Using Employee Experience as the Foundation for Improved Performance
Mike Tripp, Senior Vice President, Operations
Historically, employee experience in the customer experience management industry has been approached transactionally and tied directly to performance and attaining goals. Our industry was primarily making sure that all the boxes were checked, and tasks completed rather than whether the task was effective, or an employee needed empathy-centered coaching. In essence, our employees were treated like a commodity, which is no way to run a people-focused company.
A People-Centric Focus
Based on the principle that people are our most important asset, something not everyone in our industry practices, ResultsCX has built a culture founded on the principle of Servant Leadership practiced by everyone from our CEO to the newest leader hired.
Our employees treat every constituent with empathy and support around our values. We spend a lot of time focusing on enabling our people and all that means in terms of training, onboarding, coaching, and nurturing. Moving beyond the traditional coaching process into true development has been a big change for us, and it comes down to commitment that is more than just pretty words on a wall. This culture is supported by our executive team, senior leadership, and field leadership all the way through the organization.
Here's an example: During a business downturn, we once thought that we were taking care of our people by moving someone from one account to another, without giving the employee an option. But in the case of someone adept at assisting seniors on a healthcare account, for instance, shifting to technical support doesn’t make sense. What used to be considered taking care of our people really was treating them, again, like a commodity. So, we’ve changed how we approach account transitions— incorporating conversations with the employee base, offering job shadowing opportunities to let agents preview a potential move, and helping each individual make the best career choices.
Culture Makes a Difference in Terms of Performance
Creating a culture focused on employees and their work experiences has made a big difference in the success we achieve for clients. You can see it in our client-agnostic improvement in key performance indicators across the board. When we coached and trained chiefly around a metric, we ran at 65-70% overall attainment. Now we focus on the individual and use data to understand what's happening with each person, then engage the individual more meaningfully. Our KPIs have improved tremendously. On a year-over-year basis, we've gone from KPI rollup scores in the mid-60s to the upper 80s range and are still trending upwards.
As employees’ competency improves, they feel better about themselves, and we feel better about the results we're delivering. Our clients are happy because we're meeting their overarching KPIs, and we get to move ahead from the blocking and tackling of meeting quality and service level targets. Now that we’re not fighting the same old fires anymore, we can focus more strategically on advancing clients’ businesses, saving them money, and improving their customers’ experience. All of this comes from making employees happier. We see it in absenteeism rates that have fallen by 50% from 18 months ago. The same progress applies to attrition rates, which we’ve seen drop by nearly 40% in the same timeframe.
Best of all, these improvements allow us to keep our talented employees in the family and spend less time finding and onboarding new employees. Lower attrition also means fewer folks need attention from a development standpoint. Our people are getting more time to practice, better coaching, and better training. We see improvements in quality scores, as well as efficiency scores, whether it's average handle time, customer experience, etc. Clients perceive us as being even more reliable than in the past; they want to give us more work because we're doing a great job and performing consistently.
The COVID-19 Pandemic and Employee Experience
The pandemic has had an unintended benefit for the company. People were scared and sick, and the only appropriate behavioral response was to be empathetic. We adopted the philosophy that the health, safety, and well-being of our employees was mission priority number one. Our Servant Leadership commitment meant we shifted behaviors and made sure that we were taking care of our people so they could take care of our clients.
One transformative outcome was the move toward widespread work-at-home among the U.S. domestic workforce, which has brought enormous benefits to the employee experience, especially when gas prices were high, and commutes were unnecessary. What employees say benefits them the most is the flexibility. ResultsCX can now be far more flexible from a scheduling and staffing standpoint than has been possible. In addition, compensation and recognition are two areas where we have made big adjustments in employees’ favor, whether it is paying people more or acknowledging performance through our global Rave Award program every quarter.
Five Guidelines for Approaching Employee Experience Differently
One way we are working to incorporate recognition on a more widespread basis is by offering a social gaming environment, from ResultsCX partner Heyday Now, that connects employees’ performance with bigger program and company goals and reveals an individual’s contributions to overall success. During a recent conversation, Todd Smith, channel executive and president of Sales at Heyday Now, discussed some of the foundational pillars for employee experience that support the effort to make customer experience better. Todd offered five guidelines for approaching employee experience differently to make a big improvement in how people feel about their work:
1. Focus intensely on employee experience.
Employee experience plays a fundamental role in the success or failure of a customer experience. A cardinal rule is that if you take care of your employees, then they’re going to take better care of your customers.
2. Change your approach to performance management to performance inspiration.
Traditionally, support operations and leadership have paid attention to and constantly recognized performers at the top as well as those bottom performers in whom they invest time to ramp faster and improve performance. In essence, this is celebrating the stars and finding solutions for those struggling while neglecting the 90% of staff in between these two extremes who may do their work well but not at the fastest pace. This neglected population is a serious retention risk.
3. Engage all staff as they achieve their goals.
A social media environment like Heyday Now that incorporates likes, comments, and gamification can be a strong employee motivator, supporting recognition of achievement across peers and connecting support agents to achieving company and program goals.
4. Give rewards a more prominent role.
Enable individuals who reach their goals to level-up, earn badges, and coins connected to monetary awards, gift cards, or even non-monetary perks like special activities, preferred parking, or management favors. Make sure employees know what they do matters!
5. Use employee engagement to strengthen culture and retention.
Encouraging competition among employees is another way to build a healthy culture. In turn it helps to develop a sense of belonging among staff that contributes to retention.
Todd reminds us that ultimately, the goal of any employee engagement program is to make employees feel that it is about them, and not just another way to reinforce client expectations and the same old performance metrics. In addition to improving employee satisfaction, a well-designed initiative boosts the effectiveness of any client care program. Beyond supporting the highest compliance standards and empowering advanced analytics, an employee engagement platform with gamification like Heyday Now is an ROI multiplier in terms of improved performance as well as happier employees.
A “Great Place” for Employees
I like to talk to my team about establishing what I call the “Great Third Place” for employees. If the first great place is your home, and the second is your work, the third is somewhere in your community. During COVID-19 especially, the great third place tended to be somewhere in social media like Facebook. Now with widespread working from home, all those places are combined. With an online social environment like Heyday Now that incorporates gamification, we’ll be providing social interaction and engagement that connects people to colleague peer groups and work leadership. I'm excited about what gamification can provide on the rewards and the recognition side, as well as the social aspect of it.
Focusing on Employee Experience Sets ResultsCX Apart
Our culture of providing a better employee experience sets us apart in this industry. Competitors may talk about being employee-centric and taking care of their people, but most have not changed much and continue to manage employees and client teams the way they always have. We're actually behaving differently, which is why we see meaningful traction in client performance, internal performance, absenteeism, and attrition. Our primary focus on the employee experience will continue to be the foundation for our efforts to sustain outstanding performance and help our clients find ways to be even more successful.