Pleasing customers is the number one goal of pretty much every company. To accomplish this, more and more companies are starting in a non-traditional place: with their employees.
That’s because the day-to-day relationship with customers is forged by employees. By focusing on employee culture, you can create a positive employee experience that leads to engaged employees who subsequently feel more committed to the job, the company, and its customers.
Research reported in Harvard Business Review found that the companies that invest the most in employee experience are included 28 times as often among Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies,” 11.5 times as often in Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work,” 2.1 times as often in Forbes’s list of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies” and 4.4 times as often in LinkedIn’s list of “North America’s Most In-Demand Employers.” Investing in employees pays off, both in innovation and future recruiting efforts. And while your customers might not see the efforts first hand—they will surely reap the benefits.
Here are three companies bolstering the employee experience through an elevated culture:
Union Square Hospitality Group Cooks Up a New Restaurant Culture
Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, is one of the most outspoken naysayers of the motto, “The customer is always right.” Instead, he advocates putting employees at the center, investing in employee experience through prioritizing professional and personal growth. As he shares in an article in strategy+business, this drives employees to provide an excellent customer experience, and the all-important repeat business subsequently follows.
The company’s executive team stays close to employees and their needs through training sessions that impart core values. They also conduct a regular culture survey, called the “Trust Index,” that measures how employees experience their work environment. And they encourage all employees to have a voice by soliciting ideas for improvements.
Trader Joe’s Has Employee Culture in the Bag
Trader Joe’s has been named one of Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work” a total of five times—and the reason is clear. The grocery chain focuses on creating a superb employee experience through flexible scheduling, solid benefits, and an emphasis on individuality.
For former employee Hayley Benham-Archdeacon, the culture revolved around giving team members a sense of ownership and pride in their work. “Mates [middle managers] maintained an attitude of ‘there’s 1,000 right ways to do something,’ which made both new employees and crew veterans feel safe about making suggestions or changing up methods without worrying that our managers’ egos would be threatened.” That translates to engaged employees who seem truly seem happy to be there and go the extra mile to create an excellent customer experience.
Employee Experience Flies High at Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines was ranked highest in customer satisfaction among low-cost carriers for the second year in a row, according to the J.D. Power 2018 North America Airline Satisfaction Study. And while that’s undoubtedly important to them, there’s an audience that’s even more crucial—and that’s their employees. In fact, in a blog post, the company touts its “magic formula”: Happy Employees=Happy Customers=Increased Business/Profits=Happy Shareholders. “We believe that if we treat our Employees right, they will treat our Customers right, and in turn that results in increased business and profits that make everyone happy,” the company says.
The airline shares its values from the beginning with a training program that’s focused on making new employees feel like part of the team from day one. The “Cohearts” program pairs a newbie with a more seasoned employee. Throughout their tenure, employees are encouraged to be involved in the core business. For example, the company invited employees to design new uniforms by communicating the request through an all-employee call for input.
Connecting the Dots
Successful companies increasingly realize the need to put employees at the center by engaging them in a more personalized and relevant way. The ones winning at the employee experience game are leveraging communication techniques to reach employees in ways that fit their lifestyles—not just their work schedules.
Companies need to make sure that their values permeate throughout the organization at all levels. And they can ensure employees get the message by using the various communication tools at their disposal. In fact, a strong employee experience depends on strong employee communication. To be effective, leaders can borrow many of the same marketing tactics companies use to reach potential customers.
Companies should start new employees off with a comprehensive onboarding program that underscores the importance of employee culture. Then supplement with frequent communication through a wide variety of channels, including internal face-to-face meetings, webcasts, blog posts, texts, social media posts, posters—any communication vehicle that allows you to share employee-focused initiatives in the way the employee prefers hearing from management.
Another important tactic for empowering employees is soliciting ideas through employee suggestion boxes or surveys, and transparently sharing the results through a variety of communication mediums. Encourage your team to share their own employee experience wins, since insight from colleagues can help bolster top-down communication.
By effectively using a variety of communication tools and channels, companies can make sure they are maintaining an open dialog with employees—a crucial step to building an ideal employee experience. Investing in employees is crucial and customers will likely be among the first group to notice the difference.