A Quick Primer for Getting to Optimized Employee Commitment in 2017


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Having reviewed literally hundreds of traditional employee satisfaction and engagement surveys over the years, and also carefully studying how the results have been interpreted and applied by companies, it’s clear that the vast majority of them are about as superficial and challenged to provide real direction to corporate and HR management as their customer satisfaction survey cousins. New thinking, and more contemporary research protocols, will produce more experience value for both stakeholder groups

Well-designed employee commitment study results are often mirror images of what’s going on with customers. For example, one of our clients, which had been conducting an annual employee satisfaction and engagement study, was known to have a highly ineffectual regional director. In that director’s region, both customer and staff defection was quite high. On the parallel staff behavior and alignment study we designed and conducted for the client, regional employees rated teamwork and staff communication dramatically lower than for other regions, especially among the front line staff with whom customers most frequently dealt. The employee factors contributing to what we define as ambassadorship – commitment to company, value proposition, and customer – were almost entirely missing in action.

Likewise, the performance evaluation and customer loyalty scores for that same region were also very low, with particularly poor results seen on customer communication and responsiveness. The bottom line, employee loyalty, focus, and alignment problems ultimately become customer problems and key contributors to churn. As noted, there was very little commitment evidenced by these employees. Thus, the linkage between stakeholder group perception and behavior was pretty easy to both isolate and correct.

Compared to traditional employee satisfaction and engagement research and application approaches, there’s a lot to know about identifying and operationalizing the drivers of ambassadorial behavior. Here are some quick guidelines to keep your organization on track:

Avoid measuring employee satisfaction. Satisfaction has a strong tendency to deal with attitudes and not behaviors. Also, satisfaction has proven to be poorly correlated with actual loyalty and productive behavior. For example, a recent employee study showed that only 10% said they were dissatisfied with their employers and their jobs, but 25% said they would search for a new job within a year. Instead, ask questions that measure your company’s performance as an employer. (i.e. On a scale from 0 to 10, rate our performance as your employer.), and other question areas that we will recommend.

Measure employees’ likelihood to remain with you and contribute to your success. Likewise, measure your employees’ likelihood to communicate in positive (and negative) ways, to other potential employees and to customers. (i.e. how likely are you to recommend the company to other potential employees?)

Develop specific job statements – on a custom basis (through qualitative research) – about key aspects of their working life, relationships, how they are guided and supported, etc., to be presented to all employees for performance and importance evaluation. These attributes be customized, rather than be identical to those applied at other companies, because the culture and operating processes of each company are unique. In your staff ambassadorship and commitment study, you will want to include attribute statements that address each of the following six themes:

– Cohesion – These attributes address teamwork and communication between and within groups, plus work quality, effectiveness, and staff/management interaction.
– Morale/Culture – These attributes address the ‘fabric’ of the organization, consideration of staff needs, and place of employment
– Career Security/Growth – These attributes address the employees’ sense of ‘shared destiny’, or belief that the company will support their security, growth, and career development.
– Business Confluence – These attributes address the extent to which employees partner and participate in the company’s vision, mission, and strategic objectives.
– Customer Focus – These attributes address the employees’ opinions of the company’s proaction and responsiveness with customers, and how the tools they are provided help with that goal.
– Management Effectiveness – These attributes address employees’ views of how well people and processes are managed.

Ask staff members to rank, not just rate, elements of their jobs (using techniques like MaxDiff) – and to explain their reasons for those rankings. Employees are also asked to state reasons for low attribute and overall performance ratings, providing quantified anecdotal depth to the ratings data.

Identify areas of expressed and unexpressed employee complaints. When unexpressed, determine the reasons. When expressed, ask about outcomes re. their day-to-day job experiences.. Look at (model) the impact of complaints, especially those frequently stated, on staff loyalty and overall experience.

Model the impact of attribute performance and importance on staff loyalty and commitment to customers. Quantitative methods should be built around self-completion interviews, and they should enable almost real time analysis and reporting of findings, conclusions and recommendations to employees and management Report key performance and commitment findings and modeled results. Within the report, draw conclusions and make recommendations. Take action, including reporting/presenting findings back to staff in a timely and interactive manner.

Ask employees for their feedback to research results because it implies a shared commitment by management for action based on findings. .Do this and you’ll help grow employee trust and strengthen loyalty and alignment. Don’t do it, and employees will likely blow-off (or blow holes in) your next staff survey.

Higher, and more focused, levels of employee training, greater involvement in strategy development and execution, and appropriate, real-world performance and alignment measurement will, increasingly, differentiate companies that are merely good from those that are great. For groups like Customer Service, because they are so close to customers and so involved with creating and sustaining loyalty behavior, the stakes are particularly high. Whether inside or outsourced, Customer Service must be completely aligned with, and supportive of, corporate customer loyalty goals and initiatives.


  1. Really smart thoughts, Michael! Thanks for sharing. I see the same things with CX mirroring EX both in terms of questionnaires and in the efficacy of the programs. A question: Sometimes businesses push to do CX first and then follow with EX (even though it’s usually better the other way around). How hard to do you push folks to handle them in a particular order?

  2. Brian –

    Thanks for posting a response. To your question, which is an excellent one – this is a chicken-and-egg or cowboy-and-saloon issue dialogue which has long taken place between practitioners, on CustomerThink and in many other forums and venues.

    From my perspective at least, the best advice that can be offered is to have the emotionally-based product/service value proposition flag well-planted from the start, and ASAP or in parallel, have employees who are fully committed to the enterprise, the value proposition, and the customers, and a stakeholder-centric culture and set of processes to support all of this.


  3. Thanks for your perspective – it is a bit chicken and eggish, but your thoughts are helpful. Happy New Year!



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