Finding the Answer to Employee Engagement

by Colin Shaw on March 11, 2013

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Finding the Answer to Employee EngagementAs usual just looking at the surface of a subject like employee engagement is not enough. There are three pieces of research along with my own business experience that have helped me form a view on how to get employees engaged with an improvement in Customer Experience. Let me run through this research first of all and then I will offer my conclusions…

1. Happiness is Love — and $75,000

There are various pieces of research that show money doesn’t buy you happiness. This study shows that in North America earning over $ 75,000 a year does not increase levels of happiness. So why do so many employees still say money is one of their key drivers? This is a classic example of people not knowing what they want.

We find this regularly in our Customer Experience work. Normal research shows that Customers say that price is the most important factor in their Customer Experience but when we conducted our Emotional Signature® research, we always find it is not. As I outlined in my blog,” The most common mistake in a Customer Experience change and how to overcome it”, price is never the main factor. Similarly with employees, money is never the key factor in the employee experience.

An example of this was from back in the day when I took over as the leader of a large unit and I quickly discovered morale was very low. My predecessor was very much a dictatorial leader and I thought he treated the employees poorly. As part of my employee engagement plan I decided to commission a survey to discover what motivated them. I naively thought money would come top as this is what many people complained about. To my surprise the survey results showed that my team weren’t motivated by money, they were motivated by the Customer saying they did a good job. This started my whole interest in this subject…

2. Psychological Consequences of Money

As my interest grew I found this piece of research which suggests that reminders of money, as in constantly talking about it, makes people more selfish. ‘….participants primed with money preferred to play alone, work alone, and put more physical distance between themselves and a new acquaintance’. I believe that a constant discussion about revenue, targets, profits and productivity can have a similar effect. They are concerned about hitting their numbers or targets and are not worried about others in the team or across the company. It makes people more selfish, creates a ‘them and us’ situation and reinforces silos, all of which are not good for creating a great Customer Experience.

3. Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness

The final part of the puzzle is a very interesting study that demonstrates ‘……spending money on other people may have a more positive impact on happiness than spending money on oneself’. This study shows that spending small amounts of money on others makes you feel good about yourself. We all know we feel good when we donate money to charities. This ‘pro-social’ behaviour is embedded in empathy which is a great trait to help an organization provide a better Customer Experience for their customers. It is also a deep routed, altruistic motive of feeling good about yourself.

I can certainly relate to this and I am sure you can as well. Like me, I am sure that you get happiness by giving presents to others. For example, only the other day I had two soccer tickets to go to the League Cup final at Wembley Stadium. I could have gone with a friend but instead I wanted my daughter and father to go as they are both soccer mad. I knew they’d really enjoy it. For me, imagining their faces when they left and hearing the report of the game when they got back was far more rewarding than me attending the game myself.

What does all this mean for employee engagement and Customer Experience?

I see too many senior managers constantly focusing on the rational aspects of business. They constantly talk about hitting revenue targets, profit margins, efficiency and productivity goals. I see an over dependency on trying to tempt people with money through bonuses, promotions and incentives. As the research shows a constant reminder of money actually creates selfish, siloed work activity. This is not good for employee engagement nor the Customer Experience which by definition; needs collaborative, cross functional activity.

I believe that organizations should focus on their customer. They should talk about how their products help Customers and how their role helps the Customer. This then taps into ‘helping others’. As my experience shows people like doing a good job for Customers. They get a kick out of helping them. I believe that by focusing people on how they can help Customers will, in turn, make Customers feel better and will make the employees feel better. Again, as the research shows, this pro-social activity of helping others is gratifying and makes you happy.

As I have said for years before I read the Service Profit chain which confirmed my intuition:

‘Happy people give you happy Customers’.

Rather than complain about ‘the numbers’ not being right and focusing on what people do badly, change this to ‘catching people doing something right’ and compliment them on their work, and then watch employee engagement shoot through the roof.

When we train organizations with Customer Experience professionals on how to improve their Customer Experience, employee engagement is a key part of this work and forms a major part of our CEM certification live webinar training.

How do you go about improving your employee engagement?

colin shaw

Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from offices in Atlanta, Georgia and London, England.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter: 
@ColinShaw_CX
Colin ShawFinding the Answer to Employee Engagement

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