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

How to Get Your Company’s Leadership to Listen

Leaders listening

It may, at times, feel difficult to get your company’s leadership to listen. Sometimes problems exist with colleagues. Members of your team may not respond to e-mails or avoid speaking face to face. Other communication struggles surface when you need to tell your manager about a problem you are encountering. But maybe they don’t make time for one-on-ones, or perhaps they need a little coaching on how to effectively listen.

And then there’s that feeling that the organization as a whole isn’t listening. Many companies try to fix their communication struggles by first soliciting feedback. We applaud them for taking the time to run an employee engagement survey. But, how do they show you they will listen to and act on your feedback? And what if they do nothing? Will you wait for them to make changes while your engagement wanes? You could absolutely wait and feel justified, because your organization is letting you down. But does a thought like this serve you?

In a previous blog, our DecisionWise consultants discussed the organization’s part in the issue of employee voice. Towards the end of the conversation, we asked them to share some observations that might empower you in this tough situation. In response, they shared some things we could keep in mind when we feel like no one is listening.

Avoid the Trap of “Learned Helplessness”

Principal Consultant, Dan Hoopes asserts that we should first identify if we have developed a victim mentality. He mentions the work of Martin Seligman and his research on “learned helplessness.” This video explains a study Seligman conducted. You may see from the questions at the end how “learned helplessness,” might be holding you back.

“Learned helplessness” is a trap we fall into all too often. If I’m not getting the information or feedback that I need, I should go and ask. I Appreciate when people ask for clarification. So, when we think of engagement as a 50/50 proposition, I think the same thing happens with communication. You can’t wait to be acted upon. Learned helplessness is, “They didn’t tell me that.”  

Know When and How to Bring up Your Ideas

Learning to navigate company culture can be a little bit tricky. Sometimes, employees just need a mentor to coach them through pitching their ideas. Senior Consultant, Charles Rogel shared some thoughts on how new employees might find more success in this area.

And so you need to be strategic in terms of your suggestions, ideas, and things that you really want to change.

“I’ve seen new, enthusiastic employees come up with 20 different ideas to improve the organization within their first week. And they come with, “At my last organization, we…” In this case, the new employees come off too strongly, with too many suggestions. Your company’s leadership is less likely to listen if you add too much noise, and too many things to consider. They should instead think about their top ideas and suggestions, and look for the best opportunity to share those. Are you suggesting something as a special project that you want to take on as one of your development goals? Are you trying to enact change in a more strategic way? Realize that change takes time in any organization. People may not listen to all of your suggestions, but be patient, deliberate, and keep trying.”

VP of Consulting Services, Christian Nielson adds an often overlooked point. Tenured employees may know that the company has come a long way in addressing certain issues. As a new employee, you are unfamiliar with the journey that employees have taken in the organization. People may have tried your solutions but found they didn’t work for whatever reason. And so, Christian cautions us with this.

“When you are new to an organization, you must be sensitive enough to honor the past and understand that you might lack certain information. But with that in mind, press forward and try. One of my favorite definitions of employee engagement is, “When we’re engaged, we feel empowered to bring more of our best self to work.” We should search for a way to be our authentic self and to incorporate more of that into our work.”

Can You Help Your Company’s Leadership Listen to You?

Sometimes, just tweaking the way we approach people with our ideas can offer very different results. Christian offers this tip that he learned from business educator, Marshall Goldsmith.

When you ask someone for help it does this interesting psychological thing where they join your side.

“Goldsmith has this great idea about asking for help and what it does if you have a manager that’s not supportive when you bring up ideas. Ask them for help saying, “I have this idea, can you help me figure out a way to implement this on a trial basis, further explore this, or do a test of this idea.” When you ask someone for help, it does this interesting psychological thing where they join your side. Now, this isn’t foolproof, but it can at least soften some of the existing barriers.”

Principal Consultant, Beth Wilkins then helped us with one more tweak as she put us into the minds of managers. Beth shares how many managers feel and how it affects their ability to listen and act on employee concerns.

“As a manager, I experienced employees telling me about all of their problems, and it became very heavy. I began to brace myself for a laundry list of problems in one-on-ones. I paid close attention when people had a solution attached to the problem. In consideration of managers, I would recommend that employees think, “what kinds of things can I suggest that would make my manager’s or executives’ lives easier?” rather than just reporting the problem.”

Conclusion

You may have stopped talking because getting your company’s leadership to listen seemed hopeless. If you’ve had some time to heal, look back at those people and situations. Were these people possibly having a bad day or in a hurry? Could you try a different approach and revisit your questions or concerns? Then, think about new ideas or concern you have. Make a plan to share those things with these new suggestions in mind.

  • Find the right person to approach
  • Consider your timing
  • Talk to them when they can give you their full attention
  • Come with possible solutions
  • Communicate that you would like their help and feedback

We hope these tips will help you put some of these situations back in your realm of control. If they don’t, be proud that you tried! At that point, you may have to re-evaluate how your organization’s listening skills contribute to your overall employee engagement and whether or not you should seek other opportunities.

4 Reasons Why Employee Retention Is a Challenge in 2019

Employee Retention

“Back in the day we used to walk to work, in the snow, uphill, both ways!” Yeah, we’ve all heard it before. The older generation in the workforce had it much rougher than we do today, right? For the most part I would say that’s pretty much true. I look at my father who started his career in the early-70s in a steel mill and maintained the same job, in the same small town, most of his life. Like my father, it was fairly common for workers in the 20th century to work for the same company most of their careers according to a Stanford Center on Longevity study. Employee turnover wasn’t as big of an issue.

Download Employee Value Proposition survey sample and report.

Today the average worker’s tenure is just 4.4 years, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics with expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest employees at about half that. The average cost of replacing an employee amounts to just over 20 percent of the person’s annual salary according to the Center for American Progress. That can mean millions of dollars for some organizations. So why does employee retention seem to be getting worse?

Here are four reasons why employee retention is becoming more challenging

1. Strong Economy

Employee Retention

The US economy is hot, and isn’t showing signs of cooling off. That’s a good thing right? Unless you’re trying to hire and retain good talent. The economy is growing and the CBO expects GDP growth of 2.3% in 2019. In May of 2018, job openings exceeded hires. There are more jobs available than can be currently filled, according to the US Department of Labor. Quit rates are also increasing accordingly as workers are finding better opportunities in a better economy. With unemployment rates falling and job opportunities increasing, the power is shifting out of the hands of the employer and into the hands of the employee. Organizations can no longer assume that people NEED them. Top talent will go wherever they choose and with whomever offers them the best fit culturally and financially.

2. Changing Workforce

Millennials, it’s always about those darned Millennials, right? Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34) recently became the largest generation in US Workforce.

Ninety-one percent of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey. Younger workers historically have lower tenure rates and are more willing to bounce from job to job. Most younger workers are more mobile with less obligations holding them down. Many aren’t married, don’t have kids, and don’t own a house yet. This frees them up to try new things and live in new places. They are also looking for growth opportunities early in their careers to set them up for success in the future. Younger workers also tend to job-hop more than older workers as a means to quicker career advancement. Now that they comprise the largest segment of the workforce, expect to see the overall tenure rate to fall.

3. Technology

smartphone user

Technology makes it easier for people to instantly find and apply for new job opportunities. A few decades ago workers turned to the want ads in newspapers to find jobs. Hot jobs included titles like typists, switchboard operators, mimeograph repair technicians (what?), keypunchers (Doesn’t everyone punch keys nowadays?), and elevator operators. Newspapers even had separate job listings for men and women. Today’s available jobs sound more like Web Developer, Content Marketing Manager, or Search Engine Optimization Specialist. Job seekers no longer turn to newspapers. They turn to the Internet and sites like Indeed, Monster, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn. Qualified job seekers don’t even have to seek nowadays. They can sit back and receive email or text alerts for available jobs that might fit their skill set or interests. Madness I tell you! Employees can browse job sites directly on their smartphones during lunch hour, in the break room, bathroom, or at their desks.

4. Side Incomes

Making money in your pajamas is the true American Dream, right? Non-traditional side incomes are ending the nine to five job where employees once made the slow climb in a company as the once accepted career path. Freelancing and self-employment are ways that modern-day workers are pulling in extra money or even a creating a full-time living. People can now start a business at the drop of a hat and at little cost. Bloggers, YouTubers, Esty’preneurs, and more are setting up shop and producing content online pulling in viewers, customers, and advertisers galore.  According to Craftcount, the successful Etsy shop, ThinkPinkBows, an online shop selling baby hair and clothes accessories, brings in $2 million in sales. Many people are waiting to leave the traditional workforce as soon as their online side-business can replace their income. It’s the American Dream served up on your personal computer in your very own living room.

What can organizations do to improve employee retention?

team employee experience

Now, more than ever, organizations need to focus on the overall Employee Experience. The Employee Experience consists of all of the experiences an employee has, that become pivot points or moments of truth. These experiences shape an employee’s beliefs about the company, its leaders, the brand, and the employee’s overall success in the organization. Consider these questions: 

  • Does your hiring experience excite applicants or does it require them to jump through a series of “hoops” where they feel lucky if they receive any communication from HR.
  • When new employees are on-boarded, do they feel prepared to be successful or are they thrown into the pool to learn how to swim?
  • Are employees excited and energized as a result of performance reviews or do they dread the process?
  • Can your employees become engaged by their work and the mission and values of your organization or are they working for the weekend?
  • Are you using people analytics to understand how your Employee Experience is impacting your business metrics?

Start by finding out how these experiences are perceived by your employees and take the steps needed to improve employee turnover. Become forward thinking. Similar to those in academia who embraced mobile devices and integrated them into the learning process rather than banning devices.  The current job market is in a similar situation. What got you here, will not get you there.

Employee Engagement Survey

4 Reasons Why Employee Retention Is a Challenge

Employee Retention

“Back in the day we used to walk to work, in the snow, uphill, both ways!” Yeah, we’ve all heard it before. The older generation in the workforce had it much rougher than we do today, right? For the most part I would say that’s pretty much true. I look at my father who started his career in the early-70s in a steel mill and maintained the same job, in the same small town, most of his life. Like my father, it was fairly common for workers in the 20th century to work for the same company most of their careers according to a Stanford Center on Longevity study. Employee turnover wasn’t as big of an issue.

Download Employee Value Proposition survey sample and report.

Today the average worker’s tenure is just 4.4 years, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics with expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest employees at about half that. The average cost of replacing an employee amounts to just over 20 percent of the person’s annual salary according to the Center for American Progress. That can mean millions of dollars for some organizations. So why does employee retention seem to be getting worse?

Here are four reasons why employee retention is becoming more challenging

1. Strong Economy

Employee Retention
The US economy is hot, and isn’t showing signs of cooling off. That’s a good thing right? Unless you’re trying to hire and retain good talent. The economy is growing and Forbes expect an even stronger economy in 2018.

In May of 2017, job openings exceeded hires, meaning there are more jobs available than can be currently filled, according to the US Department of Labor. Quit rates are also increasing accordingly as workers are finding better opportunities in a better economy. With unemployment rates falling and job opportunities increasing, the power is shifting out of the hands of the employer and into the hands of the employee. Organizations can no longer assume that people NEED them. Top talent will go wherever they choose and with whomever offers them the best fit culturally and financially.

2.Changing Workforce

Millenials, it’s always about those darned Millenials, right? Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34) recently became the largest generation in US Workforce.
Ninety-one percent of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey.

Younger workers historically have lower tenure rates and are more willing to bounce from job to job. Most younger workers are more mobile with less obligations holding them down. Many aren’t married, don’t have kids, and don’t own a house yet. This frees them up to try new things and live in new places. They are also looking for growth opportunities early in their careers to set them up for success in the future. Younger workers also tend to job-hop more than older workers as a means to quicker career advancement. Now that they comprise the largest segment of the workforce, expect to see the overall tenure rate to fall.

3. Technology

Technology makes it easier for people to instantly find and apply for new job opportunities. A few decades ago workers turned to the want ads in newspapers to find jobs. Hot jobs included titles like typists, switchboard operators, mimeograph repair technicians (what?), keypunchers (Doesn’t everyone punch keys nowadays?), and elevator operators. Newspapers even had separate job listings for men and women.

smartphone user

Today’s available jobs sound more like Web Developer, Content Marketing Manager, or Search Engine Optimization Specialist. Job seekers no longer turn to newspapers. They turn to the Internet and sites like Indeed, Monster, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn. Qualified job seekers don’t even have to seek nowadays. They can sit back and receive email or text alerts for available jobs that might fit their skill set or interests. Madness I tell you! Employees can browse job sites directly on their smartphones during lunch hour, in the break room, bathroom, or at their desks.

4. Side Incomes

Making money in your pajamas is the true American Dream, right? Non-traditional side incomes are ending the nine to five job where employees once made the slow climb in a company as the once accepted career path. Freelancing and self-employment are ways that modern-day workers are pulling in extra money or even a creating a full time living. People can now start a business at the drop of a hat and at little cost. Bloggers, YouTubers, Esty’preneurs, and more are setting up shop and producing content online pulling in viewers, customers, and advertisers galore. Shay Carl’s family YouTube channel brings in over $1 million per year by simply filming and posting daily videos of their family’s life. According to Craftcount, the successful Etsy shop, ThinkPinkBows, an online shop selling baby hair and clothes accessories, brings in $2 million in sales. Many people are waiting to leave the traditional workforce as soon as their online side-business can replace their income. It’s the American Dream served up on your personal computer in your very own living room.

What can organizations do to improve employee retention?

Now, more than ever, organizations need to focus on the overall Employee Experience. The Employee Experience consists of all of the experiences an employee has, whether predicted or not, that become pivot points or moments of truth. These experiences shape an employee’s beliefs about the company, its leaders, the brand, and the employee’s overall success in the organization. Consider these questions: team employee experience

  • Does your hiring experience excite applicants or does it require them to jump through a series of “hoops” where they feel lucky if they receive any communication from HR.
  • When new employees are on-boarded, do they feel prepared to be successful or are they thrown into the pool to learn how to swim?
  • Are employees excited and energized as a result of performance reviews or do they dread the process?
  • Are your employees engaged by their work and the mission and values of your organization or are they working for the weekend?
  • Are you using people analytics to understand how your Employee Experience is impacting your business metrics?

Start by finding out how these experiences are perceived by your employees and take the steps needed to improve. Become forward thinking, similar to those in academia who embraced mobile devices and integrated them into the learning process rather than banning devices. They understood it would require additional preparation to make class time more interactive and interesting so as not to compete for attention with mobile devices.  The current job market is in a similar situation. What got you here, will not get you there.

Employee Engagement Survey

Does Employee Engagement Matter to Organizations with High Turnover?

High Employee Turnover

Recently, we have had several organizations come to us with the same basic question: “What can we do to improve employee engagement if 90% of our employees stay less than 6 months?” It’s important to note that these organizations are not fundamentally flawed and somehow hemorrhaging talent. It’s that their business models lend themselves to high employee turnover. Their industries range from janitorial services, to fast food, to call centers, to agricultural workers, etc. Employee retention equates to millions of dollars a year.

It might be tempting to think that employee engagement simply doesn’t matter in these types of scenarios where employee turnover is high and retention is low. This might be the case if you view employee engagement as primarily a survey activity. Why would you take the time to survey an employee who has been with the organization less than three months, and, in all likelihood, will be gone within the next two?

Employee engagement, however, is much more than a survey. It’s a broader approach that considers a variety of factors and calls upon other business disciplines for assistance, such as strategy, talent management, recruitment, leadership development, and succession planning. So, while it might not make sense to survey all your employees if your workforce is transient, you can still do a lot to help those core employees that manage, direct, and support that segment of your workforce that is constantly coming and going.

Employee Engagement Case Study

Let’s consider a simple case study. ACME Cleaning Services, Inc., employs 2,100 employees in a three-state area. ACME is focused on government buildings and corporate campuses. Most of its workforce consists of part-time janitorial workers that make at or just above minimum wage. These folks don’t have a company-issued computer, and many aren’t even provided a company e-mail address. The average employee tenure is 5.5 months. The vast majority of these positions are filled by students or those needing employment while they continue to look for something that might provide better growth potential. ACME would love to retain its people longer, but its margins are thin, and it can’t afford to pay the labor costs that would be needed to keep people around for a longer period of time. So, ACME does the best it can, and it has become very good at quickly on-boarding and training people.

Nonetheless, ACME is missing many of the benefits it might otherwise realize from an increase in employee engagement. Particularly, it has not focused on that core of key leaders who handle the constant migration of new employees. Thus, the question on the table is whether ACME could improve its bottom line and overall employee experience were it to undertake some efforts to build employee engagement within its workforce?

An Employee Engagement Road map

Here is a suggested roadmap on how ACME might improve its employee engagement efforts across the board:

First, ACME needs to clearly bifurcate its efforts and treat its two distinct employee segments differently. For the segment of employees who are likely to come and go within a year, ACME’s efforts should be life-cycle based. The onboarding process should be simple and easy. Trainings should be standardized, and it might even be a good idea to create a simple knowledge base where employees are able to look up simple questions. Simple-to-use portals would be a key. Finally, termination and exit need to be straightforward and easy to handle. But, surveying these employees, except in an onboarding or exit capacity, probably does not make sense.

MAGIC - DecisionWise
On the other hand, for those employees that ACME needs in order to manage its transient workforce, a strong employee engagement effort will yield real ROI. These core employees need to be empowered with specific skills on how they can inspire, lead, and engage their direct reports. To retain these employees, they need to be given a clear growth path. ACME also needs to understand its employee brand and the value proposition it is giving this employee segment. Additionally, in this instance, surveying this sub-population will show that ACME is willing to listen and address issues that might come up during an employee engagement survey. Lastly, these are the employees that need an ACME employee experience that provides healthy doses of ENGAGEMENT MAGIC®: meaning, autonomy, growth, impact, and connection.

Why Build Employee Engagement?

But, does ACME really need to do all of this?  Its margins are thin anyway. Will a focus on employee engagement really make a difference in employee retention?  The answer is unequivocally yes. Even if the only factor you take into consideration is the cost of replacing employees at the manager level. But, there are benefits that are real (monetarily so), which cannot be readily quantified. We all know that a workforce with the right culture/employee experience is far more formidable than one mired in mediocrity and dissent.

More Than The Survey

Employee engagement is far more than survey analytics, which typically only tell us “what,” “where,” and “when.” Survey analytics are limited because they cannot tell us the “who” and, most importantly, the “how.” That’s where DecisionWise helps companies move beyond the survey to build employee engagement capability and then turn that capability into a true competitive advantage within their marketplace.

Are You Throwing Your Employees Under the Bus? [Case Study]

Chicago Transit Authority

A Case Study on Improving The Customer Experience (CX) at the Risk of The Employee Experience (EX)

What is an organization’s greatest asset? Is it the product, equipment, customers or employees? In this case study we examine how the Chicago Transit Authority sought to improve its Customer Experience while failing to focus on its Employee Experience.

In 2013, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) spent $454 million to transition its 1.7 million daily riders from its own proprietary fare collection system to a third-party system owned and developed by a company called Ventra. But rather than saving money and time, the CTA only succeeded in enraging tens of thousands of Chicagoans.

The CTA’s mistake was that it focused on improving its Customer Experience by increasing efficiency but did so without taking into account its employees—you know, the people who best knew its customers’ behavior, who knew that they were happy with the current system, and who would be on the front lines of customer anger and frustration. It was a costly miscalculation.

For example, buses were redesigned so that riders boarding through the front door would be automatically charged by electronic sensors as they passed by. No swiping cards—great, right? Sure, until you realize that on a crowded city bus, riders tend to use the fastest, most convenient exit. Unfortunately, the CTA didn’t talk to its bus drivers before installing the expensive system. If it had, it would have learned that many riders also exit through the front door. After the new system came online, many riders were inadvertently charged twice. Whoops.
Download: Employee Experience Survey

Technical problems plagued the new system, and the CTA dropped the ball by making customer service available only between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays. Since many people ride the trains and buses in the evenings and on weekends, this decision left huge swaths of time that passengers couldn’t get help from a real person. In some cases, the customer service issues were tragicomic, including the experience of one passenger who started getting email after email telling him his new Ventra card was on the way, followed by a blizzard of mail: 91 envelopes, each containing a new card. The comedy of errors didn’t stop there. “The next day, 176 more [cards] arrived, each one, he later discovered, canceling the last. ‘You have to call and activate it,’ the rider told Crain’s Chicago Business, ‘but I’ve been afraid to do that.’”

Eventually, the CTA had to go back to selling its former magnetic stripe cards while it figured out what went wrong, which was something its employees could have pointed out before the costly move to a new system. Meanwhile, as riders became more and more fed up and indignant, the agency threw its employees—pardon the pun—under the bus. In December 2013, one call center worker lost her job after the Chicago Tribune published a letter in which a frustrated customer recounted his repeated attempts to get a Ventra card. But customer support calls were routed to a call center in San Francisco, so call center workers had no firsthand knowledge of the city or the system. The sacked worker was merely the last service rep the customer had spoken to, and she had been working for eleven days straight. Nevertheless, she was sent packing—on her birthday—for “bringing bad press to Ventra.”

The CTA’s greatest blunder wasn’t choosing faulty technology or dealing with incompetent partners to fix a system that wasn’t broken. It was failing to work with its greatest asset, its employees, to understand and improve its Customer Experience.

Learn more about how to manage your organization’s trust with its employees by picking up The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from The Employee Experience by Tracy Maylett and Matthew Wride. Copyright (c) 2017 by DecisionWise, LLC. All rights reserved.
Call to Action - Employee Experience Book Bestseller

The Employee Experience Equation

Did you realize you were making a contract this very moment? Not a formal one, but in your mind, you made the choice to read this article and you naturally came in with some expectations. This “brand” contract is based on what you know about me or the source through which you found my work. Additionally, you’re filling in other expectations from past experience that go beyond just what’s been implicitly promised so far. This “psychological” contract is formed when those expectations you’ve drawn up in your mind get paired with the time you give up to read this article in exchange for the assumption that I’ll provide you with something that makes it worthwhile. So, thanks for your trust – I’ll do my best!

Read the Book: The Employee Experience

Happy Employees
Unfortunately, if I don’t meet those expectations, you are going to be unhappy. So now the pressure is on for me; I have to meet your expectations, but chances are, I haven’t even met you! So what ARE your expectations? I’m guessing you want to learn something. Maybe leave with just one thing that’s useful. You probably have an expectation of readability, although maybe you’ll forgive some awkward turns of phrase if I can at least provide useful content.

The point is you have expectations. And those expectations inform your experience. Maybe this is a decent article, but a friend recommended it as “life-changing,” so you were ultimately left disappointed. Maybe a smart friend passed it along so you could both have a chuckle at how rudimentary my command of words is, but I managed to exceed your expectations a bit, leaving you satisfied with your time invested. Objective experiences are a myth, so we need to start embracing subjective experiences.

In fact, your entire life is a series of expectations that are being either met, exceeded, or violated. And your “experience” is a combination of both acute experiences that dramatically shape your paradigm and small, chronic experiences that add up over time. You could even quantitatively frame your experiences as the difference between your expectation and your reality. I walk into a performance review expecting the worst and instead receive glowing praise and a raise; expectations exceeded. Experience? Very positive.

On the other hand, let’s say I was expecting a big Christmas bonus, as usual, so I could build a pool in my backyard but instead got only a subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club. You could argue that I’m better off than I was before the bonus, so economics predicts I should be happy. But anyone who has seen Clark Griswold’s reaction to this scenario in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” can attest that happiness, most certainly, is not the outcome.

But not all experiences are created equal. My experience with favorite childhood cartoons rebooted as gritty movies is nowhere near as important to me as is my experience regarding the health of my spouse.

And there is one last piece of the puzzle. None of this exists in a vacuum. You enter every experience with the sum total of your prior experiences in play. Are you a generally happy person? One moderately bad experience isn’t going to change that and you might even remain net positive through it. Are you a Negative Ned? Well a good experience might not be enough to swing you out of the doldrums.

Putting all this together, we have the product of your expectations (E) and the reality of how well they were met (EO), all multiplied by how important (I) the moment was to you, all added to your general disposition (GD). Or, more concisely:

I(E*EO) + GD = Experience

Try it out! Start with something easy, like the last movie you saw. How would you rate it?

Your Expectation (E) ? The Expectation Outcome (EO) ?
4 Very Low -3 Drastically Did Not
2 Low -2 Did Not
1 None 1 Met Expectations
2 Some 2 Exceeded Expectations
4 High 3 Drastically Exceeded
The Importance (I) ? Your General Disposition (GD) ?
1 Not Important -5 Fairly Negative
2 Somewhat Important -3 Slightly Negative
3 Important 0 Even-Keeled
4 Very Important 3 Generally Positive
5 Vital Importance 5 Annoyingly Chipper

Where does your score put you?

1 to 15

Scores in this area describe contentment. Generally a positive experience but not enough to elicit much emotion. Maybe worth a mention if a friend asks about it or if it’s been a slow social media day.

-1 to -15

This might cause a vigorous eyebrow raise. Maybe a verbal scoff. Inconvenience, frustration, irritation. By itself, no big deal. But watch out if these experiences start to add up.

16 to 30

We’re getting into emotion here. This is creating enthusiasm and genuine positive emotion. Here you share your experience willingly with friends and acquaintances. This experience fosters enthusiasm and forces you to recalibrate your expectations.

-16 to -30

The emotion here is strong enough to inspire behavioral change. Something needs to be done. Doubt, discouragement, and worry. These are experiences that need to be shared with comforting friends and food.

31 and higher

These are experiences that can shift your whole paradigm, redefining expectations. Joy, passion, and love fall here. You’ll share these experiences with anyone who will listen.

-31 and lower

Watch out! These are the experiences that bring about major life changes. If you see someone acting in anger, fear, or despair after one of these experiences, everyone would completely understand.

What separates this equation from a fluffy Cosmo quiz? With this in hand, now you can identify the pain points in your organization. Are certain departments or demographics having drastically different experiences? Do you need to meet their expectations, or recalibrate them? By asking questions about different categories of experiences, you can pinpoint whether employees are having good social experiences but bad personal ones. Good customer moments but bad bureaucratic ones. Maybe someone else is dropping the ball or maybe you have unnaturally high expectations.

If you find a part of your job that isn’t necessarily a Greek tragedy but consistently fails to live up to expectations, you’ve identified something that has the potential to erode your experience until one day you’re fed up and you can’t even point to a single reason why. Better to see it coming and course correct.

Now that you understand how identifying and measuring expectations is the key to creating an elite employee experience, give it a whirl with some job-related scenarios! Here are some prompts to help you start identifying where your expectations aren’t being met.

Scenarios

Your most recent performance review Your previous job
Your relationship with your boss, significant other, kids, or peers The last project you completed
Your last dispute with a colleague Your last compensation discussion

Did you rate an experience that didn’t quite fit? We would love to hear from you and how we can improve.

Call to Action - Employee Experience Book Bestseller

The Employee Experience: Interview With Authors Tracy Maylett and Matthew Wride

The Employee Experience Book

(This article and interview originally appeared on SwitchAndShift.com)
Shawn Murphy, CEO and Co-founder of Switch And Shift recently talked with authors Tracy Maylett, Ed.D and Matthew Wride, J.D., P.H.R. about their new book, The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results. The book explores what is shaping up to be the hot HR topic of 2017—the employee experience. Maylett and Wride are chief executives at DecisionWise.

Momentum

S&S: What’s behind the momentum in organizations to begin evaluating their employee experience? How do we know it’s not a management fad?

Maylett: We can thank the recent push in employee engagement for a good part of this momentum. Organizations have discovered clear ties between engagement and operational performance. Engagement has become more than a nice-to-have, HR-sponsored idea. When something has financial measures, ROI, profitability, quality, attrition, etc., tied to it, that tends to get the attention of the entire organization.  The Employee Experience Book
The Employee Experience, or “EX,” is the sum of perceptions employees have about their interactions with the organization in which they work. Organizations now realize engagement is only a part of the human equation regarding these measures. Sometimes EX is positive, sometimes it’s negative. But it’s always there. EX directly impacts performance. The way in which employees perceive their experience is a strong predictor of organizational performance. Emphasis on performance certainly isn’t a fad, so it’s important to understand all the indicators associated with that performance. Understanding EX is foundational.

Trends

S&S: What trends do you see regarding the connection between employee experience and customer experience?

Maylett: There has been a great deal of attention focused on creating a stellar Customer Experience (CX). There is no doubt customer satisfaction is rocket fuel for the bottom line. However, today’s organizations are burning billions in fruitless efforts to create a profit-boosting CX. Many companies fail to recognize their employees create the customer experience. The employee is the face of the company. The Customer Experience (CX) is a direct result of the Employee Experience (EX). CX = EX. We call this the “Law of Congruent Experience.” Employees will deliver a Customer Experience that matches their own Employee Experience. And some organizations are finally realizing the sole focus on CX is a backward attempt to delight customers.

Read the Book: The Employee Experience

Wride: Over the past several years, the trend has been to focus intently on customer experience while many times ignoring those who interact with the customer on a daily basis:  the employees. We try and remind business leaders to lay a foundation built on a well-functioning employee experience rather than obsessing over whether a customer spent 32.3 seconds on the website as opposed to 36.9 seconds last year. If you want a superlative customer experience, start by creating an environment that fosters and promotes an engaged workforce.

Expectations

S&S: Talk about the role employee expectations play in the employee experience. What are other important factors?

Maylett: There has been a great deal of research in both clinical and organizational psychology that points to the fact that expectations form the basis of relationships. Every relationship, be it husband and wife, parent and child, boss and subordinate, or company and employee, has a “Contract.” This contract is a set of expectations for all parties involved.
Some of these expectations are explicit (“You will work X hours per week, and I will pay you Y amount”). Others are implicit (“I will work extra hours on this project because the company will take notice next time promotions come around”). This set of expectations, or a contract, is always being reinforced, violated, or renegotiated. Our research shows whether this contract is honored has a greater impact on the relationship than does the environment in which that relationship operates.

In the workplace, this means one’s engagement is less dependent on foosball tables, Taco Tuesdays, benefits, and compensation than it is on whether the individual’s expectations are met. Much of our EX perception is based on how well expectations are fulfilled. If expectations aren’t aligned, an expectation gap is created, causing disengagement.

Wride: Expectations are these ephemeral atomic elements that either build or destroy relationships. Yet, we don’t spend nearly enough time worrying about them. Instead, we focus on getting down to the “real work” of the day that might consist of meetings, memos, spreadsheets, and forecasts. Of course, that stuff is incredibly important, but not at the expense of building alignment within one’s team.

Responsibility

S&S: Whose responsibility is it to have a positive employee experience—executives? Middle management?

Maylett: In our book, ENGAGEMENT MAGIC®: Five Keys for Engaging People, Leaders, and Organizations we state that engagement is a 50/50 proposition. 50 percent of the responsibility is on the company. The organization must create the environment that encourages employees to choose to be engaged. But it’s still a choice; employees must choose to engage.

Similarly, the employee experience is half of the responsibility of the employees. Many leaders can point to employees that will constantly chose to have a negative employee experience (remember, EX is all about perceptions), despite any management effort. However, the organization is still responsible for the other 50 percent.

Managers and supervisors are the foot soldiers with the direct connection to employees. They are the beginning and end of in-house EX management. In other words, we are ALL responsible for creating and maintaining a positive EX (even the employees).

Value

S&S: What role does the Employee Value Proposition play in engagement?

Wride: The Employee Value Proposition is simply one component of a well-functioning employee experience. It’s what we call the “brand contract.” It’s those expectations an organization has about what it needs from future and current employees, intertwined with expectations these same people have about what it will be like for them personally within that organization. (Sorry, that was a long-winded answer). To the extent an organization’s EVP properly bridges the chasm separating the organization’s needs from the employees’ expectations, that organization will be more successful in attracting and retaining the type of talent that will help it win.

Leaders

SA&: Where do leaders go astray when intentionally developing their employee experience?

Maylett: Leaders are most likely to go astray when they fail to intentionally design an EX at all. A poor EX most often is created when leaders neglect the EX, or allow an EX to form unintentionally and without concerted design. EX must be intentional. EX is like culture; it will develop, whether it’s planned or not. When an organization purposefully creates a positive EX, rather than letting it unintentionally develop, the EX more likely will reflect the positive values of the organization.

Wride: It’s like parenting. When I became a parent, I was cocky. I thought I had the natural ability to be effective. Wrong!  I had to work at it, and I needed to make it an intentional area of focus. Most leaders are high achievers, which makes them believe they are talented across the spectrum. They fall into the same trap I did with parenting. They erroneously believe prior success in other areas means they have the inherent talent to manage, motivate, and engage human beings. For a small percentage, that might be true. But our employee survey responses tell us for the clear majority of leaders, they need to improve their people skills.

Call to Action - Employee Experience Book Bestseller