The Voice of the Employee represents a step-change in the way businesses interact with – and listen to – their staff. And it can have huge benefits for the customer experience. For more insights on this topic download our Voice of the Employee research report.
Engaged staff are critical to a company’s success and the majority of businesses will have some manner of programme in place to achieve that. Increasingly, we’re seeing organisations expand beyond the traditional annual employee engagement surveys into more sophisticated Voice of the Employee programmes. Not only does this enable these companies to better engage their employees, but ultimately this can provide a huge boost to customers as well.
First things, first. What exactly IS Voice of the Employee?
The easiest way to summarise VoE is that it’s very like the relationship between Voice of the Customer and customer experience. VoC provides the insights that fuel improvements to the customer experience. Voice of the Employee does much the same for employee engagement.
Sophisticated Voice of the Employee programmes are more than a single employee survey. They contain multiple streams across the employee lifecycle, some of which break down further into sub-streams. The four common streams are:
- 360 feedback surveys. These offer one of the best mechanisms for providing a holistic view on an individual’s performance and a powerful tool for career development.
- Annual employee engagement surveys. While these traditional, usually outsourced behemoths are not necessarily terribly agile, they still provide a vital and strategic view of engagement across the business.
- Touchpoint, or employee insight, surveys. These are the more tactical pieces such as on-boarding, post-training and exit surveys. These offer the ability to gather insights that HR teams can act on quickly to re-engage with employees or improve the overall employee experience.
- Voice of the Customer through the Employee. This area bridges the gap between VoC and VoE with two key benefits. Using your employees to report on the customer experience not only provides insights from informed members of frontline teams, but it engages those teams by demonstrating that they hold the power to improve the customer experience.
While traditional employee engagement programmes provide a barometer of the current situation for a business, the broader scope of a VoE programme offers more immediate opportunities to take action. The key is to be able to bring the data from all these surveys together in order to provide both tactical and strategic action planning.
Speedy responses to tactical surveys. Touchpoint, or employee insight, surveys are deployed at key stages of the employee lifecycle and provide a view on a specific employee experience. At a basic level, simply being asked for feedback is engaging for many employees, but what makes the difference is seeing that their feedback is being used for something. If you create an alerts process so that the relevant HR team member can follow up and take action as required, you’ll encourage employees to engage regularly with the process, and ensure they realise their views matter.
Consolidate for a strategic approach. Acting at an individual level is great, but to drive engagement across the company, you need to bring together feedback from all your VoE activities to build a clear picture of the employee experience. By identifying common themes, such a as processes or policies which impact several stages of the employee lifecycle, you can make changes that will have a much greater impact that you may have anticipated. You should be able to break down this view by region, division or department in order to deliver focus to the right people at the right time.
For both approaches, action is key and creates a virtuous circle whereby employees are more willing to contribute their views as they see them being utilised to drive positive change. Companies operating at both the individual and aggregate level must ensure that any action taken is clearly communicated back to the business to keep things moving forward.
Enhancing the customer experience with employee feedback
As VoC and VoE programmes become more tightly integrated, organisations are starting to recognise the pivotal role that BOTH voices play in driving long term success. As a result, they are looking more closely at the way in which these voices are captured, analysed and acted upon and are embarking upon integrated Voice of the Customer through the Employee (VoCE) programmes.
There are many instances where combining employee engagement with customer experience brings about results that are greater than the sum of their individual parts. For example:
- Capturing insight from hard-to-reach customers. Even if you have email addresses, phone numbers, and past purchase data for every customer, a well-defined VoC programme is a challenge to build. Employees are your route to making these voices heard because they are able to capture customer information from frontline interactions by using short mobile surveys, for example.
- Targeting customers who don’t share their experiences. Despite the multitude of channels available to provide feedback, sometimes customers just don’t: either because they don’t think of it, or the appropriate channel isn’t available at a convenient moment. By giving employees a mechanism to capture and integrate customer feedback, you can instantly expand the reach of your programme.
- Recognising customer feedback patterns to drive change. Employees on the front line speak to many customers every day (particularly those in contact centres) and are perfectly placed to recognise patterns in what customers say to them directly. Not only can they identify that the same issues may be arising time and again, but they can help to understand which underlying processes are failing and causing issues.
Collecting customer data through employees is the ultimate blend of VoC and VoE. This is, in many ways, a CX professional’s dream but it does require some serious planning and structure to programmes. Silos of data between – or within – the programmes will kill off any insights you need to drive meaningful change.
Voice of the Employee challenges
That brings us to the challenges of developing a Voice of the Employee programme. There are many clear benefits to evolving from a traditional employee engagement process to a fully-fledged VoE approach, but businesses looking to do so need to plan carefully. The issues fall into three main areas:
- Legacy: In most cases, you won’t be starting with a clean slate, but will have dozens – maybe hundreds – of small ad-hoc local survey programmes and informal approaches lurking around the company that need to be “mopped up” by the new approach. It’s important that local teams are on-board with the new approach to ensure they don’t continue with these projects which will leave potentially critical information sitting outside your programme.
- Outsourced elements: A critical component of the overall VoE programme is the traditional annual engagement survey. These are often outsourced to large third-party providers so it’s important to work with that provider to ensure you can integrate new activities with the old.
- Preparation: Finally, make sure you’re ready. There have been examples of businesses launching a VoE programme all at once and hugely underestimating the sheer volume of feedback that would be provided. There’s almost nothing less engaging for employees than being asked for feedback and nothing happening. Start out by building a programme framework and build up slowly. Introduce surveys one touchpoint at a time and ensure you’re able to handle the incoming data.
The Voice of the Employee represents a step-change in the way businesses interact with – and listen to – their staff. Combined with VoC, it’s possible to engage employees and customers in an entirely complementary manner, but like so much else – it’s all in the planning.