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.

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).