If Not Now, Then When? How COVID19 Has Reinforced the Need to Prioritize Employee Experience

Part 1 of 3 part series.

Over the past decade, we’ve prioritized customers and neglected employees. It’s time for a change.

COVID-19 has forced many organizations to take a comprehensive look at their operations, strategy, and culture.

For many organizations, customer experience (CX) has driven corporate strategy and innovation, with customer success teams working hard to create more value for their clients and establish a synergistic relationship to achieve long-term goals.   

This approach can neglect employees, the lifeblood of a company, which ultimately negatively affects the customers with which the organization initially focused.

Employees are the heart and soul of an organization and the ones responsible for interacting with customers. If organizations don’t focus on their employees, it will create a domino effect that eventually leads to negative customer experiences. 

While new research demonstrates that this approach has been suboptimal from the get-go, it also has been made more abundantly clear in the time of COVID-19, where employees fear losing their jobs and livelihoods, and they and consumers are more attuned to how their employers treat them. 

As Forbes recently reported, “Companies with excellent CX have employees that are 1.5 times more engaged than employees at companies with less satisfactory CX.” If an organization did not focus on Employee Experience (EX) before, it would be hard-pressed to ignore it now.

“We need to think about the implications of COVID as a catalyst on Employee Experience. Not only from an attitude perspective or safety, but also from an efficiency and effectiveness perspective, when asking our employees to do something novel and unfamiliar. If you maximize employee engagement, foster well-being and equip them with the tools to be confident to deliver, that will positively impact Customer Experience, because they are intrinsically linked” – Trent Mayberry, Chief Digital Officer, UST Global.

The concept of employee centricity is not new -- thought leaders and industry pioneers such as Richard Branson and Simon Sinek have long preached the concept of “Customer second (employee first)&People over profit,” underscoring the efficacy of employee experience when seeking to increase revenue growth and profitability. 

“If the person who works at your company is 100% proud of the job they're doing, if you give them the tools to do a good job, they're proud of the brand, if they were looked after, if they're treated well, then they're gonna be smiling, they're gonna be happy and therefore the customer will have a nice experience.”  – Sir Richard Branson.

It’s also the right thing to do. Employees give an inordinate amount of time and effort for their employer. The least that an organization can do is keep the best interests of those workers in mind as they create their organizational operations and strategy.

Catalyst COVID-19: Why Companies Should Address EX NOW! 

Global lockdowns as a result of COVID-19 have placed tremendous pressure on companies to reconsider employee experience practices to be able to support their employees during the time of crisis - and beyond. Some companies that were historically distributed and were not constrained by physical infrastructure were able to move fast and even take advantage of the COVID times to improve organizational effectiveness.

When companies ordered non-essential employees to work from home, it set a precedent that will be hard to reverse. The workforce is becoming more comfortable with the benefits of working from home, resulting in an increasing amount of people that, if permitted, will choose to at least divide their workweek between office and home. Some of the leading US companies were early to demonstrate this changing dynamic. Google has said a majority of its employees can work from home until 2021. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told employees that they’d be allowed to work from home permanently, even after COVID, according to Harvard Business Review.

There will certainly be a surfeit of research produced to determine if and how employees are more productive working from home, especially as schools start again. What is currently unknown is how this new working reality is affecting the long-term wellness of the employees. 

Help the Workforce With More than the Functional

When COVID hit, employers needed to focus on providing the literal tools for the employees to accomplish their jobs from home: such as a nice office chair, a monitor, and a laptop stand. Most organizations struggle to see beyond the obvious and fail to deploy strategies to foster employee care and address the newly formed daily rituals and working dynamics facing the evolving workforce. 

EX is not about providing conveniences, perks, or facilities; the core principle is “caring” for employees. In this series of posts, we hope to provide the blueprint for how to enable, enhance, and perfect employee engagement for the benefit of your employees, community, leaders, and, ultimately, consumers.

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Transformation as a Force for Change, Not as a Band-Aid Solution

The majority of companies struggle to identify the key factors influencing employee experience and how it might evolve in post-pandemic work. 

Therefore, it is vital to not just reinvent internal processes to account for COVID-determined changes, but create a holistic rethinking of what it means to be an employee-centric organization. In other words, companies need to rethink their digital strategies to account for COVID and the new norms in employee experience, but also deploy strategies that will enable higher flexibility against future adversities. 

Conclusion

COVID is responsible for organizations reconsidering their entire operations. We strongly encourage those organizations to remember the significance of EX as well. As EX is an inseparable component of CX, high employee engagement is a key contributor to customer satisfaction. Companies must look inward and focus on employee benefits and care as well as their own culture to maximize EX. 

Particular attention should be paid to the effective onboarding and training of employees and the passing on of corporate cultural values to ensure the unity and collaboration of an all-distributed workforce while not compromising on growth. All these cannot be achieved without setting in motion a new digital mechanism to empower the workforce to seamlessly operate and interact internally and offer the best possible experience when interacting with customers

COVID might be a one-time off scenario, but crises are not; the companies that can swiftly adapt and reinvent themselves when a new crisis hits will be more successful.

In our next piece, we will provide five elements to consider as you begin to create a culture of employee engagement in your organization.

Author

Demos Katsouris and Trent Mayberry

Demos Katsouris is a Strategic Design Researcher at Round Feather, a UST Portfolio Company, and Trent Mayberry is a Chief Digital Officer at UST Global.