Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What is the Current State of Employee Engagement?

By Rick DeMarco, Managing Director, West Coast

More and more companies today understand the power of engaged and inspired employees in delivering on their brand promise and business strategy.  And yet, a March 2013 study by Modern Survey indicates that the percentage of fully engaged employees fell by 10% this spring, down 3  points from last fall. Employee disengagement among U.S. workers rose this spring to 32%, up 4 points from last fall and represents the highest level in the six years that Modern Survey has conducted its National Employee Engagement Study.   The percentage of employees who are moderately engaged or under-engaged remained relatively flat during this period.

Not surprisingly, with the increase in disengaged employees, 4 of the 5 identified indicators of the research Employee Engagement Index fell:
  •   Number of employees willing to refer their company to others
  •   Number of employees who are proud of their company
  •   Number who said they feel they have a future with the company
  •   Number who are inspired by their company

The research has identified six primary drivers of engagement and has stated that organizations that are trying to improve engagement need to fully understand these drivers and train leaders to leverage them.
  •   Confidence in senior management
  •   Belief in an opportunity for personal growth and development
  •   Sense of personal accomplishment from their work
  •   Confidence in the future of the organization
  •   Belief that the company’s values guide its behavior
  •   Getting helpful feedback from managers

At Inward, we believe that in order to achieve high levels of employee engagement, two things must happen:  People must be educated about engagement and there must be a clear understanding of accountability and ownership for an engaged workforce.  The research shows that only 49% of all U.S. workers are familiar with the concept of employee engagement and only 63% of managers know what it means.  With a lack of knowledge of the meaning of engagement, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which managers are driving it with the people they lead and employees understand their role in creating a highly engaged and inspired workforce.

The second driver, an understanding of the ownership for employee engagement, presents yet another barrier to a highly engaged and inspired workforce.  We believe that even with an understanding of what engagement means, if there is no clear understanding that it is owned by everyone in the organization, employees are always looking for someone else to be responsible for driving a highly engaged workforce.   When asked in the survey, 8% of respondents indicated that senior leaders are responsible for employee engagement, 36% said direct managers and supervisors were responsible, and 17% said employees were responsible.  Only 39% said that direct managers and supervisors, senior leaders, and employees were equally responsible.

Although employee engagement is a top challenge for organizations today in delivering on their brand promise and business strategy, there is much to be done to move all people in an organization through a cycle of education, inspiration, commitment to changed behavior, and reinforcement through reward and recognition.  Inward Strategic has employed a codified, proven process for the past 15 years to create an environment in which everyone understands engagement, embraces it, and understands their role in creating an inspired and engaged workforce that drives exceptional customer experiences.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Top Five Drivers of Employee Engagement

A narrative based on The Modern Survey article Who really owns employee engagement?

Twice a year for the past six years, Modern Survey has conducted a National Employee Engagement Study. For the Spring 2013 rendition, the group polled nearly 1,000 employees from more than 750 organizations to gauge their attitudes, opinions, and understanding of engagement. These most recent results may come as a surprise.

Employee disengagement among U.S. workers is on the rise. Up four points from last fall, disengaged employees now make up 32 percent of the workforce. At the same time, the percentage of fully engaged employees fell 3 points this spring to just 10 percent. The following engagement indicators also dropped, a signal of the challenges many organization face:
  • Number of employees willing to refer their company to others- down 5 percent.
  • Number of employees who are proud of their company- down 1 percent.
  • Number who said the feel they have a future with their company- down 2 percent.
The results are loud and clear- employees are less engaged than they have been in the past. So the question remains, what has changed? What has caused engagement to slip and how do we reverse it? By understanding what influences engagement, we can begin to identify areas of weakness. Only then can we react accordingly. Below are the top five engagement drivers that have emerged from the results of Modern Survey’s six years of research.
  1. Confidence in senior management - do the employees trust their leaders? Do they believe they are driving the organization in the right direction? 
    A belief that there is an opportunity for personal growth and development - can employees move up in the organization? 
  2. A sense of personal accomplishment from their work - does the work have a purpose? Can the employees see the results of their efforts?   
  3. Confidence in the future of the organization - is the company growing? Is progress and innovation a top priority?   
  4. Getting helpful feedback from the managers - do employees recognize their strengths and weaknesses? Is management advice and criticism beneficial?   
Understanding the factors driving engagement is a critical, but ultimately it just a starting point. Improving employee engagement means getting the whole organization on board- everyone plays a role. Leaders need to shape strategies with these drivers in mind and implement programs that foster engagement. Then, individual employees become responsible for deciding whether to be engaged. Educating the entire organization about engagement can help align certain perceptions and fuel collaboration.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gamification is an exciting way to engage and inspire employees!

by Rick DeMarco, Managing Director, West Coast

On July 17, I had the pleasure of making a presentation in Santa Clara, CA on gamification to the Golden Gate Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), the world’s largest training and development association. Gamification continues to gain momentum and support as a powerful tool used to engage and inspire employees in a fun and exciting way.  And evidence proves that retention is about 10 times greater with gamification than with computer based learning or more traditional learning tools, measured by both the immediate impact and retention over time.

Here are a few highlights from the presentation:

  • Gamification is a powerful tool that is one element of a comprehensive employee engagement program. 
  • It transcends all phases of the employee engagement process; educating, inspiring, creating excitement, changing behavior, and recognizing and rewarding.
  • Gamification works because it caters to both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. 
  • 80% of gamification efforts fail because of poor design.  In order to develop an effective program, you must know your audience and be very clear about your goals and objectives and metrics used to measure success.
About 50 people attended the session and there were many great questions about the design and development of a gamification program and about the impact it has on employee engagement. Questions ranged from those regarding actual game mechanics to an effective approach to developing a program and activating it. 
Examples of some of the great questions include:

  • Since we would be sharing a lot of information with both employees and customers, what role does legal play in developing the program?
  • How do you manage the customer service demands of front line employees with time spent on education through gamification to drive brand advocacy?
  • How do you measure the effectiveness of the program in driving employee engagement and creating brand advocates?

Stay tuned to this blog to get answers to these questions and learn more about how Inward can help you develop and activate an effective gamification program that will educate, inspire, engage, and reward your employees and develop strong brand advocates who create exceptional customer experiences.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

7 Ways to Generate Revenue through Customer Service

Good customer service goes a long way. But it is great customer service that turns one-time buyers into loyal brand advocates and repeat purchasers. With more customers choosing to shop online and through their mobile devices, it is more important than ever to ensure your online support system does exactly that. 

As you build your online customer service platform, keep the following guidelines in mind. The extra effort can have a serious and worthwhile impact on sales growth and profit.

1.     Reduce the size of the support team - Customer service representatives (CSRs) are expensive. In fact, CSRs make up the majority of customer service costs. Reduce your numbers and use artificial intelligence technology to answer repeat questions. As a result, CSRs can focus on engaging customers with more complicated questions and they will feel more productive and efficient.     

2.     Learn from customers’ repeating questions - Customer comments are revealing. Take note of trending problems and concerns and adjust the product or service accordingly.   

3.     Make support easily available throughout the sales process - When online customers have to navigate away from the product page to get help, there’s a chance they won’t return and complete the purchase. Make support available on every webpage to avoid losing a sale.  

4.     Focus on high-value customers - Certain customer interactions are more likely than others to lead to add-ons, up-sells, or accessories sales. When CSRs have the time to focus on these particular customers, they will be able to use their expertise more efficiently. 

5.     Replace FAQs with interactive software - Look for software that answers questions directly. This saves the customer time and frustration and accelerates the sales conversion rate.   

6.     Use contextual assistance to improve service experience - Navigation-based search capabilities allow customers to ask questions from any product page and see results related to that product alone. This stops them from having to search through categories to find the answer they are looking for. In other words, it makes the support experience simpler, quicker, and more direct. 
7.     Provide mobile support - More people now rely on their smartphones to look up product information and even make purchases. Look for support solutions with an optimized mobile version or in-app experience.    

Why settle for good when you can achieve great? Maximize every moment of customer interaction. Engage with your customers, listen, and react. Every opportunity to connect with customer is an opportunity to grow.