Having previously covered the core importance of employees to the delivery of a successful customer experience, let’s look at the significance of the CEO to what should be the central core of any good customer experience effort — effective employee engagement.

“Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it.”–Timothy R. Clark

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work – and that should be a major concern for businesses – even a problem with a level of priority worthy of review and rectification by the company CEO.

“As a leader, you have to be authentic and constantly connecting with employees” — Jeff Immelt – CEO of General Electric

Now it seems fairly obvious that the CEO is important factor in the engagement of their employees – everyone wants to work for/with someone that, if they not “like” as a person, they can at least, respect as a human – and the leader of all, the CEO is the public beacon for the employees of a company – and just not in the pay packet arena.

When it “gets down to brass tacks”, the CEO needs to be the driver for employee engagement for one simple reason.  In companies where leaders model the desired behaviour, employees are 55 percent more engaged, 53 percent more focused and more likely to stay at the company.

Now, of course, a great CEO works in conjunction with the company’s HR department (and other employee-invested divisions) to determine the best needs for both the company and all of its employees – for every role through the company “org chart” from CEO down to the most junior person in the firm.

For some that means scrapping outdated methods of performance reviews, others it means delivering perks to the employees, expected year-end bonuses, career coaching, and other related “employee-friendly” benefits.

Of course, it also helps if the CEO acts like a functional human being – with feelings, concerns and rational thoughts – including towards the plight of their employees in times of stress, conflict and trouble (looking at you Yelp CEO Jeremy Stopellman)

But what involvement should CEOs have in crafting, promoting and maintaining employee engagement as a core principle within their customers?

One thing CEOs can do for employees – and as a result, engage those workers — is help them answer the simple workplace question of “Why are we here?”

Giving purpose to the mission – whatever it may be and whatever form that may take within a company – helps define for employees why they are grinding through what they may see as “daily mundane tasks.”  (ed note: much like we all wondered why in high school it was important to study algebra – ok…. maybe that’s a bad example…a vast majority of us have no daily use for algebra to be fair – but it was all very mundane at the time.)

If CEOs and other senior management can help visualise the daily efforts of their employees, and that it is being done to meet an objective and positive end goal, it can help provide the motivation to “push on through” to the point of successful completion – and then prepare them to be ready and willing to take up the next challenge that comes after as well.

If you want to take a radical example of giving your employees purpose and an attainable end goal (and please take it with a grain of salt when factoring in the reality of the situation as it is an extreme Hollywood dramatic interpretation) – look no further than “The Wolf of Wall Street” motivation speech.  (Be warned – very NSFW for language reasons.)

There are many ways to skin a cat – Employee Engagement edition

Companies from time to time need to take a different abstract approach when they look at how to best solve a problem – and this applies to the ability to engage employees as well.

If you take the example of Marriott International, it would seem imperative to both the operation, and the resulting success, of the company as a global force in the hotel/travel industry.

“Take care of the associates, the associates will take care of the guests, and the guests will come back again and again.” Founder J.W. Marriott’s launching philosophy

The “associates” in that quote mean the employees.  Having spoken with a couple of the “associates” in the recent past, the credo does permeate across the entirety of the company.

The basic thought being “look after the employees and the employees will look after the company” – and the resulting aftermath where the rest of the customer experience comes into play – the big piece of that downstream effort being those who stay in their hotels – you know, the actual paying customers.

It seemingly turns the basic traditional customer experience model, not upside down, but gives it a good shake to re-order things in a different perspective.   This gives credence to the fact that there is usually more than one “right” way to do things in business – and different ways and methods of attacking a problem can result in the same positive results if approached and completed properly.

Why does Employee Engagement get lost in the Customer Experience shuffle?

When discussing overall customer experience as a functional and operating concept within a corporation, “employee engagement” seems to be lost in the preliminary discussion stages.  It seems to come “down the line” when planning to address the initial points of how to improve one’s customer experience – labelled under the category of “not exactly a burning necessity, but something that should be accounted for at some point.”.

People who analyse such customer-focused metrics within companies are so worried about what the end customer thinks and how they are treated (and how the resulting “customer satisfaction” and NPS scores are calculated), that they often forget who are actually responsible to tend to the needs of the customer, and meeting those needs as a primary function of operating a successful business.

When it all goes wrong with employee engagement

So what happens when a CEO gets these steps towards engaging the employees goes “wrong” (the choice of that particular word being completely subjective of course) – and what can happen to the company and its employees as a result. Well, let’s look at a recent occurrence….

“It’s about getting the best people, retaining them, nurturing a creative environment & helping to find a way to innovate.” — Marissa Mayer – CEO of Yahoo!

Marissa Mayer is an fascinating case (on numerous levels understandably – given the amount of on-going controversy – and elevated salary – she has accumulated during her contentious tenure – along with the rumoured $150+ million golden parachute upon her exiting the company – be it through resignation or dismissal.)

Unfortunately, in this blog format, we can’t cover in depth the number of “remarkable situations” she has found herself in during her short tenure (although I’m sure there are a number of established authors out there licking their lips to see the resulting fallout occur so they can finish their book’s final conclusions and ship it to the publisher soon after her departure from Yahoo!.)  But we can look at a couple of things in short order….

Upon being hired as CEO in July 2012, one of her first major moves a few months after taking the job was to cancel the ability of her employees to telecommute as a viable working option.

Although it ostensibly only affected approximately 200 of Yahoo’s 12,000 employees at the time, announcing it via a company wide-distributed company memo written by the head of HR that quickly became public (particularly one that makes for very painful reading) was probably not the best method of going about the process.

While given the stated priority from her first day at the company was the eventual complete rejuvenation of Yahoo! as an “Internet force”– and her thought that the employees had to physically be in the Yahoo! offices to help accelerate those efforts – the final execution of the idea left much to be desired.

What apparently pissed off employees the most was the inability for her to personally explain it to the workforce directly – until it was brought up two months later when she finally publicly addressed it at a conference — the “Great Place to Work” conference in Los Angeles (ed note: the irony is thick with this one it seems.)

To add to the level of amusement, Mayer was billed as one of the people who created and drove the on-going employee culture at Google (as lauded “Google Employee #20” no less.)

Google, of course, often cited over the past decade as one of the best places to work in the corporate world in a number of industry standard surveys and business publications.

Over her three-plus year tenure as CEO, it was only the first of many employee-related mistakes.

The hiring and resulting fiasco of the brief reign of COO Henrique De Castro (and subsequent firing 15 months later with estimates De Castro collecting $109 million in salary and benefits from his brief time at Yahoo – at a time when he publicly disagreed with both Mayer and a number of senior Yahoo! executives over a variety of issues during his time of employment.)  At the time, it was initially seen as a “bad introductory blip – but one that one could recover from” — alas it seemed to be the first in a foray of a constant stream of blunders.

Apparently Yahoo! accidently” firing 30 employees in late January 2016 couldn’t have helped either, while Mayer mentioned that she would not be instituting any layoffs “this week” earlier that particular month.  Piling on the misery a few days later, she then soon after announced the 1700 employees she actually intended to dismiss  (reducing headcount a further 15%) — announced in early February 2016.

We’ll also look past the recent announcement that Mayer made about appointing a large team of (extremely expensive) McKinsey consultants to help determine the particulars of the Yahoo! company strategy going forward (when both laying off thousands of full time workers to trim internal budgets; along with the fact that it is supposed to be Mayer’s job to determine such company directives from the start of her tenure as CEO – something she has failed miserably at (see her acquisition strategy for a start — spending in excess than $2.3 billion for some 50 start-ups meant to infuse her struggling company with promising technology and fresh talent – and in the end, providing little of either.)

Further compounding the problem was the stated pledge that Mayer asked existing senior executives to sign documentation and make verbal and written promises stating they would stay at Yahoo! for the next 3-5 year period through the “transition phase” that these changes would wrought.

That latter strategy led to a recent huge “brain drain” as a number of the targeted employees quickly jumped ship to join other companies (ed note: there are some classically depressing quotes in that article – my personal favourite being:

“…Ms. Mayer was the best boss he had ever had, but acknowledged some truth in the common criticism that she was tight-fisted with praise and sometimes displayed a harshness that could be demoralizing.

 “Marissa is the type of boss that makes you feel like you’re disappointing her at all times, so I always feel like I’m on the verge of being fired,” said Mr. Bonforte…”

It would seem that all the missteps in dealing with her employees – and the resulting fallout – both public, and yet to be made public (see earlier statements on the book release references detailing the impending downfall), Ms. Mayer has done herself no benefit currying favour with her employees (both past and present) – therefore making her mission to save/reform/uplift Yahoo that much more difficult throughout her tenure.

So with all this said, how does one properly embrace “employee engagement” so that it is both effective and responsive to the needs of the employees?

Since we are looking at another novella-length post here at the moment, let’s save it until next time (I intend to publish it within the next 48 hours though) when I come back with “Part II – ‘X’ ways to improve your employee engagement” – “X” has yet to be determined though (I’ve brought the use for algebra back in your lives – you’re welcome!  It could be 5, 7, 8, 10, etc. – see how many relevant ones I can come up with in a short period of time.  See you soon!)


Thank you for reading this blog post, I hope you found it interesting and thought-provoking.  I’d love to hear what you think so please feel free to add your comments, suggestions or other ideas below. 

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