5 Ways to Create a Work Experience that Mirrors Your Best Customer Experience

May 16, 2017 Jeanne Meister

Customer Experience

(Listen to our interview with Jeanne Meister in the episode of WorkHuman Radio, embedded at the top of this post.)

Job candidates and employees expect their workplace experience to resemble their experience with Amazon, Apple, or Netflix. And they have the power to provide instant feedback on their workplace experience, a growing phenomenon I call the “yelpification” of the workplace, where former, current, and prospective employees rate a company’s culture and management just as they rate a book, a computer, or a movie.

This mandate to create a compelling workplace experience is the focus of my book, “The Future Workplace Experience,” where 2,147 global HR leaders and hiring managers were surveyed across seven countries and 10 industries on how they are re-defining the employer-employee relationship.

Five practices stand out as important for organizations and their HR leaders to prepare for the future workplace and workforce. These include: make the workplace an experience; apply a consumer marketing lens to HR; understand the impact of artificial intelligence in the workplace; create searchable learning playlists; and focus on team development, not just individual development.

Make the Workplace An Experience

The essence of making the workplace an experience is to integrate all the components of work – emotional, intellectual, physical space, technological, and cultural – into one seamless employee experience. Forget the focus on massages, gourmet food or foosball tables. Companies are using marketing techniques such as focus groups and empathy labs to understand employee needs and expectations at all stages of the employee life cycle, from recruiting to onboarding, developing, and ongoing engagement. Then they are making adjustments based on employee feedback.

One example of this is the Empathy Lab at Facebook, which gives Facebook engineers the chance to experience for themselves how employees and customers use their products. The goal is to create an emotional connection between the company and its employees and customers. There is growing evidence that businesses are more profitable and productive when they act ethically, create a compelling workplace experience, and better communicate with employees and customers. In fact, the top 10 companies in the Global Empathy Index increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10 and generated 50% more earnings.

Apply a Consumer Marketing Lens to HR

With job candidates and employees empowered to provide instant feedback on employers, organizations must heed the advice of Paul Papas, global leader of IBM Interactive Experiences, who says, “The last best experience that anyone has anywhere is now the minimum expectation for the experiences they want everywhere.” HR leaders are starting to apply a customer experience mindset, creating solutions that are easy to use, simple, engaging, and mirror the last best experience an employee has with Amazon, Apple, or Netflix. To start, HR leaders are translating their relentless focus on customers to their employees. IBM uses design thinking and their own sentiment analysis tool, called Social Pulse, to reveal employee insights. Cisco borrows the concept of hackathons from the IT world to create new HR products such as Ask Alex: Your Personal Intelligent Compass, a voice command app offering fast and personalized information on a range of HR-related questions like vacation policy, expense reports, and health-related questions.

Understand the Intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Human Resources  

Artificial intelligence is transforming our home and workplace. At home, there are 1.8 million users of Amazon Alexa who use Alexa to control the lights, unlock their car, and receive the latest stock quotes on companies they follow in their portfolio. In total, Alexa is touted as having more than 3,000 skills that are growing daily. In the workplace, we are seeing a range of intelligent assistants to help us work smarter. CB Insights estimates that investment in artificial intelligence has accelerated from $282 million in 2011to $2.4 billion, a more than 700% increase in five years. In 2016, this continued to increase with another $1.5 billion invested in more than 200 AI-focused companies. 

Senior executive leaders must challenge their HR leaders to examine how artificial intelligence is transforming key HR functions such as HR service center, talent acquisition, and career development. New chatbots (conversational algorithms designed to perform key HR functions such as answering employee benefit questions or assisting in recruiting new hires) are rapidly being introduced into the workplace. HR leaders will need to develop a plan of action to experiment with these and insist HR team members add machine learning and awareness to artificial intelligence to their skill set.

Create Searchable Learning Playlists

According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs, 65% of children entering primary school today will work in jobs that currently do not exist today. Employees must become serial learners in order to stay employable. This will require corporate learning departments to think beyond content, which is increasingly becoming a commodity, to provide more context for employees. Instead of just investing in a library of elearning courses, forward-looking companies are creating ready made “learning playlists,” mirroring Netflix, with the ability to rate, tag, and recommend various learning resources, each personalized to address a specific challenge or transition in an employee’s development. Today’s forward-looking chief learning officers are seeing themselves more as intrapreneurs of the learning function rather than learning and development subject matter experts. They are applying an agile approach to corporate learning by making it easy for employees to find, rate, and consume learning. Companies like IBM, Visa MasterCard, and General Electric, to name just a few, are adopting intelligent digital platforms to create this Netflix-like experience for corporate learners.

Focus on Team Development, Not Just Individual Development

While HR departments have traditionally focused on individual employees – recruiting them, developing them, and assessing their performance – we are seeing the advent of a new capability, one of developing team intelligence, or the practice of understanding what makes great teams deliver exceptional results. Companies are seeing that the nearly exclusive focus on individual development and performance does not mirror the reality of work. Great work happens in teams, not just through independent work. The goal is to put the lens of team dynamics on HR processes, from onboarding to developing and rewarding employees. Already we are seeing innovations in this area, as noted by Eric Mosley CEO of Globoforce. Mosley predicts more companies will provide only 98% of an employee’s total compensation. Crowdsourced pay is the logical extension of crowdsourced performance management.

What will the HR function of 2025 look like?

The next eight years will be a revolution, not simply an evolution for HR. I believe we will see three changes to the HR function, from the skills needed to succeed to the type of leader needed to carry out a new vision for the HR function.

First, new HR roles will be created. Some of these will be more specialized and technical, and others more focused on consumer marketing. Consider Dave Putterman, a computer software engineer who brings his skills in technology and software development to the talent acquisition department of GE Digital, where his title is agile recruiting scrum master & technology leader.

Or consider the specialized consumer marketing roles held by Mark Levy, global head of employee experience at Airbnb, and Stephen Hamm, chief storyteller at IBM.

Next, new recruits to HR will increasingly be from outside HR and include app developers, visual graphic specialists, and engineers with experience in machine learning.

And finally, the CHRO will likely have a more cross-disciplinary skill set, combining a background in HR with computer science and consumer marketing. It’s this convergence of technology and consumer marketing that will hold the most promise for how HR can transform itself.

(Jeanne Meister, Partner Future Workplace will present “The Employee Experience is the Future of Work: How HR Leaders Can Prepare for the New World of Work” as part of “The Organization of the Future” content track at WorkHuman, May 30-June 1 in Phoenix.)

5 Ways to Create a Work Experience that Mirrors Your Best Customer Experience @jcmeister #workhuman
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