Ask Not What Your Employees Can Do For You, But ...
Learning how to map your customer experience—or 'CX'—is all the rage. From the way people answer the phone to your refund policy to the micro-copy on your website and emails, you're already thinking about these things throughout your day. Have you ever thought about mapping your employees' experience in a similar way? If you believe in the value of investing in CX—and the critical role it plays in creating raving fans and referrals—what might it do for team morale if you applied some of that learning to your internal 'customers?'
And how about improving employee retention?
Think about all the little experiences your team has—all the touch points that add up to an internal feeling of loving their work—or not. Think about the subtle things—the things that matter to actual human beings—and be careful of the slippery slope of repackaging micromanagement as employee happiness. Here's a four-part process you can use to start making some changes to your EX (i.e., your employee experience):
- Find out how your employees feel about working in your business.
- Identify the specific things that are causing them to feel the way they do. Just as two of many examples, how might their physical environment impact their work? Is the office or shop clean and uncluttered? If not, what 'percentage' less efficient does that make them each day? Are people running around harried or are they calm and taking the time to relate with others? What impact—even if you have to approximate—is that having on how your customers are treated on the phone or when they walk in the door?
- Name the policy or other “trigger” that is one step deeper. For example, a too-strict policy around expenses that causes people to be too afraid to buy a nice lamp for their workspace, or having too many projects which are causing people to operate at 50% on all of them? What about the unofficial messages they're getting about things like face-time, feeling like they have to attend every meeting they're invited to, etc.? On the flip-side, what about positive messages they're getting (so you can double down on those)?
- Take the next possible step to reduce or eliminate the underlying condition. And even if you don't have a solution or improvement right now, can you explain the business reason why it's there in a way that will help them understand and accept it even if they don't like it?
Here's an example to pull together the steps. At a company I used to run, we had a standard PTO policy and process. I hated it—it was an administrative hassle, and I could never quite see the business purpose. But more importantly, I knew others hated it too, and it represented a huge disconnect with our stated and often talked about company value of self-responsibility. If we couldn't trust our staff to manage their own vacation time off then what was that value worth?
Could we say exactly how big an impact it was having on people? No. But we knew it was one small thing we could do to make life better there. So we did it. And, believe it or not, what we thought was a 'minor upgrade' resulted in a standing ovation at our next company meeting.
And the fear that we had that people would abuse this new freedom? 100% unfounded. If anything, it created the opposite problem, that we had to make sure people were taking enough time off. And, in the one or two instances over a three-year period where we saw someone abusing it? We saw that as data—as a doorway into a mentoring opportunity with that person—to see if we could bring them back into the culture in a good way—or if was just time to move on. The truth has an incredible way of creating win-win scenarios.
Don't let the perfect get in the way of the good. Just because you can't measure the impact down to an exact certainty isn't a reason for inaction. Do what you can. Change the things that you know bother people. There's always a better alternative. It just depends on what kind of world you want to create.