There is a growing body of evidence, based on research, that connects a brand’s performance to engaged employees. Engaged employees are able to consistently provide a differentiating customer experience. There is an equal, if not greater, amount of research indicating that most employees are either not engaged, or worse, actively disengage. In a recent study, ForeSee, an organization that studies employee engagement and the customer experience, found that employee engagement had a direct, positive effect on customer satisfaction for two dozen top global brands.
Engaged employees are more likely to be customer advocates in many ways, and this goes beyond just being nice to customers in one on one encounters. For example, they look for ways to serve. Although this can take on many different forms, it might look like improving or eliminating a process. You can probably think of others. While researching for this post, I came across some images that depict a connection between Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and employee engagement. This can serve as a useful tool for unlocking the secret to a successful customer experience.
The secret is creating a Level 5 employee. Maslow famously proposed that humans have five levels of needs. These needs follow a pattern from basic survival to self-actualization; I believe these principles can be quite useful. While it’s no secret that companies want engaged employees, most either don’t have a strategy or the task is relegated to human resources and ultimately, a tactical incentive based exercise.
What is a Level 5 employee?
A Level 5 employee is actively engaged. They have a sense of purpose and belonging. They feel safe and enjoy coming to work. Their work and efforts are recognized. Most important they feel they are in the right job for them, in other words, their skills are wells suited for their job. Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, would say they are in the right seat on the bus. All five levels of need have been met.
How Do you Create a Level 5 employee?
Start by assessing each level of need against the employee experience. One important best practice – have a method of gathering input from employees, don’t assume. I’ll list some suggestions and questions for each level in the Maslow hierarchy. I hope you’ll add more in the comments below. You might want to use this as a checklist to audit your company’s employee engagement.
Although most basic, it’s still important to ensure that working conditions are comfortable. Consider questions about the facility. What about amenities like coffee or snacks?
Safety and Security
Do employees feel safe? While employees may feel safe from bodily harm, what about the culture? Do they feel safe in sharing ideas and concerns without repercussions? What about job security? This one is particularly difficult because there are often circumstances beyond the control of the company that may require terminations. When these occur they have an effect on everyone, even those whose jobs are not threatened.
Love and belonging
Do you have a best friend at work? This may seem like an odd question. Gallup research indicates employees who answer in the affirmative are more likely to be engaged than those who don’t. But beyond having a best friend at work, do employees feel like they are part of a team? Are they inspired or, at the very least, do they identify with the mission and purpose of the organization in general and their role in particular?
On a scale of 1-10 would they recommend the company to a friend or family member? You may recognize this as the Net Promoter Score. Great companies tend to attract great people through employee referrals. Your employees are influencers, Raymond Morin, a fellow contributor, has 4 rules to help build lasting relationships.
Do employees feel recognized? Do they feel there is integrity in the process of recognition? Is it fair? Companies often overlook this very important area based on the assumption it will be expensive. Often rewards can be very inexpensive. I would add Do employees feel appreciated? A “thank you” or “great job” can go a long way.
In Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, he suggests that people are motivated by three key things.
This may be the most difficult level to measure because it is unique for each of us and it’s a moving target. We are all on a dynamic journey, so programmatic “set it and forget it” thinking will simply not be effective.
Open-ended questions are more helpful.
How do you feel about your contribution to our organization? What about your own personal growth? Are you challenged? Do you feel you are on a path to improve your knowledge and skills? Are you able to share with others?
Creating a Level 5 employee is not easy. The goal of these questions is a dialogue because engagement requires conversations, careful listening, and proactive planning. More importantly, make sure all five areas are addressed.
I’d love to hear other questions ideas in the comments below.