A company that focuses on its employees is not a fanciful concept; in fact, it's a foundation on which many companies base their operations. Take Amazon: Through the suggestion of one of its engineers, Charlie Ward, the company developed its now insanely popular Prime service.
The knowledge, skills, and abilities employees bring to the table are vitally important for an organization's success — without it, ideas, relationships, and businesses can stall. But 51% of the U.S. workforce is disengaged. This fact alone has a direct effect on American organizations by subtracting up to $550 billion annually from their bottom lines. By contrast, companies with engaged employees surpass those without by a staggering 202%.
Let’s be honest: Water cooler talk can inevitably shift from last night’s game to the current day’s gripes. Rather than let them fester, listen to the frustrations your team has; then, listen to the suggestions they have to remedy them. Your employees have a surplus of knowledge under their belts, particularly about how they deliver your brand’s experience to your audience. The feedback they receive is essential in altering your operations to make a customer’s experience that much more enjoyable. Insights from customer conversations are invaluable resources, and your employees are likely eager to share and implement them.
4 Ways Employee Insights Can Boost Your Business
By reconnecting with your employees via suggestions and conversations, you’ll reap a plethora of benefits, including delivering the best brand experience to customers. Employees are on the front line, so they play a key role in not only delivering the desired customer experience, but also communicating customer feedback in order to further enhance the experience.
Second, exploring and increasing employee engagement leads to attracting and retaining qualified employees. Remember: The cost of replacing an employee can run up to twice the amount of his or her yearly salary. High employee engagement is the bedrock of successful companies.
Ensuring your employees are engaged also allows for improvements to your company's processes and workflow. As you have conversations with your employees about what challenges they face, what processes bog them down, and what they wish they could do to enhance the customer experience, you have the opportunity to formulate effective solutions that will free up your employees' time to forge deeper bonds with customers.
Finally, engaging with employees gives you the opportunity to measure leadership, which is vital because leadership sets the tone for employee engagement.
How to Extract Employees' Insights
Keep in mind that to gather honest employee insights, you must protect and maintain employees' anonymity. Here is a guide to extract your team's knowledge to boost your business and engage your employees:
1. Engage in conversations. By opening up the channel for conversation, you can create a comfortable environment for your team to share and suggest ideas. Start with broad topics, and then get more specific. Get the conversation going with warm topics to build comfort and trust. Remember: Real insight comes once someone is engaged and feels like you are genuinely interested.
For example, Abbott Laboratories needed to get quick feedback from 69,000 employees in 150 countries. The concern was that employees would be biased or unresponsive due to the corporate hierarchy. So Abbott did a series of online focus groups across the globe. Employee anonymity was maintained, and the company gained valuable insights from employees who actually valued the chance to provide honest feedback.
2. Listen, think critically, and ask thoughtful questions. You never learn anything when you’re talking. And when we do listen, most fades into gray — on average, we only remember 17-25% of what we hear. To get to the core of any situation, ask pertinent, relevant questions that foster a deeper understanding and solicit authentic responses. Reflect on what you hear by saying, “What I’m hearing is,” or “Is this what you mean?” This will allow for clarification and, in turn, better understanding.
3. Seek the truth. To get honest responses through staff dialogues, there are a few things to focus on. First, use empathy. How your employees are feeling can reveal deep truths, particularly tension about a project or energy to pursue a new idea. Then, ask how leadership can help resolve those issues or support new ones, which will then make the conversation proactive and productive. Finally, don’t get defensive when receiving criticism. Even the most seasoned leaders don’t have as thick of a skin as they think, so it's sometimes easy to become sensitive when receiving a critique. However, if you do become defensive, in the next conversation you have with your employee, he or she won’t feel confident enough to speak freely or honestly.
All in all, remember what it was like to be a green employee. Remember how you saw an issue within the company that you knew could be fixed but were too scared to speak up. Then, remember the first time your opinion was asked about a situation you knew could be improved. Offer your employees that same opportunity, and see it boost morale and engagement in the long run.