EX: Cultivating Your Organization To Thrive

I have never left a company. I promise you, like so many American workers, I leave managers and circumstances. I have enjoyed every job I have ever held. The work was challenging and I felt connected with my co-workers. But I’ve had managers whose leadership styles could use a complete redesign. I, like most people, do not thrive under poorly designed leadership styles.

When I received an ultimatum from my Fortune 100 employer: move or leave. I left. I was Global Director of Derivatives Marketing and Sales, a topline revenue generator whose financial impact was measured and reported daily. I left.

In my 20-year career, across industries and roles, one thing remained constant. Poorly designed leadership styles were the rule, not the exception.

On March 2, 2015 the current phase of my seeker’s journey began. I had a non-compete, so that gave me the longest break in my 20 year career. I decided to get curious about “where my career and I converge”. I started a coach training program to help me build relationships, gain people skills and increase insight for my next iteration.

My first client, “Molly” was a product manager in Silicon Valley who was returning to work from maternity leave. She wanted to thrive. We imagined, then thought through, what would be present in an environment and culture that would help her thrive. We spent the first few sessions designing and creating a matrix with all of the characteristics for an environment and culture that would help her thrive. The matrix assisted Molly in making values-based decisions during the highly charged recruitment process. Every company was exciting and the products were things she enjoyed. That matrix took her from the classic emotional decision making evaluation to a values-based process after each interview and coffee chat. The matrix was prototyped and beta tested after each new data point.

After all, Molly was a programmer before becoming a PM, so she enjoys a prototyping sprint that iterates. The matrix provided Molly with a quantitative assessment that help to define her next employment partnership based on values that were leading Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for her. The right data and design helped her evaluate employment options. Molly needed the perfect intersection of start-up culture, interesting product, commute time, and family life-cycle.

Fast forward 5 years and now with hundreds of leaders impacted, I have lots of clarity. In my profession as a coach, I have witnessed again and again, that with intentionality, a shift in perspective and intersectionality, we can design a better employee experience.

There is typically one type of hiring done in corporate culture, “The Recruit to Retain” Model.

Recruit to Retain Model Checklist

A classic case, BrellaCo, an umbrella producer, posts a position. An internal recruiter meets with a candidate, Ryan. Ryan is an amazing candidate. BrellaCo hired Ryan because he has incredible experience and people skills. Ryan is respected and others seek his guidance. Ryan does an outstanding job on the 3 projects assigned to him in 7 months. He receives accolades and lots of internal exposure. Ryan gets assigned as the project lead on a new systems roll out and integration. He goes all in and delivers ahead of plan, under budget and over scope. Ryan’s internal social capital score at BrellaCo goes up 2X. He is seen as a subject matter expert in 3 areas and delivers best-in-class performance. Ryan has implicit expectations for BrellaCo to reward his best-in-class efforts. But his leadership only says “thank you and good job”. Ryan, now out of the weeds, begins to observe BrellaCo’s leadership. His observations are not flattering. Ryan begins to question if this is the place for him to thrive and grow. BrellaCo’s leadership notices the change and concern sets in. The classic retention model action list is activated. Three months after activation, Ryan leaves BrellaCo.

This model has been repeated for as long as there have been at-will employees. It’s the classic mousetrap that needs a redesign. Let’s consider this, all of the skills you use to create user experiences that return shareholder value must be used to create employee experiences that can also return shareholder value.

Leaders, what if you designed employee interactions that are curated and connected to the brand, so they can convert to cash for you and your investors?

Webco, is a company started by experienced leaders. Webco saw an attrition issue and decided to redesign the classic “Recruit to Retain” arc. Ryan joins Webco, hoping for a better fit. Webco’s leadership knows Ryan has high potential. Webco recognizes that Ryan has the abilities to become a “pillar” of knowledge and has functional expertise for the exponentially growing brand.

Webco is beta testing an employee experience (EX) program,“Recruit to not hire again”. After completing project #1, Webco places Ryan in the “Recruit to not hire again” program. It’s the ideal opportunity to curate Ryan’s experience at Webco. The “Recruit to not hire again” program was prototyped by the company to design an employee experience (EX) based on the things it does best-create elegant user-friendly solutions using design thinking. The EX program is all about creating touch points with employees that are based on the Elements of Value Pyramid created by Bain & Company.

The Elements of Value Pyramid states that “Products and services deliver fundamental elements of value that address four kinds of needs: functional, emotional, life-changing and social impact. In general, the more elements provided, the greater customers’ loyalty and the higher the company’s sustained revenue growth.” These same UX/ CX principles should be applied to design your company’s EX program. After all, we are all human. Everyone who markets for a living knows that the customer acquisition process is the hardest before the first sale. Each subsequent sale gets easier with repeat customers. Let’s apply this same knowledge to employees. Recruitment has a cost that is estimated to be 1.5–2 times the employees’ salary for mid-level roles. An ideal EX program touches on 5–8 aspects of the value pyramid for employees. The higher up the pyramid you go, the stronger the connection you create for your employee. The “Recruit to not hire again” program is a better mousetrap to reduce attrition, increase employee engagement, foster organic revenue growth and create a brand that attracts top talent to a world class company.

There are studies out that calculate the return on investment for employee development, training, coaching, and employee experience. The results ranges from initial investment returned to the company to 7X returned on average to the company. Some things are based on data and circumstances others are based on surveying your employee pool and using design thinking to create a better product for your employees. An ideal EX mapping process is similar to conducting market research, you must step into the gap, to design a product that gains traction.

Let’s get you started.

  1. The process only works if it is embraced by company leadership. Revenue generating leadership, not HR. HR functions should participate but this needs to be driven by the staff that is accountable for topline revenue. So, that does not mean the C-suite. In my experience at mid to large companies, leaders fall into one of two categories, those who generate revenue and those who discuss the actions of those who generate revenue. This firmly belongs with the group that generates revenue. The authority to redesign the process should be with the group that is tasked with responsibility and accountability for top line growth.
  2. Elevate your employee experience design to the same status as launching a new consumer product. Companies invest time, resources and talent in launching new products or improving efficiencies and delivery of current products. The EX initiative needs to be coded the same, because organizations typically only work on urgent items. Important items are identified but are rarely addressed with the same speed and energy.
  3. Impacted staff are your best project leads. In coaching, we define the leader as the person who is aware and can change the current trajectory. Hierarchy should not play a role in selecting a project lead. The best person to lead this project is someone that impacted by EX, uses design thinking regularly, and has social capital across all levels of the organization.

In a world where we fight for attention, where feedback is crowd-sourced, and the demand for skilled professionals is rising, it’s time to design your employee experience.

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