Employee Experience – Good for Employees, Good for Business

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I originally wrote today’s blog post for Intouch Insight. It appeared on their blog on September 5, 2019.

In order to truly establish a foothold in – and to then propel – your customer experience transformation, one of most important things that businesses must have in place is a happy and engaged workforce that is well cared for by business leaders at all levels. In other words, employees and the employee experience must be the first priority of the business.

Before they can do that, they must understand what employee experience is. I define it as the sum of all interactions that an employee has with her employer over the duration of her employment relationship. It includes any way the employee “touches” or interacts with the company and vice versa in the course of doing her job. It also includes the actions and capabilities that enable her to do her job and, especially, the feelings, emotions, and perceptions the employee has about those interactions and capabilities.

The interactions begin before the individual even becomes an employee. There are many interactions within the various stages of the employee experience, which starts with the job search, the interview, and the job offer. From there it evolves to orientation, onboarding, and training, and then doing her job, receiving feedback, dealing with life events, career management, and eventually, exit.

The actions and capabilities that either enable or hinder employees to do their jobs fall into two categories that I call “the soft stuff” and “the hard stuff.” Typically, when these things happen, they are enablers, and when they don’t, they are considered blockers.

The soft stuff includes all the things that we typically think about when we think about employees and managing or leading employees: growth and development; feedback and coaching; recognition and appreciation; leadership and care; communication; camaraderie and collaboration; contributions, impact, and meaningful work; trust and respect; empowerment; and career success.

Before I move on to the hard stuff, I should note that the employee experience is really what your employees tell you it is. You’ve got to ask them for their feedback; you’ve got to listen to them. And then design a better experience based on what you learn.

That’s a good segue to the hard stuff, which I know isn’t top of mind when you think of employee experience. But I know these are important because your employees tell me so. At the outset of any new client engagement, I like to interview executives, employees, and customers to do my own baseline assessment of the current situation. When I interview employees, sure, they tell me about some of the soft stuff, but they all tell me about the hard stuff, which includes the tools, resources, training, processes, and environmental factors (workplace and workspace) needed to do their jobs well. When these things aren’t in place to allow them to do their jobs and to do them well – especially to deliver the experience customers desire and deserve, they are not happy. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I want to do a crappy job at work today.” No, your employees come to work wanting to give their best and do their best, but when they’re not equipped to do so, then it’s a challenge – and a downer.

A lot of research has been conducted to support why we should focus on the employee experience. It’s good for employees. It’s good for customers. And it’s good for business.

One such piece of research, the MIT CISR Research Briefing (June 2017), found that companies that are considered top performers when it comes to the employee experience are twice as innovative as those defined as bottom performers. These top-performing companies are paving the way for employees to work together effectively and engage with customers in new ways to enhance revenue streams. As a result, they experience higher customer satisfaction and advocacy and a 26% increase in profitability.

How do you achieve this employee experience –> business performance connection? Clearly, customers are in the middle of that equation. I don’t think you need any proof of that, but The Service-Profit Chain is the best way to visualize the entire, well, chain. I scanned the image below from The Service-Profit Chain: How Leading Companies Link Profit and Growth to Loyalty, Satisfaction, and Value by James L. Heskett, et al. From this graphic, it’s clear that the chain begins with employees and their experience, including many of the things I outlined earlier that comprise the employee experience.

Image courtesy of The Service-Profit Chain book

To see this clear connection between the employee experience and the customer experience, all you have to do is create a service blueprint. You will notice in the image above that service quality, output quality, etc. lead to service value. The only way that you’re going to be able to see where the service quality and, hence, the service value are breaking down is by outlining how that service is being delivered in support of the experience that the customer is having.

You know that, in order to understand the experience the customer is having, you need to first map the customer journey. That journey map must capture what the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling as she interacts with your brand to solve some problem she is having. After you’ve mapped the current-state experience, one of the next steps in the journey mapping process is to develop the corresponding service blueprint, which details the people, tools, systems, policies, and processes that facilitate and support that experience. Most companies will discover during this blueprint step that their processes were not developed with the customer in mind – and oftentimes, not with the employee in mind, either!

The employee experience – > customer experience connection is clearly uncovered through that process, as should the root cause of customer pain and employee pain. Improve those things that impact employees. Fix the broken processes or create processes where they are missing. Kill bad policies and simplify things. Put systems and tools in place that help employees do their jobs better, not hinder their ability to perform day in and day out. When I hear from employees that a new system was just installed that was worse than what they had before, plus they weren’t involved in the decision to purchase it nor were they properly trained on how to use it, I feel smoke coming out of my ears! What’s the point of that?!

Executives and managers trip over themselves to make things better (or so they think). The bottom line is: listen to employees, hear what they say, involve them in decisions and changes, and watch their satisfaction and engagement flourish. And as research shows, customers will benefit, and so will the business!

You don’t build a business – you build people – and then people build your business. -Zig Ziglar

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. She recently published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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