Experience – Engagement Conundrum 0

There’s a new buzz around the employee experience, but have we understood the difference between the customer and employee perspective before deciding our strategies in the space of employee experience?

I was reading the research paper from IBM on The Employee Experience Index: A new global measure of a human workplace and its impact (2017). There was an interesting model proposed in it which states that employee experience and engagement go hand in hand to reflect employees’ states at work. However, I do not agree with this model at all. Here are my thoughts on this area of employee experience and engagement.

Experience and Engagement

Experience is an event that leaves an impression. Engagement is a commitment to something. Hence experiences are about shorter moments while engagement is about long-term involvement. The objective behind focusing on both the E’s with the customer and employee is towards achieving loyalty (of customers) and discretionary effort (of
employees).

Customer and Employees

The current talk on (employee) engagement has shifted to experiences. This shift in narrative has been influenced by the customer domain and the associated learnings from the same.

Have we understood the difference between the customer and employee perspective before deciding our strategies in the space of employee experience?

In the space of customers, there are some anchors around which the experience is positioned. Companies look at the experience of their customers to differentiate. However, underlying that is the longer-term association (engagement) of the customer with the sustained and unique value of the product (or service).

Experience-Engagement Matrix

Taking the learnings from the customer domain, what should be the sustained and unique value to be delivered to the employees? Having delivered the same, what should our approach to employee experience be? A comparison of the matrix from the 2 world-views of customer and employee would be as shown in Figure 1:

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Experience - Engagement Conundrum
Figure 1

1. Wouldn’t you be willing to wait for the right product or solution even if the call centre puts you on hold?
2. Having a wonderful value (product or service), wouldn’t you proudly express the pains associated with maybe even upgrading or servicing it? (totally worth it!)

Customer “Loyalty”

My personal experience about the customer experience surveys are indicating a change in the direction, the companies are taking in this space.

1. After a car service, you receive a call about your experience. I also got mine from my company. It had questions about how the pick-up guy spoke to you, was he there on time, did he ensure proper documentation etc. Unfortunately, the issue of the window glass being stuck was bungled up and water entered the car in spite of the windows being up and therefore they had to take it a second time to dry and repair it! To my amazement, there was no question related to whether my problem had been resolved to my satisfaction.

2. The moment you finish your flight, you get a message to give your feedback about your experience. When I went to the survey, after the initial query on whether I would recommend the airline (to which I replied 3/10); it went on to the areas which had items like boarding, food choices, check-in process and that was it! The reality was that the flight was delayed by almost 2 hours, because of which I had to cancel a couple of my meetings and the trip was not productive. I had to put the fact that the flight was delayed in the other comments section!

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The foundation of loyalty based on engagement with the customers is the way ahead. Companies that continue to focus on the areas above will lose out on the race to excellence. In spite of much talk about experience, there are very few companies that stand out as champions of the customer because engagement is a lot more involved and difficult.

Experience - Engagement  Conundrum

Employee Discretionary Effort (Not Loyalty)

We seem to be obsessing about experiences in the employee space as well, shifting our attention from engagement. Gallup says, in the latest ‘State of the Global Workplace’ report, 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. Have we conveniently chose to ignore the elephant in the room?

As per Daniel Pink, driving employee engagement is about opportunities for mastery, autonomy, and purpose within the organisation. Induction in my view is not about the onboarding app as it is about the awareness of the new environment, feeling of affiliation and sense of achievement a new joiner gets in those initial 6 months.

For each HR process and employee expectations, there is an engagement element and an experience element. If I were to look at the experience engagement model and its impact on employees, the above emotions would sum it up.

Understanding employee sentiments can give an insight as to where your organisation is. However, it is imperative for organisations to understand that the right side of the model requires a longer-term and a more involved approach and it is not about the latest trending app!

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Krishnan Vaidyanathan is the General Manager- Human Resource at Asian Paints. He is a seasoned professional with over 17 years of experience in the HR and Supply Chain domains. Having started his career in HR, he moved into Supply Chain to head the Bhandup and Sriperumbudur plants of Asian Paints before returning to HR to spearhead Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, Business Partnering, and Employee Relations initiatives. An alumnus of XLRI Jamshedpur, Krishnan started working for Asian Paints in 2002.

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