Over the past decade, we have experienced tremendous changes in the business landscape. With fast paced socio economic and political disruptors lurking behind every corner, businesses have been putting herculean effort into competitor advantage and differentiated customers’ experience. Consequently, lean six sigma, robotics and digital initiatives have started popping up like mushrooms in the service environment, promising to be the panacea for all corporate ills. Great as they are, these operational excellence (OPEX) undertakings don’t always put the right focus on the ‘human factor’. To better respond to the newly emerging business challenges in the decade ahead, OPEX initiatives will have to evolve. Change isn’t just coming from the outside, workplace and workforce changes are equally as prominent. Employees are increasingly questioning the purpose of work, ‘pay check’ compensation is no longer the sole draw and initiatives that may have been perceived as a perk a few years ago, are now often considered a bare minimum.
What does that mean for organisations?
To maintain an external and internal edge in the decade ahead and thrive in the volatile environment, businesses need to synthesise customer experience and employee experience into one collective effort, with employee experience given a seat at the table and prioritised alongside lean, robotics and digital initiatives.
How do you marry operational efficiency with experience?
There are two critical steps that need to be made to achieve a ‘happy marriage’. The first is making a cultural shift from perceiving employees as paid service providers to customers of the organisation they work for, which means building adequate HR policies that underpin people processes. The second step is about identifying the moments that matter in the end-to-end processes, both for employees and customers. These are the points in time that trigger emotional reactions and form lasting memories and impressions.
What does that mean in practice?
At the micro level, looking at the processes through the employee experience lens can translate into changes that don’t necessarily seem very efficient at the first glance, but pay off in the long run.
Think about on-boarding a new joiner. It goes without saying that this needs to run smoothly and error-free, as delays attract unnecessary cost and create negative perception of the organisation. But on-boarding is also one of those moments that people never forget because of its heavy emotional load. By enriching this process with simple things like arranging an informal call with an assigned buddy before the first day at a new job, or sending a handwritten welcome note with a welcome gift, you create an environment in which both those who execute the process and its receivers experience enjoyment and purpose.
In the post Covid-19 world, this is ever more important, and the transition to virtual moments that embrace physical distancing but social solidarity are key. The cynics of the world see these moments as creating extra complexity and less streamlined processes. In reality, these activities are the ones that are valued and foster employee engagement, not the operational tasks that are often overly administrative.
At the macro level, it can be taken even further and expanded to strategic thinking beyond concepts of operational cost and revenue generation.
Let’s have a look at a case study of Patagonia, the outdoor clothing retailer. Their mission, along with creating world class products, is to operate in a truly sustainable and socially responsible way. This purpose is not only an ambitious statement but something they put at heart of all their processes, both employee and customer facing. A great example comes from how they run their procurement. For the majority of companies this process still revolves around speed, savings and faceless procurement toll gates. However, for Patagonia they have turned this on its head. Patagonia’s priorities are driven by strong purchasing principles, namely favouring suppliers whose products and services have positive impact on society and minimal negative impact on environment and human health.
The result? Enhancing these moments further reinforces companywide cultural focus. From an internal people perspective Patagonia has incredibly low attrition of 4% and an impressive base of profoundly loyal customers. These are probably the best testimonials of how purposeful work drives employee engagement and consequently business results.
All in all, efficiencies created through lean, robotics and digitalisation are limited without adequate focus on employee experience. Savings achieved through process efficiency often seep back into the business in the form of disengagement, under-productivity and dissatisfaction. To tap into this hidden potential, organisations need to shape processes that not only serve their customers but are also meaningful to their employees.
If you would like to discuss how this could be implemented within your organisation, reach out to Izabella Balicka, Catherine Walker or Rob Maguire