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The Experience Operating System (XOS): The Employee View

Published May 31, 2024

There is a brand crisis happening within experience management, with many organizations leaning away from human centricity, having not seen results from their CX investments. Experience Rules! by Diane Magers and Michael Hinshaw is one of the few books that discusses CX by focusing on the HOW of the work. Now is the time to create a new narrative that leads with the business impact of CX and this book is the closest I have seen to a proper “How To”.

With the author's permission, I have recommended that the 8 keys identified in Experience Rules! extend to our internal customer as well. To that end, I have aligned an employee view to each of their defined keys to articulate how it might look internally. After all, MIT researchers found that companies in the top quartile of EX developed more successful innovations, deriving twice the amount of revenues from their innovations as did those in the bottom quartile — and their industry-adjusted Net Promoter Scores (NPS) were twice as high. Seems like a good goal to attain!

TL; DR - the process of implementing a robust CX and EX program rely on the same keys. Once you are setting up your structures for customers, aligning the employee side is much easier and as important.

1. Delivering on your promise: Strategy and Vision:

The strategy and vision for your employees have to be defined and codified through your mission, vision, and purpose. If you are at the strategy design phase, there are two activities you can lean into to get further faster.

a. The first is to align with your CX partners and understand their initiatives and the business drivers. This will help you set priorities that will instantly drive business results. By understanding what journeys are prioritized in the organization, EX leaders can dig into immediate value-creation activities by aligning EX understanding and impact into the customer journey work.

b. The second is to get your peer partners aligned. In EX, there are many more governance processes, regulatory issues and data management concerns. To ensure you have the right partners, and to remove roadblocks early on, you need to understand who these leaders are, what the challenges are and work that into your strategy.

2. Breaking Down Silos: 360 degrees: 

Without a framework in place it’s difficult - if not impossible - to drive meaningful and sustainable customer-centric change within a business”. (pg 134)

Not implementing change consistently across the company creates uneven opportunities that ultimately cracks the cultural model.

  • Alignment in the organization: creating alignment through recognition programs ensure that all employees understand what is expected of them, and what they can expect from the organization. The requirements are clear and everyone understands their role in managing the shared experience.

  • Shared vision of the future experience - “what success looks like must be unambiguous” - holds true for EX as well. Defining what the future and ways of working look like must be part of every leader's responsibility.

  • Accountability across the organization - For employees to perform at their peak, they have to understand how their work impacts the organization and the culture overall. Inconsistency creates pockets of performance concerns, attrition, and productivity drops.

  • Collaborative, Customer Centric ways of working - Creating a collaborative employee experience means the entire executive team is aligned and dedicated to employee centricity.

3. Knowing who you serve: Customer (Employee) Understanding:

Employee listening is both easier and more challenging than customer listening. On the one hand, the sources and channels are more centralized and accessible. However, if there is bias and fear when they respond to surveys, the data will be flawed.

Listening - Surveys along the employee lifecycle help identify the strengths and opportunities along common pathways. Pulsing on certain topics or in key segments provides additional detail to help refine insights. Additional data from sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Fishbowl, Facebook, LinkedIn and others provide a robust 360 feedback view from inside the org and out.

Analyzing - Aligning the data with people analytics is where the fun starts and insights begin as it connects what people are saying with their actions. As the data evolves, the story builds as you create the connected story across departments, demographics, movement etc data. This is how you can zero in on where the challenges are, set priorities and find the hidden stories.

Communicating - Ensuring employees feel heard and not targeted is the most important step. Messages from leadership acknowledging which programs are being addressed, and recognizing where there are team concerns help people feel listened to.

Taking Action - Reinforcing change through programs and training is how the change begins to impact the culture and nature of the org. It also reinforces the sense that employees recognize they are heard and their voice is respected. It connects them further to their roles, and overall culture.

Measuring Results and Metrics - Because what gets measured gets managed, aligned metrics to business results reinforce the implementation and staying power of these experience-based changes.

4. Giving Customers What They Need: Design and Innovation:

Design of internal processes comes with policies, regulatory alignment and procedures that must be consistent to work. Internal design thinking means aligning the program or product through to communications, policies, procedures, digital tools and recognition. These have to be connected to the design change strategy otherwise the end result becomes confusing.

Let’s look at onboarding for example. If changes are made to onboarding to create a New Welcome Hub that has welcome videos, content and learning pathways, each of those channels will need to align to the same experience goals. Design thinking will follow the process through from end to end ensuring consistency of tone, style, experience, and impact. To create a complete experience, the design approach requires an understanding of the whole set of impact points

5. Tracking the Right Things: Measurement, Metrics and Impact:

“Many organizations that do listen to their customers don't link what they learn to business outcomes or communicate what they learn across the organization to improve performance or experiences” (p186).

The good news is that for the employee lifecycle, there is a pretty standard process of attraction/ onboarding/ performance/ development and exit. To really identify where the blockers are, you must understand what is happening across the experience continuum, and the resultant impact to the employee, the manager, the team and to the business.

Connecting back to business operations is the next step. This is how we understand why certain employee segments might be challenged in their productivity, why some employee groups turn over faster than others, and which systems and processes are slowing employees down. By understanding these deeper dimensions, we can ensure we are leaning into managing efficiency, prioritizing appropriately, and driving towards both cost savings and revenue production.

6. Making Experience Easier: Simplifying processes:

The book describes a strong approach to managing process improvement that looks at the customer end state and understands how starting internally is critical. But an additional angle to consider is the employee systems themselves and the impact to productivity.

Managers are severely overworked with 53% stating they have trouble managing their own workload, plus the demands from their team. In fact 1 in 3 workers are stating that they don’t aspire to leadership or manager positions. The goal of EX is not just to create new programs and initiatives that serve customers, but to find barriers that don't serve either customers or employees and prioritize removing them. Removing these barriers allows more time for managers and employees to focus on getting their work done, and efficiently.

7. Embracing Technology: Digital, Data and  Disruption:

While in some cases the technology for EX is part of the CX stack, there are organizations that require a separate EX tech stack to protect sensitive and restricted data. Partnership with the analytics teams is necessary to bring the CX, sales, CRM, and Employee data together. Employee survey/ voice tools are then often under the management of EX to ensure consistency across the lifecycle.  Bringing the data across these stacks together is the challenge for the EX team.

8. Transforming to Better Serve Customers: Culture:

“Culture is about embedding experience into everything you do as an organization based on your goals, and how those goals are dependent on what customers want from you” (p241).

Evolving to an employee centric culture absolutely requires a top down approach and might require retraining across management teams. The benefit of a cultural shift to employee centricity is that by listening and researching internal (and external!) voice, you can quickly understand where the breaks are. Data can highlight which groups might have leaders that are not living the cultural goals.

To re-establish and rebrand experience management is hard. The need for alignment, commitment, and bravery is required across the organization. But looking at how we optimize who we serve (our customers) with how we serve them (our employees) gives us a 360 model that helps us better understand what's happening and why.  Experience Rules! gives us a proven framework that can unlock the keys internally and externally. Now let's get to work!

About the author: Tamar Cohen is the VP of employee experience at Travelers, where she is responsible for creating transformational programs that drive business value.

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