Meet Your New Customers: Your Employees

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A recent report from research firm Forrester highlights the importance of EX. For years we've heard about CX (customer experience); now, it's the turn of the employees to have their experience upheld.

Does this mean employees are the “new customers”? Yes and no.

Digital workforce

When Henry Ford invented the assembly line nearly a century ago, the workplace was far different. So too was the workforce. Ford's factories churned out automobiles for a supply chain that didn't cross oceans. Workers came to a fixed location which was the only place they could work and earn a salary.

Nowadays, manufacturing is outsourced to different locations based on costs, while knowledge work takes place in a diffused location and is sent (at electric speed) to where it's needed. Knowledge workers are located just about anywhere, and the “digital nomad” concept is a reality for many such workers. Modern communication networks like 5G and the Internet deliver the efforts of their labor to their destinations.

Both employees and employers want reasonable value-equations

But employees and employers still want reasonable value-equations. Employers need quotas filled, tasks completed, and often they need advice in the form of consulting. Employees want steady work for good pay and a good experience.

All about the EX

“The pandemic made it clear first to employees and then gradually to their exec leaders that without robust EX, workers can and will take their skills elsewhere,” said a November 2 report by Forrester. “Between failing at so-called 'remote' work (which is now just work) and struggling to escape the compliance-heavy approach to HR that has plagued companies for years, 2022 will be a decisive year as C-level execs finally admit that the future of work they had envisioned coming out of the pandemic will remain elusive unless they commit to EX.”

There are some solid reality checks here. First, C-level execs must accept that their vision of a post-pandemic working environment may be flawed. And remote work is “now just work.” Clearly, the pandemic has caused a gestalt shift.

Forrester: “In 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission began requiring public companies to report on their approach to human capital; as much as 85% of a company’s market cap depends on people resources.”

The shift from fungible balance-sheet assets to less quantifiable “people resources” may not sit well with Excel-heavy bean counters, but it reflects the reality of workplaces in the 2020s. So what happens if employers fail to pay heed?

Wanted: help!

“According to labor department data released in mid-October, at least 30 million Americans quit their jobs between January and August 2020,” says a report in The Guardian. “Whether you call it the 'Great Resignation' or a 'nationwide reassessment of work, the labor market shake-up of the pandemic could have unexpected aftershocks for years to come.”

The Guardian story quotes a 30-year-old Los Angeles-based PR professional who resigned from a full-time job and took up self-employment. “Working remotely during quarantine, she realized that she didn’t need to rely on a hovering boss to be productive and do work that she could feel good about,” it said.

“'My life is my life, and my job is my job',” said the PR pro. “I’m willing to take on the uncertainty [of unemployment] simply to have my own time under control and have my own life available to me.”

“While Nancy remains open to the possibility of another full-time role, she says that a prospective employer would need to respect her boundaries and trust her to manage her own schedule,” said the article. Many knowledge workers have similar philosophies, and it's up to employers to understand and accommodate them.

WFH employee manual

Human resources departments issue a set of guidelines for employee conduct, often referred to as an employee manual. In the WFH era, it's important to have an additional set of guidelines to cover WFH conduct.

Are employees the “new customers”? Yes and no

As WFH is more elastic, start with the basics. Does the employee have set hours? Is she expected to answer work emails or other messages outside of those hours? Guidance is important.

Is the employee expected to attend daily/weekly/monthly meetings? Specify them to avoid confusion.

Which communication tools are required? In our interconnected age, we have comm tools we know and are familiar with. Some employees prefer to use those for work; others separate their comm channels into “work” and “personal” categories.

Whatever your company's policy, spell it out in an employee manual to reduce misunderstandings.

New digital workforce

In a volatile world, normalcy bias seems comforting. But savvy CDOs know that keeping abreast of real-world situations is what separates proactive firms from those left behind. Supply chain issues and semiconductor shortages were highlighted by a journalist in earlier months and years, so it's no surprise that these particular chickens are coming home to roost.

It's the same with human resources. The workforce is different now. Proactive CDOs must accept that the playing field has changed and act accordingly. The benefits are worth the effort, but the effort must be researched, then enacted.

Stefan Hammond is a contributing editor to CDOTrends. Best practices, the IOT, payment gateways, robotics and the ongoing battle against cyberpirates pique his interest. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/g-stockstudio