Crouching employee, hidden sentiment

Crouching employee, hidden sentiment

The literal meaning of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, from the Ang Lee film set during the Qing Dynasty and the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, is one of unnoticeable masters and teacher-student relationships. For employers, the unnoticeable master, sadly, will be worker sentiment, hoping that their staff, or at the very least the key members, are happy and loyal.

But do employers truly see, sense and act upon staff sentiment, do they understand enough and have the insight to be progressive with their workforce? Or is staff churn just one of those things that happens?

Equally for business, the (un)noticeable master will be the customer, especially in B2B where the client is known. This is more difficult in B2C markets, where even the most loyal of consumers can remain anonymous. Customers’ experience, loyalty and sentiment is measured in repeatable revenues, regardless of whether that is the sum of a family shop, the early adopter who always buys the latest product or a £1 million maintenance renewal.

The Crouching Employee

Back to the crouching employee. Employee experience is one of the emerging C-level topics of 2017, drawing comment and research from many different quarters, as this recent extract from the Harvard Business Review testifies:

“Temkin Group reports a correlation between employee engagement and success in customer experience. In its 2016 Employee Engagement Benchmark Study, the firm showed that companies that excel at customer experience (CX) have one-and-a-half times as many engaged employees as customer experience laggards do. Gallup found a staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged, but companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share.”

In short, employee experience should involve a culture that benefits the worker, customer and revenue.

The HBR author moves this forward into the realm of Human Resources, by suggesting that one customer experience tool is to build a journey map relating to the employee from on-boarding to the exit interview. But EX is about far more than HR, it is every internal service. It is about understanding what’s really happening at every stage and how this impacts workers’ sentiments. An organisation could have the greatest HR department going but an out-of-touch IT department stuck in the back office of the 1990s.

So, before we continue, let’s think about internal employee services, these include:

  • Facilities Management
  • Fleet Services
  • Travel and Personal Expenses
  • Payroll
  • HR
  • IT
  • Others could include Accommodation, Legal and Welfare

ITSM, CX Best Practice and Employee Experience

For this blog, I am going to dwell on IT(SM) as I hear many seasoned commentators making a huge leap of faith from ITSM to CX, which has credence but there are a few dots to be joined up first.

CX is out there and, to a degree, out of the control of IT. CX is part culture/part analytics, it is often the People part of Digital Transformation and is best summed up with a single question – are we a great company to do business with? For millennials, how digitised a business is and how “Apple-ised” your App is, will colour their user experience (UX). Analytics are there to measure success, take-up and feedback.

In omnichannel businesses, the ability to transact online and on-mobile and to receive help via AI to web-sense a customer, is how digital transformation gives commercial edge to a business in pursuit of perfect CX. But being a great company to do business with also means being able to meet every channel consistently well, with frontline, in-store personnel delivering the same message, offer and service as the digital channels. The moment this fails, customer sentiment is in the gutter, even if your product is deemed to be the best in the world. Think about your last visit to an Apple store, you love the product but it would have been the in-store staff that sealed the experience.

What matters to companies such as Apple is customer sentiment. They are not content with providing a good product or service, they crave an outstanding experience so customers increase their spend and loyalty. Hidden sentiment is everything. We’ve all bought great products but sworn to never return to the supplier. I love buying music on vinyl, yet I have stopped purchasing it from a large multi-national warehouse facility and have switched to Rough Trade because it provides me with the channels and experience this Gen X craves and enjoys.

CX solutions, such as Medallia and MaritzCX, are there to track and analyse feedback, from structured responses and surveys, such as five-star reviews (TrustPilot, Google and important for this blog Glassdoor), to unstructured commentary from social media and chatbots. In essence, CX is the barometer by which to measure how easy it is for customers to do business with a company. For example, if a new branch is opened, is it a consistent, seamless experience for the customer, or one fraught with staff incompetence and systems failure. CX captures sentiment, the unknown, non-revenue factors that determine customer loyalty. Engaged companies act upon poor sentiment through case management, sometimes to the point where they almost ignore the purchased product to focus on areas such as environment, staff attention and web journeys. No assumption is made that because a product is deemed to be great value will they remain the supplier of choice.

Switch this paradigm to employee experience and great companies make no assumption that because they pay the most, they will remain the employer of choice. They need employees that are fully engaged and love the experience of working for the business.

Did you know that before an Apple Store opens its doors every day there is a staff huddle that reviews every piece of feedback received from the previous day’s trading?

Employee experience needs to adopt many of the CX tactics used externally. As ITSM best practice is now being spun into ESM (Enterprise Service Management), so the shift to service provision intensifies internally. Much of this is down to the value placed upon the employee.

For many ITSM vendors, there is nothing new here as most have pitched the consolidated service desk, Business Service Management and/or ESM. Many have failed because conceptually it works but few have ever employed Business Process Management consultants that could talk to HR or facilities managers about their service provision.

The Case Before (or After) Incident, Problem and Change

But fixing or changing things does not make Jack a happy boy. ITIL has/had the process framework to build great service provision, which is why so much vendor emphasis today is on Business Relationship Management (BRM) and how to get IT to become a better partner to its business. However, when dealing with employee requests the concern is that the process is driven by an SLA. This is no bad thing, it is a commitment to time and resolution, but it does not reflect the worker’s state.

The main BRM factors include:

  • Were expectations communicated?
  • How easy was it to track the issue, so the worker could self-manage their workload?
  • Was any working contingency offered? Did downtime impact productivity?
  • Was the issue fixed, and were any other services performed and completed too?

In many respects, this is where the big business consulting firms have joy in addressing day-to-day business conundrums, as they can work across a business and implement a collective process management theory that talks to all departments and addresses employee experience. Accenture calls this (slightly unfortunately) IBS (Integrated Business Services)[1]. Although one can see the point, as unnecessary staff churn is a syndrome that irritates right to the bowels of any self-respecting organisation. Nobody likes to lose their best players and, equally, potential needs to be recognised and nurtured.

“Superior customer experiences don’t happen by accident—they have to be actively designed and managed; the same is true of employee experiences.”
Don McLaughlin, VP, Global Business Services, Employee Experience, Cisco

Accenture often backs this service up by utilising global ESM vendors (traditionally BMC and more recently ServiceNow) to automate these internal services and deliver a single record of truth about the employee. Suddenly, customer organisations start to take a step forward to protect their best assets – their people. This may seem strange in a digital world – but remember Gen X and Baby Boomers still linger in the dark recesses where people buy from people, and crave physical contact with colleagues, companies, customers and companions.

There remain four areas where IT can add significant colour.

  • ITIL is the established process framework for the design and execution of services. Extending this best practice to one consolidated or many service desk applications is something that only IT knows how to do for the employee and company.
    • This is especially true if a single Services Store (Service Catalogue meets Self-Service) fully “consumerises” employee services
  • CX-style feedback loops are introduced across all service request areas, including ITSM, so case management is initiated from the scores and sentiment that is captured. These insights will be used to triage employee experience and drive service and operational improvements across the business that will be to the benefit of the employee.
  • Consequently, data management and employee analytics will require security protocols, storage and presentation if single records of truth are to be used within staff development programmes.
  • Payroll services are a notable example of an employee service that is increasingly outsourced. It can be highly emotive and how the service is integrated and managed draws upon the IT disciplines of SIAM:
    • How should an external service be integrated with the internal function?
    • What is the SLA to an individual employee and how does this relate to an underpinning contract with the external service provider?
    • What other metrics about the service need to be targeted and measured? Availability for Cloud Services?

In this respect, the few true SIAM vendors out there offer IT the capability of being an integrator and orchestrator of services; from unifying and/or consolidating internal services to provide a single employee record of truth to assuring contract value of every external service provider is realised.

Giving Employees the Best

At Deloitte, some of its European operating entities have overlaid ITRP to its existing ITSM solution so external service providers are fully integrated and managed with Deloitte’s internal service provision.

“Hiring the best people is just the beginning,” explains Jean-Marie Van Cutsem, Security Manager, CISO at Deloitte Belgium. “Retaining the best requires much more. The people who work for Deloitte want to succeed. We have created an environment in which they can do that. If they need anything, there are teams of support professionals within the company ready to help them.

“This allows them to concentrate on delivering value to their customers. We want our support professionals to be able to excel in the same way. We have to give them the tools that allow them to be the best at what they do. That’s what is on our minds when we select tools for our staff.”

Deloitte’s service catalogue is large and complex. Many services are obtained from member firms in other countries, as well as from a host of external service providers. The Deloitte services that are delivered to customers and employees are often made up of components provided by internal and external providers. In this respect, having the benefit of seeing how easily the entire service catalogue was modelled in ITRP, has driven greater efficiencies in the management of internal and external underpinning contracts.

People, Process and Technology

From a people perspective, it is culture that manifests a desire to deliver the best experience to employees and customers as a self-fulfilling business strategy. From an IT perspective, this also brings into play the concepts of BRM.

For process, CX best practice can help to modify the exact disciplines of ITIL from across the business (IT and non-IT) to assess employee insights into whether or not this is a great company to work for.

From a technology perspective, buyer beware! As understanding how you deploy your next ESM solution across all service disciplines needs clarity. And don’t forget SIAM, this governing solution is process driven to ensure every contract, OLA, SLA and target is mapped, has dependencies and ensures internal and external service providers are accountable for business success and employee experience.

Integrating EX into every internal service is about ensuring your best employees never crouch like a tiger, only to maul your business when they leave unexpectedly for your nearest competitor!

[1] Further reading: