team meeting
PHOTO: Jopwell

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” ― Doug Conant, former CEO, Campbell Soup Co.

Doug Conant is right. I should know. I work for a winner in the marketplace and the workplace.

My employer, SAS Institute, was No. 1 in advanced and predictive analytics market share from 2014 to 2016, according to an IDC report. At 30.5 percent, our market share was well over twice that of our nearest competitor in 2016, and we have led in this category since IDC started tracking it in 1997. Moreover, 2018 marks our 21st consecutive appearance on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list (we claimed the top spot in 2010 and placed second in 2014). We are the living embodiment of success in the workplace begetting success in the marketplace.

Employee Satisfaction Pays

Granted, I may be biased vis-à-vis my employer, but the premise that great employee experiences translate to great customer experiences is real.

The latest Gallup State of the American Workplace report (registration required) found that companies receiving the Gallup Great Workplace Award averaged earnings per share growth of 115 percent, compared with 27 percent for competitors not on the list. Even more interesting is how Gallup translates this directly into customer outcomes. The research firm determined that, compared with companies that have less engaged workers, companies with highly engaged employees (e.g., those having great workplace experiences) have 10 percent higher customer metrics and 20 percent higher sales.

Two of my favorite companies, both perennial leaders in customer experience, provide additional proof that great employee experiences and great customer experiences go hand in hand.

Financial services and insurance company USAA ranked No. 1 on the 2017 Best Workplaces in Financial Services and Insurance list. USAA also landed on numerous other similar lists, including Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, Best Workplaces for Working Parents, People magazine’s Companies That Care, and Best Workplaces for Giving Back. Beyond impressive. Even better? USAA’s Net Promoter Score (a measure of customer loyalty, satisfaction and experience). In the 2017 NPS Benchmark study by the Temkin Group, USAA earned the highest score of any company — for the fifth year in a row. It also placed in the top 10 on the related 2018 Experience Ratings Report, which looks at a broader range of measures than simply NPS.

Grocer Wegmans Food Markets is another example of a company where good employee experiences translate into good customer experiences. Wegmans was No. 2 on the 2018 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list and earned the highest overall rating on the 2018 Experience Ratings Report.

Related Article: Digital Employee Experience Is Where the Action Will Be

The Road to Providing Great Employee Experiences

Happy employees make happy customers. And with so much attention focused on customer experience initiatives, it is surprising that the focus of such efforts does not automatically extend to employees. After all, employees are the first point of customer contact in traditional brick-and-mortar channels and the last line of defense on digital touchpoints.

Consider the close alignment between the definitions of employee experience and customer experience. I would define employee experience as “the sum of the perceptions that employees have about their interactions with employers” and customer experience as “how customers feel about a company measured across the sum total of all interactions between themselves and the company over the duration of the relationship.” Internal versus external focus aside, these definitions are exactly the same.

When embarking on an employee experience initiative, follow the lead of companies like Wegmans and USAA. Look to the tactics that make your customer experience initiatives work and figure out how to apply those internally with employees.

Here are some tips on how to do that.

Elevate the employee experience to the enterprise level

The organizational silo issues that impede customer experience initiatives (lack of integration and coordination across customer channels, conflicting measures and objectives, customer ownership issues) can also make employee experience difficult. 

Employee surveys may diagnose problems, but it is often difficult for the human resources team to address issues as diverse as management practices, organizational and workplace culture, professional growth, talent management, continued learning and defined career paths. Even the surveys themselves (much like voice-of-the-customer feedback mechanisms) are better deployed on an ongoing (rather than annual) basis, providing continuous feedback but also requiring continuous monitoring (meaning additional resource requirements).

Related Article: Do You Really Need a Chief Employee Experience Officer?

Ensure accountability and engaged leadership

While companies often assign a C-level executive, such as a chief customer officer, a chief experience officer or the chief marketing officer, to the customer experience management effort, they rarely make employee experience initiatives such a high priority.

At a minimum, an employee experience initiative should have the vocal support of the company’s executives, and ideally a C-level officer should be accountable for the effort and should take charge of securing funding, resources and cross-company cooperation. This individual should also work to ensure that executives and managers have (or develop) the same qualities the organization wants people throughout the workforce to bring to all customer interactions — qualities such as curiosity, candor, empathy and humility.

Taking this step can help instill in our employees the same levels of loyalty, trust and engagement that we want our customers to experience.

Related Article: What Does Employee Experience Really Mean?

Arm employees for success

We spend untold sums to ensure that customers can navigate with ease through our companies. We must make a similar effort for our employees.

When it comes to the customer experience, we map journeys, we integrate channels and we develop apps that provide information, convenience and entertainment. We target communications and offers to the known and inferred personal preferences of our customers. We put customers first.

Great companies do those types of things for their employees. They provide platforms and applications that foster collaborative work across geographical locations. They also map the employee journey to identify pain points, make critical company applications accessible via mobile devices, offer adequate training and provide a learning environment, among other things.

The bottom line? Companies that value employee experiences as much as customer experiences have a better chance at success than those that don’t.