Marketers know customisation is a key factor in delivering a superior customer experience. Customisation could be the key to creating a superior employee experience as well.

In my previous post, I shared how disparities between the employee and the customer experience can lead to employee disengagement―which in turn leads to diminished business results. By taking a page from the marketing playbook, companies can turn that trend around―aligning the employee and the customer experiences and creating better outcomes for everyone.

A workforce of one

In their book, Workforce of One: Revolutionizing Talent Management through Customization (Harvard Business Press, 2010), Accenture’s Susan Cantrell and David Smith explain how forward-thinking organisations are breaking away from the traditional mode of “one size fits all” talent management and adopting a more customised approach, similar to how the marketing function approaches customers as “markets of one.”

The driving forces behind this approach are:

  • Technology advances that enable talent management customisation
  • An increasingly diverse (and often global) workforce, and the commensurate declining value of a one size fits all talent management style
  • The fact that employees, who enjoy customisation as consumers, are coming to demand the same feature in the workplace

The principle behind this approach is simple: treat employees like customers. In the same way personalization has won over customers, personalization in the workplace has the potential to capture and keep top talent and drive improved business results.

How it works

Admittedly, the notion of personalization in the workforce could conjure in the minds of HR professionals anxiety-provoking images of unlimited one-off arrangements―which could quickly derail a business. In reality, the process is more along the lines of developing a framework that supports a menu of options employees can choose from to best meet their needs. Cantrell and Smith offer the following strategies for creating such a framework:

  • Segment the workforce based on a wide range of meaningful, business-specific criteria―such as learning styles, mobility, networking and communication skills, etc.
  • Offer modular choices that allow employees to custom-configure their experience (for example, work setting preferences).
  • Define broad and simple rules that allow for a variety of compliance options (for example, “deliver results” without defining the delivery mechanism).
  • Foster employee-defined personalization so that employees have a strong voice in the company’s people practices.

How to get started

The first step in closing the gap between the employee and the customer experience is acknowledging the gap exists. Listen to your employees―in hallway conversations, through engagement surveys, in exit interviews, by reading GlassDoor, and through formal assessments regarding whether employees would recommend your company’s products and services.

Then look for the easy fixes. Recognise the little things―like Friday social hours, branded merchandise giveaways, events access, travel support, flexible work schedules, and those Monday morning snacks―can make a big difference. A small investment can go a long way. It should go without saying that companies must invest in providing the basic fundamentals to their employees―such as the right tools to get the job done, the empowerment to make decisions, and reasonable compensation packages. Get the basic processes right across the employee lifecycle by starting with an onboarding experience that is easy and engaging.

A deeper evolution to a workforce of one is going to require a more comprehensive effort, based on the strategic suggestions listed earlier. The HR function will play a very important role in this effort, particularly in finding new ways to unite an increasingly diverse employee base and breaking through organisational silos. Evolving to a workforce of one also offers HR professionals the opportunity to expand their skills to become more like their marketing colleagues―including becoming adept at analytics technology and co-creation.

Finally, HR will be chartered with driving a shift in thinking where employees are respected and valued for their unique needs and preferences as well as their capabilities to make their own work-related decisions―a true strategic transformation.

For more information about aligning the employee and the customer experiences, please see:

Managing Your People as a Workforce of One

Is customer experience management futile without an employee engagement strategy?

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