Employee Engagement Is a Team Effort

To win the hearts and minds of employees, HR and customer experience (CX) teams need to work together.

By Aimee Lucas, Customer Experience Analyst, Temkin Group

Engaged employees are valuable assets to any organization. Temkin Group’s 2013 Employee Engagement Benchmark Study found engaged employees are more committed, try harder, and want to make things better at the companies they work for. They trigger a virtuous cycle of great customer experiences resulting in more loyal customers and strong financial results.

Because of these benefits, and others, it is no surprise that HR departments list employee engagement as one of the key areas they will focus on over the next three years. Similarly, customer experience (CX) professionals are placing an emphasis on harnessing the power of an engaged workforce in the service of customers and clients. Yet findings from a survey of 300-plus HR professionals who work at companies with more than 1,000 employees show that Human Resources professionals are more likely to be disconnected from, rather than plugged into, a company’s customer experience efforts:

  • When asked about their involvement in customer experience efforts underway at their companies, just over half of HR pros felt they were considerably helping their company become more customer centric; yet only 1 in 5 were significantly involved.
  • In contrast, only 20 percent of CX professionals agreed they were getting considerable assistance, and another 20 percent of CX pros indicated HR was not helping at all.

Working Through the Journey Together

Closing this HR-CX gap can have a significant impact on a company’s customer experience efforts. HR professionals at organizations whose customer experience is well above average are twice as likely to be significantly involved in their company’s CX efforts compared to those at sub-par companies. These HR groups also have more explicit responsibilities around customer-centricity and employee engagement.

CX professionals who expect success need to find a way to strengthen HR’s involvement in customer experience and work through the journey together. After all, HR is usually the group that controls what is said and done to get employees excited about the company, their roles, and change efforts that affect how they do their jobs. The HR team often houses the experts in the processes that touch employees, including employee communication and training, rewards and recognition, and performance measurement and management.  

Working together isn’t always easy. According to HR professionals, the top obstacles impeding them from helping their companies become more customer-centric include: lack of bandwidth, HR leadership not defining customer-centric culture as an HR priority, and the company not including HR in strategic efforts. Just under a quarter of HR organizations indicate they haven’t been engaged at all by the customer experience team.

Collaboration Opportunities

So how can HR and CX professionals play for the same team? Begin by educating each other on their respective objectives, goals, and priorities. As each party builds their understanding and learns to speak each other’s language, everyone will be better positioned to jointly identify potential collaboration opportunities. When it comes to working together, there are a number of responsibilities requiring expertise from both groups that can help the organization raise employee engagement in its customer experience efforts including:

  • Adjust recruiting and hiring processes to attract candidates that possess customer-centric competencies
  • Develop measurements, awards, and incentives to support desired customer-centric behaviors
  • Build review processes that evaluate employees based on their demonstration of the company’s core values
  • Develop employee communications that reinforce the importance of a customer-centric mindset
  • Incorporate customer experience into training and new employee on-boarding
  • Evaluate managers on the engagement levels of their employees

Another opportunity for HR and CX teams to collaborate is in measuring employee engagement and taking action on employee feedback. Temkin Group’s research with HR professionals found that more than 60 percent of companies measure employee engagement at least annually and that nearly half of companies’ executive teams put a high or very high priority on taking action based on results. This is important because employees are a valuable source of information on the employee experience and the customer experience when organizations take the time to listen. Customer feedback also can yield insights on employee strengths and opportunities for the workforce to serve them better. HR and CX professionals should share their respective learnings and use these insights to guide their decision-making.

The Bottom Line

Engaged employees are essential to creating great customer experiences and better business results. To win the hearts and minds of employees, HR and CX teams need to work together. The investment in this relationship and in putting a winning game plan in place will be worth it.

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Aimee Lucas is a customer experience analyst at the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm. For more information, visit http://www.temkingroup.com

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