3 Reasons We Care About The Employee Experience in 2020

Employees happily working

The Employee Experience

Why should we care about the employee experience? Most leaders are beginning their strategic plans for 2020. As you work on ways to improve for the coming year, one key area to consider is your employee experience. Is it in good shape? Could it use some tweaking? Is it aligned with your business objectives for 2020 and beyond?

Read the Book: The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results

The Employee Experience (EX) is the human ecosystem in which your employees operate, carry on their work, contribute, innovate, and produce results. The challenge for business leaders, however, is that the employee experience is not a framework of easily understood inputs and outputs.

Instead, the employee experience is constructed from the various relationships between people within your organization and their perceptions about those relationships. In the case of the employee experience, perception truly is reality. It is more concerned with matters of the heart than flowcharts and diagrams.

As you reflect on how well your employee experience is aligned with your strategic objectives for 2020, I would suggest that you take the time to examine three “Ps” which are found in every business or organization. They are:

  1. People
  2. Product
  3. Process

We have found this model (the “Three P Model”) to be useful for a variety of reasons. It should also be noted that the order is intentional.

Employees happily working

1. People Come First

The most important asset in your organization is your people. Your organization is not a living, breathing object capable of action on its own.

Rather, your organization is a collection of people who have come together for a common purpose. The only way for your organization to actually do something is for a person, or a group of people, to take an action. Thus, it’s axiomatic that without your people, nothing happens. Thus, your people should be your first priority.

If you want 2020 to be better than 2019, you need your people to perform better than they did last year. And, for many organizations, labor is their largest expense item. So, everyone, including the buttoned-up finance department, has an interest in ensuring that your organization’s people are operating at peak efficiency and that your employee experience has been designed to get the very best results from your talent.

It’s a Leadership Job

Ways to improve your people include everything from providing development opportunities to attracting the right candidates. It also includes leaders who take the time to align their vision with what they expect from those who will put that vision into place. The task of building the right EX is critical, and cannot be handed off to an HR function that has been relegated to the basement in the company’s headquarters.

An organization’s employee experience is primarily the C-suite’s responsibility. A division’s employee experience belongs to the division leader. This concept is repeated all the way to the team leader who is the steward over her team’s employee experience. The HR department is there to support and provide counsel along the way, but as a resource and not as the function primarily in charge of the organization’s EX.

Woman buying grapes

2. Employee Experience = Customer Experience

The second component in the Three P Model is your product (or whatever good or service you sell in the marketplace). Some might question why this item has been listed second as opposed to first in our methodology. This argument makes some sense, right? If your product is substandard, it doesn’t matter how well your people are functioning. Wrong! Our database of over 50 million employee survey responses suggests two key principles that run counter to this conventional wisdom.

  • First, the data suggests that you build a world-class customer experience by creating a stellar employee experience. Stated differently, your customer’s experience is directly related to how well your employee experience is working. We are so firm in our view on this issue that we have called it a law – the Law of Congruent Experience.
    Your employees will deliver a customer experience that is directly proportional to their own employee experience (EX = CX).
  • Second, when your employee experience has been well-designed and is thriving, the reality of a substandard product or service does not exist. Our data shows that engaged and motivated employees simply will not allow your company to sell or produce something that is unreliable or incapable of being sold. Even if this principle doesn’t hold true in all cases, our experience suggests that an average product in the hands of a great customer experience/employee experience is more likely to succeed than a fantastic product that is packaged and sold within a lousy customer experience/employee experience.
Listen to Podcasts with the Authors of The Employee Experience Book
Employee using company software

3. Your Employees Know

The third “P” in our model is your business processes. As you contemplate how you might improve your processes, we urge you not to overlook one of the most important sources of data and insights: your front-line employees.

These employees often know your customers better than anyone within your organization, and they are most likely to know how your customers actually use your product, which can be invaluable information. And finally, apart from getting meaningful and actionable intelligence, our data shows that by asking your employees what they think you will improve employee engagement, create a culture of feedback, and improve your EX.

Chicago Transit

Chicago Transit Authority

Consider a case study from 2013 involving the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The CTA decided to spend nearly $500 million to transition its riders from a proprietary fare system to a third-party system called “Ventra.” As is commonly the case, the concept was simple: Improve the process of collecting transit fares from the riders. The implementation, however, proved to be problematic.

One reason for the breakdown was that system designers failed to talk with CTA employees. For example, an early malfunction was that the new system charged passengers twice. Passengers were charged once when they entered the bus in the front and their Ventra card was scanned by an electronic reader. Then, these same riders were charged again when, as is often the case in a busy city like Chicago, they exited the bus through the front as opposed to leaving from the rear door. Had those in charge spent time talking to CTA bus drivers, they would have easily appreciated the likelihood of this scenario and proactively worked on a solution prior to system implementation.

Of course, there are several more factors to consider beyond the three “Ps.” Yet, there is some merit to the Three P Model’s simplicity in that it reduces distractions by focusing on the most important keys to business success. Plus, in focusing on the three “Ps,” leaders will be able to consider how they might improve their employee experience within each area. With today’s changing workforce, the employee experience simply cannot be ignored and must become a critical part of business processes throughout every organization.

Get the book, The Employee Experience

Podcast: How To Encourage Cross-Department Collaboration (Roundtable Discussion)

Cross-department collaboration

In this episode, we’re joined by a panel of DecisionWise consultants who discuss practical ideas for how to encourage cross-department collaboration at your organization.

They identify the reasons why working together isn’t always easy or natural and share what they’ve seen other organizations do to overcome these hurdles and increase the level of engagement in their workforce.

This week’s episode is hosted by Cecily Jorgensen. Our panel of consultants includes Charles Rogel, Dan Hoopes, Dan Deka, Beth Wilkins, Stephen Mickelson, Christian Nielson, and Thomas Olsen.

Read the companion blog article to this podcast, “How to Encourage Cross-Department Collaboration”

Podcast: Having a Strong Customer Focus

In this podcast episode, DecisionWise Sr. Consultant and Executive Coach, Dan Deka, discusses what it means to have a strong customer focus.

As a business, you don’t exist without customers. It’s absolutely imperative to build and maintain a strong relationship with them. Treat them the same way you would a close friend. If you can’t answer their question or concern in one email, pick up the phone and call them. The more interactions you can have with them, the stronger the relationship becomes.

One critical part of having great customer service is listening. “Sometimes we want to solve their problem so badly that we try to immediately fix it and we don’t listen,” says Dan Deka. “Make sure to really slow down and address what they really need. Listen, observe, validate, and then pursue actions. Treat them with compassion and thoughtfulness. ”

Learn more about these concepts and ideas for creating a strong customer focus in this insightful conversation.

How to Encourage Cross-Department Collaboration

Cross-department collaboration

Cross-Department Collaboration is a topic of concern for most companies who want to improve overall employee engagement. Our consultants identify some reasons why working together isn’t always easy or natural. Their straight-forward advice and stories from their work show us how companies can encourage teamwork across the entire organization. 

"Only 59% of people agree with the statement, 'We work effectively across departments and functions.'"
Charles Rogel
Senior Consultant

Sometimes organizations understand that people aren’t collaborating, but it’s not quantified until they see their employee engagement survey results. Survey scores and comments often reveal that people view other departments as the problem. They believe their own team is easy to work with. Specific examples illustrating bad cross-department collaboration raises awareness. Once leaders see the survey data, they act.

"The moment that you get two people together, at some level, there's some dysfunction."
DecisionWise Principal Consultant, Dan Hoopes
Dan Hoopes
Principal Consultant

The dysfunction compounds across teams, departments, and organizations because there are so many human variables. Different people have various expectations, people skills, or leadership styles. It takes a lot of energy and commitment to find common ground and create a unified team.

"Anytime there's a silo at the top, it's going to compound as you go down throughout the organization."
Christian Nielson
VP of Consulting Services
I was consulting with a financial institution where some groups weren’t working together. We went and held focus groups, and it turned out that we could follow the dysfunction all the way to the top where two senior leaders weren’t on the same page. There was misalignment and silos at the top. And so, once those two leaders got on the same page, their teams followed suit. 
"Cross-department collaboration challenges us, because we deal better with the people and situations close to us."
DecisionWise - Dan Deka - Consultant
Dan Deka
Senior Consultant
We feel a lot more comfortable staying in our realm of daily influence. Connecting with our team is expected, so it feels more natural. We may feel odd trying to connect with other departments – we may wonder if they think developing a relationship with us is worth their time. These interactions and connections are harder to navigate.
"In most organizations, people will naturally work in a siloed manner. You must formalize the strategy team in order to get better efficiency."
Beth Wilkins
Principal Consultant

I worked with an educational organization that needed facilities where teachers could teach various subjects. Because of poor cross-department collaboration and communication, the facilities group was building structures that didn’t allow educators to teach the way that they wanted to. It’s important to think about what we’re trying to accomplish as an organization and how to optimize the organization to meet the goal. 

One solution starts with a couple questions: 

  1. What is the strategy? 
  2. Can we create a team to implement that strategy? 
Explain to your team that they will use resources from across the organization to accomplish the goal, instead of saying, “Just collaborate and make it happen!” 

How to Encourage Cross-Department Collaboration

"When there’s a lack of understanding and awareness, there’s a lack of collaboration."
DecisionWise - Dan Deka - Consultant
Dan Deka
Senior Consultant

Leaders have to commit to raise awareness. Ways to raise awareness include:

  • Administer 360s to help individuals understand how they’re being perceived
  • Run an engagement survey to make the organization aware of employees’ perceptions
  • Run an engagement survey to build and increase trust and understanding between leaders and employees, and from department to department
  • Solicit feedback from customers on their experience with your team and products

You increase awareness so people understand why people act the way they do. I believe from there, people will fill in the blanks and do the right thing. But most of the time they choose things out of unawareness.

"I see success when companies create visuals that show and tell two things: how teams are part of the value proposition for clients or customers, and how teams depend on each other."
Christian Nielson
VP of Consulting Services

As a consultant you run focus groups expecting to find complex issues, but the issues are often simple. “I don’t know who’s leaving from teams.” “I wish we’d have more updated lists of who’s still in the departments, because my go-to person left and now I don’t know who to go to over there.” Little things like this have a big impact on how connected and aligned groups can be.

Reason your cross-functional collaboration scores may be low:

  • Teams are looking for something that they’re not getting
  • Teams don’t know how to support each other
  • Teams or individuals aren’t sure what collaboration looks like
"I think you can motivate people to collaborate by framing their assignments as growth opportunities."
Beth Wilkins
Principal Consultant

Help employees see that a stretch assignment will allow them to get to know key stakeholders. Make sure to coach them through the opportunity, so that the employee is more likely to view the assignment positively. Help them see how they much they learned and how much they contributed to the organization’s growth. Managers should look at the employee’s goals and find opportunities for that person within the organization. Sometimes it’s a mentor or sponsor who does this.

"Departments collaborate better when they solve problems for the organization. If you need certain departments to collaborate, make sure they know how working as a team helps the overall organizational delivery"
Thomas Olsen

I’ve seen product teams take the time to present new products to the company so that people can see what the company is accomplishing or how their work contributed to those products. This also helps client-facing teams speak about products and updates with more confidence. Open message boards where people share ideas and suggestions virtually have promoted in-person collaboration between departments as well. We need to see and understand what people are working on and why it’s important to them. It just helps build more of that trust and that understanding, instead of assuming people are trying to steal your resources or get out of doing things for you.

"Make sure teams are incentivized to help each other when appropriate."
Stephen Mickelson

We worked with one organization that had multiple departments with different incentive structures. One department was incentivized to refer clients and transfer calls from customers to another department. This frustrated the other department, because they weren’t incentivized to receive these calls or help these customers. And so, they ended up resenting the other department for loading them up with extra work that didn’t lead to more money in their pocket. On the customers side, sometimes customers were transferred 6-8 times before they spoke to somebody who could actually solve their problem.

"figure out if there is conflict between departments. If it's damaging, help people see a new perspective and help them understand other departments and the impact that they have on each other."
DecisionWise Principal Consultant, Dan Hoopes
Dan Hoopes
Principal Consultant

I worked for an organization where there was constant tension between product development and engineering. This critical relationship became so incompatible, that the company took drastic measures: they had the two leaders switch departments. Over 30 days, the two realized things like, “Oh, that’s why we can’t engineer this,” or “Oh, that’s why it’s so important for the product.” So, I tell clients to figure out if the conflict is healthy or damaging.

Your last employee engagement survey may have been a surprising wake-up call. If your teams aren’t collaborating very well, pick some of these tips to add to your yearly people strategy, and then measure again. It may take some time for departments to adopt the strategies, but stay motivated by celebrating the smaller objectives you hit! 

Read our previous consultant round table discussion: The 7 Behaviors of Engaging Supervisors

Video: The Cost of a Bad Manger

Employee engagement surveys are great at helping you find the cracks in your company.  They help you measure a number of things, but some of those items cost you more money than others.  Take your managers. According to DecisionWise research, employees with a negative perception of their manager leave the company at a rate of 56% more than usual. With the high costs of turnover, bad managers can cost your company thousands or even millions of dollars!  Care to find out how much turnover is costing your organization? Try our calculator.

View the Infographic

Podcast: How to Create a Positive Work Environment

In this podcast episode, DecisionWise Sr. Consultant and Executive Coach, Dan Deka, discusses the topic of how to create a positive work environment.

In a business setting, to create a positive experience for your customers, it starts with creating a positive experience for your team, which starts in your head with the way you are thinking.

When it comes down to it, you have much more power and influence than you realize. The way you think and act has a ripple effect on those who surround you. The clearer you can be about your own environment and what you want to achieve, the better equipped you are to help others.

Creating a positive environment can look different from leader to leader. You should evaluate your own situation and find which concepts, such as being inspiring or assertive, will best play to your strengths.

Learn more about these concepts and ideas for creating a positive environment in this insightful conversation.