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Today, we at the Engagement Zone, speak with Aimee Lucas – Customer Experience and VP at Temkin Group. Aimee has over 16 years of experience improving service delivery and transforming the customer experience through people development and process improvement initiatives. Aimee explains to us her definition of employee engagement and how it links to customer engagement.

EZ: What does employee engagement mean to you?

AIMEE: Engaging employees is about aligning and empowering them. When this happens, employees use their judgement to make decisions that are in the best interest of the company – which is good for the company, its customers, and its employees.

Aligning employees means that employees feel they are responsible for helping the company achieve its goals and are committed to delivering on its values. This requires employees to understand the company’s mission and buy into the role they play in helping to deliver on that mission.

Empowering employees means that employees feel they have the responsibility and the capability to make decisions that affect customers. This requires employees have the knowledge and tools to be successful and the ability to put those to work on behalf of customers.

If alignment or empowerment is missing, then companies run the risk of either disengaging employees or creating employees who make lots of decisions but don’t feel responsible for the overall success of the company.

EZ: What are your three tips for companies looking to drive engagement in their organisations?

AIMEE: When it comes to engaging employees in a way so they make productive contributions on the job with their peers and customers – here are three tips I’d recommend:

Make sure employees understand the mission of the company and their role in supporting that mission. Employees need to understand the connection between what they do day-to-day and the big things the organization is trying to accomplish.

Make sure employees have the training and tools they need to be successful. It’s not enough to say “We’re going to be the best at customer experience” or “We’re going to be the best at innovation” and expect employees will magically know how their behaviors need to change on the job.

Listen to employees and take action on their feedback. Employees are tremendous sources of insight and wisdom and can help diagnose issues and design improvements for both the customer and employee experiences a company delivers.

EZ: What do you feel are the biggest pitfalls that companies should look to avoid when executing their engagement strategy?

AIMEE: I’d start by focusing on two big pitfalls to avoid during execution. The first – trying to do too many things at once. A company is more likely to build and sustain momentum by picking a small number of symbolic changes or tactics that send a message to the entire company that employee engagement is a priority, and then concentrating its efforts on those places where it is most committed and capable of making real changes.

The second – don’t declare victory too soon. Early wins are wonderful and should be celebrated, but companies need to recognize that most change journeys have their ups and downs. If leaders shift their focus to something else after those initial victories, they won’t be ready to help remove obstacles and propel the organization through the inevitable setbacks that come up along the way to sustainable success.

EZ: Why do employees fail to buy in when companies try to ramp up engagement?

AIMEE: One reason why employees don’t buy in is because they don’t believe. When companies make a push on employee engagement, leaders play a critical role. But if all leaders do is talk about the importance of employee engagement but don’t actually change their own behaviors to support that message, it’s highly unlikely employees will believe employee engagement really matters to the company. Leaders can’t fake it. Their words and their actions, along with how they hold fellow leaders accountable, must demonstrate that employee engagement is truly important to them.

EZ: What skills are most useful for everyone to have when trying to move towards a culture of engagement?

AIMEE: There are many skills that are useful. The one I’d emphasize is how to spot and then recognize a job well done. Recognition is no longer the sole responsibility of company leaders and managers – all employees can and should recognize up, down, and sideways in the organizational hierarchy. Appreciating an individual’s strengths and celebrating people doing the right things the right way perpetuate success. And in the exchange of recognition, both the giver and receiver leave feeling more positive.

EZ: How important do you think it is to connect Employee Engagement to Customer Engagement and why?

AIMEE: It’s very important. Temkin Group research shows that organizations that outperform their industry when it comes to customer experience have a higher percentage of engaged employees compared to companies whose experience lags behind. It’s employees who design experiences, deliver experiences, and fix experiences when things go wrong. As our 4th law of customer experience states: “Unengaged employees don’t create engaged customers.”

EZ: Which person (dead or alive) would you love to be able to come in and speak to your workforce/colleagues?

AIMEE: There are a lot of good candidates for this question, but one I’ll start with is Tom Rath. He’s done so much research on what makes humans primed to be able to perform well day in and day out. This is so important to us as individuals – to live a productive and healthy life – and as leaders and decision makers inside companies – to be able to support our employees in this pursuit and set up conditions for success. It’s not just a “feel good” thing to do, it’s something that research shows can have a material impact on the productivity of the workforce in the billions of dollars.

EZ: Thank you, Aimee!

NOTE: Entries for the UK & European and ANZ  Employee Engagement Awards are now open. For your chance to be recognised as a great place to work, click the link here.

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