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The Importance of Continuous Employee Engagement - Jean-Marc Robillard - Blog

The Importance of Continuous Employee Engagement

Recently I noticed an increase in articles and opinion pieces foretelling the end of "employee engagement".

It is true that hundred of millions of dollars have been invested in engagement programs at work, and according to Global engagement studies, the problem has not been correctly addressed. Nor has the definition of "engagement" been standardized in the media.

For example, in this article, the author defines engagement by equating it with "annual or bi-annual surveys", going on to say that these are insufficient. I agree, and by the end of this opinion piece, we get a much more insightful definition that is similar to "employee commitment".

Not only are surveys incomplete, the methodology used is often flawed – most survey respondents start with the belief, right or wrong, that their answers are being used to determine their suitability for career advancement, and therefore end up skewing their input to what management would like to hear.

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"The word survey, in any of its intended meanings, cannot possibly encompass the definition of employee engagement. A survey is a means by which to measure sentiment, engagement, and motivation, perhaps. By design, it cannot create engagement, unless the survey itself is so engrossing and entertaining that employees look forward to filling it out at the expense of all other endeavors."

The best method for an overall objective view on engagement is to incorporate multiple sources of input: employee surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, NPS scores. 

But surveys are such a small part of what measures, let alone drives, employee engagement. A continuous engagement model provides an ongoing, sustained workplace dynamic that stimulates creativity, dedication, motivation, and interest. 

The ultimate goal you are striving to attain is an environment where employees want to tackle their daily challenges with enthusiasm. While its doubtful any single organization can achieve 100% engagement, having that kind of focused objective will drive results.

Since my personal experience in the last decade has been largely in the contact center industry, one that has been frequently highlighted as the most challenging in the areas of employee retention and motivation, let's examine a continuous engagement model as applied to a call center.

Employee Engagement in the Contact Center Industry

Contact centers are challenged by 3 main issues when it comes to engagement:

  1. Agent absenteeism
  2. Agent attrition
  3. Shift performance variance

The root cause for all three relates back to motivation, and the best way to keep an employee motivated is to offer a self-managed workplace structure where ownership of results is part of the corporate culture. Contact center agents are evaluated via KPIs: average handling time, schedule adherence, resolution time, customer satisfaction scores. Some call centers use a combination of these metrics, others have a single overarching KPI to indicate operational effectiveness.

Regardless of the type of measurements being used as a yardstick for success, relating the existing objectives to a more immersive experience can completely change the dynamic within a team or department.

As proven in numerous psychological studies on the topic, gamification has a positive and direct impact on behavior. By applying game mechanics to progress tracking at work, and allowing employees to share, or keep private, their own milestones and achievements, you allow them to influence and own their results.

Machine Learning to power continuous engagement

Numerous studies have concluded that simplistic gamification models that use extrinsic motivators like contests have only a temporary effect, and can actually decrease motivation at work, as the extroverted overachievers will consistently place at the top of a leaderboard or department scorecard, while those who need to improve the most will become increasingly discouraged as they see their scores at the bottom of the list.

Following the same logic, there is a drop-off point for repetitive engagement programs that propose the same uninspired challenges on a predictable, periodic basis.

This is where Machine Learning, and the resulting adaptive progression for gamified objectives becomes paramount to success. If a program or solution to encourage employees does not adapt to their progress, in an individualized manner, and by taking into account their personality profile and established behavioral traits, you end up with a "one-size-fits-all" program that will ultimately fail.

Continuous Employee Engagement defined

Where existing definitions of "employee engagement" fail is in their assumption that employee surveys are what drives internal loyalty and dedication.

By all means, take the pulse of your organization, and establish a baseline; it will aid in making adjustments to management style, department policies, and corporate culture.

But if you want those changes to remain part of the daily activities and project milestones within your organization, a continuous model must be adopted. One that creates a unique experience for each and every employee, based on their personal motivators, behavioral influencers, and recognition for their progress and achievements.

Employee engagement is not something to be "fixed", it is a workplace culture that is nurtured over time, with gradual progress and well-defined objectives tied to the overall corporate vision.

Publish Date: March 21, 2017 10:06 AM

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