From CX to EX: future proofing the workplace to meet the expectations of today's talent
When we think of ‘experience’ in a business context, we often focus on the customer – but without the right talent in place, the customer experience (CX) is missing a vital piece of the puzzle. So, how are marketing leaders rethinking the employee experience (EX) to complete the loop and deliver richer digital experiences for all?
How businesses are creating EX on par with CX
The CX leaders of today are making significant changes on the inside – including better and more flexible work environments, closer alignment of culture and values, putting a greater focus on the mental health and wellbeing of talent and providing the best digital tools and technologies to empower marketing professionals to make a real impact.
These were among the key learnings from a recent panel discussion at The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival. Hosted by The Drum’s assistant editor Jenni Baker, the session brought together global CX leaders from Criteo, VMLY&R Commerce and Immediate Future to hear how they are creating industry-leading EX and to examine the role of digital transformation in future-proofing the workplace to meet the expectations of today’s talent.
Humanizing the digital transformation of the workplace
During the pandemic, the media landscape and work environments shifted to 100% digital almost overnight. This changed both consumer expectations and impacted marketing professionals, who had to rethink their own expectations of their work environment.
But, as Katy Howell, chief executive officer of Immediate Future, says, it also has a “deeper fall-out” related to lower budgets, lack of resource and number of staff off sick. It means that the intensity of working in marketing is greater than ever, and staff are “back to back”. What’s more, the resulting rush to technology has not been accompanied by “time to learn how to use it”.
Elke Van Tienen, global head of people at VMLY&R Commerce, concurs, noting that the marketing industry has had to reimagine the experience of consumers with “a decade's worth of innovation in e-commerce in just months”. There has been a renewed focus on the employee experience now. Talent is looking for companies to provide tools and technology, she says, but also to “upskill them against that digital transformation” by making sure they know how to use those tools. In other words: how can they talk about the metaverse, social commerce and NFTs with confidence?
The discussion moves on to how the alignment of values between employee and employer is so important. In the hybrid post-pandemic world, “you’ve got to make sure that you're able to buy into a culture of a new company, wherever you are working,” says Brendan McCarthy, chief marketing officer of Criteo. And, he really should know. McCarthy joined Criteo during lockdown.
He also notes that “we've all learned to be a little more empathetic.” As a specific example, he cites checking in on people more sincerely, genuinely looking for a real answer other than “I'm fine”.
Van Tienen adds that the pandemic had actually humanized business, reasserting the significance of humanity, empathy, authenticity and purpose. She believes that consumers and talent are paying more attention to the way brands and companies have dealt with the pandemic, what their values are and how they are responding toward world events.
Navigating the ‘messy balance’ of hybrid working
All of the speakers mention the challenges and opportunities of hybrid working, with each arguing that there was a “messy” balance to be had between greater flexibility and the buzz that comes from everyone being back in the office. Howell says she was relishing the shared energy and admitted that she really had not done well “being stuck at home”. A lot of younger staff in small flats needed to get out to work, she adds. “It's also about having some strict guidelines,” insisting that there is “no late working” at Immediate Future.
Criteo’s chief people officer Manuela Montagnana agrees: “People were okay coming to the office five days a week. Suddenly, it's the opposite: I want you to be at home and maybe come to the office once or twice.” Criteo has introduced simple things, like giving staff – and their families – licences for wellbeing app Headspace, and insists that employees understand “we do not want people working 24/7”.
There is a fundamental new question afoot: why would people come to the office? Are they coming just for a desk and chair? Like many companies, Criteo gave everybody a generous work-from-home equipment budget but, Montagnana argues, “they want to come to the office, because there is something else there.”
Culture will define the future employee experience
Many companies are now redefining the purpose of the physical space and reimagining their employee experience. McCarthy contrasts the worlds of work before and after lockdown, acknowledging that “personal lives previously took a backseat”. All agree that employees are going to look for flexibility in their lives; that they wanted to work somewhere that's going to meet their values.
“Culture is definitely the defining thing,” Montagnana says. “We are all competing for the same talent and salary alone isn’t enough. What makes a difference is purpose.” She cites Criteo’s Voyager program through which “800 employees changed roles (last year)” and how Criteo is now offering at different stages of employees’ careers, “almost a tailored answer to your aspirations.”
“There is nothing quite the same as the job where you can effect change, where you can make a difference,” concludes Howell, citing the need for empowerment: getting back “the pride in what we do”.
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