Highly-engaged employees will deliver better experiences to your customers, leading to increased loyalty, more referrals, and more business overall. Yippee!
However, employee engagement is emotional and often hinged on the very last experience an employee might have – with his or her manager, with co-workers, with an angry client, or even with you. These simple moments add up to an employee giving her best or sharing his worst.
We’ve worked with some great leaders who didn’t realize how their biggest customer experience gaps were tied directly to an organizational structure that actively disengages employees.
Here are just a few things we’ve had to tell clients who were accidentally disengaging their own employees.
1. You depend on data to tell you what’s happening with your staff.
It can be impossible to spot employee engagement issues when all the information you have fits into a neat little package. High employee retention rates or the latest employee survey results of the one-through-five rankings, like “I feel I’m contributing in my role” tell you your team is doing just fine, thank you very much. But you’ll never know what’s really happening if you let the numbers do all the talking.
2. You don’t ask for opinions.
Leaders have a strange obsession with acquisition, whether it’s for customers or employees. So much money and time are spent getting the right ones to walk in the door. At first, we might ask for a lot of feedback. “Are you comfortable here?” “Is your training going well?” “Do you have any questions?” “What do you think of your team?”
Then after the employee starts to settle in, we stop asking for his opinions. We stop asking about how they’re being treated, if they’re still learning, and if there’s anything else they’d like to tell us.
If we no longer ask, the employee will no longer tell. This means the same up-and-coming superstar from those early days stops communicating. Instead, he feels he’s not being heard and he starts mentally logging the days until he can get a new job.
3. The feedback you request doesn’t spark real action.
Sharing the same comments on the employee survey quarter after quarter can start to feel futile if no changes are made. If the comments are not even acknowledged, that’s a double whammy. The employee begins to feel as if she is yelling into a canyon. Nobody is listening, so what’s the point?
4. You’ve punished people for their honesty.
Honest feedback, the kind that is sometimes painful to hear but always important to gather, can lead to all sorts of unintended consequences for employees who are willing to share it.
I once saw a whole row of agents cower under the wrath of a supervisor who had just returned from a meeting with Human Resources regarding specific feedback about him. He returned from that meeting not willing to change, but willing to punish. It was the first and last time anyone communicated honestly about the type of leader he was. Why should they risk suffering any consequences if nothing would change? Instead, employee turnover was a continuous challenge, and customers continued to suffer for it.
5. Praise often goes unnoticed.
It’s easy to focus on the negative. But what if your employees ARE improving with feedback? If the positive changes go unmentioned, it’s easy to feel neglected.
Customers and others who offer praise should have a place to do so where it will be recognized. Saying to the employee, “I’m very pleased with your work” is great, but stating it where it can be collected and shared is even better. If an employee works hard to correct a behavior, but only hears about it as a criticism, that’s a quick way to disengage an otherwise valuable member of your team.
Nobody intentionally disengages people. But that’s the point!
If we don’t think about it, complacency sneaks in and takes over pretty quickly. Once that happens, disengagement will surely follow.
Understanding and appreciating what it takes to truly engage your team takes time, patience and humility. But you’ll notice happier customers, a highly-engaged team, and more revenue if you take the right steps.