This year, millions of organizations will be focusing on how to deliver unique, innovative, end-to-end experiences to their customers, across multiple channels, underpinned by enterprise technology, driven by big data and aligned to who they are as a brand. It is a lofty ambition which has also become standard rhetoric. The challenge is that many won’t have the teams to do it and will seek out skills that are hard to come by. They will try to find affordable candidates who are already trained in their technologies and methodologies, come up against new immigration restrictions for skilled labor, compete with (instead of leverage) the gig economy and try to close their pay gaps so that they can attract the diverse workforce they require. If they do manage to recruit the right talent, they will need their varied specialists to somehow reach across organizational silos, connecting their skills to deliver something complex, holistic and unfamiliar. Many will leverage agencies and consultancies to fill the talent gap, but agencies and consultancies know that they, too, need to rethink the experience they deliver to their clients and teams to compete.
Organizations will also be engaged in multiple conversations about ‘The Future of Work’ this year. Not only will they be told that great employee experiences will be crucial, but that they need to consider which of their roles technology will replace. They will think of their current challenges in performing tasks efficiently, their struggle to understand vast systems of data, the fear of inaccurate decision-making and their apparent skills shortage and think ‘how on earth will we be able to compete with AI when it gets even harder than it is now?’
Forward-thinking organizations will know that they cannot deliver better experiences to customers without being able to attract and retain the skilled people needed to deliver them, and that they should learn to use technology to help them do both better. They will also recognize that with their CX mindsets already in place, they can apply the same thinking to create a better employee experience.
Focusing on 3 key things will be the key to progress; identifying customer and employee need, demonstrating value to both and using technology to do it.
1. Identifying need
Like designing experiences for customers, designing experiences for employees starts with asking the question ‘what do people want and why don’t they have that now?’ Interestingly, employees and customers abandon experiences for very similar reasons:
● Customers leave when they don’t feel they are getting value for money, employees leave because they don’t feel they are being rewarded fairly
● Customers leave because they don’t feel that the experience aligns with their personal needs, employees leave because they don’t feel that their work is meaningful to them
● Customers leave because they don’t feel what’s on offer can adapt to future needs, employees leave because they don’t feel they can grow in the role
● Customers leave because they feel the experience is inflexible and too hard, employees leave because they feel overworked and the hours don’t suit them
● Customers leave because the brand no longer resonates with their values, employees leave because the company culture or vision doesn’t resonate with them
Both customer and employee experiences fail because they don’t align to the purpose of the individual and don’t demonstrate value now or indicate how they will deliver value in the future..
2. Demonstrating value
So, once you know what customers and employees need, how do you demonstrate value now and in the future? CX has already evolved to give organizations the answers about how to respond to customer need. We have learned that we need to personalize experiences to meet diverse needs, powered by technology. The bigger gap lies with employee experiences because it is so much harder to deliver what employees want without disrupting existing hierarchies or impacting commercial targets. However, the answers are pretty much the same:
● If employees don’t feel they are being rewarded fairly, attach reward to a fairer and more transparent system of evaluation
● If employees don’t feel that their work is meaningful to them, connect individuals to varied tasks they can impact positively
● If employees don’t feel they can grow in the role, enable meaningful and regular upskilling
● If employees feel overworked and the hours don’t suit them, allow for flexible hours and don’t measure contribution in time instead of impact, as well as keeping their co-workers accountable
● If employees feel that the culture doesn’t resonate with them, allow for your culture to be a workplace that flexes around diverse needs instead of a singular mantra.
3. Using technology to augment
Choosing a platform or a collection of technologies to deliver exceptional customer experiences means getting a clear picture of how the end-to-end customer experience connects with all the systems that power those experiences, then finding a way to get systems to work together seamlessly. The key people that need to do this are talented technologists but, even though the work they do is complex and crucial, they are often judged more on communication style than ability. This is because, in the same way that most organizational leaders are not women or racially diverse or from the LGBTQ community, most are not technologists either. Without transparent evaluation in place, leaders can only judge merit on surface-level criteria they can understand, from their perspective. Their perspective, unfortunately, is limited today and will need to flex in future. So, if we go back to the reasons why all employees leave organizations and what they need to do to deliver complex work - and we keep in mind the potential lack of empathy at a senior leadership level - organizations really need to learn how to use technology to help them to augment their processes:
● Create a living menu of every existing task and how it connects to other tasks, which is particularly important when learning complex CX
● Enable people to optimize tasks or add new ways of doing things as they discover them
● Attach a clear evaluation criteria for each task that is fair and understood
● Connect those tasks into tutorials or instructions that are easy to access
● Allow specialists within the business to make those tutorials richer for the sake of unified understanding
● Allow people to complete tasks in varied hours and locations
● Track how individuals can contribute to a range of tasks instead confining them to departments.
Using merit to deliver better experiences
Once we have a system that does this, we start to create an employee experience that enables people to do their jobs in a way that values them. They can also be evaluated for the work they do, how much they enable others and whether they are learning new things, which are the three things that will matter the most to organizations as their teams try to deliver very complicated work that will continue to change at pace. For diverse people to be happy delivering customer experiences to a high standard, we need to change the employee experience to be fairer, connect it to enriched learning and embed a sense of purpose and meaning in their day-to-day.