Internal employee engagement is something you can feel as soon as you walk into a shop or an office or a factory. It's a vibe that emanates from employees' commitment to their job. It's speaks of care, efficiency and high performance.
A great customer or client experience is the Holy Grail of business. It culminates in high productivity and generates greater revenue growth; and it begins with internally engaged employees. Engaged employees care about the customers because their leaders care about them. It's a flow on effect. Internally engaged employees go to the extra mile for customer in ways that mirror their leader’s interactions with them. Let's look at how this happens. Getting employees to engage is similar to the process that happens when a couple gets engaged. It's a purely voluntary response based on the perceived strengths of that relationship. When one partner asks the other partner for their hand in marriage, the recipient of the proposal is under no obligation to accept. Instead, they will accept or decline based on the following 3 factors.
First, based on what they know. Based on what they know about the other person and whether that knowledge serves to strengthen or weaken the relationship. Second, on what they believe about the relationship and the way that there is no alignment of values that will bolster the relationship in the future. And third, the actions that they see the other person taking, and whether those actions serve to both trust in the future success of the relationship. Those three factors knowledge, beliefs and actions, together create the experience of how we feel when we're with the other person. In Anne Tyler's brilliant novel "The Accidental Tourist" this is one line that says and I quote "I'm beginning to think that maybe it's not just how much you love someone. Maybe what matters is who you are when you're with them."
I believe that one of the reasons for declining internal employee engagement is that we're trying to foster internal employee engagement through facts and figures. Here are all the reasons why you should go the extra mile for us. Here's our employee value proposition, all the values of working for us. Here's what you should be educating about us to your customers and to your colleagues. But the only way employees engage is being there themselves.
An employee once said to me "I will tolerate the views of my leader but I will only engage with the organization based on my own personal conviction to do so." That personal conviction arises from how employees feel when they're part of the organization. Because as Anne Tyler says, "it's not just how much you love someone, it's how they make you feel when you're with them." Facts and figures don't foster internal employee engagement. It takes personal conviction based on the mindset shift, an A-ha moment for the employee to want to engage, based on whether the organization does what it says it will do with them. Based on whether the organization listens to them. Based on whether the organization treats them with respect and dignity.
Based on how the organization fosters feelings of connection to the bigger picture, the actual purpose on the organization. And based on whether the organization recognizes their individual talents and expertise and whether it celebrates and rewards the achievements that they make. Communication tactics to foster internal engagements needs to be focused on influencing how employees feel about being part of your organization, not only facts and figures. For example, deploy communication tactics that provide the means for managers to walk the talk, to listen to the employees concerns and act on them. To treat employees with respect and dignity. To forge connection to the organization's unique purpose and point of differentiation. And to recognize individuals uniqueness and celebrate their achievements.
I mentioned at the beginning that the way employees interact with the customers reflect almost the way their leaders interact with them. So the flow in effective communicating with employees in those ways I just described flows to employees in turn communicating with customers. In other words, communicating with customers in way that delivers on what the organizations promised will do, that listens to customers' cares and concerns and acts on them. Wouldn't that be a nice thing? That treats customers with respect and dignity. That forges customer’s connections to the organization's unique purpose and point of differentiation. And recognizes customer's uniqueness and helps celebrate their achievements. Imagine if you were a customer on the receiving end of that kind of treatment. Wow.
Sometime ago one of Sydney's largest retail centers reconfigured its ladies fashion wear section. They put in dark mood lighting and this strange standalone cupboard display areas. It was a shopping nightmare. I could hardly see the clothes and the displays were erratic and oddly arranged. I asked one of the sales assistants what she thought. Oh, she said, "we told them it wouldn't work." But, she said, "they wouldn't listen to us. Instead, they listened to an overseas consultant agency." It was many months before I returned to that shopping store because the experience was so bad. And sure enough, the new dazzling display that had been such a disaster had been now been replaced.
But what happened next was interesting. As I walked in and joined a long queue waiting to purchase my goods, the customer in front of me said "Oh, I only shop here when I really have to", she said. Because nobody wants to help me, she said. As soon as someone realizes that I have a question or a query to make, they quickly turn tail and head in the other direction." And I agreed because that was my experience, too. No customer service training in the world ever shift the mindset of an employee who is not engaged, who feels that the organization they work for doesn't listen to them or care about their ideas and expertise. They way employees interact with customers reflects the way their leaders interact with them.
So, that's my tactic for this Tuesday. Internal employee engagement results from how the organization makes an employee feel, not from communicating the facts and figures. What do you think? Does an entrenched leadership culture result in poor employee experience which then translates into poor customer experience? Well, I look forward to seeing you the next time. Until then, happy communicating.
Lorri Lennon is an award-winning advisor, trainer and author in leadership communication. She has 20 years’ experience managing communications for large global organisations.
Lorri conducts master classes to help participants maximise their communications ROI.
Mariska Mannes is an experienced communication consultant. She holds a Master of Management majoring in Communication, which allows her to bring a blend of qualification and practical experiences to her training programmes. Her expertise is in business and cross cultural communication and behaviour. For more information visit Mariska's LinkedIn profile.