Engaging Customers via Employees.
By Vijay Dandapani
Tuesday, 11th October 2011
The prolonged recession, NBER's definition notwithstanding, has challenged companies, big and small, when it comes to employee engagement.

Assuming a forthcoming emergence (doubtful to many) from recession, many businesses are likely to find that they are faced with low employee engagement and poor workplace morale.

Being a relatively well-trodden topic, there are reams of research from around the world which have long highlighted the fact that having an active employee engagement strategy has a direct correlation to the bottom line. Some like Gallup's consulting arm claim that companies with "world-class engagement have (an astounding) 3.9 times the EPS growth rate compared with organizations with lower engagement in their same industry. The performance-management experts at Gallup note the massive gains to be had from "managing the moments when employees interact with customers".

Yet, recent research from human resource consultants, Aon Hewitt, found that 47 per cent of managers spend only a few days each year on activities related to their annual engagement questionnaires, with less than one-fifth believing the results will be acted upon. In fact, most viewed it as a "tick-box" exercise. Most managers seem not to grasp that it is now more critical than ever before to drive employee engagement given widespread economic uncertainty in order to ensure the workforce feels supported and engaged.

Relatedly and relevantly, a recent survey by Britain's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that employee engagement cuts stress levels saying that the heightened pressure people feel under a prolonged economic downturn could be relieved with greater employee engagement helping cut stress levels.

Another UK based research company ORC international in its own survey of employee engagement rankings looked into confidence in senior management on the part of employees. When asked about the relationship between senior management and staff in an organisation, only 43% of respondents in the UK said it was positive while the US came in at 56%.

Interestingly, India came out on top of the ranking (same as last year) with an overall engagement ranking of 74% while China jumped seven places to claim second. The global average for employee engagement was 57%.

The challenge for developed countries and companies to match numbers from the population giants could perhaps be lightened if real job growth occurs as they emerge from recession but in its absence a concerted effort embracing latter day resources like human-resource portals is crtical to keeping abreast and ahead in the field.

Vijay is Chief Operating Officer and part-founder of Apple Core Hotels- a chain of 5 midtown Manhattan hotels offering value and comfort in the heart of the city.Member of the board of Directors - Hotel Association of New York.

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