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Competing on Employee Experience: It’s Your Choice …

One of the greatest drivers of client experience is employee experience.

To what lengths are you willing to go for your clients that you’re not willing to extend to your colleagues?

If there’s a difference in how you approach these two critical constituencies, therein lies a big problem or a huge opportunity: It’s your choice.

While virtually every company, especially financial advisory firms, will claim the mantle of being “client-centric,” how many of them claim to be colleague- or employee-centric?

The research is clear, compelling and ever-deepening: Given that virtually all companies compete primarily on the basis of their Client Experience (CX), one of the greatest drivers of CX is your organization’s Employee Experience (EX).

In a recent research report from McKinsey, entitled “The secret to delighting customers: Putting employees first,” it noted that in order for an organization to build ever-stronger, mutually beneficial and rewarding relationships with those it serves:

"That takes more than great products and services—it takes motivated, empowered front-line employees. Creating great customer experiences requires having an engaged and energized workforce, one that can translate individual experiences into satisfying end-to-end customer journeys and can continue to improve the journeys to maintain a competitive edge."

Further, McKinsey observes, the relationship between an organization and its clients is inherently emotional in nature:

"(E)ngaging with customers is still undertaken largely through personal contact. And there’s no shortcut to creating emotional connections with customers; it requires ensuring that every interaction is geared toward leaving them with a positive experience."

This all sounds great, of course, but why does it really matter? Certainly, treating employees well so that they’re (more) engaged is a good idea, but should it really be one of a firm executive’s primary areas of focus (if not the primary area)?

Actually, yes, as Bain & Company has suggested: In an article published in the Harvard Business Review a few years ago, two of its partners found that, beyond mere employee satisfaction or engagement, “inspired” employees are 2.25 times more productive than merely satisfied ones. What would your firm’s CX be if it were driven by such inspired employees? And what would its performance (read = profitability) look like if its staff were this impactful?

Yet, as these experts note, “Engaging Your Employees Is Good, but Don’t Stop There”: Echoing Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs, they posit “The Pyramid of Employee Needs,” in which colleagues can move from dissatisfaction or simple satisfaction to being engaged (with corresponding 103% and 44% productivity increases, respectively) and then to being inspired, at which point they’ll be 317% as productive as their dissatisfied colleagues and, as previously noted, 225% as productive as the merely satisfied ones.

Of course, there’s real work involved in creating this type of organizational environment, including creating new “ways of working” that empower employees to “determine where we work, how we work and with whom we work” and which “are as important in defining our workplace experience as the formal business processes that define the work’s content.”

The good news is that “inspirational leadership can be taught, and it can be learned.” Among the best practices associated with this developmental journey is the use of “360-degree feedback to assess each leader’s current ability to inspire (which) includes workshops and individual training to help executives become the most inspirational leaders that they can be.”

Let’s acknowledge two major trends that necessitate the evolution and elevation of our organizational leadership skills: Not only is the nature of work changing rapidly, but so is who’s doing it.

As McKinsey noted in another recent publication entitled “Employee experience: essential to compete”:

“With today’s technology, 45 percent of activities people are paid to do could be automated, and 60 percent of jobs could have 30 percent or more of their activities automated.”

Sure, you’ve likely enhanced some of the processes that underlie the operation of your business over time, but have you truly and fully embraced the “Automation Opportunity”? Consider this: if you could free up 45% of your people’s time to reinvest in cultivating an even more exceptional EX and CX, how much more powerfully productive (and profitable) would your firm be?

Further, given that millennials are almost a third of our population but will comprise 75% of our workforce by 2025, have you evolved both your approach to your business and your leadership accordingly?

McKinsey exhorts you to realize that “the war for talent will be won or lost based on EX,” so it’s incumbent upon firm leaders to realize that:

“(T)hey must reimagine every aspect of work—from recruitment and job evaluations to collaboration, perks, and the workplace itself.”

Add to this that the research is clear that wealth is getting younger, more female and otherwise more diverse, and it’s hard to escape the nagging suspicion that rather than merely suggesting a helpful evolution, these trends are metaphorically shouting that the very survival of your firm is at stake and that the choice is really one either to change or to die.

Since that’s such a bummer, let’s focus on its flip-side reality, which is equally if not more true (and certainly more inspiring): Choosing to reinvent your organization by evolving its EX and CX offers the opportunity not only to enhance its performance and profitability powerfully but also to ensure its future sustainability.

Walter K. Booker is the chief operating officer of MarketCounsel, a business and regulatory compliance consultancy for investment advisors.

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