Why Your Customer Experience (CX) Is Really About Your Employee Experience (EX)

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Why Your Customer Experience (CX) Is Really About Your Employee Experience (EX)

Article by Tracy Maylett originally published on Business2Community.com
Happy customers translate to successful organizations. But in their quest for the optimal Customer Experience, or “CX,” most organizations ignore the most critical piece in the process—the Employee Experience, or “EX.”

Read the Book: The Employee Experience

Companies are upping their games when it comes to CX. And, if done correctly, it can pay huge dividends. In fact, even incremental improvements of just one point in CX scores can result in huge revenue increases. That’s $65 million in extra annual revenue for a hotel chain, $118 million for an auto brand, and a staggering $175 million per year in new revenues for a wireless provider.

Your Customer Experience is Really About Your Employee Experience

There’s a lot of money being thrown at getting CX right. The market for CX management services and technology is expected to grow from $4.36 billion to $10.77 over the next five years. Yet, just 37 percent of businesses surveyed report that they are able to link these customer experience activities to increased revenue or cost savings. That’s a lot of wasted money in a potential goldmine.

The problem isn’t that they are going after revamping CX; it’s that they are going about it the wrong way. In their quest for a superlative CX, they forget that CX is really about EX.

A Poor Customer Experience

Last year, I stopped by a neighborhood bakery for an apple fritter. As I approached the empty sales counter, I watched as a manager chided a teenage employee. His body motions were animated and disturbing, but paled in comparison to his rather offensive language.

The manager and the young employee noticed me, and the teen came to the counter. Her first words were, “What do you want?” Not, “Can I help you?” or “Would you like a free sample?” No, it was a terse “What do you want?”
Taken aback, I was just about to comment on the teen’s lack of caring, but stopped short when I realized something important: My CX really wasn’t the fault of the poor teen in front of me. She was just the relay between the bakery and me, the customer. My poor CX was a direct result of her poor EX.

I left, without buying the best apple fritter in town, but not before laying into the manager for his lack of understanding of both the customer and the Employee Experience. As a side note, the bakery was closed six months ago, and has not reopened.

This experience is far from unique. We all have near-endless accounts of both positive and negative examples of our own CX. But recent press has made this even more apparent with stories of CX disasters.

A Poor Employee Experience

Take Chipotle. Between November of 2015 and January of 2016, Chipotle customers were hit by a much-publicized E. coli outbreak, sickening 55 people in 11 states. Chipotle temporarily closed dozens of restaurants, and locked the doors of more than 1,900 restaurants for one day to address safety concerns. The exact cause of the outbreak was never clearly identified. Chipotle stock took a dive of nearly 30%.

But, there’s more to Chipotle’s woes. Chipotle concerns don’t stop at the CX. In 2014, a handful of Chipotle workers filed suit against the company for allegedly forcing employees into working overtime, without getting paid. Since that time, nearly 10,000 Chipotle employees have joined the suit.

What does that say about the EX?

While I’m certainly not trying to draw a link from unpaid overtime to E. coli, it does appear Chipotle has some work to do on both sides of the equation.

More? Sure.

Take a look at Wells Fargo and their recent series of bungles. The bank was found to have opened accounts and credit cards for its customers, without the customers’ knowledge. It then collected fees from these fake accounts.
The bank had created a culture that not only allowed employees to defraud customers, many employees felt they were required to do so in order to keep their jobs. Rather than owning up to their role in building this culture, however, the bank fired 5,300 employees, calling them “underperformers.”


Both Chipotle and Wells Fargo know better—or at least we hope so. Both were strong going into these very public struggles, and both will likely rebuild their brands. However, they won’t do it without the support of those that create the CX in the first place—their employees.

EX=CX. The Customer Experience is a direct reflection of the Employee Experience.
Get the book, The Employee Experience

No Time to Focus on The Employee Experience? Try Checklists

No Time to Focus on The Employee Experience? Try Checklists

No Time to Focus on The Employee Experience? Try Checklists. I mean we’ve all heard the advice: “Don’t forget to schedule time to work on the big-picture items.” Sometimes, this guidance is packaged as: “Block out and schedule uninterrupted time to be creative and to work on high-value projects.” Yet, in a world that seems to place tremendous value on “inbox zero,” where does a leader possibly find the time to create, plan, think strategically, or focus on his or her value proposition?

No Time to Focus on The Employee Experience? Try Checklists

The answer may lie in the more effective use of checklists to minimize the brain power and effort we spend on routine tasks. Dr. Atul Gawande, in his book, The Checklist Manifesto (2009, Metropolitan Books), is a vocal advocate for this concept. For me, however, I became a believer in the theory after several coaching sessions with a young and talented business executive. Let’s call him Stephen. Stephen was responsible for a significant chunk of revenue, and he oversaw several key retail locations within an important territory for his company.

Stephen and I had been exploring his value proposition, both on professional and personal level. Finding a leader’s value proposition is a coaching exercise we go through that is designed to help leaders focus on those areas where they create the most value as opposed to focusing on tasks that might yield a lower ROI or which might be a distraction. Stephen was convinced that he could create far more value for his company by developing and training his team and direct reports than by focusing solely on the administrative and operational tasks that comprised the bulk of his job description.

For several weeks, we explored ways he could devote more time towards his goal of developing others while still maintaining an appropriate level of operational proficiency. Our efforts seemed futile. Then, one day he delightedly explained that he had found the missing ingredient; he had taken the time to create a checklist for each of the various operational tasks for which he was responsible. Then, with discipline, he had been carefully adhering to these checklists. His mental approach was to first take care of his daily, core items so he could then turn his attention elsewhere. It became a challenge: How fast could Stephen get through his checklist (in a competent manner) so he could start working on what he loved to do?

Employee Experience and Employee Engagement

What he found in the process were significant blocks of time that he could devote to training and developing his people. In other words, by becoming disciplined in his routine, he found the time he needed to focus on the extraordinary – those initiatives that might be “game-changers” for his company and his career. He also found another added benefit, as he was using less emotional energy on routine matters, which meant he had more passion and drive for the challenging projects that require brain power and resourcefulness.

Now to some, Stephen’s example might be construed as another suggestion along the lines of: “Improve your productivity and you’ll have more time to focus on the more important things.” You might be right, but I think that level of analysis is a bit too shallow. The idea is a bit more nuanced.

In Stephen’s example, it’s not that he became more productive by learning to perform his routine tasks faster, it was that his checklists helped him to maintain operational focus and avoid switch-tasking. His checklists helped him focus his energy, which also produced the side benefit of conserving energy. Stephen was then able to spend the balance of his energy account elsewhere.

A “bank account” is often used as a metaphor to explaining interpersonal relationships. We have “trust bank accounts.” We have “goodwill bank accounts.” And, I am going to add one more, which is an employee’s productive energy bank account. Energy is finite resource. It cannot be created or destroyed. This is the first law of thermodynamics in physics, and it applies to organizational and human dynamics. If energy cannot be produced, then one possible way to get more from yourself and those you lead is to better focus energy on routine tasks by using checklists.

This tiny nugget of advice holds true at the organizational level as well as the individual level. As you examine the Employee Experience for which you are responsible, ask yourself whether you have spent the time needed to create checklists, processes, systems, etc., to manage and improve those tasks and operations that must be done an ongoing operational basis. By taking the time to focus your organization’s operational energy, other energy will become available to work on creative endeavors and innovation.

Consider using checklists both at a personal and organizational level to organize and focus key activities. A disciplined approach to accomplishing the “must-dos” may lead to additional time to focus on those activities that support high-value activities and organization-wide objectives.

The Rise of The Employee Experience

Office Team Celebrating

The rise of the employee experience is the next topic human resources professionals should pay attention to and here’s why. Try this experiment. Go to LinkedIn and type in “Employee Experience” with the quotes in the search bar. As of November 29, 2016, I found:

  • 1,911 people with “Employee Experience” in their profile
  • 1,850 people with “Employee Experience” in their title
  • 2,222 jobs are available with the term “Employee Experience” in the title
  • 3,890 results appear for LinkedIn posts with the term “Employee Experience”
  • 6 groups with “Employee Experience” in the name- the most popular one has 879 members

When I did this same search about a month before, I found less than 1,700 people with “Employee Experience” in their title. More and more HR professionals are changing their titles to include this new term, and it seems to be senior HR leaders in reputable companies who are leading the way. Here are several examples:

  • Donna Morris, EVP Customer and Employee Experience at Adobe
  • Malcolm Berkley, Vice President, Global Employee Experience at UPS
  • Angela Heyroth, Managing Director, Employee Experience at Charles Schwab
  • Paul Davies, Employee Experience Leader at GE
  • Ryan Miller, Senior Manager, HR Knowledge Management and Employee Experience at The Walt Disney Company
  • Monika Fahlbusch, Chief Employee Experience Officer at BMC Software
  • Shauna Cort, Employee Experience Program Manager at Tesla

When you think about it, “human resources” does sound like an antiquated and non-politically-correct term. Are employees really the company’s resources? “Human resources” is a corporate term to specify the different inputs needed for a company to produce a product or service. When viewed as a cog in the machine of corporate gains, “human resources” really doesn’t do an adequate job of describing employees. After all, companies are really made up of a group of people that produce value for customers. It’s your people that ultimately drive the company’s success.

“Employee Experience” Shows a 140% Increase in Popularity

Google has a nifty tool to show how popular a term is on the search engine. Google Trends allows you to see the relative interest in a term over the past five years. If you do a search on Google Trends for the term “Employee Experience,” you will see a 140 percent increase in interest by comparing the average popularity value of 35 in 2011 to 85 towards the end of 2016.

Google’s description of “interest over time” is a little tricky. Google explains: “Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. Likewise, a score of 0 means the term was less than 1% as popular as the peak.”
If you compare interest in “Employee Engagement” you will see that “Employee Experience” has a ways to go to catch up. Nevertheless, the trend in interest for “Employee Experience” is still climbing.

What is the Employee Experience?

Simply put, the employee experience is the sum of the various perceptions employees have about their interactions with the organization in which they work. These perceptions drive how employees feel about their work and how much effort they put into their job. The employee experience determines how effective your company is at attracting, retaining, and engaging your workforce.

The Employee Experience Revolution

Are we in the middle of a major shift in mindset when it comes to employees? I hope so. As the global economy grows and competition becomes more intense, the war for talent will only become harder. Attracting, retaining, and engaging top talent will be the key advantage successful companies use to win in this era, and it all starts with creating an amazing employee experience.

P.S. While posting this article, I did another search on LinkedIn and found 5,303 people with “Employee Experience” in their title.

Question: If you are in HR, will you be replacing “human resources” with “employee experience” in your title? Did you do so already? Why?


How to Shape Your Employee Experience Using Data

Employee Engagement Example Graph

As humans, we are incredibly good at grouping things. We are also very good at seeing patterns. Indeed, pattern recognition has been shown to be a clear evolutionary advantage for our species. That said, our natural penchant for patterns can sometimes obscure what is really happening. If you spend any time with optical illusions, you’ll quickly see how our brains distort reality by using innate patterns, or “shortcuts.” Predictable patterns mean our brains have to work less, and nature loves to conserve energy.

Read the Book: The Employee Experience

So, how does this observation apply to your organization’s Employee Experience (EX)? If we follow our brain’s preferred course, we might naturally try and create an Employee Experience that is nearly the same for each employee. As noted, we are wired to look for repeatable patterns and processes. Yet, this tendency may create a bias that works against our most important business goals.

Consider the following. Your organization’s EX is the sum of the various human-based operating conditions that surround and influence your employees at a behavioral and social level. In other words, your EX is that unique social environment in which your employees do their work.

Staff meeting with great employee experience

In designing your EX, whether at the team level or at the organizational level, the goal is to create an EX environment that supports your organization’s key business objectives. For example, if you need precision in your engineering team, then the engineering team’s EX should promote and cultivate precision. If another team’s value is derived from creativity, then their EX should be tailored to foster creativity, such as designing work schedules that allow for uninterrupted chunks of time.

There is also a secondary lesson to be gleaned from these two examples. The Employee Experience should not be the same for every employee. Certainly corporate values and ethics need to stay the same, but other components must differ if you are going to get the most from your organization’s talent.

Armed with these insights, the next step is to try and understand your organization’s current EX. Every organization has an EX. Some are inherited. Some EXs are carefully controlled and created. But most are haphazardly acquired, or the EX has been foisted upon the organization’s current leadership. But, you can’t shape and improve your EX unless you have clear understanding of the starting point.

How to Better Understand Your Employee Experience

Analyze the Survey Data

We suggest that one way to better understand your current EX is to analyze your employee survey data. But, we suggest you use it differently this time. Rather than focusing on traditional groupings and comparisons, dig deeper and use your data to help understand how and why employees are having different Employee Experiences within your organization. The key question to be looking for in your employee survey data is: Do my employees have different Employee Experiences, and, if so, why?

Sort Employees into Groups

Here is one possible way to tackle this process.  Start by sorting your employees into four groups based on how favorably they viewhow to shape your employee experience using data your organization. We suggest you follow a traditional bell curve. For example, the highest raters might represent the top 15%. These are the fully engaged employees that give your organization top marks. They are the most enthusiastic champions of the organization, whose excitement is palpable and contagious.

The second group could be the next 35%. This group likely represents your key contributors. These are the employees that meet performance expectations, the “strong-and-steady.” They get things done, but they typically invest limited time innovating, improving processes, or breaking from the status quo.

The third group might be the next 35%. This is an employee segment where there is a strong opportunity for improvement. They generally feel underutilized, spend a lot of work time taking care of personal needs, do enough to get by and not get in trouble.

The last group is your remaining employees, and this group represents those that are disengaged at work. These employees are bored and frustrated; say negative things about the organization and tend to blame others for their failures.

Once you have sorted your employees as suggested, the next step is to look at the following three metrics.

Look at Three Metric Types

Metric #1

Compare the overall favorability score each group gives your organization. What do you see? What do you learn about each group’s Employee Experience?  Then work at finding who are in these groups. For example, are they mainly women, engineers, line workers, etc.? Try and understand the forces that have shaped and molded these groups.

Metric #2

Based on all the survey responses, find the top three questions from each group. These are the questions where the group gave your organization the highest favorability rating. Compare those questions across the groups. Ask yourself, why does my top group care about one particular set of questions as opposed to what the other groups have indicated?

Metric #3

Compare each specific question within your top group against how the other groups responded to these same questions. In other words, you are examining the same question across each grouping to see how they responded. Where are things different? What insights can you find?
Armed with this data, a picture, although fuzzy, will likely emerge as to what your current EX looks like. This will serve as a good starting point.

But, you can’t stop there. Next steps might include targeted surveys that measure everything from what drives your employee value proposition to running exit surveys to illuminate why individuals might be leaving.
The key is to build an EX data analytics plan that is both comprehensive in its reach and targeted in its depth. Also, make sure your analytics plan covers multiple time periods as well as natural employee lifecycle landing points.

One last tangential point. During the analytical process, don’t just look for points where data converges; rather, look for points whether data diverges. Check your natural bias in favor of patterns by looking for instances where you see strong differences. Then ask yourself why those differences exist and what insights can be found.

In the end, by taking an analytics approach to your Employee Experience, you will be able to explore the nature of your EX and begin the process of shaping it to create a winning organization.

Download the Employee Experience Survey

Stop Blaming Millennials for Unrealistic Employee Expectations

Team brainstorming

Here’s a situation that may feel like déjà vu to some. You have just concluded a difficult conversation with Tim, one of your software developers; while Tim works hard, he is certainly not your best developer.

Yet, he just left your office wondering why he has not been given a raise in the last four months.  The irony?  Tim has only been with your organization for five. You slowly exhale, wondering how in the world you ended up with that set of unrealistic expectations.

Download: Employee Value Proposition Survey and Report

Stop Blaming Millennials for Unrealistic Employee Expectations

Your immediate answer is that Tim is a millennial, and that’s just what millennials do, right?  Well, check your privilege at the door.  The real reason is that we, as leaders, have become lazy in one critical area.  We fail to properly align expectations from the beginning.  One of my business partners teaches that when it comes to certain key conversations, do not communicate in order to be understood; rather, communicate so that you will not be misunderstood. In fairness, I think he was paraphrasing President William Howard Taft.

My other business partner takes a more academic approach.  His view is that in the absence of carefully explained employer expectations, it’s the employee’s expectations that will take over and control the relationship.

He’s right. Aristotle is credited with the notion that nature abhors a vacuum.  The same holds true with relationships, whether business or personal.  When there is a lack of expectations, then the parties will find some to use, regardless of whether they are fair, rational, related, or even intended.

So, back to my story.  It isn’t because Tim is a flannel-shirt-wearing, bushy-bearded millennial.  The reason is you! When Tim came on board, it was probably done in a rush.  Your fast-growing start-up couldn’t seem to find enough qualified developers.  You were just thankful he showed up at the appointed time and was ready to work.  You gave him a stitched-together employee handbook your sister-in-law copied from the credit union where she works, and you had him sign a non-compete agreement you found on the internet.  That’s good enough, right? You, then showed him to a desk in your offices, and you moved on to the next fire smoldering in your inbox.

What you didn’t realize is that you gave him a seat next to David, your star developer who happens to be employee #3 in your organization.  David was promoted three times during his first six months.  Mostly because David is talented and deserved it, but once because there was no one else to take the job.  Now that you think about it, it’s fairly easy to see where Tim might have gotten the impression that promotions and pay raises happen frequently around your place.

So, there you are­–– stuck with Tim’s expectations simply because you failed to carefully define your own.  Imagine, if you will, that you had taken an additional ten minutes with Tim on his first day.  You could have explained to him that you do not consider promotions or pay raises within the first year.  You tell him that you want to take that time to really see what he will bring to the table.  Not only did you just give yourself some runway to work with, but you also gave Tim a reason to stay motivated and hungry for a reasonable period of time.

My scenario with Tim doesn’t just happen in tech start-ups.  It happens with seasoned HR managers, as well.  Too often we fail to think about and then define our critical expectations.  This means that we will likely have to deal with the other side’s unilateral expectations in the future, whether we like them or not.

My point with all of this is that good leaders take the time to ensure that expectations are properly aligned, ideally from the beginning.  This includes employee relationships, but it also applies to other areas, such as mergers and acquisitions, system implementations, changes in strategy, and various other scenarios.  Good outcomes in business usually begin with expectation alignment, whereas bad outcomes are often created or made worse by unmet expectations.

In summary, take the time to align expectations.  It’s worth it! And, millennials will thank you for treating them like the adults they are.

DecisionWise Employee Value Proposition

Podcast: Understanding The 3 Employee/Employer Contracts

Employee Experience Triangle Model

DecisionWise CEO and author, Tracy Maylett discusses his upcoming book. He also talks about the three types of contracts employees experience when working for an organization including answers to the following:

1. What are the three types of contracts?
2. What are transactional components of The Contract and how do they work?
3. What are brand components of The Contract and how do they work?
4. What are psychological components of The Contract and how do they work?
5. How does a business leader manage these components to create a better work environment?

See how these contracts form your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Download a sample survey and report.

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