By: Will Yakowicz
At many companies, the employees with the lowest levels of engagement are the ones who interact with customers the most. Here’s what you can do to increase their motivation and enthusiasm.The longer employees stay with your company, the less engaged they become.
Engagement levels also drop the lower you go on a company’s hierarchy, according to a recent survey by Bain & Company, which analyzed responses from 200,000 employees across 40 companies in 60 countries. Even more striking, the lowest levels are found among sales and service staff–the employees who have the greatest interaction with your customers.
So how can you prevent the potential problems caused by employees who aren’t engaged with the business? Rob Markey, the head of Bain & Company’s global customer strategy and marketing practice, writes in the Harvard Business Review about how senior executives need to take the reins and help reenergize their staff.
“It seems obvious: Direct supervisors who set their teams up for success, observe them in action, ask for feedback, identify the root causes of employee concerns, and then follow through with meaningful improvements have happier, more engaged employees,” Markey says.
Below, read Markey’s four suggestions on how you can engage both your long-tenured staffers and new hires in entry-level positions.
1. Don’t leave it to HR.
If you’re not a likable boss, that’s part of the problem. The survey found that employees weren’t engaged if they didn’t trust or like their superiors. “That’s why it’s critical for supervisors to treat team engagement as a high priority–and why their bosses, the senior executives, can’t merely prescribe rote solutions,” Markey writes. “Instead, senior leaders give supervisors the responsibility and authority to earn the enthusiasm, energy, and creativity that signal deep employee engagement.”
2. Learn how to discuss issues constructively.
If you and your managers don’t know how to get your employees to talk openly about what’s bothering them, you must learn. Markey says successful companies hire trainers and coaches to teach them how to “encourage constructive discussions” with staff. You need to be able to talk about things like salary increase requests, employees’ worries about being outsourced, or dealing with negative coworkers. “The training also stresses the importance of taking the right actions quickly and then telling employees how their input contributed to the improvements,” he writes.
3. Take the temperature regularly.
Don’t wait a year between employee surveys. “Short, frequent, and anonymous online surveys (as opposed to a long annual survey) give supervisors a better understanding of team dynamics and a sense of how the team believes customers’ experiences can be improved,” Markey writes. While most small companies aren’t large enough to warrant a formal employee survey, you can ask for opinions through email or using low-cost or free online tools such as SurveyMonkey. Markey notes that the specifics of the results are actually less important than the resulting discussions. After you collect feedback, talk openly about the “root causes” of issues.
4. Focus on the customer-facing employees.
You need to focus your attention on those employees closest to your customers. Speak to your sales teams, call center reps, and employees in the field. They are the ones who “know intimately which aspects of the business annoy or delight customers,” Markey says, so it’s critical to find out those details. “The companies that regularly earn high employee engagement tap that knowledge by asking employees how the company can earn more of their customers’ business and build the ranks of customer promoters,” he writes. Listen, take action, and give your employees updates.
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