Lara PlaxtonLara PlaxtonApril 9, 2018
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6min879

With the 2018 UK Employee Experience Awards just around the corner, FDM is proud to be a partner and hear all the amazing stories about how companies are adding real value through EX.

In a series of blogs, we have shared our thoughts on aspects such as enhancing recruitment through gamification, correlating employee and customer feedback, and focusing on employee advocacy over retention. In this final blog, we want to highlight what should be at the core of Employee Experience – good design.

To create great Employee Experience, it must be designed for the ‘user’. Good design drives the desired emotional responses and behaviours of the users. From an organisational perspective, we want our employees to have enjoyable, engaging, and memorable experiences which are unique to our brand, culture, purpose, and values. This doesn’t just happen; it must be designed if it is to have the desired effect. Design is more than just ‘having a plan’; as Robert L. Peters says: “Design creates culture, culture shapes values, and values determine the future.”

There are various phases to go through when designing experiences and here we highlight the key stages:

Explore

Mapping out the Employee Experience is an important first step to acknowledge all the key touchpoints throughout their journey. This starts from before someone even applies for a job until long after an employee has left an organisation. Understanding how people feel at these touchpoints will highlight the pain points and issues that may arise, as well as the positive interactions that strengthen the relationship.

Collaborate

No one department should be responsible alone for designing experiences. Taking a systems thinking approach will allow a broad view of how the Employee Experience impacts the Customer Experience and other stakeholders. If it is only viewed from one perspective, then it will be limited in its effectiveness. People from around the business should get involved in the whole design process.

Ideate

Diverse thinking is crucial when it comes to idea creation. Having people from across your organisation at all different levels and stages within their journey, contribute to this creative stage will allow for true innovation to come through. Hackathons are a great way at this point to build an environment that inspires people to think outside of their normal everyday context.

Test

Before anything is actually implemented, ideas should be tested out on sample groups or individuals to measure how people feel through the redesigned experiences. Do they meet the desired responses you’d hoped for or do they perhaps create a whole new experience you hadn’t anticipated? Testing gives you an opportunity to make any adjustments to the design so that it meets requirements.

Implement

Deciding how to implement changes to experiences is as important as making the actual changes. Should a phased approach be taken? How will it be communicated? Will there be training required if new tools are being introduced? How easily can you measure the value for both the user and the organisation?

Evaluate

This is really a continual process, not just at one point in time. To be able to collate effective data and feedback, you need to have a strategy to gaining useful information so it can guide how to design for the future. User needs will be ever-changing and will be different for each individual or group. It can be helpful to develop personas and try to personalise experiences so the responses achieved are desirable for all.

Iterate

The whole design process is cyclical. Once you have evaluated your implementation, then you can go back and tweak the touchpoints as and when required so you are continually honing the emotions and behaviours that reflect the company’s values and culture. As you implement new iterations, you will start to gain a greater knowledge of your people and how you can connect with them in the most effective way.

The UK Employee Experience Awards are a great opportunity to hear other’s stories and learn from them. They celebrate the best in class for a whole range of areas within Employee Experience. Perhaps it will generate some ideas that could be applied to your own context to exemplify who you are as a brand and how it makes your people feel.


Lara PlaxtonLara PlaxtonMarch 13, 2018
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4min811

HR directors often cite retention as one of their top priorities, and according to Personnel Today, it’s one of the most important metrics for people analytics.

It makes sense after all the investment that goes into finding the right people at the recruitment stage and developing them once they join the organisation. However, does the focus on retention create the most value for the business?

The Oxford Dictionary describes ‘retention’ as “the continued possession, use, or control of something”. This language seems more aligned to the traditional ‘control and command’ management style which is now at odds in our more agile, innovative working environments. It also seems to conflict with what Employee Experience (EX) is, and means, to people.

EX is centred around the emotional connection between people and an organisation as they interact through an employee journey. EX models will often start at recruitment and end when an employee exits with all the transactional touchpoints inbetween, focusing on how they make people feel.

Whilst the transactional activities might diminish post-employment, the emotional connection doesn’t have to. What if, rather than prioritising retention, we prioritised employee advocacy post-employment? Does changing the mindset from ‘retaining talent’ to ‘creating advocates’ offer more value and, ultimately, increase the likelihood that your employees choose to stay with the organisation?

If we consider how organisations approach Employee Experience from when they start interacting with potential employees, through to joining and growing with the organisation, it’s usually a balanced approach of making sure it’s a positive emotional connection for both the employee and the organisation.

However, when it comes to retention, the emphasis is more often on the needs of the company and not the individual. This can sometimes create more of a negative emotional response, whether the individual stays or goes. So, whilst HR might be able to demonstrate through people analytics an improvement in retention numbers, it might not necessarily translate into higher positive emotional responses from the workforce overall.

If we change our focus to employee advocacy and improving the positive emotional connection of employees whether they stay or go, what difference does this make? Many more companies are implementing initiatives such as alumni programmes, referral schemes, post-employment communications, and events so the relationship continues far beyond the employment contract.

Not only does this increase the chances that employees may return later in their career but it also increases the likelihood they will recommend the organisation and maintain a positive connection. Therefore, should measuring employee advocacy became the new top priority for people analytics in demonstrating positive value for a business?

At FDM Group, our business model lends itself to this way of thinking. We recruit large numbers of graduates, ex-forces, and returners to work to our programmes to progress in a career in technology. After working as consultants with our clients for two years, they may choose to work directly for the client, stay on with us, or further their career outside FDM.

Whilst our top priority is to create a positive Employee Experience; we understand and appreciate the value of seeing how people’s careers develop wherever that path may take them. Of course, we hope people choose to stay but more importantly, we hope they advocate FDM as a great place to work.

We view ourselves as a touchpoint in their career journey but hope that the relationship continues throughout.


Lara PlaxtonLara PlaxtonFebruary 13, 2018
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5min326

Employer branding and employee value proposition are familiar terminologies in our business environments, so do we really need Employee Experience to add to the mix?

Often new terms can just seem like another word for a similar concept, however Employee Experience is holistic. It incorporates all previous concepts, bringing them together in a seamless vision. Employer branding is concerned with how potential and current employees see their organisation in terms of what it’s like to work for.

The employee value proposition, while similar, focuses more on the value an organisation has to offer potential and current employees, rather than the perception through a brand. Employee Experience can be best described as the emotional connection between an individual and an organisation, from the first interaction with the company, right through to post-employment.

At its heart is how a company’s brand and values connect emotionally with an individual, from an employee perspective. This shouldn’t be seen as separate to how an organisation’s customers emotionally connect with the brand and values, and ultimately we should be centred on how humans interact and how it makes them feel.

Employer branding and employee value proposition are therefore integral to Employee Experience, but are not seen as separate strategies – rather a critical component of building an effective Employee Experience. The benefit of viewing it this way is that it ensures it’s aligned throughout the whole experience right through to the relationship a company has with its alumni, incorporating all the interactions.

Considering the emotional connection of an employee during recruitment, onboarding, performance management, learning and development, promotion, reward and benefits, change management, through to off-boarding, should all be interconnected and not stand-alone strategies; they all impact that emotional connection. The employee doesn’t separate out their experience so why do we?

With that in mind, one of the most important interactions between an employee and the organisation is actually the very first time an individual hears about a company. This is often not when they are job searching and come across your advert for a role, but actually what they might hear from someone they know, what they see in the media, or what they find when they are researching companies that align with their purpose and values.

At FDM Group, we are very proud of our recent award as Employer of the Year at the Information Age Women in IT awards. Of course, it’s always nice to be recognised with an award but what makes this special is that it’s so meaningful to the work we do. We are passionate about creating an inclusive and diverse workforce which allows opportunities for everyone.

The challenges within the technology industry to attract talented women is well documented. We have worked hard to ensure women are attracted to our workplace. We collaborate with schools and universities to raise awareness of the breadth of roles in technology so girls and women understand the opportunities in
this field which they might not have considered before.

We are proud of a median gender pay gap of  zero percent of the UK average of 18.4 percent. Our commitment to improving gender diversity in technology
can be felt throughout all our interactions with our people and so winning this recent award has real value and meaning to us. Ultimately, it’s a core part of our Employee Experience and we hope it translates in the first interaction anyone has with FDM.

We are also proud to be partnering with the UK Employee Experience Awards this year. Winning an award that is meaningful to your organisation can truly benefit your Employee Experience.


Lara PlaxtonLara PlaxtonFebruary 5, 2018
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5min347

Feedback tools are part of a growing industry within the HR technology world that is enabling the possibility of real-time feedback.

Gone are the days of the annual engagement survey which often took several months to return any results or planned actions, by which time they may well be outdated.

Part of what’s driving this new approach is the change in the way companies gain feedback from their customers, usually at the point of a transaction or engagement on a website or digital tool. This allows companies to understand how their customers are thinking and feeling at a critical moment in their journey, and it is this key point that is often missing from the way employee feedback tools are implemented and used.

Real-time surveys tend to be pulse surveys either done on a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis depending on how frequently companies want to get responses.

This approach means that it can become a habitual process which loses its value and doesn’t address the issue that choosing a particular day to ask all employees certain questions can skew the data.

Another important consideration is what questions are you asking and how are the answers structured? Asking someone to score how they feel on a numerical scale has its limitations as does applying more modern capabilities such as sentiment analytics to qualitative data. Accounting for these limitations is also important.

At FDM Group, we have realised the value in mapping out our Employee Experience in order to better understand the critical points an employee will face, when they occur, and how they feel at that moment in their journey.

With around 1,800 consultants in the UK working directly with our clients to deliver IT services, we want to compare the experience as each individual approaches the same junctures. This cannot be done with a pulse survey, which measures a moment in time, as everyone is at a different point in their career.

It also means we benefit from receiving data on a daily basis due to the size of our workforce. We have learned to listen differently in order to hear a different message. This approach is more aligned to the way Customer Experience is delivered.

We have also used this as an opportunity to gain client feedback at the same moments so we can understand the relationship between our clients and employees who are working directly with each other, outside of our FDM office environment.

This has expanded the HR team’s focus on ‘people’ to mean both employees and customers. If the Employee Experience is considered in isolation, we are missing its context by not incorporating it into our business as a whole. Therefore, HR is involved in analysing the data from all our people and also interacting face-to-face with our employees and our clients within the client environment. This gives us a unique perspective that is core to our business.

Our approach to Employee Experience is also not limited to the HR function. We share the data analysis and findings around the business so all areas can benefit from the insight. Each department will have a perception of the findings and in making Employee Experience a key component in our business, we are able to increase the value of that insight by incorporating various interpretations of the data to create a more authentic output upon which recommendations can be based.

If Employee Experience is defined as the emotional connection between an individual and an organisation from the first interaction with the company, right through to post-employment, then the moments in a journey need to be more significant than a calendar day when analysing the experience.

In order to benefit from listening differently, we have had to think differently, not just in HR but across the business. Thinking differently should be the first step in embracing Employee Experience before you start doing anything differently.


Lara PlaxtonLara PlaxtonJanuary 12, 2018
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5min248

Lara Plaxton is a senior HR leader at FDM Group, the global IT services provider partnered with the UK Employee Experience Awards. In this article, she discusses how technology can be utilised to the benefit of employees…

At FDM, we understand that Employee Experience begins even before an individual has considered applying for a role with us.

Therefore, every human interaction is important to us. From the start of the recruitment process, we want those who apply to us to have an engaging and meaningful experience, whether it’s meeting people face-to-face, talking over the phone, or communicating through digital interfaces.

We aim to make our process meaningful by ensuring it benefits our candidates, such as by providing helpful feedback which can support them in finding the right role.

‘Gamification’ is a key innovation we have implemented to help us achieve this. Gaming techniques have been incorporated into many aspects of people’s lives today to enhance their emotional connection, often without them even realising.

Implementing technology that creates a more natural experience for our potential employees is a great way of helping them to relax and enjoy a process which can often be quite stressful when you are aware you are being assessed.

Through gamification, we are able to understand the candidate’s strengths in a far less daunting environment, whilst also collecting data that will create a detailed picture of a person’s aptitude and suitability for a role.

Along with traditional skill sets such as mathematical ability or verbal reasoning, we can assess attributes such as a candidate’s aversion (or lack thereof) to risk – something that is key to determining what type of role would be suitable for them.

Importantly, using data in this way also helps to reduce potential unconscious bias from recruitment, which is a key priority for us as we want to ensure that every individual, regardless of their background, has the same opportunity.

We have over 100,000 applications globally each year and hire over 2,000 people. Using the data that this technology provides, we are able to improve the candidate experience and give feedback for unsuccessful candidates, to give them greater insight into where their strengths are and therefore what kind of role they may be suited to as they continue to pursue their career.

The experience of our unsuccessful candidates is as important to us as the experience of our successful candidates. We also hold regular open days for potential candidates, which gives them the opportunity to get hands-on experience of the types of roles we offer.

Candidates are split into teams and set various challenges, such as coding a robotic car to race around a track. Here they are able to test their knowledge but also to try out something new in a very relaxed and informal environment. We feel this is an important part of what we do, as our selection pools are focused on recent graduates, ex-forces personnel, and those returning from career breaks.

In each of these scenarios, people are considering their options at a point in their lives where they are entering a new phase. Providing fun opportunities where individuals can network, trial new skills in a ‘safe’ environment, and understand more about themselves, allows them to hopefully increase their confidence and help decide in which direction they would like their future career to go.

Recruitment technology is ever-evolving and as a company that operates in the digital space, we are passionate about harnessing the power of innovative tech to improve the candidate experience.

We are excited to see how AI, VR, and AR will continue to push the boundaries of what is possible for organisations when it comes to creating world-class experiences. Our purpose is to bring people and technology together and therefore we do not confine Employee Experience to the traditional employee lifecycle; for us it’s about how we add value to all our interactions with people, using technology to enhance this.


Lara PlaxtonLara PlaxtonDecember 4, 2017
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10min421

Employee Experience is a relatively new area which has gained significant momentum in the last couple of years, culminating in a wide range of information being available on the subject.

It has captured my interest for two key reasons. Firstly, with an increase in technological accessibility, the capability to apply user experience design theory and methodology to our organisations is a fascinating area. It has the potential to allow better insight on how the interactions with our people create emotional responses and behaviours and how this can be measured.

Secondly, we have realised the value in building a team within the HR function that is focused on working directly with our sales and other frontline staff in order to develop greater insight on our people, employees, and customers. Through evaluating the interdependent relationship between our employees and customers, it has given us a holistic view of what the problems are and how they impact the wider business.

These factors have resulted in a natural transition to exploring what Employee and Customer Experience means.

Employee Experience is often used as the next stage in the employee engagement journey. Not to replace it, but to give a wider context in which employee engagement resides and somehow validate its meaning, which has been lacking to date. If you are yet to question the evidence that supports employee engagement, I suggest you read Rob Briner’s The Future of Engagement: Thought Piece Collection which was a response to McLeod’s Engage for Success report and questions its validity. It should encourage you to be asking similar questions of Employee Experience through an evidence-based approach.

So what lessons should we be learning from employee engagement and applying to Employee Experience so we don’t make the same mistakes?

Define it

As it’s still relatively new, you won’t even find a definition on Wikipedia. You can find lots of definitions that broadly discuss employee experience as the interactions an employee ‘experiences’ with an organisation and how it makes them feel and behave.

Rather than creating additional terms such as candidate experience, Employee Experience should not be confined by the period of employment. How an individual experiences an organisation before they even apply for a job through to your interactions with an individual post-employment is all part of a continuous Employee Experience.

Research the information out there and find a definition that is meaningful to your organisational context so you can use it as the basis for your approach.

Where’s the evidence?

There is not a vast amount of evidence out there currently, as it’s still a relatively new field. Customer Experience is more established, however there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that it’s not delivering as companies had hoped.

There is, however, a lot of academic and professional evidence relating to user experience which was derived from design theories and methodologies that have been established for decades. Employee Experience needs to be built on all the work that has come before it, but this can only be done with an understanding of realising where this trend derived from, which isn’t HR.

Beyond the theory of how to approach Employee Experience, it’s critical that you research and identify what your problems are before you start designing your Employee Experience. This then forms the basis for your design process. You should then obtain evidence throughout the development and testing process to ensure the end solutions are relevant. Then evaluate and adapt.

It’s not an ‘HR initiative’

An initiative is an add-on or often a stand-alone programme, not an integral part of how you approach the relationship between an organisation and the people who interact with it. To get real value, Employee Experience should be combined with the Customer Experience to understand the holistic experiences, emotions and behaviours an organisation creates.

HR don’t ‘own’ it and should work collaboratively with all functions to define how people experience the organisation, most crucially with IT to understand how technology can improve the experience and help measure it. Technology may not always be the solution though.

Systems-thinking approach

System-thinking applied to an organisational context focuses on viewing the organisation as a whole system made up of various components that interact with each other to highlight how they depend on each other. This is critical to designing effective experiences and why Employee Experience should not be created or assessed in isolation. Understanding all the components that impact the Employee Experience – internal and external – is a necessary requirement to analysing the interactions reliably.

Don’t give it a score

A trend seems to be appearing that rates Employee Experience as a numerical value out of 10 or 100 against an index formulated by agencies. This never had any relevance or value for employee engagement so it’s unclear why this would be beneficial for Employee Experience other than for the agencies that have created it. Employee Experience is too complex to reduce to a numerical value and how do you measure emotions and behaviours as a constant, fixed value.

Don’t compare it, contextualise it

Google and AirB&B amongst others are often seen as offering the best Employee Experiences for organisations to aspire to. Does this mean that everyone should be applying for jobs with these organisations?

Different organisations will appeal to different people and Employee Experience is heavily influenced by the company culture. If a culture becomes too exclusive to a certain type of individual then it will start to impact the ability to have an inclusive environment and diverse thinking.

Similarly-minded individuals are likely to be attracted by that culture, which in turn may impact the ability to be more innovative so balance is a more critical factor here, although the Employee Experience should be an expression of your brand and values.

Don’t focus on what others are doing but concentrate on what is meaningful and authentic for your organisation, as that is what creates a successful Employee Experience.

Evaluate & iterate

Continual, real-time feedback and assessment is an important part of the evaluation. However, the data analysis needs to be credible so it’s vital that you take a scientific approach to the analysis and don’t allow your own biases to seek results that suit the outcomes you are hoping for. Ensure you get different viewpoints from around the business to interrogate the data analysis and incorporate their insight, as not everyone will interpret it in the same way.

Beyond the analysis, ensure you have iterative processes so you can make improvements and release new phases in order to assess what works and what doesn’t. Iterations will help you identify how the new changes impact the data so you can decide what future iterations should look like.

Make it tangible

One of the key issues with employee engagement is the lack of an agreed definition and a credible way of measuring it. In the same way, everyone will have a different response to their experiences of an organisation which will elicit different behaviours at different times. It is therefore highly complex, however the important factor is to learn from it through valid analysis. Don’t make generalisations from the data and then keep testing and improving.

Hopefully this article has made you have more questions than answers, so you can focus on finding what is tangible and therefore valuable for you, your organisation, and your people.

The opinions and views published are my own and are not representative of my employer.

Lara PlaxtonLara PlaxtonSeptember 22, 2017
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9min204

In today’s information age, a great user experience and digital transformation are becoming critical to an organisation’s success and ability to remain competitive. 

In a recent study by IDC, “84 percent of respondents are already digitally transforming or planning to digitally transform their business.”

However, of that 84 percent, 12 percent report that their “organisation has completed its digital transformation” which is contradictory in itself.

Digital transformation is a continual process with iterations so that continuous feedback can be analysed at the design stage for the next iteration.

So whilst a phase may be completed, the process is ongoing and therefore every business area needs to understand how they contribute to the delivery and success of digital experiences.

HR needs to also support the enabling of a culture of agility and adaptability, as managing change should also be an ongoing process and not seen as a one-off to facilitate a change that may often be perceived as negative.

To measure how successful the user experience for a product, system or process is, typically factors such as usability, accessibility, value, and desirability amongst others are applied.

Metrics are then linked to these criteria so quantitative and qualitative data such as time spent doing an activity, engagement rates, and conversion rates can be assessed.

There are also various models such as Google’s HEART framework which support assessing user experience, but there are no universal standards in place. This makes sense as user experience metrics may need to vary as each product or system could require tailored criteria even if based around common principles.

The same applies in both customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) in relation to there being no formalised set of assessment criteria to analyse success.

There are common methodologies which are used but no universal standards for comparison. However, an interesting trend is the creation of CX or EX indexes by consultancies which rate where organisations fit according to the index they have created.

This allows for a consultancy to ‘benchmark’ companies that wish to use their services in terms of the criteria they have set.

This may seem contradictory, however, to the whole user-centric approach. Shouldn’t the users be assessing whether an experience is great against standards which are agreed by an independent body that can verify the data if indexes are to be used? Also, shouldn’t we be combining CX and EX if we are going to rate what great experiences look like?

If a company were to score high on CX and low on EX or vice versa, it would suggest that the great experience is unsustainable due to the inter-dependent relationship between CX and EX. Delivering a great employee experience is often linked to criteria such as meaningful, authentic, and engaging whilst being measured through metrics such as satisfaction, retention, and absence levels. However, these stem from our more traditional HR metrics and perhaps we should start challenging how relevant these are in the modern organisation.

Many employees see their employment with their current organisation as one touch-point in their whole career journey and therefore, is retention really an indicator of a great employee experience?

Perhaps viewing advocacy post-employment over retention is a better metric because if our talent is advocating working for their previous employer to their connections, it may offer more value than trying to retain talent from leaving.

With this in mind, before you can even start delivering great experiences, you need to start with the design of your organisation to allow the right environment for great experiences and understand what the criteria and metrics should be.

The organisation design should be human-centred if experiences are our focus so we can understand how critical factors impact the experiences in order to shape the organisation to deliver the desired behaviours and in turn, great experiences. Therefore, should we approach organisational design the way we design user experience in order to get the best employee and customer experiences?

The CIPD defines organisation design as “the process and the outcome of shaping an organisation structure, to align it with the purpose of the business and the context in which the organisation exists. To be effective, it requires familiarity with the external environment and the business needs, as well as an understanding of people behaviours and people processes”.

We have developed this model with Professor Karen Cham of the University of Brighton to incorporate elements from both HR and UX disciplines. Within user experience methodology, the design process is collaborative and human-centred.

Employees and customers need to be emotionally connected to the brand, purpose, and values, which is why they should be central to the human experience within an organisation. This means that they need to be embedded into an individual’s interactions with the organisation in order for them to feel engaged.

The design phase should seek input from around the business and the various stakeholders. The development phase would then look to test, gather evidence and feedback, and then modify for the next iteration.

In the digital era, the key drivers for effective organisation design are enabling structures to allow the most efficient flow of information and communication as well as processes that will create the most effective emotive responses so the desired behaviours can be realised.

The Human-Centred Org Design model is not focused on hierarchies or silo departments, but rather the critical components that will allow for innovation, growth, satisfaction, and collaboration for both the user and the organisation.

In today’s modern environment, boundaries in the workplace are not confined to the same principles from years ago due to the capability of technology and the external environment which allows and necessitates us to work differently.

The IDC report on Future Business found that culture is the number one barrier to digital transformation followed by talent retention and leadership.

If HR understands that change management is continual, leadership understands the importance of putting its people at the centre, and the business is focused on delivering great experiences rather than being targeted on revenue and profit, would the capacity for innovation and growth go beyond expectations based on current output?

You don’t have to be one of the big tech giants with large budgets or a small, agile start-up to change and adapt.

References:
2017 Stratis, A, Lykkegaard, B, van Vonno, J and Budd, N; Future Business: Unleashing Your Talent, IDC sponsored by Cornerstone OnDemand
2017 CIPD Organisation Design Factsheet, https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/strategy/organisational-development/design-factsheet
2017 Cham, K.L., ‘Consumer as Producer; Value Mechanics in Digital Transformation Design, Process, Practice and Outcomes in ‘Cultural Policy, Innovation and the Creative Economy, Creative Collaborations in Arts and Humanities Research’, Editors: Shiach, Morag, Virani, Tarek (Eds.) Palgrave McMillan
The opinions and views published are my own and are not representative of my employer.

Lara PlaxtonLara PlaxtonJuly 18, 2017
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9min190

Ensuring your customer experience strategy is effective relies on creating a seamless experience which takes advantage of the various omnichannels your customers want to use and that the company can support appropriately. If you do not have the right technology, people and environment within the organisation to support your CX strategy, then it will be impossible to achieve success.

Implementing an omnichannel experience tends to be driven by Marketing and IT based on customer requirements, but how involved are HR and your frontline staff in the design, strategy and implementation? The recent Taylor Review should be an important reminder of the vital need to involve HR in how your company transforms and adapts to remain competitive for your customers in the current marketplace.

Technology

 Developments in technology have led to the possibility of an effective omnichannel experience through the addition of various digital solutions tailored for the customer. This poses two key considerations for HR who need to understand the implications of the customer experience strategy from the early stages.

As the Taylor Review emphasises, “technological change will impact work and types of employment and we need to be able to adapt, but technology can also offer new opportunities for smarter regulation, more flexible entitlements and new ways for people to organise.

Firstly, the impact to work can be seen most notably in the increase in automation and AI solutions that change the way we work and ultimately the customer experience.

The media is keen to advise us that robots are taking over our jobs, and so it’s critical that HR are central to this transformation. We need to ensure frontline staff has the skill set to deliver a seamless experience, whichever channel they are interacting with customers through, and that we enable opportunities to be realised for our people.

Frontline staff should be engaged from the start of the process in making automation and AI effective for the customer and organisation. That should not be minimised to obtaining their feedback but actually getting them involved in defining, designing, developing and deploying the customer experience as well as future iterations. Not only will this enable the process to be successful from a user and organisational perspective, but it allows your frontline staff to develop skills in other areas, so if their current roles no longer exist, they have broadened their skill set and capability and we can retain their talent and knowledge for the future.

Secondly, the impact to types of employment is being driven by our current obsession with disruption. Disruption in itself is risky and ill-planned without being human-centred. I doubt HR or frontline staff are involved in any of the process of designing or re-designing the business model in this environment. Often these companies have then taken the same disruptive approach when developing their employment model without consideration of the human impact or the impact to work.

As the Taylor Review points out, “platform based working offers welcome opportunities for genuine two way flexibility and can provide opportunities for those who may not be able to work in more conventional ways. These should be protected while ensuring fairness for those who work through these platforms and those who compete with them”.

In order for us to ensure that these different types of employment are ‘welcome opportunities’ and not negative practices, HR must establish a fair framework for operating in which the individuals working under this arrangement contribute to its practical application to ensure their support and commitment.

People

 Alongside technology, people are a critical part of delivering an effective customer experience. Ensuring that your people are key in the strategy is imperative, not only to instill a belief in the organisation’s direction and purpose but also in how they are valued.

As mentioned earlier, involving frontline staff in your customer experience strategy means they offer their knowledge on the pain points for customers and how to overcome these challenges. This will enable motivation through the process which the Taylor Review affirms, “a greater voice in the organisational decisions that affect your job can make people feel better about their work. It can also add to a more collegiate environment between management and staff, boosting the feeling of fulfillment and increasing productivity”.

Another consideration is that if an organisation concentrates their investment in enhancing their customer experience but ignores investment in their employee experience then what will the outcome be? Creating experiences are a necessary way in the current environment to engage your people; employees and customers with your brand and your values. If you only invest in your customer experience then how can you expect your employees to be committed to your organisation in the same way as your customers? Companies should have a balanced approach that invests in both sides aligning the experiences of its people and using the insight gained from analysing the symbiotic relationship between employee and customer.

Environment

Lastly, the environment is an important component in delivering a successful customer experience. Firstly, organisations need to be adaptable in order to remain competitive in a fast-paced external environment which means we need to continually review our structures, processes and practices to maintain they are fit for purpose. To ensure this transformation is sustainable, it should consider its people at the heart; how will work and the employment relationship change?

Another relevant aspect of this is how are the strategy and direction of the company and its customer experience strategy viewed by leadership and how is it supported by the culture.

In today’s world, we have seen enough cases in the media of how your employees, workers and customers use an omnichannel approach to get their message heard if the company has not acted appropriately or authentically.

The power has shifted as our world becomes more accessible and transparent so true, meaningful experiences become ever more critical as the reputation of a company and ultimately its share value can change overnight.

Disclaimer: the opinions and views published are my own and are not representative of my employer.

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Lara PlaxtonLara PlaxtonJune 20, 2017
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7min159

The declaration of the percentage of ‘engaged employees’ an organisation has, has always seemed like a fairly abstract concept. What does it mean? How are behaviours and emotions measured as a percentage? I can’t say I’ve ever defined how I feel as a percentage and if I attempted to, it wouldn’t be a constant state without fluctuations. So if you make a statement that says 80% of employees are engaged, does that mean out of 100 people 80 are always engaged on a daily basis or that 80% of the time all employees are engaged?

The Danger of Generalisations

I appreciate that there has been years of research that supposedly explains the value to businesses, but given that the concept is ambiguous, how valid is that research? David MacLeod describes employee engagement as “how we create the conditions in which employees offer more of their capability and potential”. If I’m to believe the numerous blogs out there that tell me there are 5 things that engage employees, or maybe that’s 7 or 10 (depending on the blog) then it sounds like it’s a simple fix – or perhaps it’s just click bait to get more blog views?

Does One Size Fit All?

Clearly, there are some aspects within an organisation that are going to make employees feel more satisfied at work, but the number of variables is significant. Add to that the fact that all employees are individuals who are motivated in different ways: then engagement becomes a very complex concept.

The conditions we create for one person to help them “offer more of their capability and potential” would need to be varied for each individual and dependent on how they feel on the day.

Varying factors such as company culture, leadership, communications etc. to that level just isn’t feasible, so then finding the right company fit at recruitment becomes ever more critical. However, it potentially impacts having a diverse workforce.

How Useful Are Annual or Pulse Surveys?

The main approach to gaining insight on employee engagement has traditionally been the annual survey. More and more companies are moving away from this to get real-time data through using pulse surveys. However, these still have their own challenges depending on how they are used. Asking employees their opinion more frequently, whether it’s daily, monthly or quarterly, allows more data to be analysed but it may create more cognitive biases in the responses received as it becomes habitual and more like a process for participants.

Engagement Linked to the Employee Experience

Rather than targeting engagement assessment in cyclical processes, it would be more effective if we actually map the employee journey to identify the relevant touch-points to analyse engagement at those stages. It may be that those points are in the early stages of joining a company, at different phases within a project or during any significant interactions an employee has with an organisation – team-based, cross-functional projects, company-wide and with external stakeholders.

Correlation to Customer Satisfaction?

Some companies have reported the fact that they have found strong positive correlations between employee engagement and customer satisfaction. Whilst this doesn’t provide the evidence to show a causal relationship, HR are still quick to jump to the conclusion that employee engagement equals customer satisfaction. Whilst it seems to make sense that this would be true, it may well be that customer satisfaction causes employee engagement which would also seem to make sense. It’s time HR understand our people; both employees and customers and drill down into those experiences to understand patterns in behaviours through credible analysis rather than weak assumptions.

This article is just my musings on the subject and I’m not proposing any magic solution other than questioning something that has become familiar practice to many HR departments.

Through effective digital transformation, technology can allow us to get more in-depth behavioural analysis on our people without having to ask the same standard questions in a survey.

This may mean we can understand better the behaviours that make up ‘employee engagement’, what impacts them and what the benefits of it actually are. Perhaps HR can also be more innovative to understand engagement levels through other practices than just surveys, such as observational feedback, forums and gamified interactions at pivotal touch-points.

Disclaimer: The opinions and views published here are my own and are not representative of my employer.

Interesting Links:


Lara PlaxtonLara PlaxtonDecember 22, 2016
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6min186

Whilst I should start by saying I wouldn’t profess to be an HR technology expert, having found myself responsible for implementing a global HR cloud-based system from design and configuration through to data migration, testing and implementation I guess I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. For example, don’t refer to it as ‘my computer project’!

I do however have a new understanding and respect for IT professionals who do this on a regular basis and a whole new way of looking at HR. In HR we are taught best practice and the key areas to focus on from recruitment through the whole employee lifecycle. We are taught to grow and continually learn ensuring we adapt the main HR concepts to our environment. Through more innovative HR thought, we are given watered down versions of ‘agile’, ‘design thinking’ or ‘(user) experience’ taken from technology however, it’s not often we are told to go outside HR and learn more in-depth what these terms mean.

Within HR, there is a lot of debate around employee engagement – what is it exactly and where is the evidence to back it up? Even though you’ll see countless statistics on how much growth your business can expect if your employees are more engaged by X%. Interestingly, if we look to technology there is a clear definition on ‘user engagement’ and how it should be measured. Whilst there are variations, generally they all refer to user engagement being a user’s experience with a product and how the user emotionally engages and behaves with that product.

In a digital environment, this definition creates the opportunity to collate data, analyse the behaviours and produce credible insight providing the evidence for the importance and benefits of user engagement. This behavioural analysis adds a level of soft data which HR often struggle to obtain from their qualitative research via surveys and other methods in order to represent it as the story behind the HR hard data results such as attrition and retention.

Marketing has been quick to learn from user experience creating the concept of customer experience (CX). As ‘employee experience’ emerges as a new focus for HR professionals, we need to work more collaboratively with IT, Marketing and other departments to get the full value from the work they do. Whilst there is a consideration for the employee, often CX is heavily focused on the customer with an acknowledgment of the employee although companies are starting to incorporate the impact of the employee on the customer.

So perhaps HR need to take the lead on the people (or users) of an organisation, with employees at the centre linked to the customers in a user-centred approach. If the journeys of those individuals are mapped out from the beginning to the end of their journey, which may not be confined to the boundaries of the organisation, then how they ‘engage’ with the organisation can be assessed through how they behave emotionally. This will require our IT functions and experts in these fields to help us understand which digital products are the right solutions to obtain the relevant data at the right touch-points from a holistic perspective and help us to interpret the data to create the story.

In this respect, ‘employee engagement’ would refer to the level at which an employee emotionally connects to an organisation exhibiting the desired behaviours that can be attributed to achieving business goals. Employee engagement then becomes symptomatic of the company’s brand, purpose, values, culture, design and other HR focuses. Those initiatives can then be measured in value by how they affect the employee or customer behaviours and in turn their engagement or satisfaction.

This approach would allow insightful data to increase HR’s credibility through providing a far more enhanced level of business intelligence for informed decision-making. It will form the story that explains the analytical results that most HR departments produce currently. I’m not suggesting here are all the answers although I’m excited to keep growing within HR and beyond, so I would encourage people to go look outside HR and see what people are up to in other departments so we can collaborate more effectively.

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