Tore HaggrenTore HaggrenApril 20, 2018


The link between creating a positive Customer Experience and an engaged workforce is widely accepted, so why do we find it hard to build motivated teams that are passionate about the companies they work for and ready to go the extra mile for their customers?

The answer often lies in how employees feel about their employers, whether the company culture creates a sense of well-being and opportunity in the workplace, and ultimately how happy employees are in their jobs.

There are of course many reasons why employees may be unhappy and thus disengaged, but something that often underpins many of these reasons is a sense of not being listened to; either when an issue occurs or after the event, by a direct line manager, the executive team, or the HR department. If employees don’t get – or don’t feel that they get – the chance to speak up and be heard, it’s highly unlikely that they will be motivated to make the effort. They are more likely to be dissatisfied and move on, costing the company in lost productivity and higher recruitment costs.

The challenge is therefore how to distinguish between a Monday morning gripe in the office kitchen and a concrete problem with a line manager or a business process that a quick chat over a coffee can’t begin to address.

A 2014 Gallup study found that the main cause of employee unhappiness is down to bad management, but the question is how much of that is likely to be because of a failure to listen, translate, or understand what is being said ‘in code’ around the water cooler into an issue that needs to be acted upon.

We’ve examined seven signs that employees are unhappy and how a Voice of the Employee (VoE) programme could help organisations to ‘listen’ and ‘act’ on what every employee is saying on a regular basis so that they are not only happy to be at work but engaged in the entire process.

“I’m retiring in two years. What’s the point in trying?”: Employees that can’t be bothered to challenge the status quo, even though they have the skills and experience to offer real insight into business improvements, are often demotivated by managers that are not willing to learn from those at the frontline.

  • Encourage and ask for ideas, using short ‘pulse’ surveys to initiate conversations at key moments in the employee lifecycle (three-month review, after training, etc.) but also seek feedback when new products and services are introduced, for example. This doesn’t just mean deploying a big annual employee survey. They have their uses but companies who really want to engage their teams need to develop a much more agile approach to listening to employees.

“No one else is complaining”: Team members that don’t see any role for themselves in the Customer Experience process, or feel straight jacketed by rules and regulations, are less likely to think outside of the box.

  • Enable employees to provide anonymous feedback at first so they feel safe and can learn to trust the process. Also be prepared to enhance your listening skills by leveraging unsolicited, reactive approaches such as online comment boxes and using social media sites such Glassdoor to capture information.

“I’m not going to wake the sleeping dragon”: This is a clear example of an employee that is asleep on the job, coasting, with no intention of putting any more effort into the work than is required.

  • Encourage people to rock the boat and make it clear that all ideas are good ideas, even if it’s not ‘good news’. Employees that are encouraged to use their skills to resolve customer issues ‘on the spot’ – and more importantly are given permission to come ‘off script’ to deliver solutions without fear of being criticised – are much more likely to achieve higher job satisfaction.

“There’s no point in telling management what’s needed”: Even more damning, employees that feel that no one is listening, feel disempowered, or are demotivated, are less likely to flag issues that need resolving, or to suggest ideas that could improve efficiency, productivity, or the Customer Experience.

  • Tell employees what you’ve heard so they can see that it is worth sharing ideas and act upon them as soon as possible. Employees that are provided with an opportunity to make a difference are more motivated and provide better Customer Experiences, which helps retain customers and spreads positive word of mouth.

“My manager just wants the job done”: Sadly, managers that don’t value or seek feedback and simply take a ‘tick box’ approach to the execution of daily tasks get exactly what they ask for – employees that stop thinking about how to do things better.

  • Use a third party or separate department to encourage honest feedback, but also be prepared to offer best practice ‘toolkits’ that provide employees with the autonomy to challenge conventional thinking.

“It was my idea but as usual I didn’t get any credit for it”: Managers that take all the glory for themselves and don’t reward individuals that do go the extra mile run the risk of reducing innovation, but also eliminate any feelings of loyalty or emotional ties to the company.

  • Build in reward and recognition to the feedback programme but also provide employees with a platform to share their experiences and knowledge with others. Harnessing storytelling as a learning opportunity not only passes on individual success to the team, creating an opportunity for viral change, but enables employees to be applauded for their efforts by their peers.

“They just want me to come up with ideas for free, in my own time”: If there is no incentive to be creative during normal working hours, resentment about lack of recognition can cause innovation to stagnate.

  • Make it worth their while – gamify or incentivise the feedback process, but above all ensure that processes are in place to encourage continuous participation, sharing real feedback from real people about real experiences, across the entire organisation.

If you are prepared to read the signs, the link between happiness and employee engagement can undoubtedly deliver both job satisfaction and a great Customer Experience. As Richard Branson says:

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

Improved listening skills and a willingness to act on what employees say is therefore a win-win for everyone.

Tore HaggrenTore HaggrenJanuary 9, 2018


Achieving cultural change is one of the toughest challenges a business can face, no matter how large or small they are. But change is essential if organisations are to keep pace with shifting customer demands and fluctuating economic landscapes.

A perfect example of this is the insurance industry, where rapid developments in technologies, our changing lifestyles, new competitors, and a growing claim culture are having a huge impact on business performance. The ability to adapt quickly is essential for organisations in this arena to survive.

Employee engagement consultancy ENGAGE understands this challenge more than most, working with financial services and insurance providers across the UK. A key client, the UK’s largest retail general insurer, is one such organisation that has radically adapted its business to meet today’s needs.

But to do so, it didn’t start with the customer. Instead, it looked at what needed to change internally. Through this approach, the organisation realised that employees could become the key enabler of transformation, driving a total cultural shift across the business.

This approach wasn’t part of a new ‘touchy-feely’ management approach;it was based on clear and growing evidence that unhappy or disengaged employees are a huge problem for businesses, not only in terms of corporate culture but also in terms of cost. They are less productive and have higher churn rates which results in greater recruitment costs.

They also play a pivotal role in the engagement of customers: engaged employees provide a better Customer Experience, which helps retain customers and spread positive word-of-mouth.

The insurer in question understood this and wanted to harness the voices of all its employees – from the front line to senior management – to deliver a digital revolution: making insurance easier and better value for its customers. Having created the original revolution in the sector with the move to telephone-based insurance, the organisation knew this was no easy feat.

Knowing that it had to look beyond traditional customer analytics to achieve change, the organisation worked in partnership with ENGAGE and Confirmit to develop and implement an employee engagement programme covering all its 12,000 staff across the UK and two offshoring populations. The programme’s core aim was to use internal feedback to drive strategic, action-based change that would create a truly customer-centric organisation.

As the name suggests, employee engagement strategies focus more on whether employees are engaged (have emotional ties to the job) than whether they are happy (generally positive and with a sense of well-being). The underlying factor behind many of the reasons that employees feel dissatisfied or disengaged is a sense of not being listened to – and this is where engagement programmes can make all the difference.

Companies that really want to engage their teams need to develop an agile approach to listening, and implement programmes that combine pro-active, solicited surveys at key stages of the employee lifecycle with unsolicited, reactive approaches such as online comment boxes and social media sources.

Built upon this fundamental premise of listening, the first wave of ENGAGE’s programme captured feedback that provided the insurer’s leadership team with strategic insight and advice on how engagement could be improved within different segments of the employee population. This gave the team the framework needed to develop and share a set of firm-wide engagement priorities – and drive accountability across the manager population.

At a more local level, people managers and team leaders were also provided with engagement priority analysis that was reflective of their specific employee groups. Initially targeted at just the top 300 managers, the programme was providing 1300 managers with tailored reports about their team’s engagement and how to improve this within 12 months of launch.

It wasn’t enough, however, to simply listen. To add value and act as a catalyst for change, the programme also had to drive action. Taking action not only allows for immediate and long-term business improvements, but also creates a virtuous circle whereby employees are more willing to contribute their views as they see them being utilised to drive positive change.

With this in mind, ENGAGE and Confirmit developed a bespoke platform for the insurer to encourage and capture the outputs of effective and ongoing engagement conversations between employees and their managers.

This is a specifically-designed platform that allows managers to log their plans for team development, and for managers-of-managers to view, track progress, and share successes across all of their teams. Critically, the platform also demonstrates to leaders and managers the impact that making changes will have on the business, creating a culture of proactivity and accountability.

The feedback gathered from the programme is shared across the organisation in multiple ways, all of which aim to ensure individuals and teams can understand the insight obtained and take appropriate action. The organisation’s leadership team receives graphical representations of strategic analysis with narrative backed-up dashboards that show trend and segmented results.

This ‘narrative’ approach to engagement is a key factor in the success of the programme. To get to the heart of change at a cultural level, context and comparison is more meaningful than numbers, charts, and tables. And to obtain this, businesses need to persuade and incite a reaction amongst employees to change the way things are done – one layer at a time.

Employee engagement programmes allow HR leaders to step away from isolated numbers and instead harness a more investigative attitude to uncover stories that bring engagement to life. These ‘stories’ are the testimonies, conversations and feedback from employees about real interactions, both internally and with customers, in real settings.

This information has provided a real education for the insurer’s leadership team in terms of the impact of measuring engagement and taking action on specific areas for improvement. It has also provided insight into the Customer Experience provided by staff, particularly in terms of how they can be empowered to engage with customers, and the extent to which they are engaged with the pace of change around organisational growth.

By sharing engagement insight at the most senior level, all departments now have ownership of employee engagement – not just the HR department.

Since its inception, the insurer’s employee engagement programme has driven an internal evolution. It has become so embedded in the business that people ask when the next wave is coming and are actively seeking to participate. But this evolution hasn’t stopped at the office door.

At the most senior level, the programme is credited with having had a positive impact on the organisation’s structure, culture and competitiveness – and has been recognised by the executive team as a major contributor to bottom line growth.

By implementing comprehensive employee engagement programmes, large, well-established organisations are making a clear statement that they understand the critical role their employees play in corporate success. It’s this fundamental change in corporate behaviours that will drive competition in the future – not just for the best employees, but also for satisfied, loyal, and profitable customers.

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