Surveying employees on satisfaction and engagement is not a new concept, but it’s getting a little more fanfare these days. Forward-looking leaders understand how important it is to have innovative, productive and engaged employees. More and more studies show how important the link between employee experience and customer experience really is. And innovation is one of the most important ways to stay ahead of competitors.
Without engaged employees who understand their mission, innovation is next to impossible.
Gathering feedback from employees can be tricky.
It’s easy for leaders to fall into the trap of asking for good news only, even if they think they’re inviting honesty. If surveys are conducted once a year or less, little things from six months ago have since become huge. And the even bigger things from six months ago? The worst ones are so deeply embedded in the culture, they never show up as feedback. Employees see no point in expressing their resentment for these serious issues!
I’ve also witnessed well-meaning managers who turn negative ratings into “team building” punishments. One manager insisted on team meetings to learn what was causing his poor ratings. They lasted hours and only built more frustration among the ranks! He thought he was asking for open dialogue – but the whole team conspired to rate him higher next time, just to avoid those painful meetings.
Look to the companies with truly engaged employees.
John Deere, the agriculture machinery giant, has adopted measuring employee morale every two weeks in certain groups. They use their own product development cycle to tie in employee feedback. During every project retrospective (what consulting firms might call the postmortem) leaders ask team members about their feelings around individual contributions. This is a pretty ingenious way to track and respond to employee engagement issues at the same pace as product development.
There are no perfect metrics here, but the point of measuring is to watch for (and respond to) signs that something is amiss. Human emotions are not logical or linear. Embrace that to really find out how your employees are doing this week and a few weeks later, instead of asking them to categorize and rank their emotions for an entire annual timeline.
What does all this mean for customer experience?
- Motivation suffers because employees are handcuffed with broken processes. It’s no fun to say “we can’t do that for you” to a customer who you think deserves it. Employees who aren’t empowered get frustrated. Fast. Make sure there are consistent ways for them to tell you what’s really going on, and provide their own ideas on how to solve it.
- Those employees behind the scenes, the ones who don’t necessarily deal with customers on a regular basis, can feel so disconnected from the customer experience they don’t even know where to innovate. Gathering feedback on a regular basis from employees also provides an opportunity to share customer stories, both good and bad, so they can feel connected. One approach we introduced with a large technology client was asking for “what would you do” to challenging customer stories. This helped every team member across the enterprise really think through and feel personally connected to the greater customer experience.
- Transparency among team leaders can be truly enlightening. If one team is consistently receiving high ratings around motivation and engagement, then others can learn from that team. If managers feel transparency is a weakness, that says something about the culture, too.
Employee engagement is all about actually engaging with the employees.
Unless you ask for feedback on a regular, consistent, and frequent basis, then you’re not truly engaging them. You’re only telling them how to be engaged.