Employee Experience: Taking a Page from the Customer Experience Playbook

Hands on a laptop with an overlay of text that says approach your employee experience like a marketer

Companies across industries are racing to provide the ultimate customer experience, with many viewing it as the main battleground for earning today’s business.

The investment is paying off for brands that are transforming their customer experiences—Adobe research found companies on average reported a 4% higher revenue growth, complemented by a 1.9x higher year-over-year growth in customer retention, repeat purchases, and average order value compared to businesses that are not investing in the customer experience.

These results are not easily earned, however, and the process involves advanced data analysis to track the customer journey and optimize each step. Often, there are three or more pre-purchase customer touchpoints that marketers have to track, and purchase cycles can easily take more than four months for some industries.

Despite these hurdles, companies are doing everything they can to win on the customer experience. But what if companies applied these same strategies to transform another key experience in a company—the employee experience? In many cases, a company’s employees are not receiving the same focus as the customers, and it’s hurting your bottom line.

To truly be future-ready, companies must invest in both the customer and the employee experience to reach optimal business performance. Luckily, you can take a page from the customer experience playbook to transform your employee experience.

The Employee Experience Disconnect

Company technologies are a large source of frustration for modern employees, especially since these technologies and the associated workflows are often set in complex internal systems that are designed with the job function or company in mind, not the employees themselves.

Businesses are in varying states of digital transformation, attempting to adopt technologies needed to stay competitive and better understand their customers. By layering more and more technologies into a company, though, this often creates a highly disjointed and frustrating tech environment for your team members. An all too common result of this bad employee experience means:

  • 70% of workers report having to enter the same data in multiple systems just to get their job done
  • The average number of systems that workers must access as part of their day-to-day has risen from 8 to 11
  • 27% of surveyed workers estimate they lose up to an entire day every week on irrelevant emails and messages

As consumers, we would not do business with a company that had us jump through so many hoops—and largely waste our time—but as employees, this is, unfortunately, the reality. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, businesses that invest in their employee experience have unlocked a 22% higher employee engagement, a 4x greater likelihood that their team members will stay at the company, and a 12% increase in customer satisfaction.

Putting Customer Experience Best Practices to Work for Your Employees

These results are achieved by implementing many of the same marketing best practices just for an internal audience, which arguably makes the process easier.

Step 1: Document Your Team Personas

For a successful employee experience initiative, you cannot view your team as a single entity, nor can you view them in departmental or regional silos. Instead, think like a marketer.

Your company is filled with different “personas” that each have different needs and different experiences with your company, and many of these personas rely on each other to complete their work.

Documenting the unique personas in your company is the first way to understand the current needs and aspirations of your team. When building your personas, consider these unique elements of your employees:

  • Job function
  • Office location
  • Demographic information relevant to services you provide or accommodations you can make (i.e., new team members may need access to different resources than more seasoned team members)
  • Remote or deskless workers

There is no definitive number of personas you should have, as long as you have accurately captured the intricate nuances of how your team prefers to receive information and work. Keep in mind that some team members will fall under multiple personas.

For starters, here are six common employee personas to consider and why they are important:

  • Marketing and Inside Sales
    • Working directly with your customer prospects and the public, these teams can have the best pulse on how your company is performing in the public eye, but only if they can actually access everything that is available to the public. For example, some financial services companies block access to the internet, restricting access to just the company intranet.
  • Engineers
    • The backbone of a company, engineers can face immense pressure in finishing projects, and may often have their work completely scrapped for a new direction, which carries a unique frustration that other personas may not face. The way they prefer to communicate may also differ greatly from your other personas.
  • Field/Retail Sales
    • The way these team members access information is likely different than your other team members. They need on-the-go tools and resources, and likely want information in bite-size pieces. For example, a retail worker won’t want to read a spec sheet on a new item, they want a video that highlights the main points.
  • HQ Professional Staff/Desk-based Employees
    • These employees are literally the closest to your company and have unique opportunities to engage in in-person activities. Setting a precedent for how you approach moments that matter is crucial so you are consistent in your treatment of any team members in close working proximity.
  • Remote Workers
    • These team members need to access all technology offsite and will be unable to attend most live events or meetings. Additionally, they may need access to a unique set of resources depending on where they are based, and there may be unique language considerations if they are international.
  • Managers
    • Not only do managers have personal development needs, but they are also responsible for overseeing team members who use the manager as a resource for information.

The key with each of these personas is to think through how you can segment and create enough different employee sets so that you’re giving everyone a great experience without leaving anyone out. If you’d like to learn more about how to research and document personas, check out this blog post on the topic.

Step 2: Audit Your Existing Employee Experience

With your team personas documented, it’s time to gauge their current experience at your company. Here’s how.

ENGAGE IN PASSIVE LISTENING ON OWNED CHANNELS

Start by passively monitoring any company-owned channels, like your company intranet, to see what resources your team is commonly seeking, and where there may be potential areas to improve. Look into everything from:

  • Resources that your team is most often accessing
  • How long it takes to complete tasks (if tech is enabled to monitor this)
  • IT help tickets
  • Common topics on company message boards and employee forums

PROACTIVELY COLLECT FEEDBACK

With the baseline information from your passive listening in hand, you can then take a more proactive approach to expand on this data. Your goal is to gather as much qualitative feedback as possible to identify existing pain points and possible solutions. A few ways to accomplish this include:

  • Regularly review pertinent HR metrics, such as turnover rate. Considering both company-wide stats and persona-specific data that could hint at a disconnect in the employee experience for specific groups of workers
  • Proactively survey employees on a regular basis, whether quarterly or yearly
  • Encourage feedback ecosystems with managers and individual contributors
  • Connect 1:1 with identified employee advocates to learn more about how you can improve their experience
  • Shadow employees to understand what a “day in the life” really entails, and detail the touchpoints and the associated difficulty of each throughout the day

EXAMPLE EMPLOYEE JOURNEY FEEDBACK QUESTIONS

When you’re engaging in the above activities, it’s important to ask smart questions that give you a full picture of the employee experience. Consider asking these in your surveys or during your interviews:

  • What do you hope to accomplish in your role?
  • What teams do you often interact with?
  • What do you like about your work?
  • What currently frustrates you about your work?
  • What can we do to improve your experience?

The information you uncover in this process should identify what is currently working in your organization, and areas that are causing unintended stress or redundancies that limit your team’s ability to perform at their best.

Layer this information into your employee persona drafts as relevant, and validate that the personas you initially identified accurately capture the full scope of your team. Then you’re ready for the next step in transforming your employee experience.

Step 3: Document Your Employee Journeys

With your newfound insight on each of your personas, the next step is to visualize this information in an employee journey map.

These employee journey maps detail the key activities of a persona, the technology they use, the other teams they work with, key milestones along the way, and emotions they may feel at each step. Assess everything from recruiting and onboarding, to promotions and life changes, on through offboarding to capture a complete picture of the employee journey.

EXAMPLE EMPLOYEE JOURNEY MAP FORMATS

There is no single way to document this information, but you can learn a lot from how other companies map both their employee and customer journeys. Here are a few different ways that companies can approach their maps:

This example from UXPressia can easily be replicated in any spreadsheet and has headers that detail the various stages of an interview journey for internal candidates. Incredibly simple, but useful, this clearly states the steps in the process, the associated business goals, and the expectations that the persona has (subtly hinting that missing these expectations will detract from the experience).

Davidson takes a different direction with this example, which highlights the key persona details on the left side of the map and key moments on an easy-to-read chart. While light on text, the map clearly details what the employee is thinking and feeling at each step, and the communications channels that the company can use to address the employee’s needs.

Although this map from Heart of the Customer is a customer experience map, it serves as an inspiration for what you could do with an employee experience map. Far more detailed than the previous two examples (which does not necessarily make the map “better”), this charts how long each phase may take, the goal associated with each, how various touchpoints impact the experience, and a gauge of current customer satisfaction.

These are just a few thought-starters, and whichever format your team decides to try, start small with the map and then scale as you get more comfortable with the process. These maps are meant to be living documents, and you should regularly assess whether they still reflect your employee journey.

Put Your Technology Work for You and Your Employees

Once everything is documented, refocus your attention on the technology that your personas use and what tech should be implemented or altered to increase employee satisfaction.

Look at the day-to-day activities of your employees and explore their intent with each of their activities. What are they trying to accomplish with their tasks, and how do they complete them? A lot of the time, you’ll find that it will require multiple steps across multiple systems for a team member to do their job, better informing the multitude of areas you can explore.

As with any digital transformation, this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Identify your “critical” tech needs and prioritize those to immediately reduce some strain on the team, but understand that some items will be more aspirational than immediately accessible.

When budgets are tight, consider adopting tech that could be used as a stepping stone, or something that can at least provide a clean interface for your otherwise disparate and disjointed tech solutions.

Continue to gauge your employee experience to identify other areas you can address, and update the team on the changes you have in the pipeline and how those changes are meant to make work easier or more fulfilling for them.

With happy employees, you’re more likely to have new advocates on your side, both providing the best service to customers and championing your brand in personal and professional realms. There is a synergy when you focus on both CX and the employee experience, making it a win for you, your employees, and your customers.

If you’d like to hear more about how to transform your employee experience—including additional examples of customer journey maps and a deeper dive on how to use technology to enable this process—check out the free on-demand webinar replay of my recent webinar on this topic over at CMSWire.

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