Blog | Do You Know More About Your Customers Than Your Employees?

Published September 23, 2015 by Alex Wilke

Employee Insight Customer Insight
Do You Know More About Your Customers Than Your Employees?

Consumers have multiple ways of interacting with the business and are regularly asked to share their opinions. However, it's not unusual for businesses to ask what do their employees think only once a year through the annual employee survey. Here are some of the best practices from the world of customer experience that HR practitioners should adopt in order to drive business performance and engagement.

The past decade has seen substantial investment in better understanding customers. By mapping the customer journey to ensure that all channels and touch points deliver the right experience, and, organisations have seen the benefits of better customer engagement. Consumers now have multiple ways to interact with a business, such as through social media, as well as instant online access to their account details, and self-service systems that let them find information or carry out basic tasks themselves. Companies now therefore need to monitor channels such as Twitter and Facebook, and take action quickly when issues arise.

In contrast the employee experience has changed little. Many organisations still run an annual cycle of employee surveys and performance reviews that neither link with wider business objectives nor provide timely, actionable insight. This mismatch leads to companies knowing more about their customers than their employees, despite the vital importance of staff to business success.

How can HR practitioners change and adopt best practice from the customer experience world to better know their employees?

Create a continuous dialogue

More and more organisations are realising that conducting an annual employee survey or yearly performance reviews only provides partial knowledge of their employees and their needs. Companies like Accenture have moved from annual performance reviews to more frequent, simpler, appraisal processes, based on fewer questions. Opening this type of continuous dialogue allows companies to engage better with employees, as they can listen to their feedback, act on it and report back quickly. This not only nips any concerns in the bud, but encourages staff to give more feedback by showing that managers are serious about listening to employees and their suggestions. In an era of social media, employees are more and more willing to share their thoughts, particularly millennials, who want the opportunity to give and receive feedback on a constant basis. There are a wide range of ways of collecting feedback, from apps and online communities to pulse surveys of particular groups of employees. What is important is that there is a cohesive strategy to bring this feedback together and provide it in a way that can be easily acted on.

Make insight fast and actionable

Managers responsible for customer experience can see, at a glance, how consumers rate the service they are receiving. This allows them to drill down into any areas of concern and consequently take corrective action. This same approach needs to happen in the employee space, with timely information available not just to HR, but also to business managers. This requires integration of data from different sources across the company and then displaying it in a way that is easy to understand and relevant to individual managers. By aggregating data sources into a cockpit view that can be accessed anytime, from any device, and that continuously update with the latest information, HR can not only help inform its own operations but also be part of more strategic decision making.

Break down silos

The customer journey spans multiple departments including IT, customer service, sales and marketing, as well as multiple channels from the web to telephone and in-store. To provide a cohesive approach to customer experience, organisations have had to break down silos between these departments and channels in order to provide superior service that retains customers. The same applies to employee engagement, so HR and Internal Communications needs to make sure that it is taking into account the needs of the business, is gathering information from across the organisation and then providing it to the right people in a form that they can understand and use. Running all surveys and employee feedback on a single platform helps here, as it removes much of the administrative workload. Additionally, some companies have formed cross-departmental central insight teams that are responsible for all feedback, from employees and customers, helping spread information across the business, while still ensuring that anonymity is preserved.

Treat employees as individuals

The make-up of the workforce has changed dramatically over the last five years. On one hand, HR departments have to cater to the rising number of millennial workers, who have grown up with the internet and demand the ability to constantly give and receive feedback. Equally, older staff are working later into their lives as retirement ages are put back. Beyond this, every employee has different aspirations and motivations, which must be understood and encouraged if businesses are to get the best out of them. Consequently ‘one size fits all’ annual employee surveys are no longer enough – what are needed are personalised feedback mechanisms that fit with the working style, age, and role of individual staff members. This doesn’t mean that information can’t be extrapolated to see a bigger picture. Companies need to analyse the feedback they are receiving against particular employee personas (such as recent graduates or those returning to work after leave). This provides the chance to see how key talent groups are progressing – and also to take action quickly if metrics such as retention rates fall.

Surveys consistently rank improving the customer experience and retaining the best talent as the two top issues that keep senior management awake at night. It therefore makes sense to share best practice across both areas and increase insight about your employees if you are to get the best out of them going forward.

This blog was first published on HR Review on 22nd September, 2015


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