The Customer Within: The power of employee engagement and inside-out marketing (Part 1 of 3)
Forty percent of [the Fortune 500 businesses], unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years[...] Either we disrupt [by going digital] or we get disrupted.
What if companies could attract, retain, and engage the world’s best talent? What if they could empower their workforce on every level, toward emotional, spiritual, physical, and professional growth? And what if employees were inspired to become active brand evangelists reaching millions of people with just one click? Understanding these possibilities begins by defining employee engagement and cause marketing to identify their powerful nexus.
Companies already face roadblocks in managing and coordinating their efforts in marketing, human resources, and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Given the additional lack of a cohesive strategy to get employees involved, they will never realize their employees’ or their programs’ potential. Traditionally, these efforts have been siloed, but if seen as intrinsically connected, new potential emerges. An employee engagement, wellness, communications and social sharing platform that places employees at the center of their firm’s storytelling will greatly improve efficacy and bridge the gap between internal and external social change.
In this series of posts on employee engagement and inside-out marketing, we explore the challenges and rewards of successful employee engagement programs and how this connects to success in other facets of the workplace. When companies approach employees as their first customer, purpose-driven productivity could take place that revolutionizes corporate marketing with an ‘Inside-Out’ approach.
Defining Employee Engagement
Employee engagement definitions overlap. Thomas Otter defines it as “a blend of job satisfaction, organiza- tional commitment, job involvement, and feelings of empowerment”.
According to CustomInsight, a provider of online HR assessment and development tools, employee engagement is “the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work.”3 And a Forbes article defines it as “the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals” and notes that this emotional commitment means “engaged employees...work on behalf of the organization’s goals.”
There have been entire chapters dedicated to defining employee engagement and its evolution in the context of the digital revolution. But employee engagement can best be understood not just in what it is but also in what it does for companies, in terms of employees’ perception of the brand and their contribution to its purpose. In this regard, BusinessDictionary.com provides the following definition of employee engagement:
The emotional connection an employee feels toward his or her employment organization, which tends to influence his or her behaviors and level of effort in work related activities. The more engagement an em- ployee has with his or her company, the more effort they put forth. Employee engagement also involves the nature of the job itself – if the employee feels mentally stimulated; the trust and communication be- tween employees and management; ability of an employee to see how their own work contributes to the overall company performance; the opportunity of growth within the organization; and the level of pride an employee has about working or being associated with the company.
Despite the overlapping definitions, the idea boils down to this: a company’s first customer is their employees, making the significance of employee engagement clear:
Critical driver of business outcomes:
Organizations with highly engaged employees had an average 3-year revenue growth 2.3 times greater than those whose employees showed average engagement.
American businesses are losing productivity worth billions annually due to disengaged workers. Employee engagement can become a key competitive advantage or a primary weakness.
Benefits of Employee Engagement to Companies
“A company is only as good as its employees. We are used to talking about a company as if the organization itself is a person. But an organization does not generate ideas, does not give service, and by itself is neither efficient nor productive. People make all of those things happen.”7 A company’s workforce creates sustain- able competitive advantage, ROI, and long-term strength.
Rather than being an afterthought, engaging employees should be planned and practiced at all levels of the business hierarchy and should be cultivated on a regular basis. Consider some of the most commonly referenced benefits of employee engagement:
• Improved recruitment especially for millennials – 79% of employees consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.
• Productivity – Companies with engaged employees, according to Gallup, outperform those without by up to 202%.
• Attendance rate – By improving attendance rate, employee engagement reduces company expenses incurred by absenteeism.
• Loyalty and retention – Investing in employee engagement increases workforce retention, and according to the Bureau of National Affairs, $11 billion is lost annually due to employee turnover.
• Employee health and well-being – Employee wellness and company financial health go hand in hand in terms of engagement.
• Better customer service and customer loyalty – Increased employee engagement results in a higher level of customer service, which leads to increased customer loyalty.
Employee engagement can make the difference between success and failure, as disengaged employees are estimated to cost the U.S. economy as much as $350 billion per year in lost productivity, accidents, theft, and turnover.9 The benefits detailed above exist because increasing employee engagement cor- relates directly with a positive impact on key business metrics since engaged employees:
• Work more effectively
• Find ways to improve
• Share information with colleagues
• Develop creative solutions
• Provide suggestions
• Speak up for the organization
• Try harder to meet customer needs
Please let us know what employee engagement efforts your company has been doing, or how you think they could improve in this area in the future.