What is the impact of a bad employee experience?

We recently reviewed the “14 wounds” of employee experience, the 14 major stress points that deteriorate employee experience. For the record:

But before asking how to correct this we need to know if it’s worth it. Everything has a cost, and it is in the light of the expected benefits that we know whether we are throwing money away or investing.

Declining efficiency and productivity

I know that when we talk about the subject many people start by pointing out issues of image and engagement. These subjects are not to be neglected but from my point of view they come after, or even are only consequences of the rest.

From my point of view, and this is why I became interested in the subject, the first consequence of a bad employee experience is measured in terms of productivity, costs, profitability. And I wish anyone who will tell me that these are old-world indicators to never have to run a business in a time of crisis, a very useful exercise to get a sense of reality and decontaminate from the teddy bear virus.

At the individual level, whether we are talking about the white-collar executive or even the blue-collar worker, a bad employee experience is a waste of time and, more generally, an extra effort to achieve the same result. This is the very definition of non-productivity.

A company that proposes a bad employee experience decides slowly, executes slowly individually and collectively, hardly being collectively more effective than the sum of the individualities.

If there is only one reason to be interested in the subject it is this one. If you only need to keep one image in mind it is that of a person you ask to run faster and faster while you’re putting a ball and chain on their feet yourself!

Customer satisfaction at low level

The immediate consequence of an inefficient employee or, generally speaking, of an employee who spends more time fighting against his organization, against a company that he is dragging like a millstone behind him, is generally an unsatisfied customer.

On the customer side, this takes the form of an unqualified or unpersonalised customer relationship. It is also materialized by the inability to propose a solution or an answer in the moment because it is necessary to ask, to have validated, to have the authorization, to have access to the right information. The worst in history is when it is possible on the Internet to get information immediately when we are in front of a human in an agency, a store or on the phone we are asked to wait, to fill out a file, we are told that we will have an answer “soon”.

Just keep in mind this equation: bad employee experience = employee perceived as useless by the customer in front of him. And in this particular case the empowerment of the employee in front of the client which often seems the most obvious answer does not work because if things go wrong in the field it is usually the consequence of dysfunctions that accumulate all along the chain, from top to bottom.

Unhappy shareholders

Numbers don’t lie, and I like these ones a lot.

Since 1965 the return on invested capital has been constantly decreasing (ROA = Return on Assets, ROIC = Return on invested capital).

And by the way, productivity is no longer increasing!

And all this while:

  • Computers have invaded the business world
  • We’ve never stopped increasing the intensity of the work…


For my part, I illustrate the issue of labour intensity and investment with a cycling metaphor. We invest in increasingly expensive bicycles and we pedal faster and faster but we go slower and slower. Instead of attacking the cyclist, look at the chain and the transmission.

In 1987 Robert Solow, Nobel Laureate in Economics, said “you can see the computer age everywhere except in productivity statistics“.

By this he didn’t mean that IT did not bring anything in terms of productivity, but that we hadn’t adopted it to work better.

This is one of the conclusions of the “Big Shift”, the Deloitte study that in early 2010 highlighted the decline in ROA. We have the technology but we are not using it to work better and differently.

So what in the company is seen as a complication, what on the customer’s side is seen as a poor service and a poor relationship quality, is logically seen on the financial side as an investment that pays less and less.

For once, let’s not pit the shareholder and the employee against each other, let’s make the most of it! Because what would make the investment more profitable would be what simplifies the life of the employee and improves customer satisfaction.

Declining employee engagement and a deteriorated employer brand

The logical consequence of all this is less and less committed employees and it is not necessary to be a Nobel Prize winner to establish the causal link between these factors:

  • An employee who spends more and more time fighting against the organization than doing his job and thinking about the customer.
  • An employee who sees that we are investing more and more in the customer experience but not in the employee experience and who feels like a cuckold for the story

In short, when you make efforts, that in spite of these efforts the results are not up to scratch and that those who blame you for these results are those who prevent you from achieving them, there is no reason to be happy.

So a bad experience leads to disengagement and I’m not going to give you the figures that have been published and commented on many times about the level of employee engagement and the impact this has on productivity, absenteeism, customer satisfaction and so on.

And finally and only comes the question of the employer brand. Finally, because I don’t think that in 2020 a company will have any direct power over its employer brand. The company only controls what it says, not its brand. Its brand, as with the commercial brand, is no longer a matter of communication but of experience: it is what the employee or candidate experiences and what they will share around them. The employer brand is no longer what the company tells but the difference between what it promises and what the employee experiences.

No matter how you look at it, employee experience is a much more operational than qualitative concept whose impact justifies looking at it with a different eye than a simple “well being” or “happiness at work” program.

Photo : Bad employee experience de pathdoc via Shutterstock

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
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

Recent posts