Time to Overhaul How We Work: A Q&A With Medallia’s Melissa Arronte
Ian Cook, VP of People Analytics at Visier, recently sat down with Medallia’s Employee Experience Practice Lead Melissa Arronte and Employee Experience Director Jay Forman about how businesses can adapt to the service industry worker shortage. Here, we continue our conversation with Melissa, to discuss rapid changes taking place within EX, The Great Resignation, aligning EX stakeholders, and more.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you made your way to Medallia?
When I first graduated from grad school, no one seemed to understand what I wanted to do, which was conduct internal HR research. Almost 10 years later, I saw a job opening looking for someone to do workforce analytics. I finally found my job! That evolved into Head of HR Analytics for Liberty Mutual Insurance. Nine years later, I joined Citizens Bank as the SVP, Head of People Analytics. After building out that new analytics function, I wanted to bring employee and customer data together. So, I accepted the role of Head of Customer Research at Citizens and started to bring employee and customer data together with Medallia. When I first saw Medallia’s innovative technology, it was exactly what I had been looking for to support our employee listening program. So, in September 2019, I joined Medallia to lead the Employee Experience Practice.
How has the employee experience changed since the beginning of 2020?
Employee experience went from being a priority for a small set of stakeholders — typically HR teams — to a top organizational priority across the C-suite with growing resources and dedicated budget for people, technology and programs. More leaders are also beginning to see that employee experience is directly tied to business outcomes and inextricably linked to customer experience. According to research from Harvard Business Review, companies that invest in employee experience are four times more profitable than those who don’t — that’s huge. I’m excited to see more leaders, outside of HR, prioritizing employee experience and working cross-functionally to develop experience programs that put people first. What this shift means on the ground for employers will differ by sector and by each organization but we’re seeing dramatic shifts in terms of workplace policies around remote and hybrid work, a greater focus on mental wellbeing, a rethinking of approaches to D&I and equity in the workplace, and a greater investment in candidate & onboarding experience just to name a few. Organizations that are agile and respond quickly to employees’ shifting expectations will come out on top.
The great resignation is happening. How can organizations take action to prevent them from losing their best people?
Businesses across almost all sectors are feeling the impact of what’s come to be known as “The Great Resignation.” A recent Gallup survey found that 48% of America’s working population is actively job searching or watching for opportunities. The pandemic has given workers many reasons to make changes to a new company, a new industry, or an entirely new career. Some are leaving for better pay, others fear going back to unsafe working conditions, some are burned out and need a change. And these are just a few of the reasons we’re hearing about. One thing companies can start doing is putting a greater focus on retention by improving the experience of the employees they do have. The easiest way to improve employee experiences is actually very simple — it’s by listening to your people’s needs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen major issues that could have been avoided if management had been more closely attuned to their workers’ challenges. A good example of this is the shift to the hybrid or remote work models. Employees have made it clear that they want more flexibility when it comes to where and how they work. Employers that respond to these changing expectations will win in the long run.
Organizations across the globe are adapting to new working models. How do you think HR functions should be designing employee experiences based on hybrid working models?
The pandemic has given organizational leaders the unique opportunity to redesign workplace processes and policies. This moment demands an overhaul of how we work and what employees expect from their workplaces. Gather feedback from your employees to understand what changes they need to be able to thrive and be more productive in a hybrid or remote work environment. One overarching theme that we’re seeing is the demand for more flexibility — in terms of how we work, when we work and under what conditions in response to the burnout so many workers have felt over the last eighteen months. For example, office workers want more flexibility outside of the typical 9-5 and want schedules that can accommodate their workstyle and the demands of daily life. Build processes, policies, and programs that allow for this. A great example of this is actually some of the steps our own HR team here at Medallia took in response to data gathered through a voice of the employee survey. Text analytics of the survey detected that about 42% of comments discussing work stress and the pandemic’s impact on well-being. Seeing a clear need to support worker’s mental health and well-being, our HR team crowdsourced ideas directly from employees and has since implemented global mental health days, no-meeting Fridays and Feel Good Fridays where employees are encouraged to participate in activities that focus on personal and professional development.
For organizations that are embracing employee listening and gathering large amounts of data, how do they channel these insights to create change?
Collecting data is just the start. Making that data accessible to the right stakeholders who have the knowledge and ability to act will propel organizational change. This can be overwhelming for organizations beginning their listening journey, but it doesn’t need to be. We always recommend organizations start by getting alignment on experience priorities and KPIs. This will help direct which data and signals you should narrow in on to identify trends. Medallia then helps organizations turn that data into insights and recommended actions. With the right technology and processes in place, organizations that have the ability to continuously listen, understand, and respond to employees will ultimately be the ones to achieve their experience goals — whether that’s to improve retention, increase productivity, or enhance employee engagement.
Stakeholder alignment is paramount. What advice do you have for HR leaders trying to align their many stakeholders in their organization with a singular approach?
Show them the data. Rather than keeping data in the hands of a few, make data and insights more accessible so different stakeholders can align around priorities and see how their business units are having an impact on employee experience. Democratizing insights and engaging everyone from the frontline to the C-suite is critical to aligning stakeholders around change. An effective experience platform isn’t just for a few select power users; but instead will make everyone who touches employee experience feel like an owner and that they can have a direct impact on employee experience. Additionally, align the employee experience vision with the customer experience vision. The customer experience vision is the brand promise — our promise to our customers. This might be feeling trusted or special or valued. This should be the same promise to our employees. If employees don’t feel valued, special, or trusted, our customers won’t either. Your employee actions are your customer experience.
Lastly, putting all of this insight into practice, is there a particular customer example that you could share that illustrates who’s getting employee experience right?
I’ll give two examples because our customers are doing some great work. Up until recently, Northwestern Medicine relied on an annual employee satisfaction survey to gain insights about the employee experience — a process that involved waiting several weeks to a couple of months for the results. Since teaming up with Medallia, the organization has shifted to offering shorter, more frequent surveys, based on the success of piloting a similar initiative with the company’s customer experience surveys. Similarly, the City of San Diego with a workforce of 11,000 employees, has shifted from measuring satisfaction every two years to quarterly surveys. Right away, access to more timely insights has helped the company see an opportunity for improvement. With employees asking for more training and learning opportunities, they are rolling out a LinkedIn Learning platform and plan to measure how this new offering impacts their scores.
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