This picture is of the Customer Plus/Ford Retail Team at the 2013 Customer Service Training Awards

 I’m sure most employers would like to have more engaged employees…wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t it just be so much better for business if people enjoyed coming to work and felt that they were supported to give of their best?

I was speaking to a senior manager from a large organisation recently and she admitted that she spent 20 – 30% of her time on disciplinary issues that had been escalated to her because they were so difficult to deal with. Most of them involved people who had been in the organisation for a long time and had never been led or managed properly in their lives.

So, how do we change that? Well, I think we have to start with a blank sheet of paper and we have to admit that it’s going to take time – then we have to put a limit on the time, so we can say ‘By this time next year we will…’

One of the most successful employee engagement and customer service improvement programmes I have heard of recently took a year to plan and is still in progress now, five years after it started. It’s at Ford Retail, and it recently won a U.K. Customer Service Training Award for Customer Plus – the company that helped to facilitate it.

During my corporate days, I was often part of employee engagement programmes that existed for only a few weeks, and mainly only in the heads of Learning and Development or Organisational Development people. Ever since I went into L&D, or ‘training’, as we used to call it, I have wanted to create better workplaces.

So, how do you enjoy an employee engagement programme?

Well, I think you have to plan it properly, involve everyone, especially the front line of the business and the people at the very top, communicate constantly and by every means available, but mostly face to face. You have to have a ‘nutcase’ who keeps the fire burning and you have to have an end goal in mind when you start. So, you have to know why you want to have more engaged employees, what the business benefits are.

It could be more satisfied customers who come back to you and recommend their friends, therefore saving you money on your marketing budget.

It could be more satisfied employees who stay with you for longer and take less time off sick, therefore saving you money on recruitment costs and absence-related costs.

It could be all of the above and more – whatever it is, make sure the journey is enjoyable. Celebrate reaching milestones loudly – a really great way of doing that is to enter for awards such as the Customer Service Training Awards – I was a judge this year and was blown away by the enthusiasm of the entries that I judged. I would have wanted to go and work for any of those winning companies – and that’s another measure of success – do your people really love working for you?

Thank you to the team at Customer Plus and to John Leathem at Ford Retail for inspiring this post.