Why Your Customer Experience Depends on Improving Your Employee Journey


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As today’s workforce evolves, customers aren’t the only ones demanding a better experience. The same forces of disruption propelling sweeping change in customer service operations are also upending recruitment and human-resource processes. Job candidates and employees share the same high expectations as customers, and their options are expanding with unemployment currently hitting historic lows.

Talent and HR leaders should take a page from the new intelligent customer experience playbook: develop a strategy that completely redesigns the candidate and employee experience for today’s workforce and tomorrow’s. Make no mistake — it’s a major undertaking that requires full buy-in and leadership from the top, but it will enable companies to attract and retain high-quality employees, particularly when recruiting for customer care.

While this is an initiative that requires a holistic approach, here are some of the key goals in the process:

Improve the Candidate Journey
Nearly 60 percent of job seekers report having a poor candidate experience, according to “The Candidate Experience Study” conducted by CareerArc and Future Workplace. To turn this around, HR leaders must analyze the candidate journey to identify pain points and opportunities for improvement using the same principles we’ve applied to the customer journey.

We need to look at the entire process from the eyes of a candidate and employee — from initial contact through the application and interview to onboarding, training and the ongoing experience. At SYKES, we’ve learned a great deal by commissioning an independent review using “undercover candidates,” a technique similar to the secret shoppers used by retailers to check their customer service. We’re using these deep insights to improve our candidate and employee experiences end-to-end, with a focus on speed and agility to provide a consumer-like experience for every step of their journey.

Walk the Talk on Flexibility
Extensive research shows that today’s workforce demands flexibility beyond remote working arrangements or temporary scheduling accommodations. The age of a regular eight-hours a day, five days a week schedule is fading fast. Companies need to do more than talk a good game on flexibility. We need to implement concrete measures to meet these new demands, which will require significant planning and design considerations to effectively meet the needs of employees and the business. Technology will also be critical in supporting more modern flexible working arrangements.

Even taking small steps to improve flexibility can open the doors to a wider talent pool, strengthen employee retention and reduce absenteeism. For example, my colleague Lance Zingale writes about how SYKES is experiencing positive results with a program that allows employees to make up hours without penalty when they need to take time off for personal matters. Organizations today need to have a solid workforce flexibility strategy in place if they are going to successfully compete for scarce human resources today and in the future.

Redesign HR for the Digital Age
Candidates and employees crave ease, simplicity and speed every bit as much as customers. They want instant access to information and tools that are easy to use on any device. We need to replace antiquated HR processes and systems with streamlined infrastructure that’s more agile and adaptable at a faster pace. While changing long-embedded processes can be difficult in large organizations, we can look to smaller divisions and locations to help guide the way with innovation. For example, SYKES is learning from successes in global locations such as El Salvador and Costa Rica, where the operations are nimble and adapting quickly to the competitive environments there.

According to the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, HR needs to take a holistic approach to the redesign challenge to be effective. This includes stopping addressing areas such as recruitment, onboarding, training and employee engagement with separate programs in individual silos. Just as customers see their experience with a company as a whole, candidates and employees look at their overall experience with employers in totality, not as separate and distinct parts. This means we need plenty of cross-organization collaboration as we rethink HR and the parts that make up the whole of the employee experience.

Empower Employees to Make a Difference
Team members today want to feel their voices are being heard and that their work matters to the success of the organization. In response, we need to change from the traditional top-down leadership, command-and-control formula to allow employees at all levels throughout the organization to get involved and play significant roles in solving problems and creating innovation. It’s important for organizations to understand and capitalize on this shift.

Yet despite the need for more team-oriented, team-centric processes, few companies are rising to the occasion. A study conducted by Deloitte with Facebook found that only 14 percent of companies believe their internal processes for collaboration and decision-making are working well. The solutions will be found in a combination of technology, management training and new processes. One place to start is to create both formal and informal processes for regularly seeking improvement ideas and input from the call center frontlines and then showing how these are implemented to produce real results.

Elevate Social Media Presence
Social media can be a valuable asset in attracting quality talent, yet many employers aren’t paying enough attention. Here again, candidate behavior mirrors customer trends as disgruntled job seekers have become more vocal about their experiences. In the Candidate Experience Study, 72 percent of candidates who reported having a poor experience said they shared that information online or with someone directly. Yet 70 percent of employers who report that they haven’t seen negative reviews admit to never searching online to check if any exist. Only 25 percent of employers regularly request feedback directly from candidates on their experience, a practice that could help companies avoid getting negative reviews online.

At SYKES, we take a proactive approach to social media as a powerful vehicle for communicating about our brand as a whole, as well as a platform for employees to tell their stories. The employee voice is credible and concrete, providing examples that move recruiting and marketing messages from mere expressions to actual experiences. To encourage sharing, we created a campaign called “Work. Learn. Grow.” which explores authentic global employee perspectives surrounding our culture and how we help. This initiative provides powerful content that personifies our competitive advantage. We also monitor popular career social media sites such as Glassdoor and respond to candidate feedback when appropriate.

Create a Fun, Caring Employee Culture
As research shows that culture is a significant factor for employees today, successful companies track this aspect of work carefully with employee surveys and brand studies. At SYKES, we recognize that customer care is tough work, so we really focus on creating a genuinely fun, friendly and nurturing atmosphere where leaders truly care about the well-being of their team. Fortunately, we see this reflected in our surveys, but we also take the areas where employee feedback shows opportunities for improvement very seriously.

No matter how successful a company may be today, it’s no time to rest on your laurels. Our world is going to keep moving and evolving at a more rapid pace than we’re used to, and HR professionals need to work together to stay on top of the challenges.

Jenna Nelson
Jenna Nelson has been with Sykes Enterprises, Incorporated in Tampa, Florida, since August 1993. In her current role as Executive Vice President of Human Resources, Jenna is responsible for developing relevant people strategies and policies to successfully support the company’s worldwide operations. She leads a global team that ensures the company’s critical HR programs empower it’s 55,000+ employees.


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