I was fortunate to work at Sears Roebuck and Co. during the mid-1990s, a time when the company was focused on employee engagement, customer satisfaction and company profit. In cutting edge research about how these three “legs” of the corporate culture fit together, the employee – customer – profit chain was built.
In its essence, the linkage research indicated that employee engagement (satisfaction with job and company) could positively impact customer experiences which in turn impact the company’s financial success. It wasn’t rocket science, but these findings were particularly compelling because to date companies placed little emphasis on much beside ROI and the bottom line. In other words, factors such as customer satisfaction and employee engagement were not typically considered when defining organizational success.
For the first time, companies (such as large retailers like Sears) were focused on employee well-being (i.e., satisfaction and engagement) and customer impact. Companies genuinely dedicated to fostering satisfaction with each of these critical stakeholders often used employee and customer satisfaction surveys to collect data on satisfaction levels and areas for improvement at work.
Let’s be honest, a lot has changed since 1998. We’ve elected four U.S. Presidents, witnessed a major collapse of economic and banking markets, and seen extensive global expansion of U.S. companies just to name a few examples. We live in a more complicated and diverse world. Unfortunately companies such as Sears, Roebuck and Company (once the leader of the pack) are now making tough decisions about their future.
Even though two decades have passed, one thing learned by leaders is that employee engagement does matter. In fact many organizations have identified employee engagement as a driving factor of company success and change.
Today we find ourselves in a tough political landscape with even tougher decisions being faced by employees and the company’s they work for. You can ask yourself:
- Does your company focus on employee well-being and satisfaction?
- Is someone measuring customer satisfaction and retention?
- Where do you stand on the linkage identified by the employee – customer – profit chain?
- What is most important for your company’s success: the employee, the customer or the profit?
I believe rich dialog can come from an updated discussion about these pertinent issues, especially in light of the multi-generational workforce that exists and different needs/motivators for employees across those generational divides. In addition, as the complexity of our organizations grow, we often need more than ROI to motivate employees to perform their best and be connected with our organizational mission.