Great employee experience translates to great customer experience

  • Plan and facilitate desirable internal dynamics to positively influence the experience at all your touchpoints

Critical success factors are elements that are necessary for an organisation or project to achieve its mission. Employee perceptions and experiences are necessary for a company to excel in delivering great experiences. When your employees perceive their experiences as good, they become more engaged and are willing and eager to complete their tasks more efficiently and effectively. This translates to how customers are dealt with at your touchpoints; ultimately, customers become the key beneficiaries – with the necessary domino-effect on the bottom-line.

Therefore, planning and delivering a great experience is a critical success factor for any business. Employees will commit to their relationship with the organisation when their experiences are positive. Remember the story of Google as a great workplace on YouTube? It is an out-of-the-world story, but it depicts the effect on employees when the work environment is great. The story told by Ricardo Semler – CEO and majority owner of Semco Partners, a Brazilian company best known for its radical form of industrial democracy and corporate re-engineering – speaks for itself.

He embraced McGregor’s ‘Theory Y’ wholeheartedly, building an organisation wherein people were naturally capable of self-direction and self-control. As documented in his book ‘Maverick: The Success Story behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace’, he changed a traditional manufacturing company into one where staff set their own salary, vacations were mandatory, books were open, and workers had the autonomy to run their jobs as they like. This democratised, trust-based approach led Semco to great success during Brazil’s tumultuous 1980s.

Here are a few lessons shared from his book: First, the era of using people as production tools is coming to an end. Second, top-down, authoritarian rules and regulations discourage and hamper employees. Instead, build a company full of cathedral builders. Third, do this by empowering employees to make decisions about how they work, organising into small and independent units and using very few levels of management. Let’s face it, Ricardo Semler is a non-conformist and his style throughout the world has birthed great success.

The lesson here is that simple great employee experience will translate to great customer experience and ultimately lead to business success. We can therefore take a page from his success story and many others who have dared to empower their employees variously. Strengthening the employee experience will yield limitless benefits, including employee job satisfaction leading to higher profits and better marketplace positioning.

The following practices are necessary to enhance the employee experience. First, Leadership must demonstrate their commitment practically; there is an inspiring story of the CEO who waits on tables. Second, develop the employee journey-map to align with the customer journey. Third, be consistent with measurements to assess the impact of your internal employee contributions to the customer experience. Fourth, develop an employee experience framework.


Employees are critical to the business in many ways. They are pivotal to developing and sustaining great experiences for your customers. How your employees feel within their current work environment hinges significantly on the role leaders play in making or breaking those experiences. Maya Angelou, an American poet and civil rights activist, famously said: “People will forget what you said, people will also forget what you did – but people will never forget how you made them feel”.

Leadership must engage their followers proactively to understand their sentiments; it’s about understanding and empathising with them. Peter Drucker, the renowned management guru, introduced 5 important questions to help address this need effectively. The questions are: What is our mission? Each organisation exists to make a distinctive difference in the lives of individuals and society; Who is our customer?  Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, supports the claim that “The only profit centre is the customer”, hence the need to understand them.

What does the customer value? What satisfies their needs, wants and aspirations – this is so complicated it can only be answered by customers themselves. What are our results? These are measured outside the organisation. It’s about what impact you are making on people’s behaviour, circumstances and hopes. What is our plan? This is a concise summation of the organisation’s purpose and future direction. The plan encompasses a mission, vision, goals, objectives, action steps, a budget and appraisal. Jen Hofma CEO of Pizza Hut sums it all up: he says “People make Pizza Hut Restaurants what they are: our guests and our teams”.

In his words, “We want everyone to leave our restaurants with a smile on their face every day, and that’s why our entire company vision is to be The Most Loved Place to Eat, Work and Learn”. He goes on further, “Our Guests Are Never Going to Feel Better Than Our Team Members”. Getting the Employee Experience right translates to great customer experience. The ability to discern and leverage this opportunity is key for any leadership.

The employee journey

To manage your customer journey seamlessly, you need to focus on the employee journey as well. Customer Experience is about ‘outside-in’ thinking. This mindset must run across all your touchpoints. If a customer walks into your shop and engages a friendly shop attendant, the customer is likely to leave satisfied; however, on following-up an issue with your contact centre, if the response is not friendly the customer will deem the whole experience with your brand as a bad one.

By creating the right culture you allow your employees to engage with the customer positively, and ensure that the customer agenda is integrated into the day-to-day rhythm of company life seamlessly. Pennington (2016) suggests some key questions you should ask in this regard: How well do you connect all your employees to the customer journey; do you have an employee proposition; does your culture encourage customer-focus? If staff are not engaged, then the customer journey is likely to be sub-optimised. Your Employee Journey is of equal importance.

It offers you a clear view of the relationship between the company and staff. A clear employee journey highlights sweet spots in your customer journey and brings to the fore, very quickly, the opportunity to identify areas for quick improvement.

A simple model to emerge from this process is as follows: Employee engagement = better customer experience delivery = job satisfaction/pride = lower staff churn = employee advocacy of company and service/product = business growth = business bottom line improves (Pennington 2016).

Areas to address in this journey will be, first, the employee’s formal journey: encompassing induction, personal development plans, performance management and training. Second, you address the informal journey: team meetings, away days and one-to-ones. Third, you address the environmental aspects: office, IT and corporate culture. An employee proposition is a promise from an organisation to existing and potential employees.

It articulates the following: Consistency with the organisation’s brand is distinct from the employee propositions of competitor organisations (Apple and Samsung will certainly not have comparable propositions); is credible in that it echoes the experience of current employees (as Jeff Hofma of Pizza Hut portrays); is relevant and valuable to both existing and potential employees; is honest and not a stereotypical or cliched statement. To sum up, the employee proposition provides a reference point for future changes to the employee experience.


As highlighted earlier (in Drucker’s important questions), it is as important to understand your employees’ attitudes, feelings and intentions as it is to understand your customers. Assessing attitudes doesn’t come as a quantitative measure, therefore what experts recommend is a range of surveys to help capture the essence of feelings and intentions of your staff as they deliver on your employee proposition. Three common surveys are staff satisfaction surveys, employee engagement/service climate surveys, and internal service surveys.

The hearts and minds of staff are directly related to the experience they deliver. Staff satisfaction surveys allow you to search the minds of your staff by asking them about such things as compensation, career development, benefits and other issues that are traditionally HR-related. This survey helps to uncover systemic problems and regional issues within the company. In times of rapid change and upheaval, some organisations may choose to conduct ‘pulse’ surveys to understand where the employees’ minds are at any given time.

Employee engagement/service climate service surveys are more closely linked with organisational performance, as it relates to CX and business outcomes. Service climate refers to employees’ shared practices and perceptions, procedures and behaviour which are supported and rewarded by the organisation regarding customer service. Employee engagement is “simultaneous employment and expression of a person’s preferred self in task behaviour that promotes connections to work and others, personal presence (cognitive and emotion) and active full performance” – as cited in Fish (2021).

These surveys are critical for customer/employee feedback and operational and financial metrics, and great for improving and managing your business. Internal service surveys are key to helping you unearth weak areas in the business, such as underperforming departments on internal CX. These could range from long processing times, cumbersome and unnecessary red-tape, to general unresponsiveness internally. The goal is to make everyone accountable for CX, and bring it to the forefront of organisation culture.

Employee experience framework

I have culled the following (SearchHRSoftware) as it aligns with my goal of bringing EX to the fore.  An employee experience framework provides that pathway. It involves the use of design-thinking strategies to optimise the company’s work environment, culture, HR services and events. Just as marketers have worked to understand the total customer experience at touchpoints across the entire customer journey, business and HR leaders can create employee journey maps – which are graphical representations of an employee’s organisational path, possibly aligned with the employee lifecycle.


A typical employee journey begins with the recruitment and interview processes, then advances to touchpoints such as the offer-letter and an employee’s first month within the company. A positive onboarding process follows to facilitate easy assimilation into the work environment. These are essential to creating a strong employee experience framework. Other major touchpoints which affect the framework include first-year reviews, employee talent development, and professional development opportunities and promotions. Linking this to your CX enhances your customer engagement.

Having this framework enables leaders such as executives and managers to confirm the culture and business values, and disseminate them to influence common thinking. Employees are better able to relate with their leaders, while executives provide clear guidelines of what they expect from them. Additionally, they can provide the relevant skills and information needed to take positive action and strengthen the employee experience.

Good employee experience is about creating and harnessing an environment that is not only highly engaging but also highly specific to executing your organisational strategy. It encapsulates superior performance, then results from the three-way alignment of the culture, the strategy and the organisation as it pursues its goals within the ecosystem for which that strategy was designed. Good organisations can become great when operating in this zone of aligned culture, strategy and ecosystem.

The Writer is a Change and CX Management Consultant. He can be reached at 059 175 7205, [email protected],

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