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The shifting landscape of employee experience

The richest man in the world realised that providing a good experience wasn’t a cosmetic job.

3 minute read.

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Customer experience used to be pretty superficial – all about loyalty schemes and making things nice for customers. For many years, the job of customer experience just wasn’t that important. Customers would put up with things because choice was limited and the concept of brand loyalty still made sense.

Well – two things happened. Blind brand loyalty gave way to brands who worked every day to get jobs done more easily than anyone else. Choice exploded and the cost of moving to another service provided became virtually nil. The canny ones spotted and exploited this. The richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, realised that providing a good experience wasn’t a cosmetic job. A good experience brought about good customer behaviour. Amazon is the result. Customer experience isn’t cosmetic, it’s part of Amazon’s operating system.

Now there’s a new competitive battleground for firms – the employee experience – and the pattern is remarkably similar.

For years employee experience has been about team outings, free fruit, and coffee machines. It was the Employee Engagement team’s job. Again, for similar reasons: jobs were for life and employees would do what they were told, putting up with all sorts of difficulties to stay safe.

Two things happened: The bargain broke down. Employee benefits were gradually eroded, sometimes as far as zero-hours, and jobs became increasingly precarious.

For many, in particular Millennials and Gen Z workers, the question arose “why stay loyal? Why put up with it?”. At the same time choice exploded, with the job market becoming increasingly transparent and fluid.

As with customer experience, this sounds like service providers being disrupted, but this time from within. But again, the canny ones are staying one step ahead.

We’ve been working with a couple of brands where senior leadership have seen the same opportunity as Bezos.

At one major pharmaceutical, leaders recognised that suboptimal internal systems were demanding too much time to get basic tasks done and leaving people frustrated and feeling generally underappreciated. On the flip side, the amount of time being wasted turned out to be a significant and avoidable cost for the company. They asked: “does it have to be this way?”

We’ve been applying the service design process to the challenge, helping them explore what a consumer-grade employee experience looks like. We’re currently extending this capability through creation of employee experience labs, where all new employee initiatives can be tested and improved prior to launch.

We’ve also been working with another leading global brand on employee collaboration. In a knowledge economy, work has become intensely collaborative, but the daily reality was a mash-up of offline and online products that didn’t integrate into a coherent collaboration service. This was leaving employees frustrated and less productive, contributing to a significant opportunity cost for the business – those potential “giant leaps” that come from great collaboration. We’ve designed a new collaboration service that overcomes these issues and unlocks all this opportunity. It gives global teams access to a flexible set of modular collaboration tools, so they can work jointly on materials as if they were in the room, and retain that creative spark.

Designed well, your employee experience should be better for employees and more cost-effective for you. Less time wasted on internal tasks, more time spent working on value-adding work, and reduced staff turnover borne from frustration.

According to Gallup research, at a macro level, companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share.1

This is why employee experience is having its moment of truth.