When Jeff Bezos started professing the customer-first philosophy, it was somewhat fuzzy.
Perhaps the corporate world wasn’t ready to move on from shareholder focus to customer focus. And perhaps we didn’t understand what really went into being customer first.
Eventually, we did.
In his first interview after purchasing The Washington Post in 2013, Bezos shared his philosophy on building a successful business: “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.”
It took a good decade after that for the independent function called Customer Success to become a part of the way we work.
What is even more surprising, is that even after customer success has become so ubiquitous, the business world has not realised that there is another important player in this entire drama that we are ignoring. A key character without whom this play we are part of wouldn’t ever get staged: The employee.
The last decade has taught us that employees need to have the same experience that customers are promised.
Otherwise, like customers, they too will leave.
This is why we believe the time is now right for Employee Success to take centre stage in companies, to ensure employees are empowered in every way possible.
What exactly is employee success?
Before we go into defining Employee Success, here’s a rather startling statistic.
According to Gartner research on Modern Employee Experience, only 13% of employees indicate that they are currently fully satisfied with their experience.
This is despite the global attention on employee experience that we are now seeing. This translates to a probable loss of attention at work that directly impacts a company’s bottom line.
This also leads to a lack of discretionary effort from employees that could have resulted in financial/brand gains for the business.
Companies stand the risk of earning a bad rap thanks to social media and Glassdoor reviews. The loss is tangible, and multiplies every year.
This abysmally low number begs the question - why and what should businesses do about it, and who should be responsible?
We envision that most businesses will soon have a deliberate strategy for employee success as they do for customer success, and the CEO will own it directly with a specialised function called employee success. In fact, a lot of companies already do.
In practice, employee success is a dedicated role/team/function, depending on the company size, that will be responsible for ensuring that an organisation’s employees are aligned with, and successful at, achieving their business goals.
But, aren’t employee experience and employee success the same?
No. Employee experience, like customer experience, is a fuzzy term. When we say CX, do we mean the website design or the product UI? Are we referring to the experience with the sales rep or how seamless the onboarding or data migration was?
In contrast, ‘Customer Success’ is highly concrete. Most companies have dedicated Customer Success Managers and Customer Success teams. CS folks have specific goals measured through specific metrics.
This is the future of the Employee Success function too.
Most companies will have dedicated Employee Success Managers and Employee Success teams, with very specific goals and metrics.
And Employee Experience? It will be a sub-section of the larger employee success umbrella.
What will employee success help enterprises with?
Employee success can contribute to the business goal on multiple levels:
1. Productivity – When employee success becomes more ingrained into the DNA of an enterprise, it helps reduce the time to value for new hires, that is, faster onboarding, role ramp-up, and promotion.
2. Performance management – Employees who have a clear line of sight from their work to business impact are more fulfilled. They go beyond their call of duty and this reflects in the overall business performance.
3. Talent management – Employee success will closely work with functional leaders in hiring the required talent or by upskilling and transferring interested internal talent to fill the gap.
4. Employee lifetime value – Turnover is a lagging indicator of the state of employee health. Investing in employee success and providing a nurturing environment where they can thrive and grow leads to compounded returns.
Getting these things right will mean happy customers, because if your ‘internal’ customers i.e. employees are happy, your external customers will be happy too.
Engaged employee=happy customers.
There is no doubt that companies should view their employees as internal customers to get better business results. The age-old power dynamic between employee and employer has to undergo a radical shift given the ever-increasing expectations of new-age employees.
Everything from policies, and technology, to company culture must change to put employees and their success at the centre.
There is no doubt that companies that constantly choose to ignore their employees and their success will soon be left behind. The ones that choose to put employee success first, will thrive.
Paraphrasing Jeff Bezos’s quote, it’s time to - Put the employee first. Invent. And be patient.
It is, after all, Day 1.