by Kathleen Murphy

The employment landscape has changed dramatically – from job hopping to the rise of the “gig economy,” average employee tenure is now only 4.4 years[i]. While it was quite common for previous generations to stay with an employer for decades; newer generations stay as long (or as short) as the job fits their needs. And with Millennials now approaching nearly half the American workforce, this issue isn’t going away anytime soon[ii].

Organizations have fought the proverbial “war for talent” for years now, with mixed results at best. Conversely, most companies have spent the majority of their time understanding what makes their customers happy – with much clearer results.

To succeed over the long term, both should be a priority. Today we rightly understand that to truly delight and retain your customers, you must delight and retain your employees with the same level of care, commitment and rigor. And the strategies to effectively engage your customers can be applied to your people all the same.

It’s not about the fancy espresso machine – create an exceptional employee experience.

Important questions abound – what really drives employee satisfaction and happiness? What drives people to come to work each day motivated to tackle big problems and serve the higher purpose of their employer? What do employees value the most – is it the fancy espresso machine in the lounge, or does that simply mask the root cause?

Companies have made the root cause of customer satisfaction a top priority. They know that exceptional experiences drive customer engagement and loyalty. They know customers want great service, increasing value, and a level of personalization that allows them to reach their goals with confidence.

Employees want the same thing. They want to work for an organization that cares about their work experience; that listens to them and acts on their feedback; that puts programs in place to build their capabilities; and invests in them so they’re constantly learning and growing. To attract and retain the best talent, build an organization that deeply understands the needs of its people, continuously responds to those needs with passion and transparency, and places employee value on the same level as customer value.

It’s not one size fits all, it’s one size fits me.

Personalization at work is fast becoming the new base requirement. People don’t want cookie cutter – it doesn’t address the issues that matter to them, and it’s de-motivating. They want to do meaningful work in an environment that supports them and their individual needs. To do that, it’s critical to provide flexibility in how, when and where they work. This could mean allowing employees to design their workspaces, to shape the scope of their roles and responsibilities, or to work on a flexible or non-traditional schedule.

It could also mean implementing benefits programs that let employees take advantage of the things that matter most to them. Fidelity recently enhanced its employee benefits program with greater focus on tuition reimbursement, extended maternity and paternity leave, adoption assistance, and health & wellness programs – because these are things that truly make an impact with our people.

Ease is essential.

Your customers want their experience to be easy, not complex. Employees want the same thing. They want to hit the ground running each day and be as productive as possible without red tape, outdated policies, or technology that doesn’t match the outside world. Jobs are becoming more and more complex – requiring an ever-increasing level of intellectual capital, emotional IQ, and technological know-how. Creating a culture that embraces “easy” will allow your employees to focus on making a real difference, not navigating complexity.

Like customers, employees want “value.”

Your customers want to get what they paid for. This same principle holds for employees. Take career development for instance. For many, especially Millennials, lateral movement can be just as valuable as a promotion…as long as it meets their needs for growth and stimulation. Over 50% of Millennials feel the opportunity to learn and grow is extremely important when looking for a job[i].

At the same time, employees often find larger organizations frustrating because it can be difficult to find effective development resources. Today no two career paths look the same and companies are thinking outside-the-box to deliver career value. Whether it be coaching, leadership development, job rotations or more comprehensive internships – the focus on innovative and value-added development programs has never been more important.

To harness the potential of your employees – turn “managers” into coaches and leaders.

Over 50% of today’s employees rate the quality of a manager as extremely important in looking for a job[i]. Today’s leaders need a different skill set. I’m very fond of the saying: we’re only as strong as our weakest coach. Managing rules, policies, and other administrative tasks is necessary but completely insufficient for the holistic requirements of an effective leader/coach.

The true value of “managers” is in helping employees unlock their full potential and empowering them to do their best work. Coaches help people practice their craft while giving candid, real-time feedback for learning. They take an interest and help with longer-term development. And they make each person feel like a valued contributor to the team. Leaders coach and inspire – managers manage. Enough said.

So what’s my ideal workplace? It’s a place where each employee knows they’re a highly-valued strategic resource; where they’re motivated by the fact that the company and its leaders will invest in them like they invest in their customers; where it’s easy and fun to get the job done productively; and where each employee knows they make a positive and meaningful difference in the lives of others.

Consider the impact your employees would make if they were inspired to bring their very best to work each day. That is ROI worth signing up for!

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