Engagement-Schmagement: What Does It Mean; Why Should I Care?
By: Ashish Gambhir

“Frontline employee engagement — is that like synergy?”

It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve fielded that question.

Needless to say, it isn’t; however “engagement” is ambiguous in the way of all corporate jargon, and it’s not difficult to see why the query arises.

The difference between synergy and engagement: synergy is a harmless concept worthy of a chuckle; frontline employee engagement is a $500 Billion per annum quandary that the business world has made little to no progress solving.

Not so entertaining when you put it in those terms.

$500 Billion per year, wasted — it’s staggering to say the least. With turnover rates at 100% per year and the cost of onboarding a new frontline employee between $2K and $8K depending on the company, losing disengaged workers is a costly dilemma. Combine this with low productivity rates and poor customer satisfaction driving away buyers, and the numbers become less mysterious.

How many frontline workers suffer from the engagement problem? About 87% of them, according to Gallup. The same study predicts that companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share — another alarming figure.

The stakes are abundantly clear: we’re losing a collective half-trillion dollars per year, all because we can’t get hourly workers to care about their jobs. Hourly workers, by the way, make up about 60% of the American workforce.

Why are the men and women on the frontline so disillusioned? Another surface level quagmire that becomes less confusing as one delves deeper. Hourly workers have little brand loyalty; managers expect very little of them; and they are scarcely recognized when they excel at their work. It’s no wonder they depart from their posts so frequently, and no wonder customers are driven away by their lack of zeal.

How could this happen? It can’t be because the management level is unaware of the problem: in the age of connectivity, we’re aware of the flaws in the customer experience practically before surveys are filled out. Between mystery shops, social listening tools and customer feedback platforms, we can nail down the problem and determine a solution instantly. Someone complains about soggy fries at a QSR via Facebook? Social listening notifies a manager. Poor customer review? A survey platform notifies a manager. Mystery shopping insights look grim? The dashboard notifies a manager.

Noticing a trend?

There is a dire stoppage in the arteries that transport information up and down the corporate ladder, and it’s preventing the right data from reaching the core of the company — the frontline employees who are on the sales floor, in the arena where each transaction is won or lost. That clog is directly below managers’ feet.

In our next post, we’ll bust the myth that employee engagement isn’t quantifiable. Keep a look-out.