Do you know your customers better than your staff?

Atikel van Adam Hale op Personneltoday.com, mei 2016. Adam Hale is CEO van Fairsail, een snel groeiend  global HR software company.

Do you know your customers better than your staff?

Organisations invest millions in building their customer engagement strategies, but rarely know much about their employees. Yet putting staff at the centre of the business is key to sustained competitive advantage, argues Fairsail CEO Adam Hale.

I speak to business leaders of mid-size multinational organisations every week and there is no denying that the vast majority know far more about their customers than they do their own workforce. But why?

Employee engagement resources

The customer’s impact on growth has always been central to business strategy, while the bottom-line impact of people is usually considered as a cost and hence impacts margin.

With the ongoing war for talent and the need to retain employees, knowing your people as well as – if not better than – your customers is essential for success and ongoing competitive advantage.

For the past 15 years, there has been an increased focus on optimising the customer journey and the associated customer experience – a trend that has been accelerated by the move to digital business.

Given that 70% to 90% of the buying process now takes place online, it is no surprise that customer relationship management and predictive customer analytics tools have become commonplace in the marketing, sales and services functions.

Companies have realised that they need to think about the buyer’s journey in its entirety in order to deliver a better brand experience to customers and beat their competitors.

What is fascinating to me is that we have seen nothing like the same level of attention as to the employment journey and the associated employee or workforce experience.

Putting employees first

By understanding how employees think and feel about their day-to-day working experiences, they are better placed to understand behaviours and workforce engagement.

An unhappy and disengaged workforce will almost certainly have a negative impact on the customer experience, so why is it that some business leaders still expect their customers to receive an optimum brand experience, while their workforce is demotivated and productivity is low?

The employee experience must be prioritised first and foremost. People analytics is key to this, and is the best way for HR leaders to gauge an accurate and real-time view of how satisfied, trusting, loyal and committed their employees are.

This is what really matters; if employees feel undervalued, there is little hope of them being fully engaged.

Facilitating the right employee experience is therefore the only route to optimising employee engagement, and while I see positive signs that more and more businesses are beginning to live by this mantra, there are still too many that fail to realise its critical importance.

With a modern HR system and supporting analytics, it is now possible to get information on demand that executives can use to make better data-driven decisions. In my experience, company leaders who are introduced to people analytics for the first time are, more often than not, incredulous that their business is not already benefiting from its potential.

The best part? Analytics can be used to help improve the employee experience, the customer experience, and the bottom line. It is a winning approach all round.

Top-level buy-in

Perhaps more problematic, though, is why it has taken so long for company leaders to realise that business success starts with the employee, and not the customer.

My conclusion? The HR function as a whole is often under-represented at the executive management level and so the issue has been overlooked for far too long at the top table.

I am of the belief that every management team should have a dedicated people representative, whether that be a chief human resources officer or, even better, a chief employee engagement officer.

The latter should be using design, marketing, and communications to create great employee experiences that align with company values and brand.

Encouragingly, leading brands are realising the need to design and deliver great employee experiences in order to ensure great customer experiences.

I see this transformation in my role as CEO of a cloud HR company every day, and it is great to see businesses implementing people strategies that place the employee at the centre of their business – exactly where they should be.

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