The changing dynamic
“We’ve built a company where people are excited to come to work each day because we impact people’s health and wellbeing and support the community and those in need.”
This is what employees at pharma company AbbVie are saying about their employer. It comes as no surprise to find that AbbVie is on Fortune’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For. Employees at other companies on the list are also full of praise about the way their leaders and managers drive engagement and encourage alignment with the business’ goals and priorities.
Employees at financial firm Allianz talk about the culture of “inclusion and respect for individuals and the unique talent they bring to the company”, while those at manufacturing leader, Stryker, recognize that “the people are amazing – everyone wants to win for our customers, each other, and Stryker. Even the toughest days are a joy because of the others that pitch in and support”.
There is now a clear link between companies that are 'best-performing' and those that have risen to the challenge of reimagining the employee experience and focusing on employee engagement as part of their business strategy.
C-suite executives recognize that people are a company’s greatest asset. What is often overlooked, however, is the importance of employee experience in driving engagement and successfully enabling those people to deliver positive business outcomes.
Now is the time for organizations to actively decide to change that dynamic.
Why employee engagement is a top priority for leaders
Traditional workplaces and roles have changed significantly in the past decade – a result of increasingly global and diverse workforces, the influence of digital technologies and millennials, and the gig economy powered by access to data and high-speed connectivity. Traditional employee workplace policies, engagement priorities, and approaches need to evolve to keep pace with this revolution.
However, the recent “Great Resignation” indicates that companies have a long way to go in this area. In 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs. While reasons varied, employee engagement ranked among the top drivers for this change.
Employee engagement strategies need to take the role of teams into account since these are rarely as clearly defined as on an organizational chart. They are often formed on a need basis around a particular piece of work, with managers pulling in skilled team members to deliver a project on time and to budget.
Although people may officially belong to one team, they join many others on a day-to-day basis. In fact, most work is teamwork, but about half, the teams where it happens are invisible to companies, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Not surprisingly, HR leaders are now having to evolve and redesign work to enhance the employee value proposition, according to Gartner’s research.
The power to drive change
Enterprise leaders need to understand what motivates, empowers, and enables employees.
This needs to go beyond asking – or, worse still, assuming – what each individual wants. It even goes beyond giving employees the tools they need to be effective. It means actively listening to their everyday experiences in the workplace, the frustrations, the pressure points, and the motivating factors.
It also means identifying critical moments – the parts of the job where employees are spending a great deal of time and effort – and working out how to ease the pressure at those specific moments.
Employees need to feel supported and have the opportunity to use their unique strengths, as well as see chances to grow and be challenged in the future. Industry leaders are rapidly setting a high bar with policies and initiatives that demonstrate the enterprise’s commitment to its people.
Most importantly, employees need to believe in the enterprise’s purpose and recognize the positive impact of their contributions to this objective.
T-Mobile’s former CEO, John Legere, talks about the importance of listening to the people who work for you. He told Fortune magazine, “Happy employees make happy customers.”
My entire strategy, that I coined early on, listen to employees, listen to your customers, shut up and do what they tell you.
One such opportunity to drive change was through T-Mobile’s Team of Experts program. Aimed at addressing the frustrations and ambiguity customers face when dealing with automated customer support systems, Team of Experts offers highly personalized customer care from real people.
At times, demonstrating a genuine commitment to people requires radical decision-making, of a scale that could dent the bottom line or even disappoint customers.
Coffee chain Starbucks, for example, decided to close all its US stores for four hours to provide essential anti-bias training for staff. Such a decision clearly demonstrates their commitment to making sure their people are empowered and aware of the company’s purpose and do everything within their power to extend it through their daily interactions and activities.
And the opportunities are as diverse in scale and capabilities as the workforce themselves. From AI-led hiring that eliminates unconscious bias to flexible and remote working enabled through cloud infrastructure to improved worker safety with digital twins and the IoT to reskilling through digital technologies and online courses, enterprise leaders are improving productivity and performance while driving greater engagement.
Engaged and empowered employees make a difference
Gartner estimates that supporting the things that employees value could increase people’s performance by a fifth. The results – increased productivity, innovation, greater retention, lower recruitment costs –all of which contribute to the financial success of a business.
But just as the best organizations commit to the customers for reasons that go beyond maximizing profits, focusing on what really matters to employees will have far-reaching consequences.
Engaged and empowered employees report better health and wellbeing, lower stress levels, and more energy in all areas of their lives. If you believe that the purpose of your business is to make a positive difference to the world, as well as to create value for all stakeholders, then employee experience is critical to your success.