Being digital in 2018 : consumerize your organization

The gap between what’s being done for the client and what’s being done for the employee is one of the major hurdle to digital transformation. It’s not about employees being jealous of clients (even if it would be justified) but it’s obvious that when employees know what’s done on one side and what’s not done on theirs, what’s spent for the ones and what’s not for the others because of low budgets, frustration and disengagement are close.

Digital transformation starts with customer experience

Either one like it or not, think it’s a good thing or not, we must admit that digital transformation always starts with the customer. That’s the facts and they die hard.

Then, employees will be addressed in an uncertain way :

• not at all because they are a cost and must learn to do with what they’re given.

• as late as possible but it’s unavoidable.

• right after the customer. It’s mandatory but a business can’t afford to address both at the same time.

• at the same time as the customer when the business is clear-sighted and have enough resources.

• when the client oriented approach collapses, what inescapably happens when businesses chose “as late as possible” or “never”.


Employees are customers that go through the office (or branch) door

Businesses say their customers are highly digitized. They intensively use technology, at least what’s useful to them but that’s not what matters. What matters is that technology made them adopt new behaviors and have new expectations as they experienced things over time. That’s what’s called customer experience.

This experience consists on easily available information and services, mobility, fluidity, being considered as a stakeholder (product reviews/rating), simplicity, efficiency and engagement.

The problem as businesses see it is that, in front of digitized customers, their employees aren’t digitized at all.

Considering that this statement is true would mean that the world is made of professional customers, who don’t work, and professional workers who don’t consume.

So there’s something wrong in such a reasoning.

It stands in one word : the context. The human, technological, organizational, cultural, managerial context in which people work.

I always said that technology does not change anything, did not change anything. That’s how people adopted it that changed everything, driving new behaviors and expectations. and regarding this point, the customer’s context is not the employee’s one. Said with other words there is no consistence between customer and employee experience. The point is not how digitized employees are but the fact they can’t transcribe at work the behaviors they have at home, what frustrates them and influences their performance.

One could retort that businesses are not to please employees and that employees are here to do their job with what they’re given. It could be true if it was just a matter of comfort, well-being or anything of this kind. But it’s not.

Why employees must be given a customer-like context.

When :

• customers have more information than employees

• customers can do things faster than employees

• employees can’t keep the promise made to the customer, or not as the promised speed.

• either working at the HQ or in stores or branches in front of the customer, employees are asked to think and deliver customer experiences they don’t experience themselves at work and can’t picture what it means and what it could look like.

• the tools given to the customer to do any action are simpler and more efficient than those given to the employee to perform the same action

….the organization has a triple problem.

• An efficiency one. When employees are asked to run faster and that organization, tools, processes slow them down, it does not work. They have enough to do dealing with complicated customers, competitors, external factors and don’t need their employer to add hurdle. What’s funny is that all this lost time is paid time.


• A sensemaking one. How to design and understand somethings one has no concrete experienced example of to refer to ?

• An engagement one. When one has difficulties doing his job and can’t make sense of it, it ends with frustration and disengagement.


Digitization is consumerization

Everything that’s done for the customer will be done sooner or later for the employee. And the sooner the better. Most so-called new ideas, products and concepts that are emerging in the employee landscape are things that are at least 5 years old in the customer one and that internal functions are discovering all of a sudden, with a brand new package and branding. But with a closer look it’s nothing than copy/paste of things that are successful on the customer side. That’s a good thing but it’s important to be aware of it to move forward and draw conclusions fast.

What to do for your employees ? Everything you did for the customers. Make things simpler and easier, meet their needs and even make work enjoyable. Lead by the example by treating employees the way you want them to treat customers and think about them. You’ll see that they’ll go faster, will understand why and will even come with ideas to go further.

Adopt a customer-provider approach with employees

The tipping point to an organization that would be as digital as its external environment is a mindset shift : treat employees as if they were customers.

• What are their pain points when getting their work done?

• What is the value proposition of the various initiatives, programs, processes, tools implemented for them ? What benefits to the organization only and not to the employee will be at best ignored, at worse rejected, and often circumvented.

Employees consume the organization, its tools, its rules to get their work done. Who consumes something that does not meet any need and even goes against one’s needs ?

Where to start ?

Everything starts (and if you had to do only one thing do this one) with business processes simplification and dealing with day-to-day irritants. Once again : the goal is not to please people but make them more efficient (by the way once you’ve made them more efficient they will be pleased…). Businesses adapted to a complex world by adding complication and we’re seeing the limits of such approaches.

You’re not paying people to make them waste their time or lose it in tedious administrative tasks. The problem is that, to make their own life easier, many support functions transferred a part of their tasks to employees and we’ve reached a grotesque situation where those who are supposed to support become the burden of those they’re supposed to help.

At the heart of the approach : service. Does employees experience the organization and its processes like services they trigger to empower them or constraints they suffer from ? From the answer you will know how long the road will be.

You can decide to ask people to perform better and complicate their life at the sale time. It’s ok if you assume the consequences.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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