Creating a Culture of Empowerment and Success in a Virtual Environment
October 26, 2011
By TMCnet Special Guest
, VP of Marketing and Corporate Communications, Alpine Access,
“Any company trying to compete must figure out a way to engage the mind of nearly every employee.”
Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric
With these words, Welch associates corporate success not with employee satisfaction as usually discussed, but rather with “employee engagement,” a more pro-active approach with proven links to bottom line performance. The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) defines employee engagement as, “a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organization and its values. An engaged employee works with colleagues to improve job performance for the benefit of the organization.” According to the IES, the strongest driver for creating an engaged workforce is a sense of feeling valued and involved. How to foster this type of workforce within a virtual environment is the last topic in our series on of creating and maintaining an effective at-home team.
Proven Link Between Employee Engagement and Financial Success
In 1927, researchers F.J. Roethlisberger and W.J. Dickson published one of the earliest studies showing a correlation between employees’ feelings of being valued at work and job performance. Their research, published in the book Management and the Worker, showed that when managers paid attention to their workers, asked for their ideas and encouraged social interactions, their job performance improved. Since then, researchers and businesses have continued to prove that employee performance is undeniably linked not to physical work conditions, but rather to the emotional environment of the workplace. This is an especially important finding for customer service organizations because a direct correlation also exists between engaged employees and engaged customers.
In their book Human Sigma: Managing the Employee-Customer EncounterGallup Management Journal, “fully engaged customers deliver a 23 percent premium over average customers in share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth, while actively disengaged customers represent a 13 percent discount on the same measures.”, Gallup researchers John H. Fleming, Ph.D. and Jim Asplund explain that when employees are task-oriented and told exactly how to do something, i.e. scripted calls, they end up providing “bland, soulless, and undifferentiated services.” However, when employees feel part of an organization and are given flexibility to achieve a desired outcome, they engage customers at a more personal level, thus establishing strong customer relationships. According to an article in the
Culture and Community in a Virtual Environment
In real estate, it is all about location, location, location. When working with employees to create a strong, engaging culture, it is about communication, communication, communication. Leaders must communicate with employees in a way that respects their individuality and provides opportunities for meaningful interactions. Many executives falsely believe this can’t effectively be achieved in a virtual environment with thousands of home-based employees. In reality, with a little creativity and access to the latest technology tools, a virtual environment can give employees numerous opportunities to be part of a community, support one another and control their careers.
1. Sense of Community. It can be challenging to work in a home office where feelings of isolation can contribute to attrition. It takes unique individuals to work from home and an organization must be committed to proactive engagement to help them succeed. Offering multiple communication channels at all levels helps employees connect with each other and truly feel part of the larger company. In a virtual environment this can be done in many ways. Examples include:
- Virtual town hall meetings allow employees to engage with upper management via video conferencing.
- Social media venues such as Facebook (News - Alert) provide real-time updates to all employees and allow employees to engage with one another.
- Teams of high-performers provide improvement recommendations based on their “in-the-trenches” experiences, which can be incorporated into ongoing eLearning and development programs.
- Team e-newsletters share specific program information as well as provide a venue to recognize and reward individual performance.
- Chat rooms and bulletin boards staffed by subject matter experts give employees instant answers.
- Social learning environments allow employees to help and learn from each other.
- Internal social media platforms provide online opportunities for employees to establish personal connections with each other by creating special/life interest groups for sharing pictures, favorite recipes, or non work-related stories.
- Virtual events such as ice cream socials, BBQs and team reunions offer fun ways to relax and get to know each other better.
Some companies, like Alpine Access, have been so successful at building virtual communities that employees think of their co-workers as family. This loyalty is an important factor in employee retention and engagement.
2. Real-time Support. Resolving customer issues can be challenging for new employees who are still getting comfortable with systems and processes, but virtual employees have the additional challenge of being physically alone. To alleviate their anxiety, @home companies use technology to provide employees with instant access to assistance at any time. Through online databases, chat rooms and bulletin boards, answers are literally a click away. If that’s not enough, managers can be summoned to join a call instantly and work directly with the customer.
3. Individual Empowerment. As cited earlier in the Gallup research, automating an employee’s work experience by controlling every aspect de-humanizes the company and creates monotonous, unfulfilling jobs. A better approach is to empower employees to take control of their careers by providing flexibility wherever possible. This is easier done in a virtual call center environment than a brick-and-mortar center due to electronic schedules and real-time workforce management systems. For example, with a workforce management scheduling tool, virtual employees can select their own schedules, swap shifts and pick up extra hours in accordance with the program parameters. Additionally, should employees need to move for any reason, their jobs can easily be performed from another approved, home-based location. The flexibility to create a satisfying work/life balance is one of the top reasons employees value their home-based positions.
Creating and maintaining an engaging culture requires communication, commitment and creativity from both employers and employees. Employees are people first and foremost, motivated more by emotional characteristics than monetary incentives. To tap into the power of employees, companies must open up the channels of communication, let everyone participate in decision-making, and recognize individual contributions. It isn’t always easy, but as research has shown, connecting with employees in a meaningful way has a powerful impact on their work performance. Employee engagement plus customer satisfaction adds up to sustainable growth and long-term financial success.
Founded in 1998, Alpine Access provides customerservice and technicalsupport with over 4,500 work-at-home professionals across the U.S. and Canada.. Rated the #1 contact center and CRM outsourcer for client satisfaction by the Black Book of Outsourcing, Alpine Access’ clients include respected Fortune 1000 companies in the financial services, communications, technology, healthcare, retail, travel and hospitality sectors. For more information, visit the Alpine Access website at www.alpineaccess.com or call 1-866-279-0585.TMCnet publishes expert commentary on various telecommunications, IT, call center, CRM and other technology-related topics. Are you an expert in one of these fields, and interested in having your perspective published on a site that gets several million unique visitors each month? Get in touch.
Edited by Rich Steeves