“There was once an important job to be done and everybody was asked to do it.
Everybody was sure somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was everybody’s job.
Everybody thought anybody could do it, but nobody realized that everybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that everybody blamed somebody when actually nobody asked anybody.”
In our busy world it is easy and convenient to expect other people to simply understand what it is we expect of them without giving them a reason “why” we have asked them to perform a particular task. Often we find ourselves in a situation like when we were children and mom or dad would say, “I expect you to do this because I said so!” This strategy does not fare well in the workplace because employees want to feel like they are part of the bigger picture and want to know how their personal contribution is helping the company. The need to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves is a natural human desire.
The term “employee engagement” has become a popular enough buzz term that we often overlook it because of its overuse. However, employee engagement is essential in providing the right workplace for each individual employee in order to improve metrics and drive performance. It is well proven that organizations with an engaged workforce are more successful than those without. Market research from organizations like Gallup and Hay Group, as well as various academic studies, shows a strong correlation between good employee engagement ratios and organizational performance.
I recently read a story about Peter Bregman, a writer for the Harvard business blog, and his personal experience with an unengaged employee. The story read something like this…
Peter was walking home to his apartment on a rainy afternoon and saw an elderly gentleman with a walker almost slip and fall. Peter and a few others rushed to the aid of the struggling gentleman.
There was an Access-A-Ride van (a Metropolitan Transit Authority vehicle for people with disabilities) waiting for him. The driver was inside, warm and dry, as he watched Peter and the other men strain to help his passenger cross the sidewalk in the pouring rain.
The driver opened the window and yelled over the sound of the rain coming down, “He might not be able to make it today.”
“Hold on,” they yelled as they helped the man move around the back of the van, “he can make it.”
They caught the man from falling a few times, hoisted him back up, and finally got him to the van door, which the driver then opened from the inside to reveal a set of stairs. They knew the man with the walker would never make it.
They questioned the driver why he hadn’t opened the other door which had an electric lift.
“Oh yeah,” the driver answered, “hold on.” He put his coat over his head, came out in the rain with the rest of the men, and operated the lift.
So, here’s the question: Why would five strangers volunteer to help a man they don’t know in the pouring rain — and think about the electric lift themselves — while the paid driver sat inside and waited?
So why didn’t the driver help? Part of the answer is probably that for him, an old man struggling with a walker isn’t a one-time thing, it’s every day every stop, and the sight doesn’t compel him to act.
But that answer isn’t good enough. After all, it’s his job to help. Then Peter came to the realization that the reason the driver didn’t help might have been precisely because he was paid to. The driver was not emotionally invested in his company or the customers and was clearly not engaged in the tasks he was supposed to be performing.
Employee engagement can’t be mass produced. Genuine engagement is an individual decision and is thus influenced by the unique personality of each employee and by the work environment of that particular individual. Therefore, it has to begin ‘independently’ for each employee. It is possible to create a culture of engagement with a group or groups of employees. However, the ‘real action’ happens in small teams, one-on-one interactions and “human moments” at work. Since even large organizations can be managed as small teams, employee engagement is possible even in larger organizations.
Here are a few strategies that will aid in the engagement of all employees on a personal and group level.
- Embrace game incentives to drive agent performance. Many contact centers already reward harder-working agents with better shift patterns and monetary bonuses, but creative and fun challenges will elevate performance and morale.
- Provide a visible social and mobile strategy for agents and for customers. Embracing up-to-date social strategies will give employees a chance to feel a personal connection to the company and thus improve performance.
- Provide employees a way through appropriate technology investments that will allow them to instantly assess their performance and adjust accordingly and effectively.
First off, by embracing and promoting fun game incentives, you are providing your contact center employees fun experience in what could easily become a bland and boring environment. Fun games promote healthy competition and a way to create a culture of excitement on your call floor that will ultimately end up only helping drive desired metrics.
Secondly, by allowing your employees to be part of your company through social media and mobile applications you are providing them with a way to feel as though they are members of your “company family” by interacting socially with other employees and promoting your company at the same time.
Lastly, if a contact center has the right technology which allows agents to see their performance in real time, they are instantly engaged in their performance metrics because they can visibly see how they are performing at any given moment. A workforce performance solution such as the ClearView performance dashboard can provide just that. ClearView is a revolutionary workforce optimization solution that delivers real-time performance data from the executive level to the agent level. ClearView increases accountability and creates a culture of continuous development essential to reaching business objectives.
Integrating these three simple strategies into your employees daily work environment will quickly and effectively improve agent performance as well as drive employee engagement to new levels. By feeling as though they are a member of a “family” rather than just another seat filled, employees are much more likely to perform at higher levels and do so with a positive attitude. They won’t have to ask “why” they’ve been asked to perform tasks; they will simply do what has been asked of them because they know how important their individual contributions are in the big picture of an entire company!