How to Improve Employee Engagement and Profitability (Think Customer Service)

The U.S. stock markets are reaching new highs as the 2008 economic crisis and the slow recovery that followed give way to record profits.

But that profitability has come at a cost in employee engagement that could make it difficult for many enterprises to continue to grow profitably.

That’s the conclusion of Aon Hewitt’s Ken Oehler, Lorraine Stomski, and Magdalena Kustra-Olszewska in a Harvard Business Review article. In What Makes Someone an Engaging Leader, the authors note that high profitability and high levels of employee engagement don’t necessarily go together, at least in the short term.

How engaging leaders lead to engaged employees and higher profitsThey write that many companies over the past several years have “fought to increase profitability through business transformation, restructuring, and cost-cutting, without devoting much thought to keeping employees engaged and connected. As a result, (they) may find it hard to sustain the gains, much less drive future growth. Organizational agility, innovation, and growth are really difficult without engaged employees.

“(But) firms that achieve both top quartile engagement levels and better business results than their peers…have something in common. It’s the prevalence of a certain kind of leader, not just at the top, but throughout the ranks of the organization. These individuals – we call them engaging leaders – are distinguished by a certain set of characteristics.”

How to Develop Engaging Leaders

The authors describe the common characteristics of such leaders and explain how organizations can nurture and develop more of them.

One key common characteristic is formative early experiences. “Engaging leaders don’t just start out this way. ‘I started in the call center,’ a CEO from a financial services business unit told us. ‘I know what it’s like and I still like to go sit with agents and listen.'”

The importance of a customer-service mindset to highly successful leaders and their businesses isn’t surprising. Research has shown that having happy customers leads to higher profits. Leaders focused on long-term revenue growth and profitability understand how vital it is to provide a great customer experience, and the crucial role customer service plays in the overall business relationship.

They also understand the importance of an engaged workforce, as great customer experience starts on the inside, with a great employee experience. It’s happy, engaged employees that produce happy customers and sustained higher profit.

How Employee Provisioning Affects Engagement

There are many elements to creating an environment where employees feel engaged: engaging leadership (as noted above), working conditions, company policies, and compensation levels among other factors.

But another, often overlooked area is employee provisioning. When employees have difficulty obtaining the goods and services they need to perform their jobs, the results are wasted time, lost productivity frustration, and reduced engagement.

Too frequently, employees aren’t always certain which department or function provides which services and resources; are forced to learn to use and navigate multiple, disparate systems, sometimes even paper forms, depending on which function they are requesting services from; and must then manually “babysit” requests to make sure all required approvals are obtained and the request is properly routed to the right person or group at the right time.

Enterprise request management (ERM) offers a much better approach. It combines a single, intuitive self-service portal with back-end process automation to greatly simplify and accelerate shared services requests and fulfillment. Employees have one portal to use for any type of request, and can also use the portal to check on the status of pending requests at any time, from any device.

The Importance of Great Customer Service, Inside and Out

ERM provides a great “internal customer” experience for employee provisioning. It eliminates request management frustrations and speeds service delivery, reducing costs while increasing productivity, and most importantly, enables employees to better focus on their primary role: creating happy customers.

When combined with engaging leadership and other employee-centric practices, ERM can help improve employee engagement, optimize the customer experience, and ultimately support sustained competitive advantage and profitability for the business.

Download the white paper Enterprise Request Management: An Overview for more information.


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