While much attention is given to the intricacies of CX – customer experience – it’s not often you hear much about EX – the employee experience. And that’s a pretty important topic, too. Especially when considering that all of a brand’s efforts to create an awesome customer experience could very well fall flat if the employees representing the brand are not having a good experience themselves.
For many across the org chart, the topic of employee experience is often misunderstood and usually gets relegated to HR to deal with. However, is it a crucial part of the overall brand experience – which can have a multiplier effect on a brand’s customer experience if executed well.
To learn more, we recently caught up with Saurabh Mathur, VMLY&R’s Regional Head of CX in Asia, to talk about the power and importance of EX for brands. Being closely linked to commercial outcomes, Saurabh proposes that EX should be a C-Suite conversation, as an essential part of the brand DNA.
Tell us more about EX and the importance of employer branding and its role in brand transformation
EX is an inherent part of an organisation’s success. And while a lot of people think of it as a happiness or feel-good exercise, it’s a lot more than that. A good employee experience is actively designed to improve energy, productivity, and overall organisational health and when combined with a strong CX capability can lead to increased commercial success.
“EX is an inherent part of an organisation’s success. And while a lot of people think of it as a happiness or feel-good exercise, it’s a lot more than that.”
Especially in a post-COVID-19 world, the need for ‘brand-culture fusion’ has grown. Brand authenticity has become increasingly important – with consumers looking at brand values as a marker for brand loyalty. The way an organisation treats their employees can be a factor in whether consumers like and support a brand.
What are some of the common misconceptions of EX, and how brands should be harnessing it to maximize commercial impact and growth?
A common misconception is that EX is an HR initiative. However, EX is an imperative that has ramifications on the business and can prove to be a competitive advantage. In fact, “studies have found that employers who offer superior EX have 40% lower turnover and 17% higher productivity. The business value extends beyond these people outcomes and translates into real returns in the form of revenue, innovative outcomes, and superior customer service.”
Technology is an important component of EX, but that technology needs to be powered by listening and empathy. It’s also critical to have tools to measure the impact of EX to constantly evolve and optimise the strategy.
And it’s not a one-size-fits-all. Since EX is rooted in humans, it also needs to vary across regions and cultures in global organisations. Local nuances are key to ensuring that employee experiences match the increasingly complex expectations and promises that come into the value exchange between an organisation and its employees.
Ultimately, EX is not equal to company perks or incentives. It is much more fundamental than that, including aspects such as autonomy, flexibility, people investment, growth, learning, support and more.
How does the cause-and-effect link between EX and CX work? How can you create a truly connected brand by focusing on both EX and CX?
At VMLY&R, we refer to brand experience as creating/reinforcing the core purpose while customer experience is the means to delivering that purpose along the consumer journey.
“Employees need to engage with the brand, and understand what it stands for and where it’s trying to go. By making sure brand values are seen and felt at every level of the organisation, companies can empower employees to make decisions in the best interests of the company’s objectives.”
A crucial component of CX is the people who are delivering that experience. This is true not only of companies with frontline workers and service staff but also those behind the scenes.
EX and CX should originate from the brand and its values. Employees need to engage with the brand, and understand what it stands for and where it’s trying to go. By making sure brand values are seen and felt at every level of the organisation, companies can empower employees to make decisions in the best interests of the company’s objectives.
Where does the responsibility lie in an organization when it comes to EX strategy, ideation, implementation, and assessment? What role can the C-Suite play in ensuring a successful EX strategy?
As mentioned above, people often mistakenly believe that EX is an HR responsibility, but in reality, it is a partnership between CX, HR (or People Team) and the C-Suite. We believe that collaboration is essential, because EX isn’t top down or bottom up, but rather inside out.
While driven and designed by the People and CX Teams, C-Suite investment and involvement are critical. COVID-19, a great transformer for EX, ensured that leadership needed to be involved in both the creation and implementation of EX strategies to ensure employee satisfaction and successful business outcomes.
At VMLY&R, we invest heavily in our own employee experience, to the extent that think of ourselves as a client. We employ a team of CX strategists, designers, and project managers who work on our own employee experience, with leadership and people teams, and of course employees themselves, as the key stakeholders.
How can EX be embedded in a brand’s DNA? How can EX be used to drive innovation and continuous improvement?
Employees want to work for companies that are purpose-driven. And they are just as wary as consumers of companies that don’t do as they say. According to Forbes, there is often a disparity between leadership experiences and those of frontline workers. It states that companies need to find “strategic opportunities for everyone to connect with a company’s purpose and mission in personal and meaningful ways.” So, in a way, the best way to ensure implementation of a brands DNA is to embed it in the EX.
“While driven and designed by the People and CX Teams, C-Suite investment and involvement are critical.”
Investing in technology that empowers employees is a key aspect of using EX to drive innovation and improvement. By equipping teams with tools, insights, and tech, they will be better able to understand and measure their own performance, leading to improved efficiencies and ways of working. For example, an organisation could create internal dashboards that are easy for all employees to understand and access.
These can be used to set clear performance goals, allowing employees ownership and accountability, as well as transparency into their progress.
Can you share some examples of VMLY&R client work and other brands when it comes to successful EX strategy?
One of my favourite projects with the agency has been for an insurance client in India. After a series of mergers, and acquisitions, the company’s business strategy was pivoting to boost digital transformation, automation and a future-forward way of working. We understood that organic adoption of such goals needs employee involvement and acceptance. We adopted a holistic approach to the EX-led, org transformation for them.
As with most of our EX and CX work, we applied VMLY&R’s human-centered design (HCD) methodology to our thinking. According to McKinsey, excellent EX “requires a profound reorientation away from a traditional top-down model to one based on the fundamentals of design thinking,” and we firmly believe this to be true. We look at four stages of HCD: Explore, Deliver, Investigate and Synthesize. Each one focuses on key activities and deliverables that reliably extract opportunities to create new value, that we then validated with the employees.
We used this to design a blueprint that started with examining the company’s DNA, and ended with an exercise to help visualise a culture that will allow employees to buy into and fully immerse themselves in the business vision. We’re still working through the later phases of the transformation, but the company is consistently voted amongst the best places to work so I think VMLY&R is on the right track with them!