Agencies are always looking for ways to serve constituents better, and a recent GovLoop poll of 642 government employees found that 45 percent of respondents saw their customer experience as “not good” or “needs improvement.”
One important way to improve customer experience is to serve employees better. When agency leaders focus on improving employee engagement throughout their organizations, those efforts translate into a more efficient and effective experience for citizens when they interact with the agency. Engagement drives employees to develop the skills, information, and passion to properly assist constituents.
Of course, in a time of a constant change, shrinking budgets and a retiring workforce, leaders often find challenges to employee engagement. Nevertheless, there are ways to overcome these difficulties that benefit internal and external stakeholders.
GovLoop recently spoke with Jodi Thompson, Senior Principal Business Consultant at Genesys, and Warren Lenfant, Bureau Chief of Reemployment Assistance Contact Centers at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, to hear how agencies are better engaging employees and improving citizen experiences.
Thompson defined employee engagement as “the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals.” To her, employees are the most important aspect of an organization because they represent the agency when dealing with citizens. It’s up to the employees to have the right information and support to personalize the customer experience. When employees commit to the mission and have the tools to do their jobs effectively, then customers are better served.
Trying to get employees to commit to organizational goals and missions can be more difficult than it seems though. Complacency, measuring performance, and incorporating feedback are all key challenges in improving employee engagement in the public sector.
Although 93 percent of respondents in the GovLoop survey recognized that improved internal employee engagement was a key factor in improving customer experience and engagement, many agencies still face challenges in getting employees committed. One of the most often cited reasons for not aggressively improving employee engagement is simple complacency. As Lenfant noted, “People are resistant to change, but just because people are not calling to complain, that doesn’t mean that everything is fine.”
To combat complacency at the call centers where customers contacted the department for assistance, Lenfant worked to get leadership buy in while directly rallying employees around the mission. He recognized that he needed to get support from different groups within the organization. So, in addition to compiling detailed presentations and data metrics, he also allowed staff members to hear direct customer phone call complaints. This grabbed the organization’s attention and won support for his recommendations because the leadership could see how successful employee engagement was a way to help citizens.
Another challenge for agencies trying to improve employee engagement is determining how to measure and recognize performance. In the GovLoop survey, 25 percent of respondents felt that increasing recognition for performance would increase employee engagement. At the Florida Reemployment Assistance Contact Centers, Lenfant has used a “Wall of Fame” with a quarterly top performers list and a “kudos” list of good deeds to positively encourage his employees. “Celebrating the little victories don’t cost a dime; it just takes time,” he said.
Through recognition and streamlined processes, the number of unanswered calls decreased from 70 percent to 18 percent within nine months. More cases were being handled and cleared and more citizens benefitting.
Gathering and incorporating feedback from all organizational stakeholders is another challenge to improving employee engagement. By continuously conducting data and performance reviews within the agency, Lenfant found that employees were struggling with workload management.
To help employees better manage time and workloads, Lenfant examined the data and found that the highest volume of calls happened during the beginning of the week, so he was able to shift work schedules to accommodate these calls. Lenfant also used data and information gathered from the agency website to streamline processes online so that less constituents needed to speak to a representative directly for assistance. “Better technology and data empower frontline employees with better decision making information,” he said.
The feedback also allowed Lenfant to recognize the need for more comprehensive internal training programs at the agency. Lenfant used this feedback to create a 4-week “Hired to Wired” program that taught new employees how to effectively assist customers. The program included direct lecturing, shadowing, and a graduation ceremony to celebrate their hard work, and it allowed the employees to reach their full potential. 30 percent of GovLoop survey respondents saw increased training and coaching as a way to increase employee engagement.
By overcoming complacency, recognizing and measuring good performance, and listening to stakeholder feedback, agencies can improve employee engagement and citizens will benefit as a result. To learn more about how enhanced employee engagement is a win-win situation for an agency, listen to the full online training here.