Over the past decade companies have applied ever greater analysis and techniques to truly understand the customer lifecycle, mapping the journey from initial contact through the sales process and beyond. Many have invested heavily to ensure the journey is seamless and that different departments and staff work together to deliver a joined up approach that best meets the customer’s needs.
Time to think about the employee journey
Just as it’s never been more important to understand the customer journey, the same could be said of recruiting and retaining the right talent within an organisation. Ensuring you have the skills and people you need is critical to success. And there are a lot of similarities between the customer and employee journey. For example, just as customers will research their purchase beforehand and seek to understand more about the product, the price, and the organisation selling it to them, employees will do likewise. Employees also want to associate themselves with an organisation that’s reputable and provides competitive products and services the market wants.
Employees may also engage in the same post purchase behaviour that customers do, except in this case of course they haven’t ‘purchased’ something as such but decided to join an organisation. So just as consumers will evaluate how the product they purchased matches up to their original needs and if they made the right choice in buying the product, employees will be asking the same questions a few days or weeks after signing their employment contract.
Understanding the employee lifecycle
Understanding where individuals are in the lifecycle and listening to their individual feedback is crucial to retaining their skills – and provides the ability to spot trends and take necessary action across the wider company. So, what does the employee lifecycle cover and how can companies ensure they are engaging across the entire journey, with a continuous dialogue with staff?
Employees move through different stages during their relationship with an organisation. By mapping employee engagement and insight processes onto this employee journey it’s possible to increase the relevance to each employee. This will become increasingly important over the coming years as the average length of time people spend in jobs reduces and the working world becomes more flexible. The steps that need to be analysed can be summarised as follows:
Appealing to the right applicants relies on a strong employer brand – a company needs to be seen as a good place to work, that fits with staff aspirations. Just as customers would do their homework, so will potential employees. They’ll check their network, ask around and go to company review sites such as Glassdoor, as well as analyse feedback on social media and see what the press have been saying.
This is the ‘buy’ process but just as abandoned carts are a peril when dealing with customers, an onerous application process for employees can be just as damaging. Therefore, it has to be as clear, transparent and straightforward for potential employees just as the buying process is for customers. In the same way customers will share unsuccessful experiences, applicants will do the same with their peers. Therefore a level of customer service needs to be shown in the recruitment process – acknowledge all applications, let applicants know if they’ve not made it to the next stage. If they have been unsuccessful, they should at least feel they have been well-treated through the process. After all, they may re-apply later in their careers when they are a better fit for your needs. Listen to them like customers and see how the process can be improved.
When firms take on a new client, they’ll want to ensure the process is smooth and that expectations are set with both parties early on. The same applies when taking on new joiners. They’ll need to go through an induction programme and get the right training and meet their manager to set priorities. Just as feedback would be sought from a new client, the same applies to employees – what do they think about their training and induction, how are they settling in? Feedback is particularly important in the early stages so any issues can be nipped in the bud before development is hindered. It also provides a fresh, external perspective on your organisation that is extremely valuable.
Over one third (37%) of UK workers plan to move jobs during 2015 according to a survey by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM). In 2014, this figure was just 19% - showing that a recovering economy means the jobs market is becoming more buoyant. Engaging staff is central to retaining them but to do that you have to understand what is on their minds and what they think of the organisation they work for as well as understand their broader aspirations. Gaining real-time feedback is critical to this. Many firms have become too reliant on an annual survey which is just not frequent enough and often out of date before results are even analysed. Firms can certainly keep scheduled surveys but it must be supplemented with always-on and ad hoc feedback too.
Staff need to feel they are learning and being developed, otherwise they are likely to feel frustrated by their lack of opportunities and look at other options for their career. Losing staff is expensive and causes disruption so it’s far better to listen to them and ensure they are getting what they need. As with all employee feedback, an annual performance review is not frequent enough to check the temperature of how an employee feels about their role. It needs to be garnered on an ongoing basis. Training in particular has to deliver. Employees have to feel it prepares them for excelling in their role and developing their capabilities. Other key events such as promotions are another good opportunity to check in and encourage feedback about their wider role.
The exit process represents one of the best opportunities to gain insightful feedback since departing employees can often feel entirely free to express their opinions honestly. These options can provide real insight into your business and how staff development and retention can be approved. Exit interviews must allow for a full briefing to take place, not an afterthought as they’re about to walk out of the door. The information needs to be captured so it can be brought together across the company and trends analysed. This is particularly useful across demographic groups, for instance graduate trainees and those that have been employed for a significant amount of time. By drilling down into this insight it should be possible to make improvements to ensure you retain particular staff groups going forward.
Ex-employees will often return to their former companies or work for related clients or suppliers. They’ll certainly share their experiences with others. This adds to the point above that the exit process must be seen as fair and reasonable as possible. Firms can and should go further to maintain good relations with ex-employees as they can be a very valuable resource for future business, recommendations and talent. Social media and online communities mean that connecting with alumni has never been easier – so it is important that companies keep in touch and continue to listen to their feedback.
Of course employees are not customers but they also travel along a similar journey. It’s time for businesses to think holistically about the lifecycle of their employees and this means engaging and listening at every stage. At a time when retaining talent is crucial to success, it is time for companies to join up the employee lifecycle and learn from the feedback they receive.
About Paul Barnes
An experienced software leader, Paul Barnes has proven expertise in growing technology businesses, with a particular focus on the customer experience market. He is currently UK Country Manager of enterprise feedback management (EFM) leader QuestBack. Prior to this he was VP Operations at multichannel customer interaction management software vendor Eptica.
Paul has been at the forefront of innovation in the customer experience sector since 2000. One of the founders of speech recognition application pioneer Fluency Voice Technology, he subsequently established the UK business of multichannel and multilingual customer interaction management software provider Eptica. He has been involved in some of the largest customer experience transformation projects in the UK in sectors such as retail, banking, insurance and tourism. He is a qualified Chartered Accountant.