Treating Employees Like Customers to Build Engagement

Increasing worker engagement levels means increased production and profits. Here’s how to prioritize employee satisfaction the same way you prioritize customer satisfaction.

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Treating Employees Like Customers to Build Engagement

Here's what you need to know:

  • People Operations leaders know that when you show the same care and regard for employees as you do customers, employees will be more engaged
  • Productivity, customer satisfaction, and profitability all increase when employees are engaged
  • Factors that contribute to employee engagement include company culture and recognition
  • Other factors include strong communication, participation, and job satisfaction
  • Good management and the opportunity for career growth are also key factors that contribute to employee engagement

Employee engagement is as important to business as the products it sells or the services it provides. Engaged employees take ownership in their work and pride in a job well done.

They turn new clients into long-term, repeat customers, building brand loyalty and profitability. They manage their workload and look for ways to do more, do better, or help others.

Businesses with engaged workers know the benefits, and strive to keep engagement high.

Companies with low engagement know the costs of employee dissatisfaction. These are staff members who do the bare minimum; who consider absenteeism and tardiness the norm. They never offer to do more or help others: they walk past a problem rather than correct it.

More than a lax attitude toward their own work, low-engaged workers spread discontent to others. They disrupt and complain, find fault rather than solutions. Businesses with low-engaged workers know the damage these workers do to their company.

Entire industries have emerged to help business maximize customer experience. They know the value of customer care. The ‘employee as customer’ mindset brings that attitude in-house.

People Operations leaders know that when you show the same care and regard for employees as you do customers, your business will grow and prosper.

Engagement and satisfaction aren’t automatic for workers

When you hire, enthusiasm is high. The new worker is excited to start their journey, and you’re confident you made a great choice.

That level of engagement can become the model for their career, or it can easily be squashed. For businesses to keep that level of enthusiasm from new hires, and get it (or get it back) from existing employees, it requires effort and planning.

In part possibly due to the pandemic, engagement levels continue to shrink. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report found 2 consecutive years of engagement loss. Percentages went from 36% of workers identifying as engaged in 2020, to 32% in 2022. They also found 17% of workers are actively disengaged, an increase of 1 point over 2021.

The list of items that contribute to employee satisfaction includes clear expectations; the right tools and equipment to perform their work; and a connection to the mission or purpose of the organization. Exclusively remote workers showed higher levels of engagement, at 37%, as opposed to on-site workers at 29%.

For business, increasing engagement levels means increased production and profits. Learning where employees are finding satisfaction and where they are not may require a new mindset.

A shift could be as easy as considering employees as customers. The same way you prioritize customer satisfaction, you should prioritize employee satisfaction.

What are the factors that contribute to employee engagement?

There are many factors in employee engagement — some are generic, applicable to everyone on staff. Others may be more personal, depending on the staff member and their goals and aspirations.

As you redirect to the ‘employee as customer’ model, you’ll want to address the most wide-ranging desires first, then start customizing. Look first at overall compensation and benefits. If you’re competitive in your market, move to more specific areas.

A good way to start building engagement is by conducting employee engagement surveys. Survey tools allow workers to speak anonymously and candidly about the aspects of your business that work well and those that frustrate.

When you start the engagement survey process, prepare for good news and bad. Moreover, prepare to act on any negative issues that arise. If you’re not willing to make changes, don’t ask what changes employees want.

Some of the topics to consider, either in your survey or by asking directly, are:

1. Company culture

Does the organization have a clear mission and vision, and are employees aware they are key components in achievement? Your company culture should be inclusive and welcoming.

The goals you set for the business should be clearly outlined, messaged, and used as guidance for every task in the organization.

Employee as customer

Does your marketing team assure customers know what you do, how you do it, and what your mission is?  ‘Market’ those values to employees, as persuasively and frequently as you do for consumers. You’ll boost engagement and help employees define their path in the vision of the organization.

2. Recognition

How consistently do you recognize employees for their work and accomplishments? Everyone appreciates appreciation.

From a private ‘well done’ to the most visible reward, recognition is key to engagement.

If you rely only on the annual performance evaluation to recognize staff members, it’s too little, too late. Take time to thank and recognize employees on a routine basis.

From a private ‘well done’ to the most visible reward, recognition is key to engagement. Milestones are reasons to celebrate. New hire made it to 90 days — hooray! Seasoned employee hits the 10-year mark — yahoo! Make sure your employees know they’re seen and appreciated.

Employee as customer

Your team may be trained to remind customers that you ‘know they have many choices and you value their choosing you’ with every phone call.  To strengthen employee engagement, recognize employees as well.

Whatever the market conditions, workers can move on to another organization. If you want them to stay with you, make sure they know how appreciated they are.

3. Communication and participation

Strong 2-way communication is commonplace in highly engaged workplaces. Employees should know they can use their genuine voice and be heard.

Your message to staff members should be that their views and contributions are valued and requested. Who knows how to do their job better, faster, or more effectively? The worker who performs it. Let them know you want their input.

Your message to staff members should be that their views and contributions are valued and requested.

When it comes to improving communication in the workplace, make sure employees know their concerns are important prospects for growth for the entire company. Even negative input has value. You can’t fix a problem you’re unaware of.

Employee as customer

Customer complaints may seem like a headache, but they’re an opportunity for correction. An estimated 96% of customers won’t complain but 91% will leave and never return.

The same may hold true for workers. When employees lodge a concern, assume it’s in good faith and try to address the issue. You’ll likely find there were more unhappy employees who are glad someone spoke up so a correction could be made.

4. Job satisfaction

Not every employee has the most glamorous job, but every job is important. You don’t hire unneeded workers — everyone has value.

Employee satisfaction comes from knowing how integral your role is in the company’s success. It also comes from being appreciated for the work you do, no matter how menial the task. There’s pride in a job well done: instill that in each employee.

In addition to satisfaction in their role, are employees satisfied with their place in the company? Are they paid competitively and provided the best possible perks and benefits? Are rules and favor equitable among all employees? When these are met, engagement is high.

Employee as customer

You want your customers to be satisfied with the product or service you provide. You do your best to be priced competitively, offer quality, and provide follow-up if needed.

The same dynamics apply to employees. When you give your best, so do they.

5. Good leadership/management

Good leaders and managers make or break an organization. Some believe employees don’t quit companies, they quit bad managers.

When employees are not valued by leadership as a whole, and by supervisors in particular, engagement is impacted. Management training is key to ensure team leaders are getting the most out of their group and providing them the best your company has to offer.

Employee as customer

A strong company attracts customers and retains them. Leaders offer a product, service, and vision to the public and, if successful, reap the rewards of a valued customer base.

The same leaders attract and retain talent by valuing employees. They engage staff members on the vision of the organization and applaud their contribution to achieving its goals.

You want to retain your employees with as much effort as you do customers.

6. Opportunity for growth

Some workers prioritize growth within the organization (or out, if need be) more than any other factor for engagement. Career development is critical to attracting and retaining talent. If you’re not already planning for their future within your company, they may be planning for it somewhere else.

Make time to talk about their progression and take steps to achieve it. Training and development are 1st steps to develop them for the role they hold now and the role they hope for in the future.

Employee as customer

Loyal, return customers are the lifeblood of a successful company. Making sure we give consumers a reason to come back is as important as serving their needs today.

The same holds true for staff. If staff members see their future in your organization, they’ll stay with you to achieve it. If not, they’ll sample the competition until they find a workplace that’s as concerned about their future as they are.

What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve

Answer to see the results

Employee engagement and satisfaction pays off for companies

There are many benefits of employee engagement for business. Highly engaged workplaces are more profitable. Some estimate they’re over 20% more profitable than companies with low engagement. They also enjoy less absenteeism — up to 41% lower, according to Gallup.

Productivity, customer satisfaction, and profitability all increase when employees are engaged. Turnover is lower and innovation is higher when workers know their employers value them.

We value customers: we know they’re the reason we stay in business. However, customers are only half of the equation. Without employees, business can’t serve the customer. Employees are just as valuable.

When you start thinking of them that way, you can improve their outlook on their jobs and your business and boost employee engagement in your organization.

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