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Designing an Employee Experience that Engages, Nurtures, and Retains Talent

October 5, 2023

By itel Contributor, Brittany Hodak 

The official theme of this year’s Customer Service Week is  “Team Service”, a reminder that no matter how we serve customers, everyone is on the same team. However, you can’t give exceptional Team Service without team engagement, and team engagement is directly linked to the quality of the employee experience. The question is how do you build that great employee experience that engages, nurtures, and retains talent? What’s the framework for building happy, successful teams and the most passionate brand ambassadors?

To answer this, we turn to Brittany Hodak, CX expert, celebrated keynote speaker, and bestselling author…   

Employee Experience, or EX, is at the heart of all customer experience (CX). How a company treats its employees directly shapes how those employees, in turn, treat customers. When employees feel valued, supported, and motivated, they become enthusiastic advocates for the brand, going above and beyond to deliver outstanding service. On the other hand, unappreciated or apathetic employees will never feel compelled to create exceptional customer experiences.  

So, how do you build an amazing employee experience? EX extends far beyond salary, PTO policies, and breakroom snacks. It encompasses the entire journey of an employee, from their initial interaction with your company to well after their employment ends.  

This article dives into the critical aspects of the employee experience at three pivotal stages: before, during, and after employment, and how you can maximize each stage to improve your customer experience.  

Before Employment: Create a Strong Connection 

Before an employee even joins your organization, it’s crucial to ensure they feel a strong connection to your company's mission and values. A disconnected employee will view their role as simply a job, lacking the passion and commitment that drive exceptional customer interactions.  

The career page on your website should convey your company's uniqueness and culture before the application process even begins. Brands like Crate & Barrel use powerful language on their career sites to give prospects an idea of what it’s like to work for their company. For example, instead of a generic message, wouldn’t you feel more compelled to apply to a job listing if you saw the headline, “We have everything we need to inspire our customers… Except you.” 

Furthermore, your job descriptions must define how each role fits into the company’s overarching mission. If your employees can’t articulate how their duties contribute to the organization’s goals, they’re not going to feel like they matter. No position is too small to be important, if it’s framed in the right way, and if framed correctly, you’ll be certain to attract the right team members.  

The employee onboarding process should continue to familiarize every new hire with the company’s story. They should be able to internalize it, and share a version of it, by the end of their orientation. More importantly, they should be able to explain why they chose to work at the company through the lens of that story. 

When your employees feel aligned with your company’s story, they will be able to share it with your customers and connect with them in a more meaningful way. 

During Employment: Time to Nurture Talent 

During an employee's tenure, the focus shifts to retaining and nurturing talent. You’ve got to treat them so well that they can’t imagine leaving. According to the Oval Group, 86% of new hires decide to stay or leave within the first six months of employment.   

To make it past that threshold, make a list of the common struggles for new hires and alleviate as many as possible before they occur. Things like having an easily accessible org chart with photos and contact info, a one-page overview of the company’s story, or a how-to guide for necessary hardware or software will not only help new team members find their footing, but also eliminate the need to solve repetitive issues again and again.  

This is especially important for frontline employees. If a contact center employee is frustrated with the tools or systems they must use, they’re going to deliver subpar experiences to customers. Talk to a few recently onboarded team members and ask for their honest feedback on what would’ve made the experience even easier.  

You should also convey to new hires that you’re invested in their long-term success. Collect information about their goals, so managers can help with both personal and professional development.  When employees feel like they have a future with your organization and a mentor who wants to help them grow, they will be more motivated to perform. 

Finally, your organization needs a VoE (Voice of Employee) program that regularly collects feedback from employees. Capturing—and, more importantly, acting on—regular feedback from employees not only helps you better understand your team, but also improves employee retention. Survey your employees at least twice a year. You may choose to make one survey anonymous and the next on record, as there are benefits to both.  

After Employment: Ensure a Positive Lasting Impression 

The post-employment phase should not be underestimated. The way you exit an employee can make or break someone’s lasting impression of your company. Although it can be frustrating to lose talent, you should always thank them for being a part of your team and congratulate them on their next career move. When a manager reacts poorly to a resignation, the employee is less likely to create a smooth transition for their customers and future predecessors. Moreover, they’ll be less inclined to recommend the company to a friend. 

Just as you should collect feedback throughout an employee’s tenure, it’s important to survey them when they leave. Exit surveys provide valuable insights into why an employee chose to leave your organization and offer advice for backfilling their role effectively. Former employees can be a valuable resource. Their feedback can help you update training materials, rewrite job descriptions, and they can even recommend candidates to interview. Demonstrating that you value their opinions, even during their departure, reinforces a culture of appreciation and respect.  

Designing the Best Employee Experience 

A holistic approach to employee experience, that encompasses all three phases of employment, not only enhances employee engagement and satisfaction but also has a direct and positive impact on the quality of customer experience.  

Before an employee even starts, you’ve got to foster a sense of connection to the company's mission and values. This approach not only attracts the right team members but also cultivates a sense of pride and purpose among them. During an employee's tenure, it is crucial to go above and beyond in creating an environment where they feel valued and supported. Finally, the post-employment phase is as influential as the rest. Exiting an employee gracefully, expressing gratitude, and maintaining a positive relationship can boost your company’s reputation.  

Remember, organizations that recognize and prioritize the importance of EX are better positioned to thrive in today's competitive business landscape. 

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Brittany Hodak is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience speaker who has delivered keynotes across the globe to organizations including American Express and the United Nations. She has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and entertainers, including Walmart, Disney, Katy Perry, and Dolly Parton. She founded and scaled an entertainment startup to eight figures before exiting, and she is the former Chief Experience Officer of Experience.com. Forbes said of her debut book, Creating Superfans, “If you have customers, you need this book. Period."

Check out her website here.

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