At Real Blue Sky, we’re all about the customer experience, so it’s no surprise when we write directly about the customer experience.  But after decades in the industry, we’ve seen all kinds of practices that deliver a poor employee experience.  And poor employee experience results in poor customer experience.

In fact, the employee experience (or #EX) is so crucial, this article is the first in a series focused on #EmployeeExperience.  Check back for future posts delving into tools, training, work environment, and more.

“Your employees come first.  And if you treat your employees right, guess what?  Your customers come back, and that makes shareholders happy.  Start with employees and the rest follows from that.” -Herb Kelleher, founder Southwest Airlines

Want Excellent Customer Service?  Employee Experience Needs to Be Your Top Priority.

When you elevate the employee experience within your organization, you empower your employees to deliver exceptional service to your customers.  But what is employee experience?  If you’re thinking about foosball tables in the break room and meal catering, that view is far too narrow.

It is true that employees “need to enjoy their working environments,” and that they feel the “atmosphere reflects their value as employees” (McKinsey).  But more broadly, employee experience is every single interaction your employee has through the workplace.  From first learning of your brand and the hiring / selection process, through onboarding, and to their last day on the job.

Here, we focus on creating a framework for employee experience within your company that attracts and retains the best employees.

Resigned to Better Experiences

This point in time has been coined as “The Great Resignation.”  This moniker refers to the 65% of the population currently looking for a new job (Forbes).  The pandemic caused a blending of personal and professional lives which resulted in a shift in the way employees looked at work and their employers.  Add to this the large numbers who were already near retirement who have exited the workforce as a result of economic impacts of the pandemic, and we are truly in the midst of an employee experience revolution.

Possibly more than ever before, employees are now seeking organizations with values that align with their own.  Employees want to work for an organization with a clear mission and customer-centric values.  Employees crave a work experience that contributes to their sense of fulfillment.  They want to feel nurtured and inspired.  When employees see their values demonstrated in their work environment, they feel appreciated.  This appreciation drives motivation and engagement.

Fast Food Leadership

Why put all that effort in better engaging employees?  Consider that “companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147%” (Gallup).  Look no further than Chick-fil-A to demonstrate this.

Chick-fil-A generates more revenue per restaurant than any other fast-food chain in the United States with $12.8 billion in revenue in 2021.  Chick-fil-A scored 83 out of 100 on the American Customer Service Index (ACSI) which is 8 points higher than the average for all quick-service restaurants (Statista).  Chick-fil-A’s employee turnover of its 61,000 employees is a third of the industry average.

While people certainly enjoy Chick-fil-A’s food, the employees are the real standouts.  Employees are motivated to build strong relationships with their customers, because they have strong relationships with one another and the organization.  Chick-Fil-A gives free reign to operators to get creative in going the extra mile with their customers.

Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy says, “Every life has a story, and often our customers and employees, need a little grace and a little space when you deal with them because they are experiencing a problem, just finished having a problem, or are about to have one.” He further says, “At Chick-fil-A, CEO stands for Chief Encouragement Officer.”

Cathy certainly embodies the employee-centric approach in so many ways.  When you are evaluating the employee experience within your own organization, you can’t afford to not rise to these new standards.

High Cost of Low Engagement

Losing employees is expensive.  According to Employee Benefits Now, employers spend an average of 33% of a worker’s annual salary to replace just that one employee (Employee Benefits Now).  To put that into perspective, it will cost $50,000 to replace three workers making $50,000 per year.

Employee turnover also results in decreased morale and productivity.  Finding and training new staff is not only expensive – but results in the loss of organizational knowledge.  This loss of knowledge affects the quality of service provided to your customers.

Employee Experience Strategy

When you evaluate and develop your organization’s employee experience, you will need to carefully consider the following in your strategy:

  • cultural changes and core values
  • competitive pay and benefits
  • clear goals and metrics
  • employee recognition
  • tools and training
  • diversity and inclusion
  • employee’s health and wellness
  • communication and transparency
  • recruitment and onboarding
  • flexible work environment and working conditions

Feeling At Home At Work

You need to invest in every aspect of your employees’ lives – not just what they do while on the “clock.” Airbnb took this to heart when they hired Mark Levy as the Global Head of Employee Experience in 2013.  In 2015, he merged the various HR functions within the company into one Employee Experience Group.

Airbnb has taken their business model of “feeling at home anywhere” and injected it into their employee experience.  Employees helped design a new office which feels much less like the classic office and more like a home.  Employees also have access to the latest, most ergonomic equipment.  Airbnb gives its employees a flexible work arrangement.  Airbnb supports growth by encouraging employees to try out new jobs in relevant departments for three month – anywhere in the world.

When you consider your employee experience strategy, you need to remember every single employee plays a vital role within your organization.  Much like the instruments of a symphony orchestra, when just one instrument is out-of-tune, the orchestra cannot make exceptional music.  When one employee feels unmotivated, burnt-out, unfulfilled, unheard, (and whatever else you want to add here), your organization won’t be able to consistently deliver on the promises of your brand.

Speak Out

What did we miss?  Are there other employee experience initiatives you have started within your organization.  Please share in the comments below.  Check our next post where we delve into some of the exciting tools to aid employees when supporting customers.