At our recent Outsmart panel “The New Employee Experience: Bridging the Gap between Customer Experience and Employee Experience,” three industry experts discussed the complementary roles that employee experience, customer experience, and people analytics play in today’s world of work.
Prioritizing employee experience
Companies have always wanted to provide their people with good work experiences to keep them happy, productive, and engaged. But the attention paid to employee experience has historically paled in comparison to the energy put into customer experience.
Today, talent has access to more opportunities than ever before–especially in light of the remote work revolution accelerated by COVID-19. In this climate, employee experience has become even more important. Employers are forced to enhance their efforts to attract and retain the best possible workers.
“Your talent now has more choices,” said Lydia Wu, Head of Talent Analytics at Panasonic. “It’s no longer about the employees chasing after you for a job or a paycheck. Employee experience isn’t just an ethical matter–it matters from a business standpoint, too. When you lose an employee, not only do you lose that knowledge with the employee, you lose their experience, and ultimately, you also drive up your cost because there is that transitionary, or training period.”
In response, forward-thinking companies are starting to treat employee needs more similarly to how they treat customers — by catering to their preferences and designing their company interactions to be as positive and low-stress as possible.
The experts on this panel see employee experience as eventually reaching a customer experience level of sophistication. “In HR, we’ve been focused on protection, on avoiding risk–whereas on the customer side, we’re trying to drive revenue,” said Melissa Arronte, Employee Experience Solution Principal at Medallia. “And while we do need some level of protection in HR, I think it’s holding our field back.”
“Customer experience has been around a lot longer than employee experience has,” said Lydia. “It’s more of a maturity curve thing.”
Paying attention to employee needs
For Lydia Wu and Melissa Arronte, prioritizing employee experience comes back to a seemingly simple concept–asking your people what they want. However, that’s not the whole story–if workers take the time to share their insights, but don’t see them translate into concrete action from their employer, they will quickly lapse into survey fatigue.
“There are times, from an HR department perspective, where we’ll have the best of intentions in saying that [a new initiative] is a brilliant idea that everybody will love,” explained Lydia. But she still recommends making sure those assumptions are grounded in reality. “I recommend always returning to the questions: is this what employees want? And how do we know it’s what they want?” she said.
Ideally, employees should be empowered to share their preferences–and given license to realize them outside of these isolated, periodic information-collecting exercises. “It should be ongoing, within the flow of their daily interactions, so that it’s easy for them to provide feedback and ideas,” said Melissa. “Then, teams and managers can come together… and actually create the environment in which they work and the processes that they use.”
In fact, in Lydia’s experience, a lack of careful listening is at the root of most conflict in organizations. “Conflict doesn’t happen when people feel their thoughts are of equal value,” she shared. “Actually, conflict more typically happens in organizations where you have a dominant opinion, and other opinions are not voiced.”
“This is why employee experience is so important,” she continued. “What are your employees really looking for at the end of the day?”
Empowering customers and employees
The need for increased emphasis on employee experience is clear, but what is the relationship between employee satisfaction, and that of customers? According to these panelists, it’s more direct than you might think–and it all boils down to making it easier for employees to solve their customers’ problems.
“Employees come to work every day to make a difference in the lives of customers,” shared Arronte. “The more we drive customer experience, the more we create this universal, human experience of people doing things for each other. Unfortunately, in Arronte’s experience, employers too often unintentionally complicate these interactions, putting needless obstacles in both customers’ and employees’ way.
“Anytime we make it harder for the employee, we make it harder for the customer,” she explained. “When the employee is doing a difficult process for the 10th time that day, and there’s a line forming and customers are getting frustrated, you’re making it harder and harder for that employee to delight a customer.”
By empowering employees to help customers, and removing excessive regulations, bureaucratic processes, and complexities that stand in their way, companies can enhance both customer and employee experience, synergistically.
“At Medallia, we talk about employees coming to work every day to make a difference,” concluded Arronte. “Freeing them up to do that is really what employee experience is all about.”
The role of people data and analytics
We need data to understand what employees want and enable them to achieve it. But it takes dynamic, responsive insights to avoid getting bogged down in the information itself and move on to what really matters–taking action.
“When you have survey data available, along with different data cuts, you can pivot during meetings to really answer [executives’] questions,” said Lydia. Once HR professionals can demonstrate to senior leadership that all possible interpretations of the data are showing the same thing, it’s time to decide what to do about it. Once everyone within the organization has accepted the results of an employee survey or other form of research, it’s time to enact those findings into measurable outcomes that will positively impact employees’ working lives.
However, for all the sophisticated research that goes into optimizing employee experience, implementing it ultimately falls to the frontline managers who are actually hiring, terminating, and working with people. Translating this level of research into an accessible, actionable form that’s digestible for these already time-strapped workers can present a major challenge–but without it, improving employee experience is simply not possible.
“Often, what managers are missing is perspective,” said Melissa. “They may only manage five people, or hire just a few, in their entire career. They don’t know what’s happening broadly, because their sample size is too small.”
To equip managers with the data-driven insights they need to enact real change, Melissa recommends distilling the analytics or research team’s findings into a one-page brief of key takeaways–ideally five insights or less.
“It’s about empowering people to make the transformation,” she shares. “Democratize the data. Make it available to everyone rather than holding it in HR.”
Employee experience, customer experience, and data–a recipe for growth
While this level of focus on employee experience may be relatively new, at least in comparison with customer experience, these panelists are already envisioning its future and the positive implications it will carry for businesses and their people.
“Ten years from now, we’re going to look back, and this is going to be the most obvious thing in the world,” said Zack Johnson, GM of Strategic Solutions and Partnerships at Visier. “Everyone’s going to forget that we used to sit and discuss whether or not we should do this.”
After all, listening to employees, making it easier for them to help customers, and using data to truly understand what they truly want are not complicated ideas. In fact, they’re the basis not just of great business, but of collaborating and cooperating with others in any setting.