Winning the hearts and minds of employees
Winslow Wong 

Hoping to improve customer experience, organisations clog our email inboxes with customer satisfaction surveys asking about our latest store visits or online transactions. Robocalls – phone calls using computerised auto-diallers to deliver pre-recorded messages – constantly annoy us at the most inconvenient times, often while we’re busy at work or enjoying our meals. Even social media is not immune, as some of the largest social networks have rolled out poll capabilities for users.

Organisations go to great lengths to better understand their customers’ goals, challenges and needs because they recognise these critical factors greatly impact the overall customer experience. They’re fully aware that consistently positive customer experiences lead to long-term relationships, whereas consistently negative experiences result in high churn.

Winning the hearts and minds of customers is imperative in today’s fiercely competitive business landscape, but what some organisations often forget is that their employees are their first – and most important – customers. Therefore, focusing on employee experience is even more critical than evaluating customer experience. The time, budget and resources an organisation dedicates to enhancing customer experience should never be more than what it invests in enhancing employee experience.

New-age workers are approaching the workplace as consumers. They want the same experiences in the workplace that they have as consumers, such as having the use of simple, intuitive technology, the ability to rate and share opinions about products and services, and direct access to decision-makers.

In the early 2000s, employers were most interested in employee satisfaction, but around 2010, the focus shifted to employee engagement. However, in recent years, employers are beginning to see satisfaction and engagement are just smaller components of what their workforce cares about: employee experience.

Focusing on employee satisfaction or employee engagement isn’t enough these days, particularly when it comes to managing a multigenerational workforce. With the fierce tug-of-war for talent, particularly in emerging disciplines, organisations need to differentiate themselves by recognising the relationship between customer experience and employee experience. To provide unique, positive customer-like experiences, business leaders must create an environment where employees not only feel valued, but are able to perform their jobs effectively.

So what is employee experience and why does it matter to organisations? Employee experience is the sum of all interactions an employee has with his employer. It is the organisational structure and culture and how the employee perceives the organisation overall and his role in it.

More specifically, employee experience is influenced by three things: the physical work environment, the tools and technologies an employer provides, and how it demonstrates its commitment to the employee’s success.

Top talent is hard to attract and even harder to keep. Having worked with some talented people over the years, I can safely say talent expects hyper-personalisation. In a world where almost anything can be customised, workers are demanding tailored talent practices and consumer grade worker experiences. They expect resources, development and advancement opportunities to be aligned with their professional and personal goals.

Also, money isn’t their only currency. They want more than a pay cheque; they demand greater flexibility, autonomy and learning opportunities. They value engagement, quality of life and status. They’re prepared to shop around for jobs that best align with their needs and lives. I recall asking a friend’s son who graduated from a foreign university almost a year earlier: “Where are you working now?”

“No, I’m happily unemployed. I’m not in a hurry to get a job for the time being. I’m still enjoying life. Frankly, I simply don’t like the jobs advertised,” he replied nonchalantly. That probably sums up the mentality of many young people – they rather enjoy life while shopping for jobs that best align with their needs and lives.

With the millennial mindset permeating the workforce, the younger workers’ expectations for greater flexibility, use of mobile tools and enhanced performance feedback have spread to other generations. Workers generally expect collaboration tools at the workplace while the younger generations prefer to use their personal hardware. Technology enables organisations to provide access to information and resources anywhere, anytime. Automation and artificial intelligence, coupled with advanced analytics, can increasingly be used to predict and pre-empt issues.

Recent research has confirmed that employees with plenty of positive experiences at the workplace are more likely to be productive, achieve higher customer satisfaction scores, produce higher levels of quality, and have lower absenteeism and attrition rates.

How can organisations make their employees happier and more loyal? The answer is to ramp up efforts to win the hearts and minds with great employee experiences. Organisations need to evaluate the close connection between their employees’ physical, social and cultural environments, as well as the tools and relationships they need to get work done. They should pay more attention to designing employee experiences that not only attract and retain crucial talent, but that optimise individual and collective potential.

Organisations need to take a disciplined, insight-driven approach to transform their HR or broader business services to help increase talent engagement and productivity. Start by tuning into the voice of your employees using analytics. For example, apply similar techniques used in measuring and evaluating customer experience to gauge employee experience. Traditional employee HR information, semi-structured engagement surveys and unstructured comments from internal and external social platforms can provide insights into potential solutions to experience challenges.

Analytics can also help organisations develop insights about specific segments of their workforce, identify changes in physical and social environments, amplify employee voice and address productivity issues.

Making changes to employee experience often requires investment. Business owners and management need to invest in key touchpoints where employee experience has the greatest impact. For instance, companies in labour-intensive industries can focus on recruiting and onboarding processes as they often have a significant impact on attracting and retaining top talent. For other companies, experiences related to project assignments and career development
will more notably impact retention and productivity.

Winslow Wong is a corporate trainer and communications consultant. Comments:

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 266.