Engagement equation: Happy employees = happy customers

Employee Engagement is becoming an area of great interest to anyone thinking about customer engagement, CX or customer retention. Katrina Ghazarian, a rising star in the practice of engaging employees, shows how to start engaging those employees.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

I met Katrina Ghazarian at the Constellation Research run AXS 2020 conference, in Atlanta right before the pandemic hit. She came to the event as a board of advisors member of the Professional Collegiate League, a collegiate basketball league in the making that is poised to become a means for collegiate basketball players to not only play basketball, be seen by scouts, and go on to a productive life either in basketball or outside basketball, but also to make some money in the bargain.  But Katrina, as I rapidly found out, is SO much more than just that. She is an articulate, witty, experienced CEO who has a highly practical outlook and thus, has built the frameworks and toolsets to drive what is her specialty - employee engagement. Currently, that makes her the CEO of Eva8, which focuses on not only HR, but on employee engagement -- which of course should be one of the foundational pieces of HR and often is not.

Her article here is exceptionally important because, while the relationship between successfully engaged employees and thus, successfully engaged customers is well known, it isn't often acted on.  She is both a thought leader in that space and at the same time, knows how to actually do it, not just pontificate over it or use the right buzzwords.

So pay attention: This is a force to be reckoned with moving forward in our world -- CX, CRM, and CE -- because employees who feel they make a difference and are being valued lead exactly to that when it comes to customers. 

Take it away, Katrina.

Happy Employees = Happy Customers has been the secret (that isn't really a secret) to success for decades within the Fortune 500 circle. Virgin Airlines has it stamped on their website, "If you treat your staff well, they will be happy. Happy staff are proud staff, and proud staff deliver excellent customer service, which drives business success."

We know this. The issue isn't that companies don't know about this, it's that they don't know how to make employees happy. What makes employees happy?

Let's first talk about Employee Engagement. Engagement For Success defines employee engagement as a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organization to give their best each day, commit to their organization's goals and values, and motivate them to contribute to organizational success - all with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.

I mean, no wonder achieving a healthy company culture seems elusive - the very definition of employee engagement is basically Utopia. I am packing my bags and booking a one way flight to Employee Engagement as we speak. I am guessing there are calorie-free pina coladas and animal-free bacon that actually tastes like bacon over there.

Here are some more numbers  to make you feel even worse about your pitiful unlimited PTO policy:

This is pre-pandemic.

Almost 60% of employees could care less about their work and the company achieving its objectives.

Couple a mostly-disengaged workforce with unemployment offices paying employees to NOT work and we got ourselves a reckoning, my friends.

Employee engagement will define which companies will thrive and which will buckle more than it ever has in our lifetime.

Here's the formula for success:

Engaged Employees = Happy Employees = Happy Customers = A Company Still in Business

I never said I was good at math - but I am good at people. I can dive deep into my accolades of starting and growing eva8, an HR solutions business that's taken clients from start-up to exit across multiple industries including Sports, Tech, Consumer Products, Healthcare, eCommerce, and Motion Picture… but none of that matters as much as the fact that I coached a non-competitive High School Girls Basketball team into a League Champion in 2 seasons resulting in receiving a Coach of the Year award. I mean, I got buy-in from 12-15 adolescent girls. ADOLESCENT GIRLS. If you can do that, you can do ANYTHING.

Let's break this down into its simplest form.

Part 1: Engaged Employees

Find out how engaged employees are by administering a climate survey.

Ensure the responses are safe and there will be no retaliation for being honest. Using a 3rd party and/or making it anonymous might be best if there are known trust issues in the organization.

Ask questions on a sliding scale, for example 1 - Strongly Disagree to 5 - Strongly Agree.

Create questions directly related to how much employees value their work, feel valued within the organization, feel supported by the organization, understand the organization's mission, would refer the organization to their network, and feel they can advance their career within the organization.

If the organization plans to make a big pivot, this is a great opportunity to see how it's employees will feel about it and if they support it.

BOOM - now you have data.

Data is extremely important for this to work well. One thing employees dislike is when a small group of elite executives make big decisions without consulting with the majority first. Executives may be "out of touch", especially if they've been in the position for a long time. It's easy to assume how an entry or mid-level staff member may "feel", but stop guessing and ask instead. It makes for a strong employee/employer connection and for an easier path to making good decisions.

Compile the data and let's move on to Part 2.

Part 2: Happy Employees

Create a presentation summarizing the results and engagement initiatives. Even if the results are unfavorable, share them anyway. Employees want to know that they're being heard and the organization wants to do something about it. Instant engagement points.

Communicate what will be happening moving forward.

How does the organization plan to increase engagement? How will the organization ensure that employees feel their work is being valued? How will the organization integrate its mission and core values day to day? Every weak engagement point should have an action for it and all employees need to know what action is going to be taken. Expectations should be communicated clearly and be time-bound.

Implement Employee Engagement objectives across all departments within the time it's communicated. If there are delays, let everyone know so they aren't left to their own assumptions. This creates an environment of distrust and uh, not good for engagement.

Measure these objectives quarterly to see if initiatives are working.

Refine initiatives based on new data and KEEP GOING.

No one said this would be EASY. Being happy as an individual is hard as it is let alone trying to make most of an organization happy. But hey, at least it's not a bunch of adolescent girls.

Make this a regular process in the organization's culture and integrate Employee Engagement KPIs as a part of management's performance reviews. This will ensure all employees are encompassed into the big picture regardless of professional level.

More importantly - MAKE IT FUN. Turn this into an annual event that employees can look forward to with nooks and crannies. Or is it bells and whistles?

We have data, we have fun, and now it's time for results.

Part 3: Happy Customers

Most people assume that direct interactions with customers is the only contributor to customer satisfaction - via email, phone calls, etc.

If that were the case, then we'd only need to focus on customer service and sales associates.

But that isn't the case.

A high level of Employee Engagement results in the development of better products and services. When employees feel connected to the mission of an organization - they make better decisions. They feel empowered to use their creativity and are determined to understand their target customer. Why is that? Employees who feel engaged also feel their work is valued and means something, it gives them a higher sense of purpose.

Here's an example from my coaching experience: We always had our worst practice on Mondays and even though I had stressed that the girls make sure they're being active on the weekends, they weren't. They over-ate and laid around which lead to lackluster Monday practices. I explained to them the impact of having a poor practice each week and how it's affected our ability to put games away. A 50% Monday practice hurt us by 10% each week. They weren't making this connection before. I broke down the point spreads of each game and identified which games we lost by 10% or less. The connection was made and they asked if we could have Saturday practice then got together on their own Sundays during season to workout. The next season we were League Champions.

Back to employees. Just like the girls recognized the connection and creatively problem solved together, so will employees of an organization. When they've engaged, they're plugged in to a customer's needs both on the back and front ends.

A product or service that understands a customer's challenges + stellar customer service = Happy Customers.

See, I'm getting the hang of this math thing.

A Company Still in Business


That's the advantage over competitors when it comes to happier employees.

It is my unprofessional opinion that the number has increased dramatically over the last 6 months as workplaces are bursting at the seams with a workforce demanding change.

How many Happy Employees does an organization need to thrive? 

Well, as of today - no organization has achieved a score of 100% in Employee Engagement.

It doesn't exist - there are too many human elements involved. Maybe an employee was having a bad day at the time of the survey. Maybe another employee didn't respond correctly. Another didn't understand the question. Another missed snack time (me).

Leading organizations achieve an Employee Engagement score of 64% respectively.

It's not about the destination - it's the journey. A journey to improve when possible and in every way possible. A journey to make each member of the team feel heard, safe, included, and inspired.

An organization can choose to use this chapter as a part of a reckoning or as a part of a greater success story that will be told for decades to come. 

Thanks Katrina. I told you folks. You need to be paying close attention to her from now on - if  you haven't been already.

NOTE: This week on CRM Playaz we have a treat for you. Hayden Stafford, President of Client Services for Pegasystems, is our guest on Thursday September 10 at 3:00pm ET on LinkedIn Live, Facebook and Twitter/Periscope. Trust me, you want to listen to him. He just plain rocks!!    

Also, if you're up for it, register here for the CRM Playaz Happy Hour at 3:30pm EDT every Wednesday.

See ya.

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