Much is written about the changing customer – how today’s customer is better informed, less brand loyal, and increasingly channel-agnostic.
But it is also worth noting that today’s employees are also changing in ways that have huge implications for employers that want not only to retain their staff, but also to ensure that they are engaged and effective.
Rob Catalano is a Certified Recognition Professional (CRP) and a popular speaker and writer on the topic of employee recognition and engagement. In an article on MyCustomer sister site HRzone, he proposed that employees are more like consumers today, and that we should start to view them in such a way.
He highlights professor Nick Kemsley, co-director of the Henley Business School Centre for HR Excellence, who has previously outlined a variety of reasons why we should see today’s employees as consumers. These include:
- A rise in portfolio thinking. Employees are thinking long-term and building a portfolio for future positions. Gone are the days that employees are joining companies for life.
- Low barriers to switching. LinkedIn’s advent of socially recruiting the passive candidate has made it easier for employees and employers to find each other. Crossing borders isn’t an issue either as it is much easier to relocate these days.
- Skills shortages. Employers are getting more aggressive at poaching your employees - talent is where smart companies are investing to grow a successful business. Start with who, then what.
- Personal brand equity. People wear brand name clothing and drive cars as a status symbol in many cases. The employee résumé or current logo beside their profile is important for their personal brands, and landing that next gig.
- Changing attitudes to work and needs. For some consumers, the products they associate themselves is more than the product, it’s an aligned purpose or belief of the brand. Employees want more than a job, they want a calling that aligns with organisational purpose and will get paid less for it.
In light of these changes, and the emergence of a new type of employee, Catalano believes that businesses need to change their approach to employee engagement, and ask themselves the question: “Are we really engaging with the needs of the new employee?”
Lest we forget, employee engagement is as critical to business performance as customer engagement. As customer service and employee engagement specialist Graham Frost, who is a member of the Engage for Success Guru Group on Employee Engagement, has explained: “In the 21st century, it is important for employers to create great experiences for employees as well as customers. Indeed, if you don’t get the employee experience right, from day one, you are never going to create a great customer experience, whether your people are in contact centres or serving customers face-to-face.”
So what should businesses consider changing in order to cater for these new ‘consumers’ within their organisation? Catalano has proposed five steps that could be taken:
- Look outwards. Change your HR approach to look outwards towards the employee, not inwards towards ‘Core HR’. Ask yourself how many major initiatives in the last three years were really providing value to employees, versus value predominantly to your HR department (yes, that recent HRIS implementation, too).
- Get transformational, not transactional. If your engagement practices are a set of activities or targets as a result of a survey, then it is reactive and transactional. To be transformational there needs to be a deep belief in the power of people to contribute and that employees are integral to deliver business strategy.
- Your strategy must impact employees daily. Consumers are fickle and expect great products and service, instantly. Your annual initiatives and programmes won’t work. Employees work in days and hours, not quarters or years.
- Engage managers. Managers often get overlooked, but they’re employees too. Too often, they’re not ready for management and don’t have the skill set or experience. Make managers part of the process of developing the strategy and enacting it with employees. Managers have more impact on changing the organisation positively than leaders or executives.
- Get ‘employee-specific’. ‘One size fits all’ doesn’t work for consumers and it won’t for employees either. Think about the time you’re being mass-marketed to and you ignore it – your employees are no different. There needs to be a genuine interest in the individual employee.
In the 21st century, it is important for employers to create great experiences for employees as well as customers.
One thing that doesn’t change, no matter what generation of employee, is the importance of listening to your staff. But Catalano proposes that businesses should turn to their sales and marketing teams to learn a thing or two about how to listen and understand their employees.
“We have a lot to learn from how we approach consumers in a sales and marketing sense to how we should be listening to and understanding employees,” he writes. “It’s frequent and personal employee dialogue that will make a difference, not the broad-based approach.”
With customer journey mapping emerging as a vital discipline for sales, service and marketing teams, there is much that the wider business could apply from this burgeoning skillset, according to Andy Campbell, senior director, HCM Strategy Oracle UK.
“HR teams should start looking at how to map the employee journey, just as customer service teams have learned to do with the customer journey,” he explains. “With employee experience journey mapping HR can better understand specific employee journeys that may not be generating the outcomes they desire, or which they believe they can improve.
“For example, if in an organisation new recruits are leaving within the first three months, employee experience mapping can be used to understand holistically everything that happens to them during the onboarding period. From there it is possible to identify weaknesses in the employee experience and remedy them.
“By understanding and mapping the experiences employees have with the organisation, people, process and technology, HR can better understand their behaviours and the eventual business outcomes. If HR is not achieving the outcomes it desires, it can change the employee experience accordingly.”
Customer service and employee engagement specialist Graham Frost, who is a member of the Engage for Success Guru Group on Employee Engagement, has written about employee journey mapping at length in the past. He suggests that employee journey mapping is every bit as important as customer journey mapping, and needs to be focused on before organisations can get the customer journey right.
“Employee journey mapping is a discipline that can help you ensure that your employee’s have positive experiences with your organisation from their first impression onwards,” he notes.
“Employee journey mapping will encourage you to ask yourself – and investigate - important questions: What are the people who work for you saying about your company to their friends? What are they saying (or not saying) on social media? What is your employer brand? What are you doing to attract the right people? Who are the right people? What sort of recognition do you have as a workplace? How often do your employees introduce their friends to come and work for you?”
What are the people who work for you saying about your company to their friends?
So what should your employee journey map cover and what questions should you be asking yourself about your staff’s experience along the way? Graham Frost suggests the following.
Before someone ever applies for a job with you, they will want to know what it’s like to work for you. It is important to consider how you communicate this information. If you have a recruitment website, this is an ideal place to share information about what it is like to work for you, providing endorsements from existing staff. Ask yourself: is this an honest portrayal of how it is to work for us?
Remember that your recruitment website experience also contributes to the overall first impression, so make sure that it is easy to navigate and up-to-date. If there is an online application form, make sure that it isn’t too laborious to complete. Ask yourself: when was the last time that you tested the site through the eyes of a potential applicant?
Alternatively, if you use an external provider for your recruitment, you must ensure they are clear about your expectations of them in terms of their behaviour towards prospective employees, as this will also reflect on you. Ask yourself: how often do you quiz applicants on the recruitment process and the behaviour of the external provider?
If you are a large organisation, you might exhibit at job fairs, in which case you also need to consider the experience you deliver at these as well.
The application and interview process
The next stage in the employee journey to examine is the application process. Consider what your process is when a candidate applies for a job with you, including issues such as how quickly applications are acknowledged. Ask yourself: do we have a standard process for dealing with candidates and when was it last reviewed?
As the recruitment process is such an important part of the employee journey, it is vital to get it right. So why not ask your employees what they thought was good/bad about the selection experience to help improve it.
The induction process is a valuable way to make your new staff feel welcomed and valuable. A great induction process should incorporate a senior member of the organisation with good people skills, and should ideally be delivered by people who have done the job themselves. It should also cover a history of the company, its strategy, plans for the future, corporate values and mission statement. Ask yourself: are we giving our new staff a clear indication of what is expected of them and what they can expect if they achieve this?
About Neil Davey
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.