Employee Engagement vs. Employee Ambassadorship? No….Engagement AND Ambassadorship!


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Customer-centric companies invariably have (and keep) employees who are invested and enthusiastic about optimizing customer experiences, whether they are front line staff or not. I’d tend to agree that engaged employees are more loyal to the organization than employees who are merely satisfied, and this also contributes to overall customer satisfaction; but, in my studies I’ve found that there is only incidental correlation between employee engagement and customer advocacy behavior. Employee ambassadorship is a different concept, where both employee contribution and customer experience optimization are emphasized.

Here’s one of the sections of a white paper I wrote a couple of years ago, addressing employee engagement:

“In the mid-1990’s, more progressive companies had moved on to employee engagement research. This was a significant step for human resources professionals. It was a recognition that companies needed to view employees not only as a resource but as partners in helping reach overall business goals. The principal intents of employee engagement, then, are to identify:

– what originally drew individuals to the company,
– what keeps them there,
– what they see as their role and how involved they are in it, and
– how aligned they are with the company’s goals and culture.

Engagement seeks to quantify emotional and rational job satisfaction and motivation to think, feel, and act. This combination is extremely important for training, communication, staff management, and individual and group goal-setting.

Engagement, however, represents a melange of loosely related concepts, so it marginally impacts customer experience and downstream customer behavior. In 2006, The Conference Board published “Employee Engagement, A Review of Current Research and Its Implications”. According to this report, twelve major studies on employee engagement had been published over the prior four years by top research firms. Each of the studies used different definitions and, collectively, came up with 26 key drivers of engagement. For example, some studies emphasized the underlying cognitive issues, others on the underlying emotional issues.

The Conference Board looked across this compilation of data and constructed both a blended definition and key themes that crossed all of the studies. They identified employee engagement as “a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work”. Many of the studies agreed on eight key drivers.

– Trust and integrity – How well managers communicate and ‘walk the talk’.
– Nature of the job – Is it mentally stimulating day-to-day?
– Line of sight between employee performance and company performance – Do employees understand how their work contributes to the company’s performance?
– Career Growth opportunities – Are there future opportunities for growth?
– Pride about the company – How much self-esteem do the employees feel by being associated with their company?
– Coworkers/team members – Do they significantly influence one’s level of engagement and involvement?
– Employee development – Is the company making an effort to develop the employee’s skills?
– Relationship with one’s manager – Does the employee value relationship(s) with manager(s)? ”

What is absent from these drivers, of course, is focus on how employee behavior – wherever that employee is located within the enterprise – drives customer experience. And, it is there that the added value of employee ambassadorship, as a concept and measurement framework, becomes apparent. This was addressed in my recent presentation in the Hooked On Customers Summit’s third session, and also in my follow-up CustomerThink blog: http://customerthink.com/do-you-really-wanna-work-here/

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.


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