Employee engagement is the key to customer happiness

According to a Deloitte study, American organizations were estimated to spend over $100 billion annually to improve employee engagement. Yet, according to Gallup, only 35% of employees are ‘engaged’—and disengaged employees cost US companies $450 billion-$550 billion a year in lost productivity.

Keeping employees engaged is an eternal challenge—doubly so when they are spread across remote workspaces due to the global pandemic. As we work through these challenging times, business leaders worldwide are debating the future of work and employee engagement. The challenge of keeping an increasingly digital workforce engaged is greater as more businesses move towards remote work.

Technology has consistently paved the way for employees to perform their jobs effectively—from facilitating access to workplace tools, helping to improve productivity, increasing the speed of business, and fundamentally changing the way organizations and their workforce interact and transact.

Amid the ongoing pandemic, employee engagement has quickly morphed from nice-to-have luxury to table stakes. In the recent Freshworks-Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Pulse Survey—Technology’s Make or Break Role in Employee Engagement—92% of the respondents stated that employee engagement is critical to their organization’s success.

(Here’s a complimentary copy of the report.)

While employee productivity and satisfaction are clear drivers behind the response, there is increasing evidence that high employee engagement increases customer satisfaction and overall business outcomes as well. Recent research shows that employees who are engaged are more likely to improve customer relationships, with a resulting 20% increase in sales.

In the Freshworks-HBR survey, a majority (54%) of the respondents indicated that better employee engagement results in happy customers. About 53% of the respondents also agreed that there are additional benefits: the quality of the products or services are better when employees are happier.

What makes employees engaged?

We live in a digital age—82% of the survey respondents said employees’ happiness on the job is significantly impacted by how well their workplace technology performs.

According to the research, powerful, easy-to-use software contributes to employee satisfaction by enabling a more productive experience. Of course, software that is hard to use and inflexible will have the opposite effect, leaving employees discouraged—it may even prompt them to seek better working conditions elsewhere. In fact, 77% of those surveyed said good employees will look for a new employer if their current job does not provide the tools, technology or information they need to do their job well.

Still, getting the right tools is only part of the solution. Empowering employees to have a say in selecting the tools is equally important! In a 2019 ‘Voice in the Choice’ survey commissioned by Freshworks, 96% of the employees surveyed said they had little or no involvement in the software purchase decision and more than half of the respondents said having the right tools would result in happier customers and better employee productivity.

Workplace technology plays an integral role in aiding employee engagement and the choice of tools and technology has to be democratized. Ultimately, we need to focus on outcomes for both the employee and the customer.

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[A total of 379 respondents drawn from the HBR audience of readers—magazine/e-newsletter readers, customers, HBR.org users—participated in the survey.]