I really like the term ‘discretionary effort’, to me it differentiates employees that are not just engaged in their business but those that are engaged and really invested in the success of their team, department and company. They show their level of engagement by consistently helping their colleagues, sharing, supporting, coaching, mentoring – all done without needing to be asked.
When someone starts working with a company - they are engaged. They want the job (they've normally gone through a long process to get the job); they want to work in that company and look forward to meeting and engaging with their new colleagues. Fast forward a few years (less than that in many cases) and that sparkle of engagement has diminished despite the new suggestion scheme or the free lunch on a Friday. So, what’s happened? What has changed? These are key questions for any business that values employee engagement.
In our experience one of the factors that seems to keep popping up is the internal customer experience. If your experience with colleagues is poor – poor communications, not sharing information appropriately, Chinese whispers etc. or if your experience of your managers and the company is poor - lack lustre induction process, no feedback system in place, favouritism etc. our research indicates that this is a key factor in undermining employee engagement. Time and time again we have been told how a lack of communication between departments, teams, managers and individuals is detrimental to the sense of an individual’s sense of fulfilment, success and achievement.
Conversely we often hear about teams and individuals that use discretionary effort to go above and beyond to help and support others. These individuals pave the way! Every business has people that consistently put themselves out to help others but, more often than not, their efforts are not celebrated, not recognised by the whole and yet, on a daily basis they make somebodies life a lot easier, often they help others to succeed. How long can you expect someone to sustain that level of investment if it goes unrecognised?
We all invest in the external customer experience - we actually spend a lot of time and money on our customers - which is understandable, it’s a critical success factor in any business. We train, we develop, we set targets and goals, we run endless surveys, questionnaires etc. all to ensure we are fulfilling our customers needs. But when it comes to our internal customers what emphasis do we put on acquiring and interpreting that information?
What survey's do we run? How do we interpret the information? Are we looking for 'positivity' or 'performance'? How do we treat that feedback within the organisation? Do you judge your managers on that? Do you have 1-2-1's with leavers to understand their thoughts and opinions? Do you understand why new starts want to work with you? - so many questions that could be asked...
Next time you are sending out an employee engagement survey or a quick pulse survey, think about the internal customer experience – how much discretionary effort is expended in your business? How do you reward it? And, importantly, how do you develop a culture where discretionary is the norm, the natural way of working?