Reflecting on EX – 3 questions & thoughts

Recently, I lost an Individual Contributor. A member of my team, who decided to leave the company after just over 3 years on the job, and embrace a new professional challenge elsewhere.

He published a note on LinkedIn, as you do, thanking his colleagues for the ride and letting his network know that he was moving on. And he was flooded with heartfelt farewell comments and messages.

The amount of strong and sincere reactions, as well as praise to his work and personality, seems to have surprised him. And he felt overwhelmed by the amount of people that were sad to see him go and appreciated his work.

I was sad to see him go too. And, as usual, I took sometime to reflect on EX. As leaders are we doing enough to ensure our best people stay? Could companies do more to avoid losing great assets?

Everyone likes a good EX joke 😊

A few of questions came to mind, that turned into thoughts…

Why do businesses tag people (the members of our teams) as Individual Contributors?

That tag hints the person is only responsible for managing themselves and complete their own tasks. It basically relieves the person from any duty of caring for the business or the people around them. It instills the “I do what they tell me to do” mentality and culture. Which means the person doesn’t even feel accountable or responsible for what they do. On top of that, they don’t feel valued, only used (to perform a task or function).

Truth is that member of my team was much more than just a great executor. He was a great human being, fantastic colleague, outstanding professional, that led by example. Dependable, competent and passionate. Who nurtured good relationships, cared for and supported others, as well as provided thoughtful and constructive feedback (from which, by the way, I learned a lot). He also always did right by the customer, with the company’s best interest in mind.

Calling someone an Individual Contributor, even if they don’t manage other people, can feel diminishing, and certainly have a negative impact on the employee and the employer.

Why do colleagues only take the time to praise peers when they are on their way out?

In business, as in life, we are quick to point out the mistakes of others and seldom take the time to give praise when it is due. Every single day we hear colleagues complain about their peers or shoot down their work. And most of us still react with awe when someone publicly praises the work of someone else – particularly if that someone is not part of our “tribe” (silo, function, unit, department).

We all feel the need, and like to be recognised for a job well done – it’s human. And in our jobs, most of us will frequently do something that adds value, progresses a deal, contributes to a goal, saves the project, helps develop a product, gives a different perspective, or simply helps or supports someone – and all of these are worth praising.

The truth is we seem to be too busy to take a moment and recognise our colleagues. Even if our companies encourage us to do it, and provide tools for it. We assume our colleagues just know we appreciate their work, so we don’t need to say it directly or publicly (some of us even feel that may be seen as being “soft”). I wonder if my great team member would have left, if he knew how many people appreciated him, and how much.

Why do companies invest on Customer Experience and neglect Employee Experience?

It’s been a couple of decades since Customer Experience (CX) is being studied and implemented as a business discipline, crucial on a company’s strategy. Specialists have written and insisted, that happy employees impact positively the CX delivered. Actually, research shows that companies with great Employee Experience (EX) outperform their peers, as there is a direct link between EX and employer’s superior financial performance.

If we ask business leaders, the majority of them acknowledge this and say they have plans to create an EX that is comparable to their CX. The truth is this can’t wait anymore, and those plans need to leave the paper and be implemented. Particularly today, when employees are experiencing a very different work experience and hybrid workplace. Companies need to take care of their employees to have them engaged.

Taking care of them means much more than just offer benefits and perks. It’s not enough to talk about well-being and work-life balance, and tell people how important it is that they take care of themselves. It’s important that companies ensure they develop new processes adapted to new realities, improve ways of working to avoid stress and pressure, reward good behaviours rather than immediate results, and foster a good positive culture – ideally, by focusing on what Simon Sinek calls the Infinite Game.

Finally, employees expect to be treated well by their companies, and expect the same level of service in the workplace, as from the companies they buy from. Asking the HR department about the leave policy is as important (if not more) as asking the Retailer about the returns policy.

Alt-Tab or ⌘-Tab is not an integration

It was almost 10 years ago that I visited a Tesco Customer Engagement Centre in Dundee (Scotland) and another one in Cardiff (Wales). Tesco is the 3rd-largest retailer in the world. The company turns over more than 60 billion GBP, employs 450,000 people, and (at the time) had almost 20 million Tesco Club Card customers.

Of those employees, 2,000 were customer service representatives (aka “agents”) working in those two locations and from home (c. 300). They were receiving tens of thousands of contacts every day, via phone, email, chat, social media, etc. And despite their high Average Handling Time (AHT) they had a low Customer Satisfaction (CSAT).

i.e. they were neither being efficient, nor resolving customer’s issues.

I had been in several contact-centres before, but this was the first time I realised how Herculean was the task performed by customer service reps. Each one of them had a phone, a headset, a keyboard, a monitor. And in that monitor I counted circa 15 different applications opened. One of them was a web-browser with several tabs open.

Among the applications were: CRM (home-grown), Commerce (from Oracle), Fraud & Finance (undisclosed), ERP (various home-grown and off-the-shelve), Chat (from Bold), Telephony (from Cisco), CTI (for telephony), Workforce Management (from Verint), Email (MS Outlook), Collaboration (MS Lynch), Knowledgebase (various wikis and MS SharePoint pages), Scanning (MS Document Imaging), and more apps like a Notepad (and all of them also had a physical notepad and pen by their keyboard).

And in the web-browser, the various tabs had opened the various Tesco websites (for clothing, wine, groceries, mobile, etc.), Tesco internal portals, Google, and at least 9 different tabs for delivery company pages like Yodel, Hermes, Mojo, DPD, Ceva, Metapack, Middlewich, Click-Spares, FIRA.

I sat down with a few of their agents, watching them deal with customer contacts. I could not believe the amount of effort they had to put, only to reply to a question that had a straightforward answer. And the unbelievable pain they had to go through when the enquiry was not simple to resolve.

And I noticed in their keyboards, how the “Alt” and “Tab” label had disappeared from those keys. Such was the amount of time they flicked through screens. It was actually difficult for me, at the start, to keep up. My eyes were aching – and I was only watching, not even trying to read a thing.

The truth is almost 10 years later, many companies still work like this. And research has shown that 20% of customer service agents time is spent searching for data in the various siloed systems (be it customer, transactional, or operational data, as well as knowledge to resolve queries).

Companies need to have different systems to store and process different types of data. And companies need to have different applications to manage and analyse that data. Actually, the bigger the company, the likelier it is the need to have a complex tech-stack and architecture.

However, what companies don’t need, is to ask their front-line employees to go through hell, logging into and using all those systems, whilst on the phone with a frustrated, hopeless, or angry customer. Agents need to focus on empathising with the customer and focusing on resolving the problem.

Customer service teams need ONE simple and easy-to-use application / user interface that provides:

  1. unified conversation-focused workspace
  2. channel-agnostic workflow
  3. quick and easy channel-switch
  4. contextual knowledge at the fingertips
  5. interface to surface data from back-end systems

Off-the-shelve software applications already offer most (if not all) of the above. The challenge doesn’t lie with technology. On the contrary, technology is available to resolve that challenge and support the needs of companies, employees and customers.

What companies need to do is stop thinking that Alt-Tab or ⌘-Tab is an integration and invest in providing their employees the one tool that will allow them to become more efficient and effective, ultimately delivering a better customer service and experience.

Enable your Employee 360 initiative

For a company to be successful it is no longer enough to have great products at attractive prices. There is a need to have a strong workforce of engaged employees, and high-performing teams.

To achieve that, companies must design, implement and run an Employee Experience Program. Establishing it as part of the HR function and initiatives, as well as daily routine.

Any EX Program should have an Employee Feedback Project, which in turn must have a Employee 360 component, where feedback is gathered from an employee’s manager, peers and direct reports.

(Note: Some companies, depending on the circumstances, may also include feedback from external third parties who may work closely with the employee in question – e.g. partners, suppliers).

The Employee 360 feedback provides a holistic view of the employee, and makes everyone comfortable (confidentiality) sharing important feedback, that otherwise may have not been shared.

Running such program, projects and initiatives can be daunting for HR / Talent Management teams. Actually, it may be impossible without technology enabling it, and allowing automation.

The technology should allow companies to:

  1. Create user-friendly and easy-to-use portals for users to provide feedback
  2. Automate process for multi-raters to review and provide employee feedback
  3. Deliver personalised, confidential and detailed reports to employees and managers
  4. Define action plans to manage and track progress, as well as drive improvements
  5. Integrate with HRIS (e.g. Workday, Oracle PeopleSoft, SAP SuccessFactors, Greenhouse)

Qualtrics is one of the leaders when it comes to Employee Engagement software (see G2 Crowd grid) as well as the undisputed leader of Experience Management (see G2 Crowd grid). Below is an example of an automated report, generated on the back of an Employee 360 initiative.

Qualtrics EX 360 Report (Example)

The report shows that when it comes to Communication (top chart) the employee rates himself much higher than peers, direct reports and manager – meaning there is a weakness not being recognised by the employee.

Qualtrics EX 360 Report (Example)

The report then drills-down on the Communication topic, looking at the individual questions of the 360 assessment. It is easy to understand, from the above 3 charts, that the employee’s weakness comes from Active Listening and Understanding, as well as lack of Clear and To-the-point communication.

Qualtrics EX 360 Report (Example)

More than only pointing out the weaknesses and strengths, the automated and personalised report also displays a description and interpretation of the results, providing a list of (pre-defined) actions and steps to follow, in order to improve that particular skill (in this case, taking an “Effective Communications” course on the the company’s LMS platform).

EX: 3 steps to build A-Team


I have been reading quite a bit about Employee Experience (EX) and Engagement (EE) and this has triggered a lot of thinking about my own position as a manager, a team leader, and a colleague.

As a manager, my efforts should be put towards building “A Team” – yes… “one team” and ideally the “A-Team”. It is a journey in itself, with various steps, some of them (but not all) are below.

1. Hire the right people

It all starts by whom I hire. If I hire smart and talented people, and provide them with the tools they need to do their job, they will certainly perform well, and I don’t need to worry about delivery, or coming in to cover for them.

2. Communicate clearly

Making sure I have a steady and clear cadence of communication is also extremely important. One that never lets the team forget about “why” they are doing what they are doing, “how” they are contributing to our success, and “what” they need to do to ensure continuous improvement.

It is crucial that I keep reminding them (and myself) of our many successes, which should be celebrated; our gaps, which should be filled; our constant challenges, which we should face with no fear and great determination; and the fantastic opportunities in front and ahead of us.

It is also very important to give them the company’s perspective – “why we are in business and offer our customers a particular set of products and services, “how” we can contribute to the success and growth of our customers, and “what” we can and need to do to help them achieve that.

3. Instill a feedback culture

Being able to implement a two-way feedback culture is one of my most important tasks. On one hand having a team of “Yes-man” is one of the biggest dangers for the business. They allow people to win arguments due to power or position, rather than the merits of opinion. And ultimately we will all be impacted by bad decisions.

On the other hand, if as a manager, I hold off giving tough feedback to one of my team members, I’m putting unnecessary pressure on myself, and the rest of the team, to cover for the poor-performing member, and I’m also cheating that person of a chance to actually improve.