan to improve employee engagement. It will help you convey the benefits, secure the support of leaders and keep you focused on the end goal – improving performance and positive change.

Finding Your Why

We have found that by answering these three questions, you can quickly hone in on your why:

1.) What are your key people challenges?

Start by asking yourself, what is the organisation looking to achieve and as a result, what does it need from its people to get there? For example, if the goal is to be number one for customer satisfaction, it needs engaged employees who are committed to going the extra mile for customers and believe in the products/services and the company’s mission. They must also have the right tools to do the job.

2.) How are you currently performing and what is the gap to high performance?

Taking the previous example, if you track customer feedback, how does this compare to the competition? What is the gap to best-in-class and how much would this improvement in customer satisfaction translate into additional sales and higher profits?    

3.) What is the likely impact of improving employee engagement?

The next step is demonstrating the likely impact of improving employee engagement on the desired outcome(s). Drawing on research studies can help you develop a solid business case and better convey this to your key stakeholders. 

Taking the customer service example, consider these three studies:

  • 70% of engaged employees indicate they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs; only 17% of disengaged employees say the same (Right Management, 2006).
  • Engaged employees in the UK take an average of 3.5 fewer sick days each year (cited in The MacLeod Report) – this will cause less disruption to customer service caused by short staffing
  • Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave the organisation (Corporate Leadership Council, 2004) – this will mean more experienced staff serving customers.

Focusing on Your Why

Once you are clear about what your organisation could achieve by improving employee engagement, it’s time to energise those around you. Start with the leadership team and securing their buy-in and public support. Next convey the benefits and what employee engagement means to your organisation, to the wider business.

When you come to measure employee engagement, ensure your survey focuses on those areas important for you. Some key questions related to customer service could include asking staff:

  • Would they recommend the products / services to a friend?
  • Are customer facing employees proud to “wear” the brand?
  • Do they have the right information and equipment to exceed customer expectations?
  • What, if anything, gets in the way of delivering great customer service?

Measuring Your Why

Following your employee engagement survey, you’ll understand how engagement varies across the business. Using a statistical technique called linkage analysis, expert survey consultants will be able to explore the relationship between employee engagement and customer satisfaction. This will help you understand if teams with high levels of engagement also provide better customer service. Although this does not necessarily prove that engagement drives customer satisfaction, it can be very powerful and help you put engagement centre stage.  

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