Going Back to the Basics to Transform Your Employee Experience and Drive Business Outcomes

April 20, 2018 | HighGround | HCI
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HighGround sponsored a webcast in March that featured Sam Stern, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research, Inc.  and Michelle Rashid, Director of Culture and Organizational Development at leading travel company, Virtuoso.

In each of their presentations, the speakers used well-known books as a jump off point. Sam referenced two books that seek to explain what motivates us, Drive and The Progress Principle, to connect employee experience to customer success. Michelle shared that her company used The Advantage, which talks about organizational health, as the basis for developing Virtuoso’s new engagement program.

The employee experience from all angles

Sam looked at the employee experience through different lenses. From the highest bird’s eye level, he discussed the importance of empowering employees – to do their best work, solve their own problems and find purpose in their roles. If organizations can do this, they’ll likely create loyal employees who stay longer and serve as company advocates.

Sam also tackled employee experience as it relates to the customer experience. Empowered employees deliver great customer experiences, and business leaders can enable this by identifying high achievers and emerging behaviors, automating mundane tasks where employees don’t create high value, providing feedback and recognition, training and coaching employees and providing tools for personalizing experiences.

What’s the manager’s role in creating the employee experience? 

Sam shared eight attributes of high-performing managers: skilled coaches, not micromanagers, interested in employees on a personal level, productive and results-oriented, good communicators, focused on career development, clear on their team’s vision and strategy, technically skilled.

Creating a strong employee experience is easier said than done, but Sam provided examples of companies who get it right. One firm used crowdsourced feedback – both internal and external – to help managers better coach their employees. Another company had a ‘pay it forward’ program, where each recognized employee is then asked to pay it forward to someone else who may have helped them behind the scenes. Data from recognition programs like these becomes more tangible when it’s used to identify and create intentional behaviors.

Virtuoso transforms the employee experience, slashing turnover rates and boosting business by 12 percent.

Michelle shared how Virtuoso reimagined its employee experience to address three main challenges: top down communication, feedback and recognition. With nearly 300 employees spread out in offices throughout the world, Virtuoso relied on surveys to get to the heart of its organizational health. In the end, the executive team knew they could do better.

Getting down to work, the team developed a clear purpose: “enriching lives through human connection” and set of values: “we seek to understand, we serve with sincerity and kindness, we strive for the win-win-win.”

With that anchor deployed, they focused on engagement and communication through all levels of the company. At the highest level, they developed a playbook that holds the purpose and values in one place. It serves to help employees understand what Virtuoso was doing, what they were focused on, and how each of them impacted the greater mission. This was communicated and reinforced in various ways and at different cadences, from daily conversations to formal quarterly meetings, cascading down through all levels of the organization.

Virtuoso used HighGround to address its recognition, feedback and review processes. On the recognition front, employees virtually award each other badges associated with core company values, creating an atmosphere of happiness and gratitude. In 2017 the organization averaged the distribution of 50 badges per week, earning employees points via value badges that align to its core behaviors or small spot bonuses via achievement badges for reaching specific goals.

Virtuoso’s feedback and review process is focused on enabling authentic quarterly check-ins that are employee-driven conversations about the future. These are conducted on top of a continual feedback loop as a result of the company’s ongoing coaching environment. In 2017, 95 percent of employees set objectives, up from less than 40 percent with the old process.

The results speak for themselves. Virtuoso’s turnover is 14 percent - roughly half the average for the travel industry. In 2017, they achieved 12 percent business growth, and have predicted 15 percent for 2018.

WATCH the full webinar, Supercharge the Employee Experience: Plan your EX Initiatives to Advance Customer and Financial Outcomes, online.