Monday, March 13, 2017

A different perspective on the employee experience

My belief is that the next 10-15 years will be about the employee experience, the same way the past 10-15 years have been about the customer experience.
Why? Because engaged employees provide any organization with a competitive advantage. As Richard Branson says, “Your employees are your company’s real competitive advantage. They’re the ones making the magic happen— so long as their needs are being met.”

When you think about it, the mapping and the implementation of the customer experience have given organizations the benefits of better understanding and addressing their customers’ pain points. Thus, these organizations have seen an increase in customer engagement, customer retention, and customer advocacy.

The mapping and the implementation of the customer experience have also given these organizations the opportunity to engage with their customers on a more personal level – whether by offering a variety of products or services to address different market segments, or through the usage of multiple communication channels to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time. Organizations can accomplish the same with understanding, mapping out their employees’ pain points and design a strategy to engage with those same employees.

Millennials are massively entering the workplace. By 2020, they will form
 50% of the global workforce, per PwC. Gen Y seek for and thrive on brand experiences, and their employee experiences should be no different from their customer experiences.
Employee Experience Summit in Cincinnati
We believe the employee experience should be as much defined and driven by HR than by Marketing and Customer Experience teams, if not more.

Join us at eX Cincy on May 11 to hear thought leaders, brand strategists, designers and HR disruptors discuss the topic. Find out more and register 

Monday, February 20, 2017

A marketer's worst mistake?... "To know".

When I was in High School, I hated philosophy classes. I hated it so much that at the French baccalaureate Philosophy exam, I aimed to have one of the worst grades in the nation to make my point (to be fair, I only made a point to myself, my parents and teacher did not agree with me at all - lesson learned). I thought philosophy was a lot of BS and rhetorical non-sense. Only in college did I start to appreciate the reasoning behind some of the philosophical principles. 

One principle stuck to my mind and has become my mantra ever since: "I know that I know nothing" (Socrates). If you still think philosophy in non-sense, feel free translate this principle into the Game of Thrones language: "You know nothing Jon Snow" (Ygritte).

Many people think they know a lot, they know everything. Maybe they do. But in marketing, my experiences and lessons learned from other marketers' mistakes have taught me that if you start thinking that "you know", you get on the path of "alternative facts", of biased thinking.

I'm a huge believer in Design Thinking, the process where you are presented with a problem to solve, where you put aside your own assumptions, beliefs and "lenses",  you empathize with the targeted audience, and put yourself in their shoes, to understand what their perspective is. There is a whole lot more behind Design Thinking, but my point here is the necessity to emphasize, observe, and learn. It's not about what you know (or you think you know), it's about discovering.

When it comes to execution, there is no miracle recipe. I love the agile marketing approach, simply because it applies the same principle: you don't know if/how your targeted audience is going to react to, engage with your product or messaging. You prototype it, test it, fail it, measure it, iterate it, try it again, etc. 

When it comes to product marketing, I witnessed first hand how building a product (for that matter, a PaaS - platform as a service) based on your own assumptions of what the market wants (because you "know what they want", without any research to back it up), ends up in a complete disaster. Even if your product launches successfully (and meets market needs), at some point down the road you will still have to learn from your market in order to make improvements to say relevant, especially in the SaaS/PaaS world.

The same applies to marketing campaigns. It's all about testing your messaging, tracking how your targeted audience responds to your message, measuring the campaign's success or failure, gaining insights, iterating, testing it again. Even if you run a successful campaign, your message will have to evolve at some point: whether a new competitor comes in with a more compelling message, or your audience simply gets tired of your message, you will have to be agile and make the necessary adjustments.

What are your thoughts? What do you know?

Disclaimer: I don't pretend to say what I'm writing is right, simply because I know one thing, it's that I know nothing.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Is your company's job interview experience good enough?

Many companies feel they are in the driver's seat when it comes to the interview process. They feel that working for them is a privilege; that candidates should be thankful for the opportunity to even be considered for the job. They are WRONG, especially in industries and job markets where competition for talent is fierce.

Very much like companies don't tell their customers what their customer experience (CX) should be, they should not tell or dictate their employees (or soon-to-be) what their employee experience (EX) should be. Employees drive the EX, the same way customers drive the CX.

It should not be news to employers/recruiters, but the job interview process is the first chance for a candidate to experience what it's like to work for a company. Companies now have to think of themselves as employment brands. They should treat their employees (or soon-to-be) the same way they treat their customers.

Companies should apply customer journey mapping tactics to their job interview process. A mapping exercise helps identify all the different touch points a candidate goes through and how (s)he interacts with the company. From job descriptions to where/how jobs are posted, to how easy/complicated it is so submit a resume or job application, to how phone or face-to-face interviews are conducted, to the salary/benefits negotiation process, etc.

Because top companies compete for top talent, talented candidates likely have the choice between several offers. Salary, benefits package are nice, but research shows they are less and less of a tie-breaker. What makes the difference is the "employer brand" experience.

For those located in the Indianapolis area, join us at eX Summit's eX Meet Up to discuss the job interview experience (free event). Richard Whitney, Global Employment Brand Manager at Cummins, and Justin Fite, Chief Sales Officer at Lessonly, will speak on the panel on what makes or breaks the candidate experience. They will be joined by a couple of employees who will share their own perspective on what a good/bad experience is. Register here.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Some key "employee experience" take-aways from eX Indy (part 1)

eX Summit successfully launched its first event - eX Indy - last week at Launch Fishers in the Indianapolis area. We had a packed house, great speakers and panelists who provided the audience with a lot of actionable best practices (85% agreed on that).

Engagement measurement

As we already wrote about it, only 30% of the US employees feel engaged and inspired at work. It is a serious issue organizations must address, considering that increased engagement means (from Emplify's presentation):
  • 22% higher utilization and productivity
  • 50% lower turnover rate
  • 3 times more profitable in operating margin.
Surveying employees about their relationship with and commitment to the company's mission, values and brand message is an effective way to measure their engagement. The most compelling component of engagement is the psychological conditions of the workplace: meaningfulness, safe, capacity. When an organization addresses them positively, the engagement increases. Mobile applications, such as Emplify's app, are a great way not only to measure your employees' engagement, but also to communicate and exchange in a more personalized way, versus the traditional and generic emails sent from HR.

The power of workplace design

Business Furniture, from a Steelcase report, highlighted that in order to design a workplace that is resilient and encourages engagement, organizations must create an ecosystem of interconnected zones and settings that are destinations where people have choice and control over where and how they work. This ecosystem should offer a palette of posture, presence and privacy. When organizations do this, they help people by offering spaces that support their physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing.

When considering (re)designing the workplace, companies should:
  • conduct a thorough research on workplace design strategy and best practices
  • engage employees throughout the process to increase the rate of adoption 
  • provide spaces for BOTH collaboration and concentration.
"Companies lose by viewing office space as something to manage or minimize. The workspace is, in fact, a crucial driver of productivity and morale." (Read: Change Your Space, Change Your Culture: How Engaging Workspaces Lead to Transformation and Growth)

How design drives the employee experience

Studio Science highlighted how organizations can use design methodologies and processes to foster employee collaboration and engagement.

Using design sprints - the same way tech companies use "dev" sprints - Nathan's team creates the space and the framework to tackle complex problems by involving multiple teams with different skills and mindsets. 
"Employees must participate in meaningful work and know that they’re impacting the world around them... A design-led culture creates positive experience by engaging employees in the meaningful creation of solutions and value, and encourages strong relationships with co-workers. It ultimately connects individuals to purpose.", concluded Nathan.

Stay tuned for "eX Indy part 2" next week.

Friday, August 19, 2016

It’s time we seriously talk about employee experience

There’s been a lot of focus over the past few years on the user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX), for good reasons.

According a recent North Highland whitepaper, a Gartner research shows that in 2016, , nine out of 10 companies planned to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience. Nothing— not price, not product—is more important than the experience you provide. Organizations that deliver compelling customer experiences have a competitive edge.

However, in doing so, many organizations have failed to focus on the experiences of their most important competitive advantage: employees. It’s now time to talk about the employee experience (EX).

“Your employees are your company’s real competitive advantage. They’re the ones making the magic happen— so long as their needs are being met.”

Companies focus on reaching out to their customers wherever they are across multiple channels, but yet fail to reach out to their employees/talents wherever they are.

Companies focus on their customer journey, drawing roadmaps to better identify how their customers interact with their brands (touch points), but yet fail to understand their employee journey.

Companies design spaces to deliver unparalleled brand experiences to their customers, but yet fail to design spaces to deliver positive employee experiences.

Companies focus on customer retention but yet fail to focus on employee retention.

Companies invest time and resources in customer research/segmentation but yet fail to spend time on employee research/segmentation.

Companies offer different services/products to address the needs of different market segments, but yet fail to address the diversity of their employee groups/segments.

Companies have tools to track, monitor and analyze customer behaviors, satisfaction and engagement, but yet fail to adopt tools to measure employee behaviors, satisfaction and engagement.

 In 2015, only 21 percent of employees globally were highly engaged. In the U.S., the majority of employees—51 percent—were not engaged. And perhaps most critically, another 17 percent were actively disengaged. (Gartner)

North Highland notices that the opportunity is there. Your organization is already offering some sort of an EX, and every employee is already experiencing your brand, but how good it that experience?

That’s why I’ve founded eX Summit, a space to debate the importance and impact of the employee experience. Our first event eX Indy will take place on September 22. Many of the above topics will be discussed. Check out our event page to see which topics our thought leaders will speak about. We hope to see you there and let’s start a true discussion on EX!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Branding lessons from the Brexit

I'll be brief because:
a - nowadays politics aren't worth spending too much time discussing, unfortunately
b - there's already too much literature on the subject.

The bottom line is: politics is like branding. If you don't give a crap about your electors/consumers, they take you out of their lives.

When decisions are made at the C-suite level/government level, with little if no empathy towards the base (electors/consumers), your message becomes irrelevant to your audience.

If you want to stay relevant in politics and in branding, you must identify what your constituents/consumers need and want, in order to offer them something they can believe in, relate to, buy into. If you make decisions based on what yourself think is good for the masses, the masses merely take you out of their lives.

Electors/consumers are not stupid, even though many politicians and top executives think they are. Real leaders show empathy, understand their audience's pain points, and respond to these pain points with an answer that meets these expectations.

Do political and business leaders understand the growing demand for change? Can they meet those demands without inflicting irreversible damage on their politics and their economies?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Organizational business lessons from Leicester City’s amazing run

If you’re somehow interested in sports history, you heard yesterday that Leicester City won the EPL (English Premier League). At the beginning of the season, their odds to win the championship were 5000/1!! Leicester only narrowly survived relegation last year…

It happened because of numerous factors, both internal and external, that fell into place perfectly. We can all learn from this amazing journey, and apply some of the fundamentals to our business practices.

Owner’s vision. When Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, a Thai billionaire businessman, purchased the club in 2010 – at that time playing secondary roles in the tier-two division (equivalent of Baseball’s AAA) – he  had the humble vision to move the club up to the elite league (EPL), keep it there in the long-term, knowing that it would be hard to compete for the top spot behind the “Big Four” (Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal), or even behind other teams with much bigger budgets such as Liverpool and Tottenham. His goal was to offer a good show to the club’s fan base, and play the disruptors in the league. Vichai’s son, “Top”, who is the club’s CEO, said of this father a few days ago: "This is one thing that in his dreams he wanted to own the club, and he said I think two or three years before that he wants the team to be a success in the Premier League, and now we are."Having a humble and realistic vision for your organization does not mean you can’t accomplish great things. It simply means you’re grounded and focused on getting things right before dreaming too big.
COO’s role. At the beginning to the season, Leicester hired Claudio Ranieri as their head coach. Ranieri had coached some of the best teams in Europe, such as Chelsea, Juventus, Monaco, Atletico Madrid. Although he’d never won a major title with any of his teams until now, he had always been very good at nurturing young players, developing their skills and as a consequence increasing their market value. He just happened to “never be in the right place at the right time”. Having a big name coach doesn’t guarantee success, Chelsea being a great example, who sacked Jose Mourinho half-season, or Arsenal with Arsene Wenger, Manchester United with Luis Van Gaal, etc. Claudio Ranieri was the right COO in the right organization at the right time, fitting in the club’s culture and value, focusing on developing talent first. It is critical to have a COO to run day-to-day operations who shares the organization’s culture, values, who is focused on developing talents within the organization and building a solid foundation.
Have fun every day. Ranieri was able get his players buy-in in his philosophy, by quickly adapting to their needs and wishes, instead of pushing his own style down their throats (more of a Mourinho management style). During training camp before the season, Ranieri quickly realized that some of his principle would not resonate well with young players, so he decided to have a more casual approach. On his second day of practice, after of first very-intense day of practice, he rang a cow bell like crazy just before the session started. All players and staff came out of the building to see what was going on. Ranieri casually said that he would ring the bell during practice every time he saw a play that needed improvement. The players laughed at him at first, then quickly adhered to his casual management style. He even offered a cow bell to each his players for Christmas. He also decided to give his players two days of rest every week, very uncommon in professional sports, only to allow his players to relax, enjoy life. Players and coaching staff always shared some good laugh during the week at practice. Even the players would laugh during games when they missed a pass or a goal. They were still committed to winning, but they first and foremost wanted to enjoy playing football.Having fun at work doesn’t mean you take things lightly. You spend most of your life working, and if you can’t find any fun doing it, while focusing on growing the business, what’s left? Besides, having fun reinforces the bond between your employees and your management team.
You don’t need superstars, you need talented and committed people. The vast majority of Leicester’s roster was not in an elite league two seasons ago. Many players did not make it through their former club’s youth academy before coming to Leicester, and most of them played in sub-leagues. Think of this… Vardy, Mahrez and Kante were never recruited by big teams, but they were named this season’s best EPL players in various categories, ahead of the Hazard, Rooney, Willian, Aguero, and Ozil… None of the players were a house-name, even Ranieri did not now most of them when he took charge of the team. What Ranieri did was to adapt his tactical game plans to his players’ skills and abilities, to get the best out of them. In return, they adhered to his game plan.Good leaders make the best out of the talents given to them, adapting their management style and way of working to get buy-in, commitment from their teams. Committed employees are more productive than superstars who tend to play individually.
There are things you can’t control; you just have to take advantage of them.  Leicester’s ascension to the Grail should’ve never happened. After all, the odds for them winning the EPL were 5000/1! They needed the stars to be aligned and rely on the misfortune of the big teams to get to that point. Some may argue this is why they won the championship. I’d say “yes and no”.
“Yes” because indeed Chelsea, Man U and Man City struggled with injuries, bad coaching, players more towards the end of their careers. Before Boxing Day in December, many EPL fans and followers predicted that Arsenal would win the EPL, given its rivals’ struggles…
“No” because Arsenal is the perfect example of a healthy team, a long-tenure and well respected coach who can’t seize the other teams’ misfortune and win the championship.
There is no miracle in a 38-game season. This is not a one-time burst where a small team beats a big team in one game. We’re talking here of 38 games! It’s perseverance, commitment and resilience that allowed Leicester to win, values which teams like Arsenal lacked of when the opportunity was offered to them.
You’ve gotta take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you. You can’t control everything, what you can control is how quick you are to adapt to evolving circumstances and seize what’s offered to you. If you don’t, someone else will.