As I said in a previous article, it is often misunderstood who is the subject of the employee experience: it is not so much the employee that needs to be taken care of as the firm, what the employee is experiencing is only a symptom of a sick and dysfunctional firm.
In the same vein, there is often a misunderstanding as to who benefits from the employee experience. The employee? Yes…but not only. And maybe not even in the first place.
The employee benefiting from the experience…far from obvious
The subject of the experience used is the employee and is therefore logically the 1st beneficiary. This is obvious at first glance, but on closer inspection, it is no longer so obvious at all.
We have seen this and I will not elaborate on it any further that it is the primary subject or purpose of employee experience initiatives. It is, non-exhaustive list, by taking care of the company’s complications, its managerial shortcomings, its compartmentalization and a host of other subjects that are as many irritants with regard to employee experience that we have an impact on employees.
Then of course you can leave it alone and make sure that the employee is compensated outside of work, I mean outside of any productive work situation. A nice canteen, a gym, a game room…but as I often say, it’s like creating a spa next to the torture room, it only works for a while and at the end the performance of the employee and the company is played out in the torture room.
As for saying that the employee is the first beneficiary of the employed experience this should be true, or at least he should be among the beneficiaries as we will see later. But it is not or not always true, exactly because of the situation I have just described. When an employee feels that he has to carry the weight of the organization, that he has to fight against it in order to laboriously advance in his mission, can we say that he is a beneficiary of anything? At one point the spa helps to forget the frustration but it quickly returns as soon as he returns to his work station.
If we consider that people are employed to “produce something” and not to relax in a rest room and that it is on the first point that they will be evaluated, we cannot say that the employee is the first beneficiary of the employee’s experience. But in any case he should be.
No customer experience without employee experience
Let’s not forget that the reason we’ve come to talk about employee experience is because there has been a sudden explosion of interest in the customer experience and for many companies the one and only reason to invest in employee experience was to satisfy the customer. Employee experience for the sake of employee experience is a luxury that many can’t or won’t afford.
But here again, it all depends on what one puts into the employee’s experience.
At the base is the concept of attention and symmetry of attentions, which has long since been developed by the Academie du Service. Attention is good, but many people have a restrictive conception of it: attention is limited to how we look at people.
It is obvious that this is part of the concept. As Stephen Cannon, CEO of Mercedes Benz USA, said, “the customer experience follows the employee experience“, in other words, “if I don’t give my employees a Mercedes experience, they won’t be able to give it to the customers”. This is true. It is the logic according to which the limit of the quality of the relationship between the customer and the employee is equal to the limit of the relationship between the employee and his employer. Or, put another way, your employees will never give your customers what you don’t give them.
But for many things stop at the stage of good….attention.
But if you swamp your teams with overly heavy rules, with unsuitable tools (I’ll always remember this salesman in a store of my telephone operator who had to do 20 actions to make a modification on my subscription that I could do in one click online because on the customer side they had unified the subscription management front-office between TV, internet and phone while on the store side it was still different contracts and tools) they won’t be able to keep the promise you make to the customer. When an employee says “no”, “I don’t know, I have to ask” or “I’ll have to wait” while you have an immediate answer online, it’s not working. When these same people are waiting for the approval of people who are also stuck in processes that are too cumbersome in relation to their objectives, this is also not good.
Then indeed the client is one of the beneficiaries of the experience used as long as one follows his logic (the client does not take advantage of the Playstation in the rest room). The customer must moreover be the first beneficiary because it is from this moment that we can justify what we do at the level of the employee and the company.
The company, great beneficiary of the employee experience
It goes without saying, but it goes better when you say it: normally when things benefit the customer and the employee, the company benefits. And I would even say that it benefits in two ways.
First of all, because to satisfy others, to put the employee in the context that allows him to satisfy the customer, therefore, in satisfying the customer, it is necessary for the company to take care of itself. We are not just talking about immediate benefits, we are also talking about sustainable performance, because what is done at a systemic level will benefit all future employees and will not have to be done over again for each one.
Second, because it must derive obvious financial benefits. I surprise and even shock the purists when I say that the employee experience should be evaluated with three KPIs: customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and…EBITDA. An organization that is less frictional and more satisfying to its stakeholders should mechanically derive an increased operating margin from it. Otherwise there is a problem.
A Meaningful storytelling for the employee experience
I can tell you from experience, some initiatives that are part of an employee experience program are easier to implement than others.
As long as we’re talking about putting playstations in rest rooms, allocating budgets for “socialization” events, offering “goodies”, setting up a corporate concierge service…there’s no problem. Yes it costs money but it doesn’t bother anyone. At least up to a certain limit. If you want to redo all the offices it is certain that despite the “soft” (better working comfort) and “hard” (workplaces adapted to today’s working methods) advantages, it is certain that the budgetary dimension will change. But, in the meantime, you won’t disturb anyone in the way he works and makes others work.
But when you want to simplify your organization or redesign your managerial model… it becomes more complicated. You are tackling deeply rooted habits, jealously guarded or even totally opaque personal territories, and in the end you are dealing with such profound changes in routines, habits and what structures the company and how it operates. In order to have at least the support of management and ideally that of the professions, you better know how to tell your story. And this story is about the three beneficiaries of the employee experience.
This story starts with the customer. At least there you know there will be consensus. This client is made a promise. And then you have employees who have to keep it. Whether they’re in front of them in a store, whether they’re making the product in a factory, whether they’re in customer service, whether they’re in logistics, whether they’re in HR responsible for recruiting and developing the talent that helps serve the customer… they all contribute at one level or another to serving the customer.
Until then it will be difficult to object to anything. You have a customer to satisfy and employees who have this satisfaction as their objective, which is only normal, apart from admitting that everyone is concerned in one way or another and that you have to be consistent at all levels of the company.
These employees have needs to keep the promise made to the customer, to satisfy him. They need tools, processes, ways of working, ways of operating and collaborating, support from their colleagues and managers, they also need skills acquired or to be acquired, they need reasons for engagement…
You can also do the reverse work and ask yourself what they don’t need, or even what is preventing them from doing their job. And there you’ll find a lot of things that we find quite normal today in organizations, that we do without even asking ourselves questions and that generally rank high in the ranking of friction points and other organizational ills.
All these things must come from two sources. The manager and the company. Knowing that a manager also has his own manager and so on. The manager in a direct and I will say tactical way, the company at the “infrastructure” level. Here we are already introducing something new that looks like nothing at all, which makes it possible to define the role and mission of the manager in a more sensible way than what we can see here and there.
And all this makes sense from the moment we consider that both manager and company must serve the employee who serves the customer. And if some people have difficulty with this notion, ask yourself what happens if they don’t.
But this is not enough. The employee is entitled to expect things from the company and from his manager, but what about the manager, often caught between a rock and a hard place, in the middle of a paradoxical field of injunctions that make him responsible both for the fact that the employee fulfills his mission in relation to the client and for the fact that he puts in place an arsenal of things that prevent him from doing so.
The manager has the same right as the employee to expect things from the company. By this you mean management and support functions. A managerial policy, tools, talents or development system for them…that’s what I call infrastructure. This is everything that needs to be deployed on a large scale, in a coherent manner, to “motorize” managers’ initiatives, give meaning, align everyone with a common vision, etc… Things that most often cannot be the responsibility of the manager because of their size and the need for uniformity and consistency that is needed at the corporate level.
The customer has the right to expect things from the employees who, in turn, have the right to expect things from their manager who, in turn, has the right to expect things from the company.
Once you have all this (and we will see a very concrete example in a future article) you have a great story that allows you to justify a lot of things at all levels because nobody can question their validity unless they recognize that they are fooling the customer or leaving employees and/or managers to their own devices. Note that this is the case in many places but at least there it allows you to make it official!
A weapon to flush out the whims of leaders
This approach makes it possible to justify things, to give them meaning, but also to identify the false good ideas, the things not to be done! Among these are what I call “rulers’ whims” from which yours truly is not exempt.
When a company decides to go in a certain direction everyone has ideas about what to do and the top management as much as anyone else, except that they are more likely to see them implemented quickly. And I had the idea myself to set up such and such a thing, such and such a device, thinking that it would be “useful”, that it would be “good”.
Then I looked at the extent to which my ideas could fit into this storytelling and realized that some of them had no place in it.
Another way of putting it: I wanted to set up things that did not help the employee or the manager in any way to fulfill their mission. Maybe it would have worked, maybe it would have been of the best effect, maybe it would have been a nice story to tell on the stage of a conference but…. it would have been at best useless and at worst it would have been counterproductive by complicating people’s lives. Individual satisfaction or even selfish satisfaction may be, but in the end it would have been totally useless.
Moreover, but this is another subject and this is only my point of view, one of the causes (not the only one, unfortunately) of the growing complication of companies denounced by Yves Morieux, which constitutes one of the major irritants of the employee experience is due to these ideas coming from above or even from “simple” directors or managers who wanted to leave a trace, to imprint their mark, without ever asking themselves the question of the usefulness and impact of what they wee doing.
In conclusion, the employee experience must offer clear benefits to the customer, the employee and the company. Aligned benefits, moreover, otherwise the meaning of the approach is lost and its impact along with it.