Few organisations in 2021 would deny the importance of customer experience, or CX, to business performance and the bottom line.
Over the past several years, the role played by CX in allowing companies to stand out and leave a lasting positive impression on consumers has become widely acknowledged, as have strategies for improving CX.
But Amy Grieves, Organisation Development Business Lead for Consumer Healthcare at pharma and healthcare giant GSK would argue that there is no way to have good CX without first having good EX – employee experience.
At the Festival of Marketing’s DX Summit, Grieves spoke to Cognizant’s Patti Alderman about how she would define employee experience, how it feeds into business performance and specifically customer experience, and how businesses can create a strong organisational culture when the workplace is virtual.
A practical definition of employee experience
“The way I see it, there’s probably the formal definition, and then there’s an Amy Grieves definition of – in practice, what does [employee experience] really look like?” said Grieves.
“Everyone could jump on Google now and find multitudes of versions of – essentially, a similar definition. I think in its simplest, formal way, employee experience is about the perceptions employees have about the experience they’re having at work, across all the interactions they have with their employer.
“In practice, I think I really work to the definition of creating an environment where people can be their best selves and do their best work, in service of the purpose and the strategy of a company. And that’s where it starts to get challenging – because that then starts to incorporate all sorts of things. You start to get into the world of culture, employee value propositions, employer brands, you start to look at organisational effectiveness – and so it goes on.
“But to create that environment where people can thrive is what I’m aiming to do.”
Why employee enablement is critical to customer experience
Patti Alderman cited an April 2021 study, commissioned by Cognizant and carried out by Forrester Consulting, that surveyed more than 700 CX decision-makers to investigate how investment by companies in employee and partner enablement and experiences not only contributes to excellent customer experience, but also results in tangible business outcomes.
“The study was talking about how employee enablement is critical for customer experience – but the thing that fascinated me in that was that the majority of businesses recognise that as true … but very few of them were actually feeling like they were driving that forward within their business,” said Alderman. “So, do you have any thoughts on how to articulate the value of employee experience?”
“I remember early conversations in the world of EX on almost – how to sell it into your organisation,” Grieves reflected. “Often, there were conversations about, ‘Don’t call it employee experience!’ because it wasn’t ‘sticky’ enough.
“In terms of that connection with customer experience – I think if you start with the employee experience side, that naturally feeds into the customer experience, which naturally feeds into the business performance. If you start where the root is – which, in my opinion, is from an employee perspective – you definitely start to see the direct impact on productivity, revenue, brand advocacy – where employees are attracting talent into the organisation, which in turn is then doing more from a productivity and a growth perspective.
“There are obvious touchpoints [between CX and EX] right at the coalface – if you think about sales, or in a retail environment, the person who’s literally talking to the customer is where it felt like a real, obvious connection. But I would argue that if you go all the way back through the chain, every single person in the organisation is able to directly impact the customer experience and therefore the delivery of business performance.”
Measurement, EX as brand, and office culture in the age of remote work
Grieves highlighted employee engagement, retention of talent, and attractiveness of employer brand as three key metrics that can be used to measure the effectiveness of EX initiatives, although she also noted that “within each area that could have an impact on either the employee side or the customer side, there are data points all through the system”.
She advised against getting too bogged down in trying to measure everything, and instead recommended “being really focused, and trying to work out what and why you’re measuring something, and being really targeted about how you do that – rather than trying to grapple with the entire data set that you could look at, at any one time.”
When it comes to using employee data to personalise engagement efforts, Grieves emphasised the importance of building trust and ensuring that employees don’t feel as though their privacy has been invaded – in the same way that organisations strive to do with customer data. “I cannot emphasise enough that how we think about EX is almost an exact replica of all the things you think about from a brand position – either a product brand, or a corporate brand. It’s the same principles that we’d apply to EX.”
For this reason, Grieves stressed, “When we’re doing employee experience design, we need to make sure we’re bringing together the right people to solve the problems that we’re going after … with different specialisms, including ethics, including data, including OD [organisational development] – so that we can do the right thing.”
Grieves also spoke to the challenges of building a positive organisational culture and engaging employees at a time when workforces are still – and may well remain – largely remote. “There’s something about not relying on what’s been – and really thinking as we move forward, how are we getting that advocacy, that commitment to our brand, without all the things we used to rely on? Your physical space, the connections you would have with people in the office, for example – the cultural reinforcements that are there as part of onboarding, all the way through the life cycle – they’re not going to be the same, any more.
“So, there’s quite a lot of almost pausing, re-thinking, and working out – what’s the feelings that we were trying to create through the interventions that we designed, and we’ve relied upon? That in itself is going to take a lot of prioritisation to work out what matters, because there’s a lot to go after.”
She also advised against piling “stuff” on your employees constantly in an effort to gain results. “It’s not sustainable from a return perspective, and actually, I’m not sure people want “stuff, stuff, stuff” just thrown at them constantly.
“I do think there’s something about: how do you prioritise where you’ll have the biggest impact? That’s got to be based on insight – as you would with consumers and products. You need to understand what it is that matters to your people.”