Happy 2015 - The Year of the Employee!

Posted by Allan Steinmetz on 29 January 2015

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Over the last six months Inward has continued to conduct research to understand the importance of employee brand advocacy as a singular characteristic to improve customer engagement, strengthen brand loyalty and drive revenue growth. Our research has found numerous cases where companies have improved performance by investing in their employee engagement and communications.

  • Recently at the National Retail Federation "Big Show" in New York City, research was presented by ANSWERS that ties real value of employee/customer engagement. The report cites that retailers who have scored at least 80 or above on a 100 point scale are generally considered within the threshold for excellence at which an organization meets and exceeds employee or customer expectations. The top performing retailers are Advance Auto Parts, Ann Taylor, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Costco, OfficeMax and Victoria's Secret.
  • Higher employee engagement is correlated with higher customer engagement. The only other research that I have seen that supports this correlation came from Gallup last year. It's reported that when organizations successfully engage their customers and their employees, they experience a 240% boost in performance related business outcomes.
  • Another piece of research is the "Engaged Company Stock Index" which tracks long-term results of companies with high levels of customer, employee and community engagement determined by independent data sources compiled by McBassi and Company. Companies who have high levels of engagement and grouped together as a portfolio outperformed the Standard and Poor 500 by 20.76 percentage points since October 1, 2012.
  • The Harvard Business Review blog stated recently that companies spend over $720 million each year on employee engagement, and that's projected to rise to over $1.5 billion. And yet, employee engagement is very low - 31% according to last year's engagement survey by Gallup. Obviously, it begs the question, "what's wrong? Why isn't it working?" The piece goes on to suggest that a new fresh approach to surveying your employees is required to get at real insights that impact employee advocacy/engagement. The article suggests that most employee engagement models are centered around the work experience and not on the employees. They suggest a different approach that measures insights at work and outside of work, which can provide better insights on employee engagement.

-Work: What preferences and patterns do employees exhibit in performance, engagement, and job satisfaction?

-Relationships: What people and relationships most influence employees inside and outside of work?

-Internal self: What are the values that govern the lives and decisions of employees?

-External self: Where do employees expend their energy outside of work?

I can go on and on and cite additional reports and research that justifies that "2015 is the year of the employee". The diagnosis of an employee engagement gap is one thing, but developing an action plan to improve the levels of employee engagement and create sustainable advocacy is more challenging. Employee brand engagement is not a new fad and it is here to stay.

What are companies going to do to engage their employees so that they adopt behaviors that support the company's brand values and create memorable customer experiences day in and day out?

At Inward, we have been addressing this challenge for the last 17 years. We have had the privilege of working with Fortune 500 companies such as Walmart, McDonald's, American Express, Aetna, and Cummins this past year and have helped them shape their employee engagement programs to elevate their brands, improve business or employee performance and strengthen employee advocacy.

No two employee engagement programs are alike, however, there are 4 concrete steps that each initiative must include to be successful.

1. It starts with having a codified process and framework followed by compelling message architecture that addresses why the employee should care and answers the essential question, "what's in it for me?"

2. This is followed by a comprehensive strategic plan and change management program that sequentially moves the employee from being aware, to being educated, to becoming committed to the cause and finally being recognized for changing his or her behavior.

3. The next step is to create a metaphor and "big idea" that draws attention to the program in a compelling and interesting way.

4. Lastly, create a tactical plan utilizing the message architecture and creative metaphor, which follows the sequential order of engagement. 

Developing employee engagement in your organization is not a quick deliverable, it is a process. Like any other business process within a corporation, it needs time, resources and budgets to be effective and have a lasting impact on the bottom line and culture of the organization.

 If you would like to learn more about what we have done and how we can do it for your company then please give me a call so that we can discuss your situation and offer some suggestions. Happy 2015 - The Year of the Employee!