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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Embracing the Employee Experience: Part 1

By B. Joseph Pine II

My first Point of View paper for Rightpoint, a Genpact company, “Experience-led Transformation in Today’s Experience Economy,” stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic, exploring why experiences will continue to be the most important criterion for enterprise-level success.

Thought: Embracing the Employee Experience: Part 1
Embracing the Employee Experience: Part 1B. Joseph Pine II
Thought: Embracing the Employee Experience: Part 1

One of the core principles for success in the Experience Economy is “being human.” This concept involves understanding the situation human beings find themselves in – through no fault of their own – and then doing what you can to alleviate these circumstances and to help people strive to overcome them. That’s why it is so important to use this time to refresh your places, redesign your offerings, and renew your capabilities. Not only to supply offering value for your customers, but to give employment value for your workers and to give them a reason to work for you rather than some other business. It’s your employees who in the end create all the economic value for your enterprise. 

You need, therefore, to stage a remarkable employee experience.

Defining Employee Experience

A deep focus on transformation to support the workforce with experiences based on the entirety of the employee journey. For years companies have focused on employee satisfaction and loyalty, just as they have on customer satisfaction and loyalty – recognizing that these are in fact intertwined, that doing right by employees enables them to do right for customers. But satisfaction and loyalty no longer differentiate, representing the bare minimum in most every industry.

What Matters in Today’s Experience Economy is Engagement

Merriam Webster defines engagement as “emotional involvement or commitment,” and it is the core action for any and all experiences (although I hasten to add that you can engage people not only emotionally but physically, intellectually, and even spiritually). When you engage customers then you stage a remarkable experience within them, one that they will truly remember. And if you want to create such offerings, then you had better give your employees the wherewithal to design, create, and stage them through an employee experience that is likewise personal, memorable, and of course engaging.

The Goal?

The goal is to harmonize people, process, and technology to affect an empowered workforce capable of delivering greater value to internal stakeholders, coworkers, partners, and customers. Too few companies embrace this link between employee and customer experiences, what is really a connected human experience. This stems from not yet ascending to the proposition that they are in the experience business.

Among many statistics that could be cited, in 2018 ADP’s Global Study of Engagement found that only about 16 percent of employees are “Fully Engaged,” and this number has not changed much since our study in 2015. This means 84 percent of workers are just “Coming to Work” instead of contributing all they could to their organizations. The study bleakly concludes “Global Engagement is dismal.”

It’s About Time

It’s about time to change that fact. It’s about time to connect with your employees through a personal, memorable, and engaging employee experience. And the employee experience is about time! Just as the experience you stage for your customers is all about the time they spend with you, so too with the employee experience – it’s about designing the time people spend in your employ that creates value for your customers and simultaneously for your workers and their lives.

As London Business School Professor Lynda Gratton writes in “A Crucial Role for Human Resources,” HR should be a “broker of time.” HR leaders should take an elevated view of time and think in the longer term. This helps people consider both now and later, making the future less abstract and pulling potential opportunities into the present. Becoming a broker of time means viewing time as an asset and thinking about how HR can help its people reap the benefits of effective investment in it.

Being a time broker gets back to the fundamental distinction between services and experiences that I mentioned in the previous point of view piece: services provide time well saved while experiences offer time well spent. Both are necessary, for experiences are always built upon services (which are constructed atop goods, which are made out of commodities). Think of any event you go to: you want parking, payment, ticketing, and concessions to be done quickly and efficiently so you can fully enjoy the time spent in the experience itself.

In the same way, employees want their pay deposited properly and on time, they want access to their tools (digital or otherwise) to be quick and efficient, they want expense or benefit submissions to be hassle-free, and so forth. And only when these things happen can they fully engage in their work. Therefore, you need to start with a solid foundation of providing time well saved for your employees.

Time Well Saved

Be sure to focus on saving employee time, not just company resources. It’s surprisingly easy to confuse the two, as when we think we’re being efficient by providing shared resources to a group of employees that in fact make each individual employee sacrifice their time. I am not saying instituting shared resources is the wrong decision, but you need to make sure you fully take into account the burden of time it adds to your employees’ days, time that could be productively spent creating value for your customers.

Think of all the apps that provide on-demand services, such as Uber, Blue Apron, GrubHub, Fiverr, and so forth. Shouldn’t handling expenses be as easy as using Venmo? Why isn’t updating your CRM system as simple as swiping on Bumble? Why isn’t replacing the ink on that shared printer as easy as pressing an Amazon Dash button? Why isn’t replenishing all supplies as hassle-free as ordering from Instacart? Why isn’t finding an open conference room as smooth as summoning a car on Lyft? And for you and your employees, maybe it is. There are, after all, many B2B companies that specialize in providing employers technology that both save employee time and company resources, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, and a host of other digital and social tools. But how effectively are you taking advantage of them?

Technology, of course, is the #1 enabler of saving time (customer or employee) beyond its ability to improve processes. However, the best and most updated technology does not necessarily equate to providing the best experience to your workforce. A deliberate and strategic vision aligned with user needs should be the catalyst to tech choices. Employees should be able to access exactly what they need when they need it – instant, seamless, and frictionless. That is the essence of time well saved.

Time Wasted

But, as with customer experiences, the worst thing you can do is waste employee time. For the most precious resource in your enterprise is the time of individual employees. And yet companies waste it all the time. We have employees fill out forms of information we already have. We ask them to go through hoops to access tools they need to do their jobs effectively. We rely heavily on email when there are other forms of instant collaboration that would allow for more focused activity.

In fact, Tim Stahl, VP of Experience at Rightpoint, recently wrote about the “Seven Tenets of Successful Dispersed Teams During COVID-19 and Beyond,” and the first three relate directly to how much easier it can be to waste employee time when they are working remotely. Tenet three in particular, “Exhibit good meeting etiquette,” provides a set of best practices and guidelines to follow for not wasting time in meetings. Now would be a good time to examine your employee processes, procedures, and technology to assess them purely from the standpoint of employee time. Where are you wasting employee time today, and how could you save employee time tomorrow? Eliminating time wasted and providing time well saved frees up employee time and company resources to offer remarkable experiences to your customers.

Time Well Spent

Just as your offerings start with the experience you envision for your customers – your employee experience should be experience-led as well. Start with the experience you envision for your employees, across all facets of their work and interactions, and then work backwards to ensure it is time well spent.

Continue this blog series here.