These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Talent Think Tank (TTT) held on Thursday 12th March 2015 hosted by TalkTalk’s Gemma Jones (Global Talent Lead) titled ‘Creating a Great Employee Experience by Borrowing from the Customer Model’.
The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR and Talent professionals from leading national and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.
Many companies now have Marketing teams who use sophisticated and successful methods to attract, engage and retain customers. However, currently little to none of these processes are being utilised for the benefit of employees, even though most companies realise the value of their staff population. This summary aims to discover which aspects of the customer model could be borrowed to improve employee experience, something that is particularly relevant in the current candidate driven market.
It is worth bearing in mind that the employment market has changed. Many employees are no longer looking for a job for life, instead they are looking for an experience where they gain as many skills as possible. The question is how can the business ensure employees get the best experience possible whilst with the company, in the hope they may come back one day (potentially with a larger skill base) or be advocates of the brand. Another important consideration for the business is how can they get the most value out of employees within the shorter time frame that they do stay with the company?
- The employment environment has changed – it is VUCA – volatile, uncertain , complex and ambiguous. Businesses need to adapt to this to keep up and be seen as innovative
- Creating a level of consistency across the business for how employees are treated. This helps when assigning employees to new projects / departments, they have a degree of knowledge for what to expect
- Human capitalisation rate – are organisations unlocking the full potential of employees? If not could changing their experience to be more like the customers’ experience help this? Even if an employee will no longer be with a company in 10 years will changing their experience get the most out of them in just two years?
- Increase of “boomerang” candidates who come back to the business having picked up new skills that the company could not necessarily teach them
- Increase of employee advocacy leading to attraction of new candidates and customers
- Collecting data on employees in the same way it is collected on customers can lead to better insights on what employees need but also whether the right employees, who are relatable to the consumer, are in customer facing roles – clients have more trust in someone they can relate to
- Increase of employee engagement and well-being which is found to increase productivity and happiness of employees.
When a company starts looking at employees more like customers or volunteers to their organisation and appreciating them in this way the employee experience is likely to improve. But realistically what aspects of the customer model will work within the employment model?
Learnings from the customer experience
Marketers know that the key to understanding what the customer wants is understanding who they are. If employers aren’t finding out who their employees are how do they know what progression they want / what type of work or environment suits them. Gathering data on employees is essential to create the right opportunities for them. Are companies collecting data on who employees want to be, where they want to go and the type of company they want to work for? Workday is an example of a system that could be used internally to collect this data.
When gathering data from employees it is essential to communicate how it will be used and that no punishment will be given from answers. Instead, the data can be used to decide on the career paths and experiences that should be offered. Not everyone wants to be the CEO but that is ok! Employees need to trust that they can communicate the career path they want without being chastised. Before collecting data companies need to ensure they have a clear strategy for how it is going to used so that employees don’t just feel like nothing will be done with the information and that they are wasting their time.
Marketers have started targeting consumers on a more personalised basis. Companies also need to understand that all employees are not the same and should therefore not be put into one bucket. However, is personalisation of employees’ experiences possible without incurring far too larger costs? Instead could segmentation methods be used to understand groups of employees? Something that would be easier to replicate for employees are the personalised communication methods used for customers. For example when employees are getting in contact with another team, such as HR, a CRM (such as Salesforce) can be used to ensure their interactions are as positive as possible.
Another aspect of the customer model that could benefit employers and employees is selling the benefits of change. For example when a new system is being implemented throughout the company do companies sell the benefits of it or just tell employees they need to start using it? Communicating the positive aspects of the new system is far more likely to gain support and less resistance.
As discussed, employees are now looking for an experience where they can develop certain skills within an organisation and no longer stay in a job for life. If a company wants to retain top talent would it be wise to offer them different experiences within the organisation to satisfy this need? For example by moving them to different departments or setting them new projects to gain new skills and experiences. This would be rather than expecting them to stay in exactly the same role and department the whole time they are with the company. This requires internal mobility and confidence from managers to let their employees go to differing departments knowing that they can find talent to fill these roles.
Could companies learn from football leagues and swap employees to gain experience in each other’s environments and then come back to their organisation. The employee will add value to both organisations if they are talented and can bring different skills and knowledge but are businesses willing to swap their great talent? There has to be trust that companies would not just dump people that they did not want.
Manager’s role in the employee experience
Should managers be measured on things such as employee engagement of their teams? It is often up to the manager to influence how their team feels about the company and their experience within it. Giving employees a chance to develop and express their needs is essential in the same way marketers listen to customers. Would having people managers rather than technical experts as managers work better for understanding employees and ensuring they are getting the experience they need? Managers also need to support employees transitioning between new experiences in the way they would support new starters.
In terms of replicating the customer experience for candidates should the marketing department own the recruitment function? They understand the importance of experience for every customer / candidate and may well be good to learn from for this to ensure candidates are getting the most positive experience.
- Companies often come up with an EVP (Employer Value Proposition) for what they say they are but is this reflective of reality? If it isn’t how easy is a cultural transformation or should the EVP be more realistic to stop people joining with the wrong expectations? Marketing use sites such as trip advisor to measure what people are saying about their brand. Are employees using social media or Glassdoor to measure the reality of what employees think of the company?
- Market changes – we may be in a candidate driven market at the moment but what if we fell back into recession and this changes? Would these approaches still be relevant and sustainable?
- Gaining senior management buy in may be tricky if they see this as being costly and not beneficial if the employees will not be staying with the company for a long period of time.
- Organisations are stuck in their ways that they give certain salaries to certain levels but if they don’t offer current employees what they want they may leave. Then costs are incurred in hiring someone to fill the role, often at a higher salary to be at the same level as the person who just left. Is the drive for no longer having a job for life due to the jump between organisations leading to a pay rise. Can organisations offer this on new projects rather than waiting for pay reviews?
- Changing managers’ mindsets that if someone leaves they are not loyal and are tarnished – this is a traditional view. 80% of cultural change projects fail due to lack of leadership alignments. Training and communication to managers is crucial.
- Are senior managers willing to let profitability drop for a certain period of time while the change happens knowing that the profit increase will be larger post-change – is that trust there?
- Do companies have the tools and processes in place for collecting and analysing employee data?
- If the company encourages employees to leave the business and come back with new skills one day how can it keep this alumni engaged? Some companies are using LinkedIn groups for this.
- Globalisation – companies cannot just assume that what works in some countries will work in others. This is why the data and a true understanding of all employees, by region, is essential.
- What if the company’s customer experience isn’t perfect? Could having a better employee experience than customer experience create negative publicity or will a better employee experience lead to a better customer experience?
- Until the baby boomers retire from running businesses will change happen? They are often very traditional in the way they do things and it is hard to change behaviours. If these people are at the top of the organisation will this sort of innovative change happen?
- Measuring human capitalisation rate
- Engagement surveys – discovering employee’s honest views on the brand and company
- Measuring the number of employees who come back to the business and tracking their success
- Retention – even if assessed for a shorter time period – eg. bad retention rate would be a high number of leavers after 2 months and good retention would be a high number of employees staying more than a year.
To conclude, there are many elements of the customer model that HR teams should be borrowing to ensure they fully understand and can support their workforce. The employment market has changed and the sooner companies realise this and adapt the more likely they are to attract and retain top talent whilst ensuring they capitalise on current employee productivity levels, engagement and well-being.