By Kate Olsen
In a recent Inc. article, columnist Steve Tobak asserts that employee engagement is not really important because employees should be last in the line of priorities (behind external customers, your boss, and other internal stakeholders) for any organization concerned with revenue and shareholder return. I don’t argue with Tobak’s assessment of priorities – yes, the customer is #1 – but I find fault with his premise that just because employees are last in line, employee engagement doesn’t matter.
Employee engagement is a means to an end, not the end in and of itself. If more customers, higher revenue and bigger returns are the goals, employee engagement is a big part of the strategy to meet those goals. How do you find, keep, and motivate employees to anticipate customer needs and go above and beyond for customers and colleagues alike? Employees are any company’s primary brand ambassadors to external and internal stakeholders. Zappos and Southwest Airlines continue to delight loyal customers because they have invested in an employee culture that empowers, rewards, and educates employees - and makes it fun for them to go to work. The return on that investment cannot be understated.
Employee engagement has different connotations for each company, and the strategies used to cultivate one workforce may not work in another context. That said, every company must have a plan that fits its unique culture, and reinforces the behaviors and attitudes essential to success. For some companies, that equates to having a robust social impact agenda that allows people to feel that their work life has meaning in the community. For other companies it’s all team building or being empowered to reward peers with spot bonuses. For most companies it’s a portfolio of initiatives that speaks to a diverse workforce.
Employee engagement is not a fad. It’s not something you need to pay lip service to appease millennials. On the contrary, it’s shorthand for the set of unique strategies your company employs to build the most productive, most empowered, most fulfilled workforce possible to keep those customers satisfied.
Need a way to keep your employees engaged? Why not try charity rewards?