The employee-centric revolution: why treating team members like valued customers can boost your business
In today’s challenging workplace business leaders need to change the way they think about employees and treat them more like customers. Hanging on to the best talent has never been tougher. In fact, a global survey by PwC has suggested that 26% of employees expect to change jobs this year, up from 19% in 2022.
There was a time when positive employee experiences took a back seat, seen as less valuable than – and completely separate to – satisfied customers. ServiceNow research shows that 90% of customers feel it’s important that companies they buy from treat their employees well and 60% of customers are less likely to engage with a company with unhappy employees. Delivering great employee experiences can be as fundamental as the product you sell: engaged employees lead to happy customers and to improved business outcomes across the board.
For employees, their relationship with the businesses they work for has never been more important. Research by McKinsey found that for 70% of workers, their sense of purpose comes largely from their work. As such, it is clear that business leaders must provide - and be intentional around - a clear sense of purpose to retain employees during economic turbulence. Fostering a meaningful work environment can effectively boost job satisfaction and reduce turnover.
The employee as the customer
One of the crucial lessons of the pandemic was that the employee experience is intertwined with the customer experience: if employees find it hard to work, they can’t serve your customers effectively. Bureaucratic bottlenecks and complicated systems often exacerbate and exhaust the workforce. The digital sprawl of the world of work leaves employees feeling that their efforts are futile and can even hinder their desire to work. Disjointed working processes, separated working environments and siloed data all lead to employee disengagement.
Working practices and protocols are only one side of the coin, though. A removed, isolated and inconvenient leadership hierarchy is perhaps one of the quickest ways to disengage and demotivate employees. Poor leadership can even create an ‘us vs them’ narrative and divide the workplace. The best leadership, while being firm and clear, is equitable and egalitarian, which requires organic integration across the business. Treating employees as customers by providing a seamless experience, driven by approachable and involved leadership, fosters a sense of belonging and community within the organisation, and offers employees the confidence to deliver better customer service.
So, what do today’s employees want? ServiceNow’s research found that, after salary, 40% of employees want flexible working policies, followed by 30% who say learning and development is a key factor, and 29% who see clear paths of progression as the most important variable. One in seven employees said that optimal technology was the most vital aspect of a good employee experience. These core areas are a blueprint for business leaders to treat the employee as the customer, but neglecting any one of these factors can lead to attrition.
The right technology
Leveraging the right technologies can automate HR tasks and insights to make it easier to understand what employees need. This can remove procedural and data silos, allowing business leaders to curate experiences for employees while also saving time and resources. Technology is central to this: organisations that have failed to digitally transform are now being left behind when it comes to delivering on the employee experience.
Furthermore, the technology itself must bring everything together in a simple and seamless way; interactions need to be as user-friendly as possible. For example, if employees prefer to use Slack or Teams, then it makes sense for them to be able to use these as a front end. It’s essential that there is a singular digital access point for all employee needs. In fact, at every point on the employee journey smooth digital experiences can help business leaders to retain talent, from onboarding to internal transitions such as job changes and restructuring. Inefficient processes leave employees stranded in a landscape that appears stagnant and can be confusing to navigate.
Self-service technology is an important part of this, helping to foster ways for employees to communicate their needs to business leaders, work happily and progress along their chosen path. Retaining employees over the long term has far-reaching benefits for customers and colleagues too. Happy workers can create better customer experiences, but they also work like internal ambassadors, spreading their own job satisfaction around the office.
A common mistake is to imagine that in tough economic times a strong employee experience is something that business leaders can’t afford. Discerning business leaders recognise that the benefits of building long-term and productive talent hugely outweigh the costs.
For any business leader, improving the employee experience should be a priority, and treating employees like customers is the way to get there. In today’s business world, happy employees translate into happy customers – and that’s just good for business.
Katie Whitehouse, pictured below, is senior people director at US software company ServiceNow