Employee Experience: 8 Ways Leaders Must Lead Differently

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A few months ago, I wrote a detailed post about employee experience called What Exactly is Employee Experience? In that post, I shared:

It’s not just about the impact on the customer experience – it’s also about the impact on employees. It’s about treating them like humans, not like cogs in the wheels of corporate success. It’s ultimately about caring about people like people.

In Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book, Dying for a Paycheck, he cites the following:

In one survey, 61 percent of employees said that workplace stress had made them sick and 7 percent said they had actually been hospitalized. Job stress costs US employers more than $300 billion annually and may cause 120,000 excess deaths each year. In China, 1 million people a year may be dying from overwork.  People are literally dying for a paycheck. And it needs to stop.

Yup, employee experience needs to be put at the top of the priority list. Immediately.

My point: leaders must lead differently. Clearly!

According to the Deloitte 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, 80% of executives rated employee experience as important or very important, but only 22% said their companies excelled at building one.

That’s a big gap and a big problem. Why? What’s going on?

  1. Employee experience is not a priority. Instead, it’s an annual engagement survey, not a leadership approach.
  2. As a result of that (not a priority) or on its own, there is no executive advocate, champion, or owner/ownership of the employee experience (similar to the CCO for customer experience).
  3. Companies have siloed HR departments without an integrated, cohesive, and/or collaborative set of priorities.
  4. They need to update tools and processes to understand and to engage with employees on an ongoing basis. In other words, employee understanding is lacking. (BTW, the same three tools apply as with customer understanding!)
  5. Companies have disparate functions and disciplines (performance, diversity, wellness, workplace design, leadership, etc.) that must work together in the interest of the employee and the employee’s well-being, but often don’t, making the employee experience fragmented and painful.

In addition to solving for those five issues, what must leaders do differently?

  1. Deliberately create a culture that puts people first – before metrics, products, and profits. Don’t leave culture to chance or assume it’s just posters on a wall or values on your website.
  2. Mentor, inspire, and care – truly care – about your people. Actions speak louder than words! Always!
  3. Spend time with your employees every week, talking, listening, and getting to know them on a personal level. Be real, be candid, be authentic – and act on what you learn.
  4. Appreciate and recognize employees for a job well done.
  5. Be a champion for your employees. Sounds simple, yet so elusive!
  6. Enable middle managers by ensuring they have the authority, tools, information, clarity of vision, etc. to create a great experience for employees. Enable them to lead!
  7. Empower and involve employees. “People support a world they help create.” -Dale Carnegie
  8. Don’t view employees as a cog in the wheel to your success. They are humans; they are people. As Bob Chapman (see below) says: they are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters. View them as such.

Are there brands with leaders who get it? Yes, you know the usual suspects (and a few others you didn’t know/think about): Zappos, Southwest Airlines, Chobani, Rosenbluth Travel, Delta Airlines, SAS, Virgin, Campbell’s, Starbucks, Marriott, and more.

And here are three specific leadership examples; all three are B2B.

  • Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40: His leadership approach includes these principles: (1) Build and support your tribe. (2) You don’t build a business. You build people, and then the people build the business. (3) Be a learner and a teacher. (4) Embrace mistakes as learning moments. (5) Live your values.
  • Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller: His leadership approach, known as truly human leadership, includes: (1) Create a workplace culture that truly values and cares for employees, and the rest takes care of itself. (2) We measure success by the way we touch people’s lives. I’ve written about Bob’s leadership approach several times.
  • Wilbert L. Gore, co-founder of W.L. Gore & Associates: This company is not only innovative when it comes to products but also with regards to leadership, culture, and employee experience. The general business approach is: (1) Build a team-based, flat lattice organization. (2) They have leaders, not bosses. (3) Associates are trusted stewards of the business. Does it work? Let their 3% turnover rate speak for itself.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. -John Quincy Adams

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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