Picture a familiar situation: You take advantage of a service, whether to sign up for a new mobile phone contract, or to order a new gadget from a website. There’s a problem with your purchase, but when you call customer service, you wait on hold only to reach an automated service and learn that the customer service office is closed. When you finally reach an agent to find a solution, they offer no assistance. What seemed like a simple fix has wasted valuable time, and the next time something goes wrong you may resort to a new provider.
So what went wrong? The company you contacted failed on one essential front: it did not set up clear lines of communication and support to help you fix your issue. Due to this failed communication, you had a discouraging customer service experience. In Human Resources, this situation offers us a valuable lesson in employee engagement: communication is invaluable to keep employees engaged and to prevent them from becoming discouraged. Just like customers, employees want to be able to address problems and make constructive suggestions that will be heard and will have a concrete solution or impact—these are key elements of employee engagement. It is the role of the employer to support employee engagement at the workplace from beginning to end, and clear lines of communication are the most effective way to facilitate engagement.
When I think about my own experiences as a customer and employee, there are four major factors that affect both customer service and employee engagement:
- Be available. If I want to make a positive impact on how my workplace operates, I need a resource outlet for my suggestions. Whether this outlet is my manager, my Human Resources representative, or my team mates, there needs to be a clear and open avenue for me to bring my questions, concerns, or opinions.
- Listen to my needs. Every employee has a unique perspective on an organization. While not every suggestion will be feasible, each one comes from the individual experience of the employee’s day-to-day professional life, and the knowledge that their experiences are validated provide value to the employee.
- Be on my side. Every team needs to trust that a leader has their best interests at heart. Employees need a consistent and reliable champion who will vouch for them in their absence.
- Find a solution. Not all feedback can be put into action, but leaders and employees can work together to find a solution to a root issue, or to integrate some elements of suggested improvements. This follow-through is where the employee can see that his or her voice really is heard.
These techniques create a complete and open flow of communication from the initial contact, straight through to the integration of an employee’s suggestion or contribution.
When have you, as an employee, felt that your contributions and suggestions made a real impact at your company? Managers and leaders, what techniques do you have to facilitate open communication and employee engagement?