Lessons From A CIO Forum Conversation On Employee Engagement

TJ Keitt

Yesterday afternoon, I moderated a panel on the role the IT department can play in the business's employee engagement efforts. Any follower of this blog knows that this is a topic I've talked about a lot lately (see previous posts here and here) because hiring, developing and retaining talented and productive employees is critical in the Age of the Customer. The panelists were Ed Flahive, Vice President Global Learning & Development at State Street, Mike Peterson, CIO and Vice President at CHG Healthcare Services, and Ray Velez, Chief Technology Officer at Razorfish. As you've probably observed, this was an eclectic group, representing human resources, IT and client delivery groups respectively. Well, that was on purpose. This topic requires perspectives from both business leaders and technologists. Having had 24 hours to think about that discussion, I thought I would share a few a-ha's I had from my conversation with these gentlemen:

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Engaged Employees Expect IT Leaders To Understand Their Needs

TJ Keitt

My colleague Simon Yates and I have spent a good bit of time recently discussing the role of IT in creating engaging experiences for employees. We've proposed that IT leaders concern themselves with helping business leaders convert that engagement into productive actions that achieve positive business outcomes, like good customer experiences and employees advocating for the company. But what does this mean for IT leaders in practice? Well, let's look at a group of employees who are currently creating the types of outcomes businesses seek: those willing to advocate for their business as a place to work and as a place to do business. According to our Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey, Q4 2012, around two-thirds of this group feel IT understands and meets their needs (see figure below).

These positive attitudes toward the IT department's performance stand in stark contrast to the views of employees who aren't achieving these outcomes. For example, while 65% of employee advocates are satisfied with the service they receive from the IT department, just 27% of employees not fully advocating for the company share a similar opinion. So what creates this chasm in opinion? We find clues when we look at some of the attitudes employee advocates have about what their organizations allow them to do:

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The CIO Is The Facilitator Of Engaging Employee Experiences

TJ Keitt

Employee engagement is a hot topic in many C-suites today. There's a growing body of research that says engaged employees are productive employees, contributing positively to the bottom line. Forrester's own workforce research shows those who feel supported by managers, respected for their efforts, and encouraged to be creative are more inclined to recommend the company as a workplace or a vendor. So, we see a debate within the upper echelons of organizations on how best to create engaging workforce experiences which give an employee's contributions meaning, provide the flexibility they require to be successful, and continuously develop the skills they need to serve customers. It's critical that the CIO is at the table during these conversations. Why? Regardless of the talent retention and management strategy, technology will be necessary to help unlock the potential within the workforce.

The CIO at a large software vendor with a reputation for great employee engagement said it best: "Technology is expected, but [business leaders] do not think about how it enables people." Technology is an ambient part of the workspace. Businesses outfit their workforces with a range of gadgets and give them access to numerous systems which facilitate interactions, manage orders, track projects, store data, and more. Of course, deficiencies in these corporate toolkits lead employees to find and embrace things like iPhones, Galaxy Tabs, Dropbox, and Evernote on their own. But has anyone given serious consideration to how these disparate tools come together to help engage employees so they can properly support the customer?

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Engaged Employees Do The Right Thing Because It’s The Right Thing To Do

Harley Manning

Recently I was on a panel about the impact of cultural change on customer experience. My fellow panelists included Meltem Uysaler, a senior vice president of customer experience for Citi, and Patricia John, the customer experience director for Europcar UK (a car rental agency).

Right at the end of the session, Patricia responded to an audience question by saying that Europcar focused on creating a customer-centric culture because they can’t script every interaction. Therefore, employees need to be able to make the right judgment calls on their own when dealing with customers (or anything having to do with customers, which includes virtually everything a company does).

Patricia John is right. At Forrester, we see this dynamic time and again through our research. For example, every time I see USAA’s Wayne Peacock speak, he always uses the phrase, “We do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.” That’s extremely credible coming from Wayne: He’s the EVP of Member Experience at USAA, which is the number one bank, the number one credit card provider, and the number one insurance provider in our Customer Experience Index.

You, too, probably see this dynamic because it plays out in the news every day. Just compare the decision made by a Southwest Airlines pilot to the decisions made by some United Airlines employees.

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