The value and importance of an engaged workforce is imperative now for any brand. Engaged employees understand the company’s goals and customer base, which can have a great impact on customer experience and brand loyalty.
 
Last year, Strativity Group published an insightful report called, “National IMCO Employee Engagement Study,” that examines the challenge of a disengaged workforce and what brands can do to transform that paradigm.
 
Loyalty360 talked to Ed Murphy, Principal, Research, Measurement and Metrics, Strativity Group, about this compelling report.
 
Disengaged employees seem to be a fairly common problem in the U.S. Can you talk about this reality and what companies can do or should be doing to increase levels of positive employee engagement?
Murphy: There are many factors impacting engagement levels within organizations. From generational conflicts between Baby Boomers and Millennials, who each have very different work styles and expectations, to the disruptions caused by new technologies and digitization, keeping employees motivated and engaged can be challenging. Complicating the issue for employers is the tighter-than-ever job market. Disengaged employees are quick to jump ship without giving employers an opportunity to course correct when they are unhappy.
The business implications of disengaged workers are serious. At a time when products and services are increasingly becoming commoditized, employees and the experience they deliver to your customers is often the key differentiator of your brand. Disengaged employees do not care about delighting the customer or delivering a good brand experience. 
 
The engaged workers on the other hand, are the building blocks of your company. How can an organization increase levels of engagement? 
Murphy:
Empower: Engaged Employees are empowered to make decisions. Are yours empowered or do they need to constantly get approval from their manager?
Recognize: Reward and recognize employees (both publicly and privately) to help bring out the best the employee has to offer and to provide examples of the right behaviors / actions to others. 
Connect to a Higher Purpose: It’s critical, even for non-customer facing employees to understand their role and the impact they have on customers.  It connects them to a purpose greater than a paycheck.
Inspire: Your employees joined your organization because they believed in your mission and/or your brand. When managers and leaders communicate the organization’s mission and values, and live those values, it serves to inspire employee, again connecting them to their purpose.
 
We talk to brands on a regular basis and customer engagement initiatives are a big topic. But, often, those can’t occur if you have a disengaged workforce. How should loyalty marketers engage their employees that would, in turn, help in overall customer engagement efforts?
Murphy: “It’s all about the customer.” “The customer is at the center of everything we do.” These and many other buzzwords and phrases are often heard by employees. Employees cannot successfully serve customers unless they actually understand who their customers are, and the nature of the relationship they are expected to have with their customers. This means understanding a customer’s lifestyle, expectations, the nature of the relationship they are expected to create with customers, definitions of service, and much more.
 
What are some of the reasons for disengaged employees?
Murphy: The biggest drivers of employee engagement are inspirational leadership, understanding customers, and clear communication from leadership. When any one of those three things is lacking, engagement will fall. Low engagement leads to cynicism, and cynicism is contagious. Over time, it will lower engagement across the organization.
 
What is being done well in the area of employee engagement and where do the challenges lie?
Murphy: There is great opportunity for organizations to improve employee engagement and customer loyalty as a result. Empower employees. If you give your employees the power to help someone, to solve problems, to make customers’ lives easier, you will continually energize them and connect them to their passion.
 
What was your biggest surprise from the report and why?
Murphy: The most surprising findings for me were the educator’s engagement levels: 34 percent non-engaged; 21 percent disengaged. The only group to score lower were government employees. For me, this indicates a much larger societal issue. There are numerous studies to drive student engagement in learning, but without engaged educators, students will remain disengaged.

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