Happy staff translates to more profitable organizations

Interview: Mohamed Debouk, CEO of Muscat-based management consultancy New Metrics, talks about the importance of employee engagement

Why is employee engagement essential?

Employee engagement is  important because it not only influences the wellbeing of the employee, but also the performance of the business. Countless studies show that happy employees translate to more profitable and customer-centric organisations. When employees are engaged, they are more productive with lower rates of absenteeism, resulting in better business performance. A recent Gallup study showed that a five per cent improvement in employee engagement can result in a three per cent increase in sales. 


What are the ways in which companies can do employee engagement?

Employee engagement requires more than a few workshops and away-days. To create a truly motivated, empowered and happy workforce, organisations must couple engagement tactics with a positive company culture and an effective leadership approach. 

Companies with the best track-record for employee engagement have built a culture that fosters mutual reliance and effective relationships among coworkers and that values teamwork, collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and communication. Designing meaningful and challenging job roles  helps to stimulate employees and gives them a sense of value in their work. It is also important to support these roles with talent management and transparent work processes.

Further, recognition does wonders for motivation. So recognising and rewarding high performing individuals and groups is a great way to boost engagement.

Supportive and nurturing leadership is also key for employees to perform at their potential.

Managers who talk about strategy, clarify expectations and help employees to structure their work and prioritise their tasks are key to ensuring an engaged workforce. Managers should be available to answer employees' questions and provide ongoing support, feedback and communication.

Lastly, measuring employee engagement along with other organisational and performance indicators is a great way to see first hand the relationship between these factors and benchmark the business for future growth. 

Employee-management relationships sour during tough times. How will employee engagement programmes help in these situations?

Any relationship, including a marriage or friendship, is tested during tough times. However, if the relationship is healthy and based on trust and communication, it is more likely to endure through the low points.  Employee-management relationships are no different. If a company has a culture based on transparency, employees are more likely to feel invested and empowered to do their part to ensure the company makes it through the tough time. Engaged employees are more likely to stay and go the extra mile for their employers, even during tough times.

A lot of companies make the mistake of avoiding communication with their employees when things are tough. They also avoid measuring employee engagement levels because they think salary increments would be the biggest hurdle and they won’t be able to do anything to address it. However, from our experience, we’ve seen that communication, transparency and clear objectives have been the biggest pain points for employees.

Assessing engagement levels, whether through surveys, focus groups or combination of both, and including and involving employees in coming up with solutions for challenges enhances engagement and helps them feel that they truly have a voice.

What are the important customer-centric initiatives that every company must adopt?

With rising competition and the challenging economic climate, companies in Oman are now realising the importance of customer-centricity.  It has now become a tool to boost business performance. In light of this, we find that many companies are revisiting their strategies to move customer experience up their priority list. Some companies are even going a step further to create new chief customer officer or chief customer experience officer roles. 

To adopt a customer-centric approach, companies must first define exactly how customer-centricity would fit in the organisation. Leaders should create a clear vision that rallies the organisation and define standards to guide behaviour from the management all the way to the front line. 

Creating a customer-centric strategy is also key. The strategy must consider the expectations of your customer, how the company can meet them, and what your competitors are likely to do. The strategy should seek to answer the simple question: What would make the customer come back time and time again?

Where most companies go wrong is they do not look at their services from the customer’s perspective. Mapping the customer journey is essential to properly understand how your customers see and experience your business from every interaction. Often we find that small changes can make a world of difference.

Finally, it is important to measure your progress through metrics and surveys to keep on top of how your customers perceive your business and services.

How can one balance customer-centric approach and employee welfare?

Customer-centricity and employee engagement go hand-in-hand. In fact, it is extremely difficult to maintain a customer-focused approach without happy and motivated employees. 

Your staff hold the key to customer satisfaction. They are the ambassadors of your brand and give the organisation a face during any interaction. Customer-centricity requires employees to change their mind-sets and behaviours so that the customers’ needs and wants are at the forefront of every business decision. Training and empowering your staff through relevant development programmes helps to build awareness of the customer and their needs, drives buy-in, and equips your staff for customer centricity efforts to move forward.

If employees are feeling disenfranchised and undervalued, they will be less likely to go out of their way for customers.  However, if your business makes employee engagement a priority, this will have a direct effect on customers. In essence, happy employees translate to happy customers. 

Happy staff translates to more profitable organizations
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