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Nine Ways to Engage Staff and Please the Customer

By customer care coach Joanna Brandi

Mounting evidence suggests that the more engaged employees are in what they do, the better their performance and the higher the rewards will be for customers, employees, and the whole organization. The key is to have managers who are skilled at creating employee engagement, and who understand that to provide the best service for your customers the employees must believe that what they're doing is important, feel appreciated, and do their daily work with passion and purpose. This article is copyright 2005 TheWiseMarketer.com.

Better results
"Managers who aren't taking care of their employees are missing out on significant cost savings and profits," said Brandi. "Gallup International reported that businesses in the top 24% of employee engagement had less staff turnover and remarkably higher percentages of customer loyalty, profitability and revenues."

Studies by HayGroup have also revealed links between employee engagement and productivity, which ultimately impacts the bottom line. Workplace values expert John Izzo suggests that the current generation's employees are more conscious of their own needs and of their place in the world. "For business leaders in companies of all sizes, the writing is on the wall: You can make and save money by keeping employees engaged," said Izzo.

Nine ways to engage
Coupled with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires that businesses document internal controls relating to employee and customer satisfaction, Brandi concludes that it has never been more important for business leaders to stop dismissing internal customer care as 'soft and unimportant'. As a result, she has published a list of nine employee management tips for creating and sustaining employee engagement:

  1. Let go of any negative opinions you may have about your employees. Approach each of them as a source of unique knowledge with something valuable to contribute to the company.
  2. Make sure employees have everything they need to do their jobs. Just as marketplace and customer needs change often, so do your employees' needs.
     
  3. Clearly communicate what's expected of employees - what the company values and vision are, and how the company defines success. Employees can't perform well or be productive if they don't know exactly what it is they're there to do, and the part they play in the overall success of the company.
     
  4. Get to know your employees - especially their goals, their stressors, what excites them and how they each define success. Show an interest in their well-being and do what it takes to enable them to feel more fulfilled.
     
  5. Make sure they are trained and retrained in problem solving and conflict resolution skills. These critical skills will help them interact better with you, their co-workers, customers and suppliers.
     
  6. Constantly ask how you are doing in your employees' eyes. It can be difficult for managers to request employee feedback, and it can be equally if not more challenging for an employee to give the person who evaluates them an honest response. To become stronger at this, managers should begin dialogues with employees using conversation starters such as "It's one of my goals to constantly improve myself as a manager. What would you like to see me do differently?" and "What could I be doing to make your job easier?". Be sure to accept feedback graciously and to express appreciation.
     
  7. Pay attention to company stories and rituals. Are people laughing at each other or with each other? Do they repeat stories of success of stories of shame? Stay away from participating in discussions that are destructive to people or the organization, and keep the success stories alive.
     
  8. Reward and recognise employees in ways that are meaningful to them (which is half the reason why getting to know them is so important). Remember to celebrate both accomplishments and efforts to give employees working on long-term goals more of a boost.
     
  9. Be consistent in the long term. If you start an engagement initiative and then drop it your efforts will backfire, creating employee estrangement. There's a definite connection between an employee's commitment to an initiative and a manager's commitment to supporting it. A manager's ongoing commitment to keeping people engaged, involved in and excited about the work they do and the challenges they face must be a daily priority.

"Ultimately, managers must keep in mind that employees are a company's greatest assets. Their collective ideas, feedback and enthusiasm for what they do can help your business grow and succeed," said Brandi. "Some people are naturally wired to give their all and do their best no matter where they work. But the majority of people require the guidance of skilled managers who welcome their ideas, ask for feedback, and generate enthusiasm."

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