Employee satisfaction is the new buzzword on the lips of the C-suite across the world. While hardly a new concept — studies on job satisfaction go back decades — the employment turnover rate in the US for the tech industry is projected to reach 70%, according to a study cited in a recent article in Forbes.

“The survey unveils an overall and deep desire for skills development, continuous learning and professional growth, as 91% of tech workers state that they want more training opportunities from their employers.” Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

The focus here is on truly feeling valued by the employer. When an employee feels like a cog in the machine, there’s little to stop them from plugging their cog into a different machine. Opportunities to grow skills show both concern for their wellbeing and a desire to help them advance in their career.

While here in Canada the “Great Reshuffle” has yet to occur in great numbers, the cultural overflow from the US has the C-suite of many Canadian companies worried that it might only be a matter of time before they’re facing record turnover numbers, both for their technical staff and in other areas of the business.

Whether you’re in the US and in the thick of mass resignations, or you’re in another country in the western world that’s bracing for change, there is a way to ensure your employees feel fulfilled in their roles and proud of the work that they do.

The way to ensure professional growth, skills development and a dedication to performing at the highest level is to put your customer-facing teams as close to your customers as possible, and give them the power to make the decisions that benefit customers the most.

Employee engagement as an everyday process

A recent Inc.com blog entitled, The Strangest Great Resignation Strategy Is Also the Most Effective highlights the importance of volunteering as a way to boost employee engagement and job satisfaction. Author Kelly Main posits that this connection to the customer is essential in improving positive feelings about one's work.

“The most effective strategy to retain staff is getting them to work more. But, more specifically, work more closely to the company's stakeholders. In doing so, staff will get closer to the customers and clients that their employer impacts. In return, they will not only see the value of their role in relation to others but see that they do in fact have a purpose.” Kelly Main

When I read the article, I thought that Main had gotten very close to what matters to employees, but missed the mark by saying that volunteering was the solution. While volunteering is wonderful for team building and is definitely a great use of your team’s time, it’s still outside of the experience of their day-to-day work. Most companies do volunteering days just once a year, maybe once per quarter. That leaves a lot of time for dissatisfaction to creep back in.

However, consider that empowering the teams who are closest to your customer means they have hands-on learning opportunities every day. The autonomy to make decisions that benefit the customer is not a risk to the business — these employees know your customers better than anyone else in the organization, and that includes the C-suite. When they are closer to the customer, they are closer to the insights that matter, and able to feel the impact of their work through increased sales and customer loyalty.

The customer-first culture

The culture that prioritizes customers goes hand-in-hand with one that prioritizes the experience of its employees. Rather than focusing on “the way we do things here” or “how it's always been done”, processes and methods are fluid in service of responding to the market’s changes. When the culture is service oriented, instead of internally oriented, the employee never gets lost in a tug of war between doing what’s right and seeking permission to do it.

This method also facilitates on-the-job learning, which is key to satisfaction. As I said above, focusing on volunteering as a culture-add will, at most, provide job satisfaction one per year, or once per quarter. Now apply this thinking to skills training and professional growth. If you approach learning and development in the same way as volunteering, taking employees away from their desks sporadically for training, that leaves 361 days where they can feel like they’re stagnating in their roles, and lead them to look elsewhere for opportunities.

In the video below, we explain how our model for working with our clients provides hands-on learning for their product teams every day of our engagement. We’ve seen firsthand the impact that taking a customer first approach can have on employees, not to mention on the bottom line for your organization. We hope you’ll check it out, and maybe start to think differently about how you approach employee engagement — it’s not a one-off, it’s what you do every day.