Best of TLNT 2017: Who Cares About Employee Experience?

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Jan 3, 2017

Editor’s Note: It’s an annual tradition for TLNT to count down the most popular posts of the previous 12 months. We’re reposting each of the top 30 articles through January 2nd. This is No. 18 of 2017. You can find the complete list here.


Most leaders and managers are either well into their strategic plans for 2017, or their plans were completed weeks ago. For those still working on ways to improve for the coming year, however, one key area to consider is your employee experience. Is it in good shape? Could it use some tweaking? Is it aligned with your business objectives for 2017 and beyond?

The Employee Experience (EX) is the human ecosystem in which your employees operate, carry on their work, contribute, innovate, and produce results. The challenge for business leaders, however, is that the employee experience is not a framework of easily understood inputs and outputs. Instead, the employee experience is constructed from the various relationships between people within your organization and their perceptions about those relationships. In the case of the employee experience, perception truly is reality, and it is more concerned with matters of the heart than flowcharts and diagrams.

As you reflect on how well your employee experience is aligned with your strategic objectives for 2017, I would suggest that you take the time to examine three “Ps” which are found in every business or organization. They are:

  1. People
  2. Product
  3. Process.

We have found this model (the “Three P Model”) to be useful for a variety of reasons. It should also be noted that the order is intentional.

Why people come first

First, the most important asset in your organization is your people. Your organization is not a living, breathing object capable of action on its own. Rather, your organization is a collection of people who have come together for a common purpose. The only way for your organization to actually do something is for a person, or a group of people, to take an action. Thus, it’s axiomatic that without your people, nothing happens. Thus, your people should be your first priority.

If you want 2017 to be better than 2016, you need your people to perform better than they did last year. And, for many organizations, labor is their largest expense item. So, everyone, including the buttoned-up finance department, has an interest in ensuring that your organization’s people are operating at peak efficiency and that your employee experience has been designed to get the very best results from your talent.

It’s a leadership job

Ways to improve your people include everything from providing development opportunities to attracting the right candidates to join your cause. It also includes leaders who take the time to align their vision with what they expect from those who will put that vision into place. The task of building the right EX is critical, and cannot be handed off to an HR function that has been relegated to the basement in the company’s headquarters. An organization’s employee experience is primarily the C-suite’s responsibility. A division’s employee experience belongs to the division leader. This concept is repeated all the way to the team leader who is the steward over her team’s employee experience. The HR department is there to support and provide counsel along the way, but as a resource and not as the function primarily in charge of the organization’s EX.

Employee experience = Customer experience

The second component in the Three P Model is your product (or whatever good or service you sell in the marketplace). Some might question why this item has been listed second as opposed to first in our methodology. This argument makes some sense, right? If your product is substandard, it doesn’t matter how well your people are functioning. Wrong! Our database of over 24 million employee survey responses suggests two key principles that run counter to this conventional wisdom.

  • First, the data suggests that you build a world-class customer experience by creating a stellar employee experience. Stated differently, your customer’s experience is directly related to how well your employee experience is working. We are so firm in our view on this issue that we have called it a law – the Law of Congruent Experience.[clickToTweet tweet=”Your customer’s experience is totally dependent on employee experience.” quote=” Your employees will deliver a customer experience that is directly proportional to their own employee experience”] (EX = CX).
  • Second, when your employee experience has been well-designed and is thriving, the reality of a substandard product or service does not exist. Our data shows that engaged and motivated employees simply will not allow your company to sell or produce something that is unreliable or incapable of being sold. Even if this principle doesn’t hold true in all cases, our experience suggests that an average product in the hands of a great customer experience/employee experience, is more likely to succeed than a fantastic product that is packaged and sold within a lousy customer experience/employee experience.

What your employees know

The third “P” in our model is your business processes. As you contemplate how you might improve your processes, we urge you not to overlook one of the most important sources of data and insights: Your front-line employees. These employees often know your customers better than anyone within your organization, and they are most likely to know how your customers actually use your product, which can be invaluable information. And finally, apart from getting meaningful and actionable intelligence, our data shows that by asking your employees what they think you will improve employee engagement, create a culture of feedback, and improve your EX.

Consider a case study from 2013 involving the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The CTA decided to spend nearly $500 million to transition its riders from a proprietary fare system to a third-party system called “Ventra.” As is commonly the case, the concept was simple: Improve the process of collecting transit fares from the riders. The implementation, however, proved to be problematic.

One reason for the breakdown was that system designers failed to talk with CTA employees. For example, an early malfunction was that the new system charged passengers twice. Passengers were charged once when they entered the bus in the front and their Ventra card was scanned by an electronic reader. Then, these same riders were charged again when, as is often the case in a busy city like Chicago, they exited the bus through the front as opposed to leaving from the rear door. Had those in charge spent time talking to CTA bus drivers, they would have easily appreciated the likelihood of this scenario and proactively worked on a solution prior to system implementation.

Of course, there are several more factors to consider beyond the three “Ps.” Yet, there is some merit to the Three P Model’s simplicity in that it reduces distractions by focusing on the most important keys to business success. Plus, in focusing on the three “Ps,” leaders will be able to consider how they might improve their employee experience within each area. With today’s changing workforce, the employee experience simply cannot be ignored and must become a critical part of business processes throughout every organization.