Consider the Employee Journey When Improving Workplace Experiences

Engaged employees make a big difference inside organizations because of the higher level of commitment and contribution they bring to their work. However, many organizations still struggle to manage employee experiences in a manner that results in engaged employees. In the XM Institute’s recent best practices report, Three Shifts for Employee Experience Success, I highlighted three ways companies should be adapting their mindsets and actions when it comes to delivering experiences that raise employee engagement. Those shifts are:

  1. From functional job execution to purpose-led empowerment. Rather than expecting uninspired compliance to narrow job descriptions, leaders must recognize empowered employees as a critical enabler of company strategy and success, and invest in strengthening the connection of employees to the mission of the company.
  2. From disinterested surveying to collaborative understanding and action. Companies must shift from periodically measuring and reporting on employee satisfaction or engagement to seeking out candid and actionable insights that enable conversations between managers and people across the moments that matter to them.
  3. From HR-driven programs to employee-engaging leaders. The individuals who lead people and teams must recognize the benefits of and be ready to fulfill their personal responsibilities to engage employees every day instead of relying on the periodic motions of HR programs.

All three of these shifts will help companies improve the effectiveness of their EX efforts. However, how an organization demonstrates or acts on those shifts can vary based on different stages of an employee’s journey. Here’s how the three shifts can positively impact experiences when put into action across four typical stages of an employee’s journey:

  • Interview and accept job. In this stage, both the company and the candidate are assessing fit. When companies take a more purpose-led approach, prospective employees will get a more holistic sense of how the role fits within the company’s mission and how their individual success will be supported, not just the job description they are being hired to fill. Companies will get smarter in the process because they will proactively seek feedback, close the loop with candidates, and inject key learnings to improve the recruiting and hiring experience.
  • Join and onboard. Once the company offers a job and the employee accepts, it’s time to set expectations and help the employee learn the ropes. Where traditional orientation programs concentrate on generic presentations of company information, adopting these shifts will result in a more personalized experience for the new employee. Because a new hire’s manager understands the experience starts with themself, the onboarding journey will include one-on-one time spent getting to know the employee and helping the employee get to know the company and its mission and culture, the team and their goals, and their new role as part of both. Periodic check-ins will ensure that while the new employee is learning the ropes, the company and manager are also learning about what’s working and jumping in when things are not quite on track.
  • Perform. Employees will spend most of their time in this stage over the course of their careers. In this stage, companies need to consistently deliver on the experience they have promised employees. When the shifts are embraced, employees understand how they can personally control their experiences at work, while managers invest in reinforcing positive performance so that the employee and the company succeed. In this stage, processes that enable listening, learning, and getting better – from lifecycle surveys or multi-rater assessments to individual engagement reports or performance conversations – are highly valuable to the company and employees alike.
  • Advance. In this stage, employees pursue and step into roles with greater responsibility, influence, and impact. Organizations that prioritize employee experience can be confident that those who advance not only are high in functional competence, but also live the company’s mission and values every day. Because they’ve experienced it themselves, newly promoted managers readily act on the key beliefs that help them engage employees every day.

Bottom line: When you embrace the three shifts across all stages of employees’ journeys both the company and employees will benefit.

HR Leaders: It’s Time to Build Your XM Skills

Over the last few years, it’s been great to see a rising number of HR professionals focusing on Employee Experience (EX) and driving more engaged, high-performing workforces. This has only enhanced my belief that EX represents a critical opportunity for the entire HR profession to increase its value.  

By definition, EX is the collection of experiences and interactions that employees have with their employers. But despite the increased focus on EX, many of the HR leaders that I’ve worked with over the past few years find this effort daunting and many still leverage decades-old approaches. 

That’s why I decided to write this post about an organizational capability that will equip HR professionals to manage and master EX. This capability, called Experience Management (XM), is defined as:

The discipline of using both experience data (X-data) and operational data (O-data) to measure and improve the core experiences of a business. 

And one of the most foundational of those core experiences is the employee experience (EX).

Now, most organizations do measure and improve certain components of their employees’ experiences. And many have even built formal people analytics functions and teams to produce insights and implement changes. This ad-hoc approach to EX, however, represents only the most basic level of XM. 

The Role of XM in HR

While many organizations focus on isolated approaches to managing EX, very few have built XM into a discipline. As a discipline, XM requires a sustained focus; it’s not a project or two that an organization implements and then suddenly “achieves.” In fact, among the hundreds of HR departments I’ve worked with, the ones with the highest levels of XM maturity are the ones that constantly feel like they are behind and look for ways to improve.

Another hallmark of XM is that it involves the combination of X-data and O-data. While most organizations have multi-instrumented O-data systems in place to collect and manage employee operational data, like course completion rates, employee productivity, turnover, etc, their X-data systems are lacking. That is, organizations know a lot about what is going on with their employees, but not nearly enough about why it’s happening.

XM combines the power of what and why with a set of operational processes for putting those insights into action. Specifically, XM helps HR teams to:

  • Continuously Learn. XM helps organizations more effectively sense and interpret what’s happening to employees, how they are behaving, and why. For example, employees’ needs, wants and expectations are always changing, as are organizational priorities, and HR teams need formal, flexible mechanisms to keep up with these changes.
  • Propagate Insights. XM helps organizations put actionable intelligence in the hands of people across their ecosystem who can use it, creating seamless access to the right information, in the right form, at the right time. As the organization collects insights from its workforce, it must act on them. And in order to act on them, those insights must be available and consumable to senior leaders, frontline managers and individual contributors alike. 
  • Rapidly Adapt. XM helps organizations act on the insights they’ve uncovered at an increasingly faster pace, finding ways to create new experiences and renovate existing ones. Senior business leaders, HR teams and people managers need to make changes faster than ever, especially during times of major disruption and crisis.

Operationalizing XM Across HR

How can you weave the XM discipline across HR and across your EX practices? By focusing on three areas that we call the XM Operating Framework:

  • Competency. To gain value from XM, HR teams need to expand their skill sets and develop new approaches for gaining and using insights. Competencies are the skills and actions that ultimately establish XM as a discipline. We’ve identified six XM Competencies: LEAD, REALIZE, ACTIVATE, RESPOND, ENLIGHTEN, and DISRUPT. 
  • Technology. To master the competencies at scale, organizations need a flexible, scalable platform that is capable of collecting, analyzing, and distributing insights to the relevant people and processes. This technology empowers everyone to understand and – more importantly – take action on the insights generated from both X-data and O-data. Technology also helps core EX teams create modern X-data systems that operate more like O-data systems, collecting employees’ attitudes, thoughts and feelings in seamless, automated ways. 
  • Culture. For XM competencies to thrive, companies need to foster an environment that instills XM-centric mindsets and behaviors in their leaders and employees. Most organizations have established ideal cultural values which are represented by artifacts and underpinned by underlying beliefs. When these artifacts, values and underlying beliefs are aligned with XM, not only do XM mindsets and practices grow, but so do business outcomes.

Starting Your Journey Towards Employee XM

So how can you move from ad-hoc employee surveying or disjointed EX efforts to true employee experience? Here are 4 simple steps to get started. 

  1. Learn more about the XM Operating Framework. Specifically, start by focusing on the six XM Competencies. While culture and technology are critical enablers of XM, the competencies are the most foundational and directly actionable for HR leaders. 
  1. Assess your current EX Maturity. Once you’re familiar with the competencies within the XM Operating Framework, it’s time to assess your organization’s current maturity. We’ve developed a short assessment designed for HR leaders and practitioners. As you take the assessment, be honest; there is absolutely no benefit to inflating your scores.
  1. Learn about the State of EX Management. We conducted a study of large, North American organizations of their EX maturity. Within the same report as the maturity assessment is a summary of our findings. This report will help your benchmark your organization against others who’ve taken the same maturity assessment. 
  1. Join the XM Professional Network (XMPN). At the XM Institute, we have created the XMPN which connects XM professionals across all experiences (employee, customer, product and brand) and facilitates greater learning and education. Click here to register. 

A final benefit of XM is that it is a singular capability that organizations can leverage across the core experiences of business: customer (CX), employee (EX), brand (BX) and product (PX). Personally, one of the most rewarding aspects of XM is that it has introduced new and innovative ideas from the other pillars to greatly enhance its application to EX!

How Do You Engage Employees? Adopt The Five I’s

One of the key goals of any Experience Management (XM) program needs to be employee engagement. This is not only a critical outcome for Employee Experience (EX) efforts, but it’s also a critical input to delivering great customer experience. Why? Because engaged employees are the trigger of a “virtuous cycle” of good customer experience and strong business results.

So how can companies tap into this value? By focusing on a set of activities that we call the Five I’s of Employee Engagement:

  • Inform. Provide employees the information they need to understand the organization’s vision and brand values. Ad hoc, inconsistent communications are not effective in engaging employees. Instead, organizations should develop a thorough communication plan and deliver key experience management (XM) messages through multiple channels on a regular basis. XM leaders we have interviewed stress the importance of persistent and consistent communications to ensure messages are heard, understood, and internalized by employees.
  • Inspire. Help employees understand the organization’s vision and values, and to recognize how their role contributes to them. Leaders play a key role in inspiring employees to embrace the company’s vision and values. Whether that’s meeting directly with employees to share organizational stories or demonstrating commitment by holding leaders and managers accountable for changing behaviors to support XM goals, successful organizations identify specific ways to tap into the positive influence of the senior executive team.
  • Instruct. Support employees with the training, coaching, and feedback they need to be successful. Employees first need to know what to do and then be enabled to do it with the necessary knowledge and skills. This happens through activities like formal training, on-the-job coaching, and peer reinforcement, to name a few. Organizations also need to make sure they are making it easy for employees to put what they are learning into action. If employees are constrained by things like out-of-date systems that require workarounds or frustrating policies they have to enforce with customers, then neither employees nor customers will have a positive experience.
  • Involve. Take action with employees when designing their jobs, improving work processes, and solving problems identified through customer or employee feedback. Raising engagement isn’t a one-sided effort. Successful organizations find ways to involve employees whether that’s through a formal voice of employee process, journey mapping, employee-driven process improvement or innovation processes, or other ways. Even if early efforts are informal and simple, take action to raise employee engagement from the ground up, not only top down.
  • Incent. Deploy the appropriate systems to measure, reward, and reinforce desired employee behaviors and motivate employees to give their best. Employees and teams that deliver excellent experiences – to customers, fellow employees, partners, or others – should be celebrated with meaningful gestures of appreciation along with formal awards and incentives. And if engagement is truly important, then organizations should establish and measure employee engagement levels as a management metric with defined goals, action plans, and progress tracking on a regular basis.

Putting the Five I’s into action isn’t solely on the shoulders of the Human Resources (HR) or EX team. Executing on the Five I’s involves stakeholders from across the organization, including:

  • Senior executives: The leaders of an organization need to be visible and accessible to employees as they reinforce the importance of XM as a company priority. Their daily actions including how they help overcome internal resistance and hold others in the organization accountable can be very valuable when bringing the Five I’s to life.
  • Middle managers: This group of people is an important leverage point as they help their teams understand and apply the organization’s vision and values into daily work. They can be particularly helpful in providing coaching and feedback to employees following training and fostering an environment that encourages feedback and recognizes people for doing the right things.
  • Marketing: This function is a key collaborator when it comes to supporting communication plans, promoting employee involvement opportunities, and incorporating employee recognition into internal messages.
  • Finance, IT: In their own way, each of these internal functions may be asked to support the Five I’s through policy, process, system, or tool changes. For Finance, it may be systems and budgeting for employee rewards and recognition programs. For IT, it could be updating internal social networks to allow for easier employee connection-building and collaboration. 
  • CX core team: As an important part of the XM machine inside an organization, the CX team does have a role when it comes to raising employee engagement. It can contribute starting points for organizational success stories, curate customer feedback to spur employee innovation or recognition initiatives, and help translate organizational values into a clear set of customer promises employees help to keep through their roles.
  • Human Resources: While they don’t take whole responsibility for employee engagement, the HR team is the de facto leader of strategic engagement initiatives from the start. Many functions native to HR are key enablers of the Five I’s, including training/development, performance management, employee feedback oversight, and compensation (to support rewards and incentives).

How to Provide Certainty Even During Times of Uncertainty

Last month, at the XM Institute, we held our second ever XMPN Virtual Meetup. We met with experience management (XM) professionals from around the world, with most reigning from the APJ region and Africa. 

The bulk of the conversation was centered around applying XM during this time of crisis. We anchored this part of the discussion around four experience design-based tips for leaders, one of those tips being “choose certainty over uncertainty.”

The importance of this tip was emphasized by an XM practitioner from New Zealand who pointed out that organizational leaders are struggling to communicate with certainty because of the uncertainties at the national and local governmental levels and the uncertainties among the leaders above them in the organization. In other words, uncertainty has a tendency to spread. 

This got us thinking – while these chains of uncertainty are common, they are certainly not necessary!

Why Choose Certainty over Uncertainty?

As many of us are learning the hard way right now, humans respond much better to certainty than uncertainty, even when the certainty might be bad news. Many airlines have come to embrace this principle, communicating things as simple as flight delays with detailed timelines and updates. Flight delays are almost always bad news, but knowing what, why, and when helps us (as consumers) manage and cope. 

In fact, in times of crisis and uncertainty, human beings actively seek out certainty and stability. And this is the case for many employees and customers around the globe right now. 

How to Break the Chain of Uncertainty

While uncertainty spreads aggressively when left unchecked, here are 3 simple steps that leaders can take to break the chain:

  • Make the uncertain, certain. First, clearly lay out the issue and acknowledge the uncertainty facing everyone. Avoiding the issue can actually make things worse. For example, many remote employees are wondering if and when they might be asked to return to the office. And for many organizations, there is no definitive answer to this. As a leader whose employees are looking to you for guidance, be frank with them that you don’t know and neither does the organization. That fact, at least, serves as some form of certainty.
  • Clearly share what is certain. Next, transition to communicating what is certain, even if the news is not great. Building on the scenario above, while you may not know for sure if and when the team will return to the office, what you do know is that it is not for at least the next three weeks. Share those details and outline the relevant state or local guidance your company is relying on. Also share any known dependencies, such as if and when your team returns to the office, there will be new policies and procedures in place to protect people. 
  • Provide a path for more certainty. Finally, build on what is certain by sharing any known timelines for when updated decisions may be made. For example, you may let employees know that you will be providing updates every Wednesday with the latest information. You could also share the resources that you are using to drive the decisions, which will allow them to stay informed. This step requires some work upfront on your part but is well worth the effort. 

In summary, even when we are surrounded by uncertainty, it is almost always possible (and highly desirable) to provide some level of certainty.

Effective Communication: A Critical Skill to Propel XM Success

In a world where humans are inundated with messages 24/7 through a myriad of channels from a variety of sources, it’s a challenge to cut through the noise to reach employees with important information that helps them do their jobs better. Yet this is exactly the challenge experience management (XM) leaders must overcome if they want to successfully design and deliver great experiences to employees or customers.

In fact, effectively informing employees about XM is so important that Ecosystem Communications is one of our 20 XM skills organizations must master to embed XM as a discipline. When people understand why XM is important, how they play a part in its success, and the value and progress of XM efforts currently underway they are more likely to stay aligned and positively contribute to results. That’s why no XM initiative is complete without a well-designed communications plan. Organizations need to deliver ongoing messages that balance both practical and inspirational elements relevant for each target audience.

So how can XM teams navigate the noise to reach the people who bring experiences to life in their organizations? Here are five tips drawn from across our research that you can put to work to elevate understanding, encourage participation, and celebrate progress:

  1. Design role-specific messages. Not all employees are the same. Different groups of employees have distinct information needs. Therefore, ensure your communication plan considers how key messages need to be adapted for different audiences from senior executives to operational leaders to people managers to individual contributors. This adaptation should apply not only to the substance of the messages but also with the timing/frequency and delivery channel used to disseminate information across the organization. This includes translating “corporate speak” into clear and relatable terms all employees can understand and reinforcing how XM contributes to their own success at work.
  2. Communicate with empathy. Not only do employees have distinct information needs, but they will also react differently to what is shared compared to other groups of employees. There are many times where XM-related communications may ask employees to change what they need to do or to think about their work in a different way. Organizations need to anticipate employees’ emotional reactions and convey support across each message. This is even more critical in times of disruption and uncertainty, as in our current environment, so XM leaders should put a premium on designing communications with these four tips in mind: don’t be shy with bad news, choose certainty over uncertainty, share exact next steps, and stay empathetic.
  3. Use social tools to amplify messages. Effectively deployed employee social networks and similar tools can enhance communications by adding emphasis through executives’ or other key influencers’ personal participation in message threads or by enlisting employees at all levels in sharing updates or elevating topics. The interactivity of social communications has the ability to create “buzz” and tangible energy around a topic in a way that email or other one-way communication channels cannot.
  4. Capture feedback through a two-way dialogue. While communications plans typically focus on getting employees the information they need on a regular basis, they can also be used to bring information back to the XM teams and others. Employees are a valuable source of insights and ideas for their companies and their co-workers. Reserve some capacity throughout your communication plan for learning from employees and adapting how you frame and deliver your ongoing flow of XM communications. You can also encourage broader dialogue around key XM messages that yield employee ideas on how to improve processes or solve problems identified through customer or employee feedback.
  5. Share XM success stories. It is well-known that stories have staying power. XM success stories can bring to life what good experiences look like, what it takes to create them, and help employees connect to the XM strategy in very meaningful ways. There are lots of types of XM stories to tell. Three of my favorites are how-to stories (share the employee mindset and actions that resulted in the success), winning team stories (trace tangible wins by connecting the dots across all the teams that contributed), and everyday hero(ine) stories (instead of superhero moments, highlight employees who are demonstrating desired XM behaviors on a consistent basis, day in and day out).

XM efforts can easily falter when they share too little information, provide disjointed, hard-to-understand messages, or leave out compelling content like progress on key initiatives and success stories. That’s why investing in effective communications is critical to propel the success of your XM program.

Tapping into the Six Traits of Human Beings During a Crisis

Experience Management (XM) is all about human beings. Customers are human. Employees are human. Partners, leaders, suppliers, prospective customers… all human. In the current environment, where many people are facing hard times, it’s more critical than ever for organizations to find ways to demonstrate their humanity and build deeper emotional ties with all the people who interact with them.

This, unfortunately, is easier said than done. Human beings are complicated and can be difficult to understand. So to adapt your experiences to address the shifting concerns of the people you care about, consider their needs across all Six Traits of Human Beings:

  1. INTUITIVE. People use two different modes of thinking to make decisions and judgements: Intuitive Thinking, which is fast, automatic, and emotional and relies on cognitive biases and heuristics (mental rules of thumb) to make decisions, and Rational Thinking, which is slow, effortful, and deliberate and relies on logic and reason to reach conclusions. While humans always tend to use Intuitive Thinking more frequently than Rational Thinking, our dependence on it intensifies during times of stress and uncertainty. So emergencies often exacerbate our existing biases – such probability neglect, availability bias, aversion to uncertainty, and herding behaviors – leading to “irrational” reactions, like buying mountains of toilet paper.
    • Customer Example: Reduce customer uncertainty by proactively communicating how your company is addressing the current situation (e.g. new safety precautions, expanded channels for reaching customer service, plans for waiving certain fees or penalties, etc.). Studies show that during an emergency, communication is most effective when it is timely, credible, empathetic, emphasizes useful individual actions, and is tailored to specific audiences and segments.
    • Employee Example: Engage employees’ Rational Thinking by providing them with a continuous flow of relevant data and insights and then holding them accountable for using that information to make evidence-based (rather than intuition-based) decisions.
  1. SELF-CENTERED. Everyone views the world through their own personal lens, which is informed by their unique life experiences. Unfortunately, this individual context can make it hard for us to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and see the world through their eyes. However, in the current environment, where empathy is paramount, organizations must actively work to help leaders and employees escape their individual context and instead demonstrate understanding and compassion for each other and for customers.
    • Customer Example: Instead of continuing to survey customers about the company’s performance, shift your Voice of the Customer efforts to understand how your customers are doing on a personal level. Shorten surveys to only a few open-ended questions that ask people how they are feeling and how the organization can help them get through this challenging time.
    • Employee Example: Engender empathy in employees for both coworkers and customers by sharing people’s stories in their own voice – whether that’s through contact center recordings, customer verbatims, or inviting employees to recount their experiences during team or company-wide meetings. 
  1. EMOTIONAL. As Maya Angelou once said, “People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you make them feel.” Human beings remember experiences based on the most emotionally extreme points and how it ends – a phenomenon known as the “Peak-End Rule.” Because of the heightened emotional climate, people are going to be particularly sensitive to how organizations make them feel right now…and will remember those emotions long after this episode has passed.
    • Customer Example: To create positive emotional peaks, review your major customer journeys and find moments where your organization can add a special moment of surprise or delight, such as sending a customer a handwritten note, waiving a fee, adding a small gift to their package, or empowering employees to spend a certain amount of money to go above-and-beyond to make a moment special.
    • Employee Example: When conveying bad news to employees, lessen the negative emotional spike by carefully preparing for the conversation in advance rather than leaving it up to chance. Think through how you will explain the situation and its causes, communicate with transparency and respect, deliver the news in an appropriate setting and format, and allocate plenty of time to answer their questions at the end.
  1. MOTIVATED. All people strive to fulfill four intrinsic needs – a sense of meaning, choice, progress, and competence. These four motivations are especially important for a company to tap into during a time of crisis as people often feel stalled and discouraged, and the business may not be in a position to incentivize people with extrinsic motivators, like money or formal recognition.
    • Customer Example: Tap into customers’ desire for choice by offering them a variety of solutions to problems they encounter, such as canceled flights, out of stock items, or long wait times for the contact center. Studies show that when companies give customers a variety of potential solutions to choose from to resolve an issue, they are ultimately more satisfied with the outcome.
    • Employee Example: Tap into employees’ desire for meaning by finding ways to redeploy your organizational capabilities to help the community (e.g. repurposing factories, donating products, providing logistical support, etc.), and provide opportunities for employees to contribute to these efforts – both within the scope of their everyday roles and on a volunteer basis. 
  1. SOCIAL. People are naturally social, and we particularly enjoy connecting with other people and institutions who are “like us.” Because people are more attracted to brands who are able to give them a sense of community and belonging, in this time of social isolation, companies should actively create opportunities for employees and customers to connect with each other around shared interests.
    • Customer Example: Give frontline employees space to emotionally connect with customers by waiving efficiency metrics like Average Handle Time.
    • Employee Example: Studies show that the greatest predictor of a person’s success and happiness during a challenging time is his or her social support network, so encourage all employees to start every day by reaching out to someone in their social network – a coworker, family member, friend, etc. – to briefly express gratitude and appreciation. This will help people to feel more connected and recognize they have more social support than they may think.
  1. HOPEFUL. People flourish when they envision a positive future. When we are optimistic, our brains perform better across a number of different categories – such as intelligence, resilience, and creativity – compared to when we are feeling neutral or pessimistic. To help people focus on the positive amid the continuous barrage of bad news, organizations should articulate a compelling vision of the company’s future that specifically addresses people’s personal needs and aspirations.
    • Customer Example: Instead of only communicating with customers to convey negative or disappointing news, share inspiring stories from around the business as well as positive lessons the business has learned that will be carried forward to make the company – and its customer experience – better than before.
    • Employee Example: Start every company meeting by highlighting successes, praising team members, or sharing something you’re excited about. Priming people with positivity will change the way their brains process the challenges you are about to tackle.

Managing the Working-From-Home Employee Experience

Last week, my colleagues Steve Bennetts, Sally Winston, and I held a webinar (watch it here) focused on how organizations should manage their employees’ work-from-home experience. While we covered several meaty topics, we also tried to keep the discussion light and lively. In fact, we covered this topic while working from our own homes and at certain points during the webinar, you can clearly hear children playing and laughing in the background. This is indeed the world we are living in right now! 

Importantly, each of us represented different global regions, with Steve based in Sydney bringing perspectives from the Asia, Pacific region, Sally based in London with perspectives from the EMEA region and myself, based in the U.S. bringing a North American perspective. 

Here is a summary of our discussion:  

  • Organizations must understand the human experience cycle. We started the discussion by anchoring on a basic understanding of the human experience cycle. This is a foundational concept for experience management (XM) that explains the determinants and outcomes of human experiences. We focused heavily on expectations – a core component of the human experience cycle that influences how humans perceive experiences. Among the components of the cycle, we agreed that organizations have the greatest direct impact on the experiences they deliver to their employees and the expectations they set and manage. We also agreed that employee expectations of their employers are very likely to change in the future, based on the dramatic and emotionally-charged experiences they are going through right now. 
  • Now is the time to adjust Employee Experience (EX) Management programs. Next, we dove into the most tactical topic of the webinar, starting with an overview of our research that employees want to be asked for feedback during times of change and are actually more engaged when they are. This is precisely the time when organizations should ask their employees for feedback. However, we also vehemently agreed that conducting a business-as-usual survey is not appropriate and that organizations must be extremely sensitive to employees’ concerns and uncertainties (e.g., safety, job security). We closed this section by concluding that one of the hallmarks of a strong EX Management program is its agility and we pointed to resources that answer other common, tactical questions about EX management programs. 
  • Employee health and well-being must be top-of-mind. To be clear, organizations should always be concerned with employee health and well-being but it is especially important right now. Many employees are working remotely for the first time ever and have lost their social networks (at least physically). This has the potential to dramatically impact employee mental health and physical well-being. Steve Bennetts, who brings a strong background in clinical psychology and workplace safety, explained that “employees are having a normal reaction to abnormal events”. He suggested that organizations and its leaders attempt to “normalize” peoples’ reactions to this unprecedented situation. We closed this section by discussing practical tips for people leaders managing remote teams such as creating new, virtual touch bases (e.g. daily standups, virtual lunches, virtual happy hours) and getting to know employees in this new, virtual world. The latter point is important because employees may behave very differently in this novel environment. 
  • Strong people leadership is even more important right now. While there are tons of articles providing direct tips for remote workers, we acknowledged that far less has been published for people leaders. As our founder and CEO, Ryan Smith, pointed out in his recent article, “right now the work needs leadership, and it has to start with people managers”. We discussed several global examples of organizations that have actually created sub-task forces focused specifically on front-line people leaders and the ways in which they have trickled tips and tricks. Our discussion ventured into performance management and goal setting and how people leaders play a critical role in continuously aligning their newly-remote workers’ goals and expectations.  
  • Employees’ expectations of their employers are likely to change. Our discussion came full circle, back to the human experience cycle and the role of employee expectations. Here are 3 changes to employees’ expectations that we think are likely to persist:
    1. Employees will expect to bring their whole selves to work. Employees will expect that the blending of their personal and professional lives will not be counted against them in the future.
    2. Employees will expect more workplace flexibility. Not every employee will want to work from home but many will expect more flexible policies from their employers in the future.
    3. Employees will expect greater global alignment. While the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly a horrific global event, it is also globally unifying and employees will expect an increased level of global alignment in the future.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and we all learned something about how different global regions are handling this crisis. Our overarching conclusion from the session was that organizations that are focused on XM during this time, are the ones who will thrive when this crisis ends.

XM Fireside Chat: Healthcare Experience With Bruce Temkin And Susan Haufe

Welcome to my XM Fireside Chat series, where we hare some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this segment of XM Fireside Chat, I talk with Susan Haufe, Chief Industry Advisor for Healthcare at Qualtrics, about healthcare experience, with a focus on the current challenging environment.

The current pandemic is challenging the very structure of our healthcare system. Healthcare providers are being overwhelmed by the volume of patients and the lack of supplies and tests. All of this plays out through a network of human beings who are facing a multitude of stressful factors, including patients suffering from coronavirus, doctors and nurses lacking supplies, and administrators looking to manage and expand their bursting facilities. In this environment it’s more important than ever to stay connected with those people, which is what XM is all about.

Here are some related posts that you may find valuable:

XM Fireside Chat: XM Leadership With Bruce Temkin And Aimee Lucas

Our XM Institute team was looking forward to seeing everyone who was coming to Salt Lake City last week for Qualtrics X4 Summit. Unfortunately, that great event was postponed. So we decided to pull together an XM Fireside Chat series to share some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this segment of XM Fireside Chat, I chat with Aimee Lucas about XM Leadership.

Leadership is a critical component for driving successful XM programs, which is why “LEAD” is one of our Six XM Competencies. You can see a lot of different content about LEAD on this blog. Also, check out these free reports from the Qualtrics XM Institute:

XM Fireside Chat: ROI Of CX With Bruce Temkin And Moira Dorsey

Our XM Institute team was looking forward to seeing everyone who was coming to Salt Lake City this week for Qualtrics X4 Summit. Unfortunately, that great event was postponed. So we decided to pull together an XM Fireside Chat series to share some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this segment of XM Fireside Chat, I chat with Moira Dorsey about the ROI of CX.

Ensuring that your CX program (or any type of XM program) delivers value is critical, which is  why “REALIZE” is one of our Six XM Competencies. If you’re interested in ROI of CX, then check out these recent research reports mentioned in the XM Fireside Chat that you can download for free from the XM Institute:

XM Fireside Chat: Experience Design With Bruce Temkin And Isabelle Zdatny

Our XM Institute team was looking forward to seeing everyone who was coming to Salt Lake City this week for Qualtrics X4 Summit. Unfortunately, that great event was postponed. So we decided to pull together an XM Fireside Chat series to share some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this first segment of XM Fireside Chat, I chat with Isabelle Zdatny about Experience Design.

Experience design isn’t just a “nice to” activity, it’s a fundamental capability that every organization needs to embrace. And it’s the core skill within what we call the “DISRUPT” competency, which is one of the Six XM Competencies. If you’re interested in Experience Design, here and some useful research reports that are available for free from the Qualtrics XM Institute:

The Two Ultimate Questions For XM Metrics

Experience Management (XM) programs often rely on one or more key metrics that track items such as likely to recommend, satisfaction, effort, or engagement. As I’ve written in the past, the success or failure of these metrics often has little to do with the actual metric. Instead, the key to success is the program that is wrapped around those numbers (see our 5 steps for an effective CX metrics program). 

Many organizations, however, treat the metric as the core focus of their efforts; overly-obsessing on the data. They regularly spend (actually waste) hours and hours of valuable leadership bandwidth discussing and debating numbers, acting as if a discussion about the metric will magically improve the business.

Let’s think about this situation in a completely different realm… golf. Consider two new golfers. One spends his time debating how to keep score and whether or not his scorecard is accurate, while the other one looks at where she’s losing the most strokes and focuses her time on making improvements in those areas. Which of these golfers do you think will get better faster?

Senior Leaders: Ask These Two Questions

While there are many reasons why organizations fall into this metric-obsessive behavior, senior leaders have the ability to stop it and create a much more productive environment. How? By asking questions that drive the right behaviors.

Here’s my advice for senior executives… Whenever your staff shows you any XM metrics (this includes CX, EX, PX, or BX measurements), ask these two questions:

  1. What have you learned?
  2. What improvements are you making?

That’s right, don’t ask about the data. These two questions will push the organization to focus on the right things and avoid unproductive discussions about numbers.

If people aren’t learning anything from the metrics then you need to encourage them to look deeper (if it continues, then you might need new metrics). If people aren’t making improvements, then you need to ask them “why not?” The only exception to this process is for organizations that are happy maintaining the status quo.

Don’t ask those two questions once or twice; ask them all of the time. This simple change in leadership behavior will have a dramatic effect on how the rest of the organization behaves. As you repeat these questions (over and over again) and stop obsessing about the actual numbers, I’ll bet that your metrics will actually improve even faster.

The bottom line: Leaders can improve XM metrics by simply asking two questions.

The Four P’s of XM Insights

In a recent XM Institute report, we discussed how to Operationalize Experience Management (XM).  Why does XM matter? Because it creates a discipline that helps organizations continuously learn (how people are thinking and feeling), propagate insights (to the right people in the right form at the right time), and rapidly adapt (to an increasing flow of actionable insights).

As we look into the future, just about every organization is facing more demanding customers, more demanding employees, and shorter product lifecycles. In this environment, they need to make smarter, faster decisions… They need XM.

Organizations that master XM will adapt faster than their peers. That statement alone should be compelling enough to focus on building XM capabilities. What happens to your organization if your competitors are systematically adapting faster than you?!?

To understand where XM will come into play, I’ve identified four categories of insights that XM leaders will better understand and more quickly respond to than their peers. Let’s just call them the Four Ps of XM Insights:

2002_4Ps_v1

  • Problems: Have an issue with a product, a brand message that’s going awry, a manager ruining morale, or a process that’s turning customers into detractors? XM leaders will spot those problems and make appropriate adjustments, before their competitors have any indication that there may be an issue.
  • Preferences: What features do key customers prefer, which brand messages resonate with target audiences, and what benefits will have the most impact on employee retention? XM leaders will know the answers to these types of questions and make adjustments before their peers even formulate the questions.
  • Possibilities: What unspoken needs do your customers have, what innovations are in the minds of employees, how can you reinvent your brand, and what should your next generation of products and services look like? XM leaders will have a continuous pulse on these types of insights, while their competitors just brainstorm about them during planning off-sites.
  • Priorities: Which actions will drive the most loyal customers, the most engaged employees, the most vibrant brands, and the most irreplaceable products? XM leaders will understand these connections and focus their resources on the most impactful areas, while their competitors debate options with random groups of employees who happen to be invited to meetings.

The bottom line: XM leaders will adapt faster to problems, preferences, possibilities, and priorities.

New Research Digs Into Industries And Consumer Feedback Patterns

The XM Institute is kicking off the year with a research bang.

In a previous post, I mentioned two reports from late last year that show the business value of CX, The ROI of CX and What Consumers Do After a Bad Experience. Since then, we’ve actually published a number of new research reports with an emphasis on industry-specific data. These reports are based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers and examine almost 300 companies over 20 industries.

Enjoy these free reports:

200120_XMIResearch

Industry CX Snapshots

2001_CXRetailIndustryGraphics_v1This series of reports dig into CX data for a number of industries:  AirlineAutoBankingHealth InsuranceHotelInsurance, and Retail.

Each Industry Snapshot looks at how the highlighted industry’s XMI Customer Rating compares to the Ratings of the other 19 industries and examines the connection between a customer’s experience and the likelihood that they will recommend, rebuy from, and trust a company within that industry. These Industry Snapshots also explore the potential cost of delivering poor experiences, the most broken journeys within each industry, and how experience perceptions differ across age groups

How Consumers Give Feedback

Download the free report, Data Snapshot: How Consumers Give Feedback

2001_HowConsumersGiveFeedback_Graphics1Did you ever wonder what channels consumers use to give feedback, and how that differs between good and bad experiences and across age groups? Then this is a great report for you.

We found that people are more likely to talk about bad experiences than good experiences. When consumers do tell someone about an experience, only one-fifth of consumers provide that feedback directly to the company. We also looked at how consumer behavior differs across age groups.

Six Types Of Experience Data (X-Data)

One of the key building blocks of Experience Management (XM) is X-data, which helps establish an understanding of how people think, feel, and behave. In almost all circumstances, organizations lack the X-data they truly need. So how should organizations go about instrumenting their operations to collect the right data?

To identify the required X-data, it’s important to first understand how data flows from people’s experiences. That’s why you should start with the Human Experience Cycle (HxC). As you can see below, experiences lead to perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors.

1903_HumanExperienceCycle2

Using the HxC model, we examined the components of many XM programs and have identified six distinct types of X-data:

  1. Experience Expectations. How people think and feel about a future interaction with an organization, which can be collected on a regular cycle or periodically (e.g., whether a customer expects a product to be hard to use or believes they can accomplish a service interaction online).
  2. Interaction Perceptions. Feedback on a specific interaction, which can be tracked continuously or periodically (e.g., feedback after an online purchase or after an employee training course).
  3. Journey Perceptions. Feedback on collection of activities around a goal, which can be tracked continuously or periodically (e.g., feedback after an airline customer finishes a trip or after an employee completes her on-boarding).
  4. Relationship Attitudes. How people feel about an organization, including plans for future interactions, which can be tracked on a regular cycle or periodically (e.g., NPS or brand tracking study).
  5. Ad-Hoc Diagnostics. How people think or feel about a problem or opportunity, which is collected as needed based on other findings (e.g., pulse employee survey about a leadership issue or qualitative study into why a brand message didn’t work).
  6. Choice Preferences. How people would rank different alternatives, which is collected periodically (e.g., product feature selection or employee benefits optimization).

XM programs need to collect these six types of X-data for all human beings in their ecosystem (e.g., suppliers, employees, customers, prospects, stakeholders, etc.). This effort embodies what we call the “Experience Monitoring” skill within the XM Competency of “Enlighten.”

We’ll use this taxonomy in future posts and research to help organizations assemble the right XM programs. For now, think about where you might collect and how you might use these different types of X-data.

The bottom line: Every organization needs these six types of X-data.