While “customer engagement” might be a stretch in the public sector, customer satisfaction is not. Even though most public sector agencies do not have “competition,” and customers therefore have no “choice,” there is still a need to provide first-class service to those who walk through the door (and to those whom we serve electronically and on the phone, too!) Employee engagement, on the other hand, is not a stretch; it is a reality, and one that is becoming increasingly important as we aim to deliver ever better service.
What does an engaged employee look like? According to Tom Roth1, engaged employees are “committed, enthusiastic, and motivated to provide the interactions and experiences that keep customers close.” In recent times, many of us have seen employee morale take a slide due to cost-cutting and tighter budgeting. This has led to layoffs and cuts in other costs too, and in turn, this has affected morale. It may be difficult just to keep employees satisfied, much less “engaged,” right now. However, there are good reasons to change this, and it can be done, even in tough economies.
According to Roth (and I wholeheartedly agree), engaged employees are:
- Inspired to feel an emotional connection to the organization’s vision and purpose
- Willing to commit their full energy to their work
- Loyal and committed to the organization
Sound lofty? Perhaps it does; but there is a definite and distinct difference between employees who are satisfied and those who are engaged. If employers deliver basic expectations of fair compensation, reasonable working conditions and reasonably competent leadership, then those provide satisfaction. Roth calls this the “expected offering,” and Herzberg called these “hygiene factors.” No matter what they are called, these offerings may meet expectations but are unlikely in and of themselves to provide employee engagement.
Just as you probably have, I have worked in organizations where I have been an engaged employee, and in some where I’ve been merely satisfied. What is the difference? Mostly, it is the leadership or management and their commitment to the employees. The leaders and managers that have inspired me (and I assume most other people) are those who have given me a clear focus, set high expectations, provided opportunities for learning and growth, supported me, and who cared about me as a person (and are not afraid to show that).
What was the difference in my work? Exponential. As an engaged employee, I genuinely care about the organization I work for. I feel loyal, I promote it, and I am willing to do whatever it takes to make it better. When I am merely satisfied, I get the job done, on time, and to a good standard but that is where it stops. I feel no loyalty, no “emotional connection,” and when 5 p.m. comes around, I switch off and go home. I use myself as an example here, but I am sure I am not alone.
How does this affect customers? When an employee is engaged, the employee cares. They care about the organization and the image of it. They care about what customers think. And, they do the best they can to provide the customer with a positive experience. Sure, merely “satisfied” employees can also provide the customer with a positive experience, but there is a difference, and that difference, the “extra mile” that is provided through engagement, is what makes customer service sparkle.
1 Roth, Tom. August 2010. “Want Engaged Customers? Then Engage Your Employees.” Training Magazine. Accessed October 15, 2010 at: http://www.trainingmag.com/article/want-engaged-customers-then-engage-your-employees