Colin Shaw, Beyond Philosophy

Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, led the charge for better parental leave benefits this week for his employees. The new policy at Virgin allows new parents one year of fully paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. With Virgin’s announcement on Monday, they are one of only a few companies that offer this kind of benefit for its employees. However, their new parental leave policy represents something deeper than giving new parents time to adjust to their new role. It shows that Virgin values their people and their emotional state while working there.

I have written before of the link between a company’s employee experience and the Customer Experience they deliver on a company’s behalf. Despite much evidence that points to this link, many organizations continue to keep the two areas separate in their efforts. However, the separate area strategy is not the direct path to success for either.

The Virgin parental leave policy is for parents in the first year following the birth of biological children or after adopting children. The year applies to one family, meaning that if both father and mother work at Virgin, they must take turns on leave over that year with their child. The full benefit, meaning 100% pay is available to employees that have been with Virgin for at least four years.

Many of you reading this might be shaking your heads wondering how on earth they are going to turn a profit with employee benefit packages like this in place? It is a fair question, and it stands to reason that the expenses associated with this new policy are high. However, Branson isn’t concerned about this. According to Branson’s statement about the policy, “ If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.”

The paternity policy at Virgin reflects two critical elements for the link between Employee Experience and Customer Experience. First, it shows Virgin values employees and wants them to feel like their employer cares about their personal lives and needs. Secondly, it shows that Virgin understands that an employee’s personal emotional state carries over into the emotional state they present to and create for Customers.

Valuing Employees is the Foundation for Employee Ambassadorship

Let’s take a closer look at the first element. The idea that your company values you and cares about your life is an important foundation for employee experience. Furthermore, this kind of relationship is the gateway to employee ambassadorship , a term that describes the most dedicated employees at an organization. Employee Ambassadors are the employees that are the most active and committed to the company’s product and service value promise. They not only go above and beyond to deliver on these service values, but they influence the other employees around them to do the same. Without this foundation of trust between employer and employee, there can be no ambassadors, and these ambassadors are a key factor in creating the Customer Experience you want for your brand.

Emotions Play Big Roles in Both Employee and Customer Experiences

The second element reflected here shows Virgin understands how the emotions of the people involved in both Employee Experience and Customer Experience are essential to having a good Experience. By creating a generous employee benefit for the new parents, Virgin shows they recognize the emotional state of their employees is an important part of what Virgin considers success at their organization. Virgin knows that emotions play a large part in how the day-to-day interactions transpire and evoking the right ones is essential to having a good experience, whether looking at the Employee’s Experience or the Customer’s.

I always say that happy Employees make happy Customers. It is not just a quaint slogan; it’s a fact. When an employee is friendly and smiling, it’s contagious. It spreads, like a happy virus and it infects Customers. However, it takes energy on behalf of the employee to sustain the happy demeanor they display to Customers. Employers that recognize this and build it into their Employee Experience as part of their plans for a better Customer Experience are far more likely to achieve the results they want to move forward in the Experience Economy.

What can you do to create this type of employee environment in your organization? If you don’t know, just look to the leaders like Richard Branson. In other words, when it comes to your employees, maybe it’s time you started thinking like a Virgin.

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