I originally wrote today’s post for StellaConnect. It appeared on their site on September 20, 2021. This version has been modified to apply to employees, in general; the original post focused on customer service agents.

As you know, when the pandemic hit in 2020, businesses were forced to close their doors and send employees home. The impact on businesses was great; asking employees to work from home and managing that type of a situation and workforce was new to many. While the concern about how to keep employees engaged was greater than it had ever been, it was already – and still is – a constant concern for employers, especially as it relates to employee turnover, employee performance, and ultimately, the customer experience.

Let’s start with a look at engagement. What is it? How do employees become engaged? What can you, as a supervisor or manager, do to ensure your employees are engaged? How does engagement impact employee performance?

For starters, no one can make an employee engaged. Engagement comes from within the individual, and yet the company has a role in it, as well. Employee engagement is the result of some confluence of: (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organization does (mission, vision, purpose, values, brand promise, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment. Engagement is an outcome. (And it’s not the same as happiness or satisfaction.)

Essentially, employee engagement involves both parties, the employee and the employer. What’s the employer’s role? It’s all about creating the right conditions to allow employees to become engaged. Those conditions include:

  • Clearly communicating the mission, vision, purpose, and values of the organization
  • Hiring the right people for the right roles, including those aligned with all of those statements
  • Communicating openly and being transparent about company goals and performance and how employees’ contributions matter
  • Setting expectations and providing the right tools and resources for employees to meet those expectations
  • Creating a culture where employees come first
  • Ensuring employees are well taken care of, which includes tools, training, coaching, development, feedback, recognition, respect, appreciation, trust, balance, and more

Employees, on the other hand, also have ownership in this thing called engagement; it comes from within them. Their role in becoming engaged includes:

  • Understanding the mission, vision, purpose, and values of the organization and ensuring they align with all of them
  • Accepting a position for the right role in the right company 
  • Being passionate about what they do and for whom they do it
  • Taking ownership, thinking and acting like they own the business
  • Providing feedback to drive business success
  • Working day in and day out toward the goals of the business
  • Understanding how their work ties to business outcomes

It’s not as complex as it sounds. It can be boiled down to this: passion, enthusiasm, ownership, and discretionary effort on the part of the employee who believes in the brand, the purpose, and the vision of the employer.

When employees experience this level of connection, this engagement, there are huge benefits: they are more focused; they want the business to succeed; and they will do anything to ensure it does. Other benefits include:

  • Proud of the work and the brand
  • Sense of ownership
  • Discretionary effort to achieve individual and company goals
  • Increased productivity
  • Less likely to leave
  • More likely to recommend the company, which attracts new talent and customers
  • Willing to defend the company and its reputation
  • More apt to make suggestions to improve the business

Gallup conducts the world’s largest ongoing study of employee engagement and performance, and they cited in their 2020 report that high engagement results in fewer negative outcomes (absenteeism, turnover, theft, accidents, etc.), more positive outcomes (loyalty and productivity), and greater success for the business (profitability, well-being, and organizational citizenship/participation). So engagement affects both individual employee performance and business performance.

Ken Blanchard once said, “Remember, people who feel good about themselves produce good results, and people who produce good results feel good about themselves.” Given all of the benefits listed above, combined with Ken’s thoughts, there’s a clear connection between engagement and the employee’s performance. When people feel good about themselves, their roles, and who the work for, they want to operate at peak performance.

I always say that no one comes to work wanting to do a crappy job. We all want to bring our best selves to work and give our best. But in order to do that, in order to unleash our potential and do great work, we’ve got to experience that confluence of circumstances that lead to engagement.

When employees are engaged, they are comfortable with where they are and what they are doing, and they are less likely to leave. These tenured employees have more experience and tribal knowledge to bring to their work, which benefits their co-workers, their customers, and the business.

Interestingly enough, the relationship between engagement and performance can be  bidirectional. In order for that to happen, employees must receive feedback about, and recognition for, the work that they are doing. Again, when they do good things, they feel that ownership, passion, and sense of pride about the work and for whom they are doing it and want to give more – they want to keep doing good things. But there must be recognition for what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

The connection between engagement and performance is real. Know your part. Do your part.

Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability. ~ Anne M. Mulcahy

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is now available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.