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19 November 2018 3 min read

Employee engagement and culture

Katy Mirzaie

Katy Mirzaie
Director | People and process excellence

**This blog has been updated since original publication on 8th October 2015.**


Want to embed a culture of Continuous Improvement (CI) in your organisation?  Do your employees feel engaged? The answer to these two questions may be more strongly correlated than we would ordinarily assume. 

You can have the most optimised and lean processes in place. You can put the best CI framework and governance in place. Miserable and disengaged employees, however, are never motivated to drive improvements. Embedding a culture of CI in the organisation always needs to include how you build a motivating and engaging workplace. In the past few years, companies have started to recognise the importance of creating a culture of continuous improvement and empowering the employees to own and drive those improvement initiatives. While hygiene factors like the right training, Lean and Six Sigma tools and templates and performance boards are all essential to create a culture of continuous improvement, making it work can only happen when you have engaged employees that are ready to go the extra mile and make a difference in identifying and driving improvements within their teams.

The importance of employee engagement became much clearer to me when working with a European bank to develop a CI strategy and rollout CI in their operations teams across the company.

We started the rollout by piloting the framework amongst five teams within the HR contact centre. All teams were provided with the same training, methodology, coaching and suite of tools and templates. However, they all had very different outcomes off the back of rolling out CI in their teams.  

After a 12 week CI rollout, it was evident that the business outcome of CI rollout was very different in different teams. All KPIs targeted by the CI programme including customer satisfaction, first time resolution, productivity, problem identification and resolution and even call handling time were meaningfully different for the five teams. With one team significantly outperforming the others, and one showing meaningful underperformance. The top performing team not only achieved the best outcomes but also showed the greatest improvement on all KPIs.

The question was why the outcome was so different between these teams when all trainings, coaching and tools used for all teams were the same?

Our next goal was to understand what is different about the highest performing team and create a best practice guidance to successfully rollout CI across the rest of the organisation. We closely observed the teams in their day-to-day jobs and looked into their satisfaction and engagement. All teams seemed to be almost equally satisfied with their workplace. However, the best team was clearly happier and more emotionally engaged and therefore more motivated and ready to go above and beyond to improve their performance.

What is the difference between employee satisfaction and engagement? Shouldn’t they be the same? The truth is that while engagement always translates into business outcomes, satisfaction is purely about what employees get – and a satisfied employee could be satisfied doing nothing.

In our experience, employee engagement is about fulfilment, is about giving employees an opportunity to shine and grow. The employees of our clients that have built an engaging culture, have a very clear understanding of their roles and how it plays into a bigger picture. Their jobs give them a chance to play to their strengths, constantly learn, and grow in their jobs. They have great managers who care about their personal and professional development and provide them with regular and meaningful recognition for their good work.