avoiding the camera
A strong worker experience correlates to a strong customer experience. So why do executives think worker experience isn't their problem? PHOTO: Bob Doran

It would seem obvious a company with a robust worker experience (WX) would have a commensurately robust customer experience. 

But while many companies realize this, they still struggle to build a strong WX culture.

Why is that?

The answer, in part, can be found in the Forrester survey, The Worker Shapes the Customers' Experience, which found 87 percent of organizations have difficulty delivering a superior worker experience, yet only 26 percent of them have formal WX programs.

Now, of course, the question becomes, "why don’t more companies have formal WX programs?" 

Here again, the Forrester survey, commissioned by cloud services provider Appirio, provides some insight. Only 28 percent of executive managers assume responsibility for employee engagement.

Something has to give, Forrester concluded in the report. If trends continue in their current direction, "WX will be doomed to siloes," it said.

How Do You Define Worker Experience?

There are a number of reasons why so many companies have been unable to formalize their WX environment and then connect it to CX, Harry West, senior vice president of HCM Transformation Services at Appirio, told CMSWire.

Perhaps the most fundamental is that WX is rarely defined. "That is definitely part of the problem," West said.

Not surprisingly, West is able to provide such a definition: 

"It consists of three components. One, there is consumer grade technology in the workplace. That has become increasingly important with so many people now having grown up with their devices. Two, it is a flexible workplace. People value the balance between work and play — and the way work can be virtualized now, flexibility is expected."

The third component to the definition of WX is there are no barriers to the information people need to do their jobs, West said. "That is a prerequisite as well."

Executives Shirk Responsibilities

Another reason for the failure of so many firms to connect WX to CX is, as Forrester noted, that so few executives don’t see this issue as being in their wheelhouse.

Almost 90 percent of organizations face challenges with worker experience for that reason — that is, lack of executive ownership, Forrester said. Instead, what has happened is that improving worker experience has been handed off to line-of-business managers. 

Because executive management, HR and IT fail to take responsibility for the worker experience, planning and investment for these programs fall short.

Getting Executives On Board

One way to bring executives into the conversation is to tell them the WX story in terms of business outcomes, West said.

"We ask them to rate how they are doing against a few metrics. 'Is your workforce engaged?' 'Do they have a good rapport with management?' 'Is your workforce productive?’ 'Are you able to plan with your workers and enable them with technology so when big shifts happen your employees are with you all the way?'"

The thought process behind these questions and their subsequent answers tend to strike a nerve, West said.

Worker Experience Challenges

Even after all that soul searching, businesses still can face challenges. HR is not always up for the task of leading a worker experience programs. 

Another common frustration is when hybrid environments emerge, where one department develops a strong WX, usually due to the line-of-business manager’s efforts and the introduction of certain technology among a team, such as Slack, West said.

It is rare when an established company can implement a WX program mid-stream, West said. Start ups tend to be best suited to naturally evolve a strong WX, he said. "They can’t afford anything but consumer-grade technology and these companies don’t tend to have many layers of management."

There is another problem as well, West acknowledged: the data science on the CX side is far more advanced than WX. This means businesses lack agreement on what and how to measure WX.

Growing Transparency

West is not dissuaded from the cause though. "As the link between WX and CX becomes more clear established companies will start to pay attention to the WX part of the equation. Some are already taking a stab at it. An executive might realize the benefits of a productivity-enhancer like Slack and ask why the entire organization isn’t enabled with it."

Perhaps the most encouraging data point from the Forrester report was this: 79 percent of business leaders who say they have effectively enabled workers also report successful CX strategies.