Understanding employee experience: lessons from customer insight

After a long period on the periphery, understanding the value of providing good experiences to employees and candidates seems to be gaining traction. A key issue for HR is that experiences haven’t typically been measured or consciously designed, and when it has it’s rarely been done in a sophisticated manner.

Customer experience, especially in service-delivery has dealt with similar issues for some time and to get a good understanding of what best-in-class firms are doing I spoke to Rob Ballantine of Infosys, a customer experience innovator and the creator of Infosys’s Customer Experience Maturity Model. (CXMM)

“The CXMM has 3 pillars: the customer culture of a firm; how they uses customer insight; and how they create positive experience through service design.

All three are highly linked to employees, and the experiences they receive at work. The number one driver of customer experience in any organisation is people, and how engaged the people are with their customers. This is why it’s so important to get this aspect right.

The experience of employees from when they first are in contact with the firm to when they leave has direct impact on the quality of that business. These experiences are critical to building employee advocacy.”

A big part of driving employee advocacy and engagement is ensuring that employees see a direct link between what they’re doing and the business success.

“The closer you are to the front of the business the better the engagement with the customer. Employees need to see that their role has a direct impact on the success of the business. In a retailer IT knows what impact they have because it’s all about margin and those margins are small. In a bank, especially a major bank with their ‘One Bank’ strategy, IT will often not see the direct link.”

Rob recommends some approaches to developing a strong customer understanding from rotations, circulating customer-insight throughout the firm and linking customer-research scores and targets to functions.

Measuring experience

The most prominent method for quantitive customer experience measurement in many organisations these days is something called the “Net Promoter Score” (NPS). Developed by Bain the NPS measures customer advocacy using a simple question and then subtracts detractors from advocates to produce a score. Rob discussed how NPS is being used in very sophisticated ways by several firms.

“I’ll give you an example, I was speaking to a customer experience specialist at a major telecoms firm and they’re monitoring NPS on a daily basis. They can make a change to a group of customers, for example a web site or telephone script and can see how the NPS score changes. There’s no reason employee related changes couldn’t be measured in this way, for example an organisation change.”

NPS can also be used inside a firm to measure employee advocacy. Firms who do this will typically be analysing external and internal measures to improve customer service through their employees. This can be done right down to the employee-level.

Qualitative as well as quantitive data.

One myth commonly held in HR is that data must be quantitive. The modern customer insight professional will typically be using both data-types together to make decisions. The heart of this is an experience-lab approach where a deep customer understanding is gained by observation.

“Experience labs techniques are just as applicable for employees. Unless they are highly motivated they’ll find another way to meet their goals.

I’ll give you an example. There are big problems with the utility and design of big ERP systems at the moment, which has an effect on employee motivation. They tend to be very efficient at optimising process but very poor at helping employees do their job. Usability testing and other experience-lab techniques are great at identifying issues quickly.”

Information gathered from such techniques is highly relevant for HR.

“Customer experience research and mapping is essential for improvement of service, training and even selection of staff.”

Given the employee experience is so central to customer teams it’s increasingly being done by marketing, especially when employees are customer facing. I see employee research being done by marketing functions on an increasing frequency. There are certainly questions being asked about why HR owns and runs the traditional employee survey and the impact these have made to the business.

An integrated, structured approach to experience design

If HR could take one lesson from customer experience it would be that great experiences aren’t created by chance. If you are embarking on developing employee or candidate experience all elements need to be considered as one and that the perceptions and behaviours of those experiencing the service needs to be measured and at the heart of all decisions.

Tools like Infosys’s CXMM provide a strong framework for identifying current strengths and weaknesses. Qualitative methods such as using video or usability testing needs to be used as well as ongoing quantitative approaches. Using service prototypes with testing like the telecoms firm is essential.

Employee and candidate experiences might be generating interest but to do it right involves new analytic techniques and for many HR teams a big cultural change.