By EX, of course, we mean employee experience.
Customer experience improvement (XI) and optimization have, for some time, been the stated goal of many enterprises around the world. Where the role of employees in helping meet that goal is concerned, however, there has been a tacit belief that the equation “happy employees = happy customers” works. Statements such as the assumption that positive employees feel satisfied; and, when satisfied, may recommend the company to others, are often cited. How real is the belief that driving employee engagement within an organization leverages customer satisfaction which, in turn, helps produce high performance for the enterprise, i.e. core tenets of the Service-Profit Chain? It’s time to re-think the assumptions of how both employee satisfaction and engagement impact customer behavior.
It’s also time to recognize the role of employees as key enterprise assets. For several decades, corporations and employee consulting and research companies, have been focused on elements of engagement, essentially addressing employees as costs and making their fit, alignment, and productivity in achieving company objectives the end goal. Though usually left up to HR, the fundamental premise of engagement has been that it is good for business – citing higher quality, greater efficiency, innovation, lower turnover, workplace camaraderie, and the like. More progressive and advanced organizations have recognized and reaped the strategic benefits of going beyond engagement; and that is what we will address here.
When we discuss building on the foundation of engagement, what we really mean is the opportunity – for customers, for employees, and for enterprises – represented by commitment, advocacy, and employee experience design – to achieve stronger business outcomes. At the core of employee experience is the recognition of how employee behavior as assets connects, directly and indirectly, to customer behavior.
There’s a cold reality to face. Most organizations do not fully understand, or leverage, the key linkages between customer experience and employee experience/behavior. As noted, enterprises typically focus on employee satisfaction or engagement, in the belief that high levels in either area will directly drive customer loyalty. Our research and consulting experience has shown that employee satisfaction and engagement, though important, have rather incidental and tactical connection to customer behavior. Employees, though, are (or should be) critical stakeholders in the delivery of experience value and business outcomes. So, it is vital for companies to learn where they are in creating enterprise-wide employee advocacy (commitment to the organization, the product/service value proposition, and the customers, plus vocal and enthusiastic support for, and belief in, what the company represents) and stakeholder-centricity.
To assist both individuals and managers in helping gauge their readiness to move from employee satisfaction and engagement to commitment and advocacy, as well as identify where their organization is on the spectrum of EX maturity, we have often helped companies determine where they are on this spectrum by creating, executing, and analyzing insightful self-assessment surveys.
The self assessment has been designed to help identify how, and how effectively, enterprise culture and processes help shape employee behavior and the delivery of customer value, with employee advocacy as an optimal state. The questions address such key areas as organizational readiness, consideration of the employees’ emotional investment, shared perception of/support for customer value delivery, employee life cycle, and leadership effectiveness and support.
One of the key things we’ve identified from analyses of the self-assessment surveys, and also through our interactions with clients, is that understanding the importance of employees’ perceptions of their emotionally-based needs in creating and delivering value, particularly where their job and role experiences are concerned, is given relatively little consideration within the enterprise. This can have serious consequences, both short-term and long-term.
More specifically, we’ve learned that:
1) Despite the strong proven connection between employee experience and customer experience, HR-directed employee initiatives often operate in a silo, separated from broader customer-related enterprise goals
2) Understanding the emotional investment and commitment of employees to customers is rarely given attention, much less a priority within the enterprise
3) Employees are most typically treated as costs, rather than key enterprise assets with potentially multiple contributory roles, and their activities are often based on narrowly-defined job descriptions
4) There is too little recognition that employees, like customers, have a defined life cycle
5) Building humanity into the enterprise cultural DNA, though well-documented to yield excellent financial results (in part through customer loyalty behavior and employee contribution/retention), has seen slow adoption, despite over 30 years of employee engagement initiatives and movements such as ‘Conscious Capitalism’.
Employee experience has evolved, but not quickly enough. Employee fit, utility, and productivity are important, but not enough. Organizations need to have more actionable insight into what cultivates and motivates employees. If companies are truly serious about optimizing CX and customer value, then more attention and resources must be devoted to EX.