IF I were to rank the most important concerns of managing a company, “low employee engagement” is such a priority that I would place it in the first three positions.

Employee engagement refers to the state of being involved and enthusiastic about the organisation one works for.

There have been active studies by respected research brands like Gallup that conclude that higher employee engagement leads directly to a higher level of customer engagement.

Happy, engaged employees are a proactive lot ready to market their company’s products, services or brand reputation happily, making a direct impact on the top line and the bottom line.

The Sears Roebuck case study on increasing employee engagement and its subsequent impact on customer engagement is an oft-quoted example of the aforementioned phenomenon.

The United States-based retailer discovered that for a 5 per cent improvement in employee engagement, there was a 1.3 per cent increase in customer experience, increasing company revenue by 0.5 per cent — translating into over $200 million.

With the advent of social media, engaged employees are an even greater force than in the pre-2005 days.

Workforce.com suggests that internal social technologies can directly increase employee engagement by accelerating their onboarding experience, improving feedback/communication, building a sense of community, expressing genuine investment in people, encouraging a sense of shared purpose, improving relationships with peers and building positive associations with the company image.

Organisations can substantially increase customer engagement via investing in meaningful employee engagement programmes.

However, organisations should understand that simply giving your employees a salary will not transform them into highly engaged “guerrillas” banding together and fighting to achieve great organisational goals.

You need multiple programmes. Employee engagement is more like a journey and should not be treated like an event.

If, as a leader of an organisation, you have never given employee engagement a second thought and feel that your team is completely in sync, consider the Gallup Tracking series run a couple of years back in the US.

Almost 71 per cent of the employees surveyed across the country were found to be disengaged with their organisations.

Here are some tips I have used successfully over many years to drive employee engagement positively:

* Find the right match

I believe all people are hireable. Underperformance occurs because some of them get hired for the wrong jobs or may not align with the values of the organisation. While hiring, look for a match between your organisation’s values and that of the prospective employee. Take the time to find the right match.

* Understand the drivers

There is a strong reason why an employee sticks to an organisation. Find that strong reason. Chances are it will go beyond salary.

The Hay Group has a study called The Changing Face of Rewards that addresses what motivates employees beyond compensation and benefits. When you find that reason, work at it constantly.

* Involve employees in organisational goals and plans

You have plans for the organisation. Ensure that you share these thoughts with your employees. This will promote a process of constant alignment and prevent teams from working at cross-purposes.

If employees are a part of the creation process, their involvement and ownership of the goals will be that much higher.

Do a reality/status check regularly. This will also provide you with a greater understanding of why people enjoy working for you.

* Drive and encourage ownership

Make sure that you encourage employees to take ownership of not just the process or programme they are involved in planning but also the outcome.

Ownership of the outcome will clearly motivate them to give it all they have. This will ensure that only involved employees will be taking care of your customers.

This engagement programme cannot be implemented before you get your team in place. But it can most certainly be implemented before your team begins its interactions with customers.

This programme can also be used to sift through your employees and allow you to pick the best of the lot to take care of your customers. Get this right and everything else will fall in place.