When it comes to employee engagement, the biggest ROI is to think of your staff just like you would a customer: seek to understand their interests, their rituals, and their ways of communicating as well as how they want to be treated.

shutterstock_46049779.jpgA few years ago, I was called into my supervisor’s office because of her “concern” about my “commitment to the company.” When I asked what triggered this concern, she said I did not have any “pictures of my family or plants” in my cubical.

Instead of telling her that she was looking at me with an old-school corporate lens different than her own (my last two years at Intuit, I worked out of a locker and didn’t even have an office), I uploaded some pictures of people from Google Images and put them on my iPad, which I displayed by my desk. That seemed to do the trick.

The Bottom Line 

Your employees are key stakeholders in your company’s success. Several studies show that an engaged and happy worker can reduce a company’s overall health insurance costs and take less vacation time (not sure that’s a good thing). There’s an even more important impact though, as a recent Tempkin Employee Engagement Study showed, high employee engagement impacts the bottom line:

  • Companies with strong financial results report employees to be engaged 75% of the time -- compared to organizations with weak financial results, which report an employee engagement rate of 47 percent.
  • Engaged employees are more than twice as likely to go the “extra mile” at work. These folks stay late, collaborate with colleagues and recommend organizational improvements.
  • 96% of engaged employees responded that they “always or almost always” try their hardest on the job (while 79% of non-engaged workers responded similarly).
  • 75% of employees at companies who report better-than-average customer experience levels are highly or moderately engaged, while only 34% of employees in companies with lesser customer experience levels are highly or moderately engaged.

Who Is In Your Tribe?

Last year, I was hired by a major software company to help them use social media in their recruitment of college graduates. Like a good consultant, I convinced the company to expand its focus and concentrate on understanding their potential employees as a unique tribe (audience) and to reconsider how the company treated them. I pointed out that even if we did great job recruiting candidates, the biggest challenge is engaging them in their work (a Gallup poll reports that 70% of first year employees do not feel invested/engaged at work).

Based on my recommendation, the company realized that to achieve a higher level of employee engagement, it needed to think of its staff as a human beings or "tribes" of humans, who have specific and diverse needs, desires and wants. The company understood that employee engagement starts during the recruiting process, continues through training, on board, and even after the employee leaves the company. Yes, there is even a possible "reincarnation" phase when an employee returns for a second tour of duty. Schwab calls these “Boomerangers.”

Besides looking at the employee through a realistic life cycle lens, there are several factors that improve employee engagement, a few of which I learned during my tenure at Intuit: