As the market for customers – and for talent – becomes more competitive it becomes critical that businesses continue to build a cogent and consistent perception of their brand in the market.

There is no difference between a prospect and a prospective employee.

Too often businesses make the mistake of separating the two audiences into two distinct groups. The issue with that silo-ed “distinct group” mentality is, at best, message inconsistency or, at worst, messaging that confuses both groups.

“What does this company really stand for?” is not the reaction any business wants from a prospective customer.

“I’m not sure I understand why I would join that company?” is not the reaction a business wants from top-notch prospective talent.

Messaging consistency is a critical point of alignment for any organization but, in particular, organizations in the service sector need to pay particular attention to this consistency. At a strategic level any service organization’s ability to create – and deliver – a consistent customer experience requires having the right motivated and aligned talent inside the firm.

That alignment of customer experience and employee experience happens at many levels. But it starts with getting the fundamentals right – like consistent messaging and consistent communications.

Customer Experience is Employee Experience

Customer Experience has rapidly become one of the hottest topics and management imperatives of the past decade. As customers have demanded faster, better and more personalized interactions with brands and businesses, creating a memorable customer experience has become a critical requirement.

Depending on the category – and the specific situation the customer faces – that customer experience can span the spectrum from a high-touch “surprise and delight” moment of reward to a very low-touch efficient but unobtrusive answer to a burning question like “what does my insurance policy cover?” or “can I change my seat on this flight?”

Brands from the “Services” sector, like hotels, airlines and financial services, need to be particularly sensitive and very adept at delivering these experiences.

Delivering a generic “reward” can irk a high-value customer and make them question their brand loyalty.

Equally, making the answering of a simple question anything but simple can frustrate a long-term customer and make them look for alternate service providers.

Business leaders understand the critical nature of getting their Customer Experience right and appropriately tuned for the needs of customers in their sector. With customer acquisition – and customer retention – hanging in the balance, it is not something any organization can afford to get wrong.

However, what business leaders aren’t always as finely attuned to is the inextricable link between Customer Experience and Employee Experience.

Even though we live in a world where many of our experiences are delivered directly through a mobile device and many customers actively seek out self-service options that they can control, it is an organization’s employees that carry the burden of delivering the optimal customer experience customers demand.

And as our significant investment in marketing and advertising looks to convince new prospects, and remind existing customers, that our service is better, faster, safer, more personalized, more efficient or more effective, we increase the expectation amongst those audiences.

And increase the burden on our employees to get it right every time.

It is no coincidence that Southwest and United Airlines are considered polar opposites of the customer experience spectrum. The former has an enviable reputation for delivering a personalized, enthusiastic and fun experience for all travellers. Three words that are seldom used to describe North American air travel in 2017. Despite being a low-cost airline, Southwest regularly posts NPS (Net Promoter Scores) results that dwarf their larger, full-service competitors and highlights that their financial success can be directly attributed to the experience they deliver. United, in stark contrast, has become the butt of internet memes and faces several federal investigations for a slew of complaints – and a very public passenger “assault” – resulting from the poor experience delivered by their gate personnel and flight staff.

For an organization whose slogan is “Fly The Friendly Skies” the irony and inaccuracy of that line is poignant. But, and this is the critical take-away, the disconnect between the experience promoted in United’s advertising and the actual experience delivered by United’s employees couldn’t be further apart.

The potential damage to a business’ reputation and credibility when expectation and delivery aren’t perfectly aligned cannot be under-estimated. Aligning customer experience and employee experience is the business imperative that all leaders should be focusing on to ensure that alignment happens.

What’s Employee Experience Anyway?

Employee Experience is the sum of the total experience a person has with an organization. We deliberately say “person” versus “employee” because the employee experience begins way before they ever sign a contract to join your organization and can continue way after they leave your organization and become an alumni.

A well-constructed employee experience ensures that a cogent – and consistent – experience is delivered at all these typical stages in an employee journey.

Talent Need Definition

Talent Sourcing and Recruiting

Interviewing

Contract Negotiation

Onboarding and Training

Promotion (or Review)

Mentoring or Coaching

Termination

Exiting

Alumni Relations

With the same rigour that organizations put into identifying and addressing critical “moments of truth” in a customer journey, the same rigour and attention needs to be placed in the employee experience and employee journey. Just like the loss of credibility United faces in the market today, any employer brand that advertises how important its people are or how caring their culture is had better ensure that they’re prepared to deliver on just that.

And for any employer brand leader that believes they can get away with a poor – or even worse, disingenuous – employee experience should spend time looking at employee reviews on websites like Glassdoor or LinkedIn to see just how public (and scathing) poorly treated employees can be in their derision.

 Why is Employee Experience So Important?

If you believe that your employees carry the responsibility for delivering an award winning and competitively differentiated customer experience, there can be no more critical business requirement than ensuring the people you attract, hire and retain are up for the task.

Do they understand what your organization is trying to achieve?

Do they have the strategic context for the decisions that are made around them? This is a foundational part of building a cogent Culture, a topic for another post.

Do they understand what differentiates your organization from the competition? In low-involvement or commoditized sectors, service is often the only real differentiator you have.

Are they motivated by what your company is trying to do and how it is differentiated?

Do they have clarity on how they can individually – and consistently – contribute to achieving those goals and reinforcing that differentiation?

Can they accurately describe the behaviours and attitudes expected of them while they’re employees of your organization?

Can they self-manage their own behaviours to ensure they’re acting in an organizational appropriate manner?

Can they model the behaviours and attitudes required by the organization? Are they “walking the talk”?

If properly constructed, each stage of the employee experience offers a unique opportunity to communicate, reinforce, discuss and, if required, modify any misalignment between the individual and the organization. As the list above highlights, different moments within the overall employee experience provide the perfect environment to get that alignment.

Organizations with strong cultures are relentless in ensuring that there is an alignment between the values and behaviours of their employees and the values (and behaviours) of the organization itself.

As Issy Sharpe, founder of the Four Seasons an organization famed for the exceptional service delivered by each and every one of their staff, famously said:

“We hire for attitude. We want people who like other people and are, therefore, more motivated to serve them. Competence we can teach. Attitude is ingrained.”

Your Employee Experience is the way to ensure that, from the very beginning of your search for the best talent in the market, you attract people with an attitude that reflects your organizations.

The Role Of Communications In Employee Experience

The journey really does begin with communications. Communications that are consistent between prospects and prospective employees.

Virgin is an oft-used example of an organization that gets this communication consistency right. Regardless of the distinct division – Virgin Hospitality, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Orbit or the myriad of other subsidiaries – the unique and distinct language, tone and quirky Virgin humour is always there.

As these examples show, there is a distinct way that Virgin reaches out to prospective employees – whether that is to be a Chef in Chicago, a space cadet engineer in Florida, a salesperson for their mobile division in New York or in their Hospitality division.

Virgin Orbit

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Hospitality

Virgin Hotels

The amazing part of these four examples is that they were likely written by different divisions, by different people, in different locations, for different roles.

Yet the Virgin point-of-view, the critical Virgin attitude to “teamwork”, “service excellence” and “customer excellence” is unambiguous and explicit.

Candidates applying for these roles have a very clear sense of what Virgin believes are key attitudes to “win” inside the Virgin organization. The experience and skills required are obviously different for each role but the Virgin attitude is not open to debate or conjecture.

This is the brand consistency that aligns customer experience and employee experience.

And it starts with communications.

And the most famous service brand on the planet?

Well here’s how Zappos communicates the ethos and attitude of the company and the hiring notices for various roles in their Las Vegas headquarters.

Zappos ethos

Senior Site Reliability Engineer (whatever that is)

Senior UX Developer

Paralegal Assistant

Zappos Recruiter

For an organization that prides itself on the distinctly quirky attitude of their employees, Zappos’ recruitment efforts ensure that, again, that attitude is explicit and unambiguous regardless of the role.

Where to begin?

The journey really does begin with communications. But that requires an organization to acknowledge the undeniable – and inextricable – link between employee experience and customer experience.

Consistency, as in any credible brand building exercise, must be a critical filter.

Are we saying the same thing to all our constituents? Are we communicating consistently to our prospects and prospective employees?

That is how the strongest businesses attract the strongest talent.

That is how the strongest businesses become the strongest brands.

What say you Dear Reader? Am I over-stating the critical requirement for Comms? Weigh in on the comments section below.