According to Gallup, global employee engagement hovers at a paltry 15 percent — not exactly encouraging. Factor in statistics indicating that disengaged workers cost organizations between $450 billion and $550 billion annually through lost productivity, and the stakes become significantly higher.
In addition to costing their organizations billions by being uninspired at work, disengaged employees can also lead to lost business for those same companies. Think about the last time you talked with a surly cashier at a local business; it probably didn’t inspire you to come back for a repeat visit. Science agrees, with one study finding that companies with low levels of engagement lost nearly 33 percent of operating income.
Unfortunately, most employees don’t see the connection between the work they perform and the overall health of their employer — nor do they appreciate the difference it makes for customers. A “brand” boils down to the promises a company makes to its customers. If employees believe in those promises, they have a greater sense of purpose and engagement. If no one takes the time to help them see that bigger picture, they are destined for disengagement.
The High Price of Disengagement
A client of mine once introduced a new product that changed the trajectory of its brand and how it was positioned in the marketplace. The product was incredibly popular with customers because it was an enormous upgrade in the service the company was able to offer.
That’s where the positives ended, though. The company struggled to help its own associates see the vision and directional shift of the brand, so employees did not adopt the new product. This client also had internal processes in place that discouraged employees from offering the product to customers. It was a bad situation.
The brand platform made sense to customers, but the company failed to adopt its own brand internally. The result was wasted time, lost market share, and unnecessary expenses for “relaunching” the product.
This story is indicative of a more significant trend in business: While companies assume team members will follow their employers on social media, there’s relatively low brand engagement from employees across industries. That lack of engagement is a shame because your customer-facing employees can be a great sounding board for new products and services — they should have firsthand knowledge of your consumers’ wants and needs.
To make a long story short, your brand suffers significant consequences as a result of disinterested employees.
The Path to Enduring Engagement
Thankfully, all hope is not lost. You can begin to reverse this trend by addressing the role of your front-line employees. Do these employees know what makes your brand stand out? Do they comprehend your brand positioning? Do they understand how to interact with customers in a way that reflects well on the brand? Here are four ways to ensure your team members are fully engaged at work:
- Perform some internal “market” research. Identify the elements of your brand that do and do not resonate with employees. Isolate any areas where internal perception is low compared to customer perception. This approach also gives employees a voice, which is a great way to build engagement as long as leadership follows through on what they learn.
- Link your company’s brand to each employee’s individual role. Employees, especially customer-facing employees, should understand how their position contributes to your brand’s overall perception. There are simple things employees can do to reinforce your company’s branding, but those tactics are not always clear. Spell it out for each employee so he or she knows how those efforts contribute to the bigger picture.
- Craft custom internal messages. Just as marketers customize the messages they create for various target customers, you need to tailor every message you deliver internally. Handing everyone the same one-pager with customer-facing messages doesn’t help them understand how an initiative affects them or how they can help make it a success — you must find ways to clearly communicate your vision to each employee.
- Gather and distribute “wins.” Management should take every opportunity to recognize employees who take actions that reinforce your brand message. Not only do those who are recognized become more engaged, but it also spreads examples for their peers to put into practice. The best ideas come from the people who interact with your customers on a daily basis.
Your employees should be your brand’s biggest advocates. But if they aren’t engaged, your business will endure unnecessary hardships. Spend time to show your customer-facing employees why their roles matter, how they improve the lives of customers, and how you’re altering your industry. Once you have done this, you will have more engaged employees who are excited to call themselves members of your organization.