Debbie Laskey is my trusted resource for expert advice on marketing, customer service and leadership. I've had the honor of featuring her on my blog in the past. And, today, Debbie shares her keen insights on the importance of employee engagement.
As background, Debbie has nearly 20 years of marketing experience and an MBA Degree. She developed her marketing expertise while working in the high-tech industry, the Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris in France, the nonprofit arena, and the insurance industry.
How do you define employee engagement?
Debbie: Erika Andersen (@erikaandersen on Twitter), author and leadership expert, defined employee engagement in a post for Forbes, and it has stuck with me:
“If a company’s focus is ‘How can we give our customers what they want,’ then that company needs great employees to come up with the ideas, to make the great products, to interact with the customers. Employees aren’t a begrudged necessity in that kind of company – they’re what makes it possible. And if my company feels like that about me, and treats me that way, then I’m most likely to feel that way about my company and treat my company that way. Voilà: engagement. AND productivity, reduced turnover, attracting top talent. AND delighted customers, great products and services, big profits.”
To me, employee engagement is, perhaps, the most important aspect of an organization. If employees are not engaged, then the entire organization will suffer, and possibly fail.
A key driver of employee engagement is having a shared sense of purpose and a clear understanding of the impact each person has in the work they do.
How do you believe the pandemic has impacted employee engagement?
Debbie: From the outset in early 2020, the pandemic caused uncertainty about people’s health. Then the uncertainty impacted people’s jobs, family life, hobbies, and more. Once the quarantine started lasting months in Q2 2020, and people’s jobs were at stake, it was difficult for leadership teams to maintain close relationships with their teams in the same way that they did in person. This put an emphasis on employee engagement on the back burner for many organizations.
What do you recommend a leader do to help ensure home-based employees are engaged and feel a part of the company culture?
Debbie: For home-based employees to feel engaged and a part of a company’s culture, leaders should have regular check-ins with their teams, one-on-one check-ins and team check-ins. Leaders should also ask their team members how they would prefer to work at home, so that everyone can be most productive. Some people prefer working early in the day, while others prefer working late at night. Since there are family obligations at home, it’s necessary for everyone’s schedule to be respected.
It’s also important that all employees have all the tools they need to be productive, just as they would in the office. This may mean that they need a new laptop or printer, or a desk with good lighting. If a leader does not provide employees with the tools to do his/her/their job, then engagement goes out the window.
Lastly, it’s important for leaders to ask their teams how best to communicate during the time employees are working from home. This may mean texts are preferred, or emails, or phone calls. Bottom line, the leader should not assume that one way is best for everyone – or easiest for the leader. Again, this will result in no employee engagement. It is also critically important that leaders share regular project updates with all members of their teams – just because people may be away from the office does not mean that they should not be regularly informed about projects.
According to Dan Cable (@DanCable1 on Twitter) of the London Business School, “As leaders, it falls to us to build a sense of collective purpose. It falls to us to remind employees about how their contribution fits into the bigger picture and to share a vision of the future that inspires them to feel connected to what they do and to make a sense of it.”
How does having fully engaged employees improve customer service and the overall brand experience?
Debbie: I saw this recent quote by Roy Osing (@RoyOsing on Twitter), Executive and leadership expert, and it answers this question perfectly:
“How employees feel about the organization they work in is a major predictor of how customers feel when they do business with the organization. If the brand promises to ‘go the extra mile’ for customers, for example, and leadership doesn’t do the same for employees, it’s unlikely that customers will get the brand value. It’s the job of leaders to make employees aware of the brand promise and also to ensure they have an intimate understanding of what actions they must take to deliver it. Leaders must provide a direct line of sight from the brand strategy to every function in the organization.”
What can an employee do to be more engaged with their company?
Debbie: Employee engagement, similar to onboarding, is actually an employee’s responsibility too – not just the responsibility of an organization. Employees should read the HR Manual, and also recommend ideas for improvement. Employees should read the Brand Style Guide produced by the Marketing Department so that they understand what makes the organization unique as well as what the brand promise is. All employees should also be able to use a suggestion box whereby the ideas are reviewed by the C-Suite rather than simply ignored. Employees should participate in team events rather than complain if a company picnic falls on a Saturday. And employees should offer to switch places with colleagues in other departments for a day in order to learn what other departments do. For example, at The Walt Disney Company’s theme parks, members of management spend a week as cast members in the parks to mingle with customers/guests and gain personal perspectives of the guest experience.
What are you learning about yourself during the pandemic?
Debbie: Like many of us, I miss the social aspect of working in an office environment, but I definitely do not miss the noise. The pandemic has allowed me to capitalize on how I work best, which is in a quiet environment. I enjoy Zoom meetings because they allow participants to focus and stay on point. I’ve also found leadership book clubs and participated via Zoom, and I’ve also had time to participate in more Twitter chats.
About Debbie Laskey: Her expertise includes brand marketing, social media, employee engagement, leadership development, and customer experience marketing. Since 2002, Debbie has served as a judge for the Web Marketing Association’s annual web award competition. Her Blog has been recognized as one of the "Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs" and also as a "Top 100 Socially-Shared Leadership Blog." An active member of the Twitterverse, Debbie has been recognized as one of the "Top 50 Branding Experts" to follow on Twitter @DebbieLaskeyMBA. Visit her website at and her blog.