Improving the ‘customer experience’ has become a buzz phrase in business.
From e-commerce stores to any retail or other service-oriented business, the phrase neatly sums up the need to focus on personal user experiences in all customer interactions. It’s seen as the key to retaining loyalty and winning new customers.
Could our job as HR professionals be described as looking after the ‘employee experience’?
Everywhere we look, it seems that employees are less engaged, less connected to their organisation, and less committed to staying with their employer.
As well as being bad for staff retention and organisational culture, it’s bound to negatively affect the customer experience too: in short, everyone loses from this trend.
Deloitte reported at the beginning of the year that “nearly 80 per cent of executives rated employee experience very important (42 per cent) or important (38 per cent), but only 22 per cent reported that their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee experience.”
By putting more energy into cultivating the employee experience, not only do we create a more harmonious organisational culture, but this sense of harmony will flow outwards from each and every employee to customers.
The first step in looking after the customer experience may, therefore, be looking after the employee experience – providing the foundation for a service mentality across the business.
What changes, specifically, can you make in your organisation, to cater more to the employee experience?
1. Understand what your employees want
Are performance reviews (once or twice a year) the only time you sit down with employees one-on-one?
If so, it is almost impossible to know what they want from their jobs, from their time with your company, or from life in general.
Meeting regularly with your employees in environments where they feel comfortable opening up is important. That way you can learn more about employee values and expectations – and you’ll be in a better position to facilitate positive and meaningful action towards achieving them.
Rather than simply conducting annual engagement surveys with employees or sending out questionnaires, try to create time for more one-on-ones that go beyond merely KPIs and ticking boxes.
2. Help employees grow by working towards their goals
One of the main reasons for people leaving their jobs is the perceived ‘dead end’ they face. It comes up repeatedly in surveys about reasons for quitting.
Everyone has goals of some sort and they are not always as simple or clear-cut as ‘personal’ and ‘professional’ goals. People increasingly want their work to be a part of their life goals.
If you don’t have the systems and the leaders in place to help your employees reach these goals, then they will drift away to organisations that do.
Once you have found out what employees’ goals are, consider the training and support you can provide on the job.
How can you help your employees learn what they need to know to climb up the ladder? How can you build a true learning and mentoring culture that nurtures and grows your top talent? How can you provide a career path rather than a perceived ‘dead end’?
3. Allow employees to create a work environment to flourish in
People are naturally creative but in different ways and at different times. We all feel some urge to create things and derive a sense of satisfaction from doing so.
We also naturally ‘buy in’ more to ideas, situations, and environments that we have had a hand in creating.
For these reasons, ‘design thinking’ should play a role in any organisation wanting to improve the employee experience. It can help energise employees and put them at the centre of the process of designing their own work environment.
Rather than simply being trained to operate according to pre-defined processes and to comply with regulations, involve the employees in designing the processes, the physical environment, the way employees interact, training, and so on.
Becoming the architects of your own workplace creates a tremendous sense of autonomy, empowerment, and buy in.
4. Deliver the leaders your employees deserve
Inspirational leadership is one of the keys to enhancing the employee experience.
In the simplest of terms, people drag themselves out of bed (even when they’re sick) for bosses they respect; but they stay in bed for bosses they dread.
Every forward-thinking organisation should aim to develop leaders who inspire and drive performance: getting the best out of people by leading the way rather than cracking the whip.
Simply managing people will not cut it; your leaders must be coaches and mentors who revel in the success of others, recognise achievement, and reward performance. They need to be emotionally intelligent and have a deep understanding of people.
Develop more emotional intelligence by helping leaders work on their personal qualities and develop better interpersonal skills to build stronger relationships.
5. Make work more meaningful
There’s much being written about millennials wanting work to be meaningful; but isn’t this the case for practically everybody?
It is a basic human trait to want to feel that we are making a contribution and to feel valued; anything less can be very de-motivational.
In order for employees to feel like their work has meaning, they need to understand their role within the larger organisation and how their work contributes to the greater good.
This starts with leadership fully communicating the vision of the organisation to all employees and helping them see the importance of their role.
If you want to attract and retain the best employees, you need to look beyond traditional performance measures and start improving the employee experience.
Work-life balance and wellness are increasingly important to employees and part of achieving a good standard of both depend on their experience at work.
Customers who enter a store and enjoy a personalised, service-oriented retail experience will keep coming back again and again; in the same way, employees who have their needs met and feel aligned with the organisation, have opportunities to be creative, and are assisted in meeting their goals by inspiring leaders are more likely to stay for the long haul.