By Heather Rollins, Vice President of Human Resources at Alchemer
It’s been a year since we closed our office in Boulder and sent everybody home. Over the last 12 months, everything about the workplace has changed. For the first part of last year we all tried to adjust as best we could, suddenly being thrust into remote workplaces, non-stop Zoom meetings, managing our kids’ at-home learning while working, keeping our families safe, and trying to keep employees engaged while trying to stay engaged ourselves. Now we’re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, but questions remain about what our new normal will be.
And, while my focus is on the relationships between our team members, relationships with customers have changed as well. Every customer now looks for ways to do business both online and in-person according to their unique needs and situation. And the most progressive organizations are embracing strategies focused on customer-centricity.
At its core, customer-centricity is:
- An emphasis on putting the customer at the heart of every business decision
- The empowerment of employees to adjust each customer experience
- A cultural shift in how organizations view their customers
However, all of this only works if you have a corresponding transformation to employee-centricity.
What exactly is employee-centricity?
Much like a customer-centric organization, an employee-centric organization puts people at the core of everything it does. Building an employee-centric business starts by creating a culture where innovation, creativity, and empowerment are encouraged throughout the organization, regardless of the level of the employee. In an employee-centric organization, all employees are connected to their customers and prospects, as well as to their peers and leadership. Employees in this environment are encouraged to:
- Help customers have a great experience
- Challenge internal processes that may be impacting productivity
- Promote out-of-the-box solutions when situations arise
Most of all, you need to create a culture where employees feel respected and engaged and believe they have an opportunity to grow.
Empowered employees drive customer-centricity
Fully empowering employees, regardless of position within the hierarchy, is fundamental to any employee-centric organization. We’ve all been the customer in a situation where something went wrong. We just want somebody who can help to hear our concerns and make it right. It just doesn’t feel very good when an unempowered employee responds by saying, “Sorry, I can’t help you.” Even if we understand, we don’t feel great about that brand experience.
However, when we encounter an empowered employee who can respond immediately and corrects the situation, we want to tell others about that experience. We also look for ways to do more business with that organization. That scenario represents a customer-centric organization, and it all starts with a foundation of employee-centricity.
How to design and build an employee-centric organization
As your organization begins building its customer-centric strategy, recognize that a critical component of success will be the implementation of an employee-centric strategy. Here are some of the cultural and technical issues that will require your attention:
- Foster employee-focused leadership – Leaders at all levels of your organization must actively listen to employees and ask important questions, rather than simply giving orders and answers. This shift will encourage employees to become more engaged and involved.
- Build processes based on understanding employee needs and expectations – Often internal human resource processes have been in place for years but are not adjusted to interact with employees in the ways that they prefer. More honest, representative input will be received when the processes are built around the employees.
- Encourage participation and share performance metrics – Engage employees in product roadmaps, customer interactions, content creation, and more. Sharing key metrics with the entire team and regularly letting them know how their individual role and contributions impact those metrics has a profound effect on engagement. Don’t hesitate to share times when the metrics are not where you want them and ask for input and solutions when that occurs.
- Continuously enhance employee experiences through feedback – Companies often do an annual “climate survey” – however, what’s true in spring is often not important as the winter holidays approach. You need to capture feedback on a regular basis. Many organizations use Employee Net Promoter Score surveys to regularly do a quick check on employee engagement and experience. Building a culture where employees know they are free to provide feedback will foster employee-centricity.
We all expect that 2021 will probably redefine the workplace and employee experience. Some of us will be back in the office while others will continue to work remotely. However, you can create more consistency in your people’s lives by putting customers at the heart of every decision you make. And that starts by building an employee-centric foundation that will make your people feel like team-mates more than co-workers.
Working for a company that creates solutions to bring organizations closer to people, we have developed a product that helps HR people at small and mid-sized businesses become more employee-centric. It’s called The Employee Experience Solution. It offers all the assessments and surveys you need to keep a steady pulse on your people. Plus, it offers ways to make employee access to HR benefits and requests much more manageable for stretched HR teams.