The Key Steps to Improving Employee Engagement

Colin Shaw
Posted: 03/29/2017

Customer experience author, blogger and speaker Colin Shaw discusses the crucial importance of having an employee experience strategy as part of the wider customer experience strategy.

Happy people give you happy customers. This is the mantra I used to say when I was in corporate life 12 years ago running 3,500 people in call centres around the globe. If you want to have a great customer experience, you must focus your employees as they deliver your experience.

SEE ALSO: How to Connect Employee Loyalty With Customer Loyalty

I believed this so much that when I started Beyond Philosophy and wrote my first book, ‘Building Great Customer Experiences’, I devoted one of our seven philosophies for building a great customer experience to it.

Philosophy 4 stated: “Great customer experiences are enabled by inspirational leadership, an empowering culture and empathetic people who are happy and fulfilled.”

I now realise this needs updating. The important word that is missing is ‘engaged’.

Why Engagement is Important

Over the years I have come to realise you can have people who are happy, but the reality is they may do very little work. So, happiness is part of what you are trying to achieve, but not all of it, as you can have great fun at work but get nothing done.

‘Engaged’ is a really important word. Being engaged means your people voluntarily give you and their Customers their commitment. Engagement means they care for the organisation and therefore their customers. Engagement means they believe in the organisation and the goals. Critically, engaged means they have chosen to give more of themselves.

Let me draw a parallel. My regular readers will know that we advocate when designing a customer experience that you should take a ‘human centred’ approach. As customers are human beings, much of their behaviour is driven by emotions. In fact, we know that over 50 per cent of a customer experience is driven by emotions.

We believe you need to define the experience you are trying to deliver for your customer and the emotions you are trying to evoke and then design your experience to achieve this. This means if you want your customers to ‘trust’ you and feel that you ‘value’ them then you should design your experience to evoke these emotions. It also means you should look at your experience and stop doing the things that are opposite to this.

How Trust Impacts Engagement

How does this apply to the employee experience and engagement?

Well, as long as your employees are human beings, then you achieve this in the same way. You need to define the employee experience that will deliver engaged employees.

But here is the only change. Ideally the customer experience you are trying to deliver and the employee experience are the same. Therefore; if you want your customers to feel they ‘trust’ you and feel that you ‘care for’ them, doesn’t it make sense that the employees feel the same? Doesn’t it make sense that the type of people you recruit are people who are naturally good at evoking ‘trust’ or feeling ‘cared for’ in people?

Let me give you an example. I have a friend who we will call ‘Peter’ (not his real name). Peter is a great guy to be around, he is the life and soul of the party and very funny. But Peter is a compulsive liar. You can’t trust a word he tells you, but he’s great fun. So if you are trying to create an experience for customers to trust you, don’t employ Peter. If you want a fun experience employ Peter.

Back in the day, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and implement this concept when we were consolidating our call centre and at the same time moving to ‘front office, back office’ working. So we defined our customer and employee experience and then put in place a psychometric test to ensure that we had the right type of people in the front of the organisation.

We said that people could take the test as many times as they wished as we were confident with our methodology. One person took the test 6 times and failed every time. Whilst I felt sad for the person I was pleased that the test was robust enough to identify the right people.

Here’s the shocker, over 50 per cent of the people we had talking to the customer were the wrong people! I was astounded, but when we implemented this our customer satisfaction went up dramatically.

Aligning Employee Experience and Customer Experience

Therefore, the employee experience and the customer experience should match. This gives you the most chance of success on both fronts. So in short, you need to define the employee experience that should ideally match the customer experience and then design the employee experience around this.

Too many times we see examples of where organisations do the complete opposite. One of our clients wants their customers to trust them but they do not trust their own employees, which is quite common. An example is one of the worst managers I have ever worked for. He arranged a 1-2-1 development meeting with me. The first meeting we arranged he didn't show up for. The second meeting he was late and spent most of the time fiddling with his mobile phone. The message was clear. He wasn't interested. As a result I wasn't engaged.

These types of things send out important messages to your employees. They say 'we don't trust you', 'you are not important’, ‘we are cleverer than you are’, ‘we don’t care about you’. These are the important subconscious signals that are bombarding your employees every day of the week.

Practical Steps to Improve Employee Engagement

In our major study of staff ambassadorship, 18 per cent of our respondents exhibited high loyalty to their organisations, and 20 per cent exhibited low loyalty. Importantly, there were strong, almost polar opposite differences in organisational loyalty depending on whether an employee was categorised as an ambassador or saboteur, validating ambassadorship framework.

Therefore; the practical steps to improve your employee engagement are:

  1. Define the employee experience you are trying to deliver
  2. Align this to your customer experience
  3. Implement psychometric tests to ensure you are selecting the right people
  4. Recruit according to the experience you are trying to deliver to your customers
  5. Design you employee experience, as you would a customer experience to gain the desired outcome
  6. Ensure the measures and behaviours are aligned to the customer experience and the employee experience
  7. Measure employee’s engagement, not satisfaction


To provide a great customer experience you do need happy employees, but creating happy employees is only one part of getting engaged employees.

Colin Shaw
Posted: 03/29/2017