By , Harry West
Published July 08, 2016
When a company is first founded, it usually starts with just a handful of employees. This core group is comprised of individuals who are passionate about the mission of the business; they’ll gladly work day and night to build a successful company. However, as a company grows it becomes harder and harder to hire employees who are just as engaged and invested in the growth of a business, which is why we hear so much about the pains of companies growing at an accelerated rate. Business leaders can choose to tackle the resulting challenges in a timely and efficient manner or if they don’t, they effectively choose to pass off the creation of valuable work experiences and talent management to Human Resources. Those who choose the latter put the future growth of the company at risk by neglecting to accept the responsibility they have towards a key stakeholder group -- their workforce.
When the needs of the workforce aren’t being met, it isn’t always obvious from reviewing traditional metrics like employee turnover. A disengaged workforce can disintegrate a company’s culture, decrease customer satisfaction, and cost the business a lot of money.
When a workforce is disengaged, it breeds a dysfunctional culture that can result in the poisoning of an otherwise successful business.
Netflix is a very famous example of a company that has been able to grow at a very rapid rate due to its successful, results-driven culture. In fact, the Netflix culture story is so popular that its 124-page “ Netflix Culture: Freedom and Responsibility” document has been viewed on SlideShare more than 14 million times. What makes it unique is the high level of employee engagement exhibited by its high performing workforce; the result of true enterprise-wide transparency and honesty that is supported and promoted by all employees and people managers.
The mistake most companies make is giving too much responsibility for the hiring and retention of employees to Human Resource departments. Leading companies like Netflix recognize the importance of employee engagement early on, promoting and hiring employees who demonstrate the company’s values and deliver high performance. Perhaps most importantly, these innovative companies create a work environment where actions speak louder than words, and employees always know where they stand, what is expected of them, and how they contribute to the overall good of the company.
Historically, companies that survive and beat competitors are the ones able to change with the times and keep providing exceptional customer experiences. Businesses that struggle to change overlook the importance of the virtuous cycle of worker experiences that directly impact customer interactions in negative or positive ways.
Today, change starts with having the right technology in place. When workers aren’t given access to the tools, information, and collaborative processes they need, they become disengaged and are unable to communicate effectively with customers. And customers don’t show loyalty to companies that offer a bad, or even average, customer experience.
According to recent Gallup research, employee engagement in the U.S. remained relatively stagnant between 2012 and early 2016. Only in recent months has employee engagement started to see a slight uptick -- a phenomenon that can be attributed to the rising demands of workers accustomed to the always-on, digital environment of today. Yet, the percentage of workers whom Gallup considers “engaged” in their job is still below 35 percent. The data clearly shows that the enterprise has a long way to go to ensure that most employees are “involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work.”
Dissatisfied customers have a big impact on a business’s bottom line, which brings us to the most important reason worker engagement should be top of mind for executives. A workforce is the face of any company; workers’ behavior and actions determine the way daily conversations with customers will go. A highly engaged and productive employee or contractor can turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal customer. Alternately, a highly disengaged employee can turn a returning customer away for good. One allows a company to reach or exceed business goals, while the other serves as a barrier to successfully achieving these goals.
Outside of the delivery of exceptional customer service, a good worker experience empowers employees to be creative at their job -- proactively bringing new ideas to the table and improving work methods and processes. An engaged workforce can be the true engine that drives operational efficiency and business growth.