Arniston Spa Hotel

Driving employee engagement … what it takes

Towers Perrin Study Report

This the fourth article in a series of five, focusing on key employee engagement drivers. In this article, we look at the importance of customer focus. During the research conducted by Towers Perrin respondents gave their companies top marks on this engagement driver, with 90%+ agreeing their company cares a great deal about customer satisfaction and only 9% disagreeing.

But why is a strong customer orientation so important to employees? One explanation may be that it comes down to their core business savvy. Employees know their companies are in business to serve customers and that financial performance depends on doing that well. So they care whether their company is performing well in this area. Working for a good competitor in the customer arena helps ensure their own future and gives them the sense of confidence that comes from association with a winner.

But, far fewer employees felt as positively about financial results, indicating they are very aware of the toll challenging economic conditions have on most companies in the last few years. For instance, just 42% agreed their companies’ overall financial performance was above average compared to others in the industry.

Perhaps even more significant, less than half (45%) rated their company favorably in providing leading-edge technology to support work processes and activities. This low rating could well be attributable to cuts in spending on new technology and upgrades, which many companies made in the last 2 to 3 years as part of broader cost management efforts. It could also explain why, despite all the attention on cost reduction, just a third felt their companies were ahead of competitors in controlling costs. To the extent employees feel burdened with older, less efficient systems to handle increasingly demanding workloads, they may well think their companies are simply managing costs badly relative to the competition, making poor decisions about where and what to cut and shortchanging future growth and competitiveness.

Key lessons

  1. Do not underestimate how important customer service is to an employee in feeling engaged;
  2. Provide for employee customer service training & development sessions to further support employee engagement;
  3. Empower employees to resolve customer complaints or challenges creatively and allow them to make mistakes; this is how they learn;
  4. Where practically possible and where your budget allows, use technology solutions to better understand your customer demands/needs and equip your employees to supply the solution to them.
Source: Towers Perrin Study (2003). Administered via the Web by Harris Interactive. It involved 40,000 employees working full-time for medium and large organizations.