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The ‘experience economy’ includes your employees

By Ron Thomas

In the Experience Economy, the customer is the innovator, not the enterprise. Technology lets customers create very personalized experiences. As people become more comfortable and facile with technology, they will create new ways of managing their daily lives and online experiences. And they will expect that kind of flexibility from every company they do business with..

That statement was from Hussein M. Dajani, General Manager, Digital and Customer Experience Transformation, Africa, Middle East, Turkey and India, for Nissan, and most importantly a dear friend and true visionary in the space of digital marketing.

Employees are the customers

But as I read that phrase from one of his recent posts, what struck me was that if we change the words customer and people to employee and employees, it’s just as relevant. The experience economy reverberates through our organizations. Employees are expecting the same kind of flexibility from our organizations.

If any organization ignores their customers and their feedback, they are doomed. The corporate graveyards are filled with great, once renowned brands that were at the top of their game, but now are reduced to a wistful logo — with teardrops.

This same fate will befall organizations today that are not listening and sensing what is going on with their workforce. It appears many of our organizations have developed blindspots. We think we are at the top of our game, but the “emperor has no clothes.” We use superficial surveys to gauge how we are doing and we think we can bribe our employees with free coffee or some other perk. Viola! we have responded.

Grow the people

If it were that easy we would have a workforce where productivity would be through the roof; creative solutions would put us at the top of the pyramid of our industry. I often ask audiences, which is more important: customer feedback or employee feedback? Customer engagement or employee engagement?

I recently saw a video in which Howard Behar, Starbucks’ former president, said, basically, that to grow the business you have to grow the people. My thought exactly. Are we all in or partially in?

The reasons we place such intensity on the customer experience can be viewed through the same marketing lens to show how they relate equally to our most important asset.

Employee Experience: The key to success

The employee engagement experience encapsulates what people encounter, observe or feel over the course of their employee journey at an organization. Is it a creative environment? Do we trust each other? Are decisions made through the filter of the experience of the employee?

In the last few years, understanding and optimizing the employee experience has emerged as a key priority for HR and business leaders. But what do we actually mean when we talk about employee experience? How can we connect the experience and the feedback loop that we have developed from our customers to transform our workforces?

I view this experience equation as a key element for an organization’s success. As the saying goes, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” each and every time.

What is the relationship between the individual and the organization? What is the candidate experience from the initial touchpoint though various milestones? Was the experience rewarding? Airbnb does an excellent job of this. Its approach was based on storyboarding. Jill Riopelle and her team examined their hiring process syncing customer experience to the candidate experience.

Understanding the employee experience

An employee’s experience journey extends from that very first touchpoint to the alumni network, with each encounter, each event adding to the overall experience.

The sheer diversity of experiences that fall within this journey – from interviewing and onboarding, through training and development and eventually exit – means that the employee experience is not static. In fact, it can vary from day to day. Because of this, it’s useful to think about employee experience in terms of key milestones in the employee lifecycle. Every organization is unique, but the touchpoints are mostly universal: hiring, onboarding, training, exiting, alumni, etc.

I can envision a feedback loop for every key milestone where we “pulse” that segment to gauge where we are in the journey. This could communicate to the employees that we are in full support mode, enabling them to be as successful as possible and are always exploring how we can enable them to reach their best self.

Where to start

Take for instance, the onboarding experience. This milestone is a critical step in inducting new employees into the culture of the organization. It an opportunity to introduce them to the people, tools and experiences that will help them be successful. When done well, it helps new starters reach their full potential faster and keeps them at the organization longer. On the other hand, an ineffective onboarding process can hold individuals back, so it takes a lot longer for them to start making a real contribution to the business.

When designing a feedback program to understand and improve the employee experience, these touchpoints, which span the entire journey, can make a good starting point. But you must see them – even feel them – as the customers, your employees, do:

  • Candidate experience: What is it like to apply?
  • Onboarding experience: Is it effective?
  • Employee experience: Multiple milestones, measure and evaluate.
  • Alumni experience: After they leave, what is the strategy to stay connected?

Help is down the hall

Your organization likely is already doing these type initiatives, but with and for your external customers. Partner with this team – you’ll find them in marketing and sales. Have them educate you on this process and use their help to develop your engagement experience. In this intense talent vortex, it is that important.

Someone recently asked me how companies can train employees to be adaptable. My response was this is the wrong question. People are born adaptable. The competitive niche of humans as a species is our ability to adapt to changing environments. It is called learning. The question is not how to teach people to adapt, but how to manage people in a way that unleashes our innate adaptive abilities.

Historically, companies focused on staffing jobs and managing people to maximize their productivity. People are most productive when they are doing things they already know how to do. Management methods built around productivity emphasize efficiency and performance. They focus on providing people with clear job direction, educating them with targeted learning activities, and motivating them through tangible rewards. These methods work when the goal is to maximize productivity doing repetitive tasks in familiar work environments. But they fall short when the goal is to maximize people’s ability to adapt to new environments and master constantly changing activities.


Article republished, with permission, from TLNT.com.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

Ron Thomas

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He’s been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron’s prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly’s Executive Online Panel, and HCI’s Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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