Employee Experience—Cornerstone of a Successful Digital Transformation
“Employee experience” is a catch-phrase in business that we don’t hear or talk about enough. Ask any business executive, though, and they’ll tell you the employee experience matters profoundly, and they won’t hesitate to say that employees are their most valuable assets. In fact, 90% of leaders believe an effective engagement strategy has an impact on business success. Yet how many do you think have actually implemented an employee engagement strategy? Believe it or not, the number is a dismal 25%, which explains why just 13% of employees around the world are actively engaged at work, and more than twice that number are so disengaged they’re likely to spread negativity to others. And let’s be clear: a disengaged workforce puts the success of your digital transformation strategy at great risk. So what can we do? In part 1 of this series, we explored how technology used strategically can help companies deliver consistent, personalized and memorable customer experiences. But focusing on CX isn’t enough. Companies need to excite employees and directly engage them in their DX journeys. This means following the CX playbook and creating superior experiences for employees. Welcome to EX!
Employee Experience (EX) as a Strategic Priority
Employee experience needs to be as much of a strategic priority as the customer experience but first we need to define it. The way I see it, a meaningful employee experience sets employees up for success in three critical areas: culture, technology and working space. Let’s explore.
A recent report by Deloitte states that a new social contract has emerged between employee and employer that suggests “employers must provide development more quickly, move people more regularly, provide continuous cycles of promotion, and give employees more tools to manage their own careers.” This tells me that leaders of thriving cultures aren’t pointing to a handbook and saying, “This is how we do things,” rather they’re turning to their employees and asking, “How do you think we do things?” See the difference? That’s EX.
I liken an employee’s experience with a company to a customer’s experience on their buying journey. Every interaction matters. An employee’s experience doesn’t end when the onboarding process does. On the contrary, that’s when the heavy lifting begins. From an employee’s first contact as a candidate to the final exchange on that last day of employment—it’s our job to inspire, motivate, develop and reward. Quite frankly, it’s our job to DELIGHT. Employees are our strongest brand advocates when they’re employed with us. Value and prioritize their experience consistently, and they’ll remain advocates long after their employment contract ends.
Leveraging Technology to Create a Superior Employee Experience
I think we can all agree: technology is both a gift and a curse. There’s a reason why 2/3 of today’s employees feel overwhelmed. The workplace is “always on” and the line between work and life has all but disappeared. Leaders need to acknowledge that the days of having employees report into the same physical location to perform their jobs is an antiquated model that diminishes employee engagement. To this end, companies must focus on work/life integration and give employees the flexibility and ability to work when, where and how they need to. By investing in the right technologies, companies will find that communication and collaboration among these “anywhere workers” can and will soar. In fact, a recent global survey commissioned by Polycom found that productivity and teamwork are both significantly improved when employees can choose where they work.
In addition to enabling flexibility, technology today can help resolve employee pain points. These are the day-to-day frustrations brought about by outdated systems and applications that inevitably impede performance, weaken team collaboration and slow results. Think about it: how can leaders justify employees having access to better technology in their personal lives than they do in their professional lives? Smart investments in newer technology must be a priority if we expect to increase productivity; build strong, collaborative working environments; boost engagement; and strengthen EX. It’s time to arm employees with e-learning, file sharing, team whiteboards, forums, wikis, org & project management tools, live streaming between offices, videoconferencing, chat, and more. The tech is all there.
Finally, it’s important to remember that no digital transformation is possible without preparing employees for change … and a lot of it. Employees are no longer hired to stay in one role for the duration of their time at any company. This means fostering a culture of communication and continuous learning. I’ve read that learning is now a company’s “steel bridge.” To this end, companies need to invest in learning and knowledge sharing to ensure employees have the skills needed to keep up with fast paced and dynamic environments.
Case in point: AT&T began an initiative to retrain its workforce for the future. When the company realized that fewer than 50% of its massive workforce had the necessary STEM skills to stay competitive and 100,000 of their workers were in jobs focused on hardware, they had a choice to make: hire new people or reskill their existing workforce. The decision was an easy one to make considering the median cost of replacing a worker is so high. Plus, retraining means retaining institutional knowledge, which is critical to every company. AT&T calls this effort: Future Ready. I call it a solution with empathy. The “out with the old and in with the new” is not a sustainable business model because change is happening too quickly. Let’s also acknowledge that it lacks compassion for people, which is not an attribute you want associated with your brand. As AT&T and many other companies are discovering, if you give employees a chance to grow and develop and you invest in their learning, you’ll be rewarded with their trust and loyalty and that’s equal to earning a customer’s trust and loyalty. Remember, EX and CX go hand in hand and the success of your DX strategy hinges on absolutely nailing the former.
In the final part of this series, we’ll talk about Marketing’s evolution in the digital age and how the CMO role is transforming faster than any other leadership position.