Many companies prioritise the happiness of their customers and use it as an indication of their success, but often neglect the impact employee experience can have on overall customer satisfaction. The fact of the matter is, when your employees are engaged, so are your customers. The two go hand-in-hand. 

We sat down with VP of People at Liferay, Matt Poladian to discuss how he has empowered Liferay’s global, diverse workforce to best serve customers despite the ongoing pandemic.

Defining the “employee experience”

The employee experience is a new phenomenon and in the last five years there have been a lot of stabs at trying to define and measure it. However, the bottom line is that an employee experience is quite similar to a customer’s and is often defined by a set of interactions with the company. These interactions can typically be divided into micro and macro experiences.

Macro interactions could be the overall company culture or big key initiatives that make someone feel like they understand a little bit more of what they’re a part of. 

Micro interactions often happen between their manager or another employee on a day-to-day basis. Whereas macro experiences are generally overarching themes that shape a perspective, micro experiences focus on small interactions that an employee has with a company.

Matt details, “If we’re a customer and walk into a department store, even if you know the store and what the brand stands for, our experience is really what shapes our opinion of that store. It’s the interactions that we have with the store clerk or how we see the clothes that we're looking at. Are they squished together and it's hard to find your size, or are they lovely and easy to browse? Your experience is shaped by those small interactions. So when we think about employee experience, we have to start thinking more about those small interactions that an employee has with the company, rather than at the macro level.”

How can the employee experience directly affect the customer experience?

There’s undoubtedly a strong connection between the employee’s experience and their opinion of the place they work. This is communicated directly or indirectly through their work and how they deliver it to the customer.

Matt highlights that, “An employee's experience answers the question, what is my opinion of this place? So if someone asks, ‘how's work?’, they're going to answer with their experience. And so in that same way, if they're interacting with a customer, or they're providing a service to the customer, or they're creating a product that will go to a customer, their opinion of the place they work is going to come out through either that service or the level of extra effort they put into the product.”

Scaling initiatives to encourage a positive employee experience

Boasting just over a thousand employees, for Matt and other senior executives, it’s hard to have an individual relationship with everyone that works at Liferay. Instead of overstretching, his team works to scale initiatives digitally to instill the startup experience that often makes employees feel more comfortable in their working environment. 

“We created a Liferay product that we use as an internal communications platform, called Loop. It kind of operates a little bit like Facebook, but it's not as soapboxy. It allows people to interact in a much more personal way than you typically would with your common intranet, trying to recreate that experience that you may not get with everybody."

“When we're in 23 offices and dozens of countries through our remote workforce, we have to ask ourselves, how do we still create those personal connections that are so important to people? That's part of what we try to do - replicate those personal experiences on a digital level.”

Measuring the employee experience

When measuring the employee experience, Matt uses three levers to benchmark engagement and empower employees — access, availability and autonomy.

1. Access

Using technology to shrink the distance between employees has helped to create more access to leadership. Each employee wants to see Liferay’s CEO and founders regularly, which is why the leadership team holds live digital all-hands meetings, live Q&A sessions and table talks with CEO, Bryan Cheung. Liferay leaders are also responsive on Slack and openly answer as frequently as possible.

2. Availability

As a leadership team, it’s important to make yourself available. While it’s impossible to be everywhere at one time, using technology to leverage availability is key. It’s also important to ensure that employees don’t get the impression that one employee is less important than another because they don’t fit somewhere in the hierarchy.

3. Autonomy

In startups, everyone is a critical piece of the puzzle and rarely feel like just another cog in the wheel. We attempt to mirror that at Liferay, by hiring people who are specialists in their trade, which means we can trust them to make decisions that will lead to a positive impact on the business. Giving people autonomy to make decisions on their own and be their own self-managed guide is crucial.

How has the employee experience shifted since the start of the pandemic?

There's been this idea of the “future of work” that has floated around for a long time. But now the technology is in place to work in a different way and that reality is beginning to transform the way that we work.

Matt says that HR leaders have been waiting for this like a burning platform. If all employees need is a laptop and maybe a headset and a quiet place, why would employees need to ask for permission to work from home?

About 75% of companies in the world have no reason to be in-person, except to soak in that much-needed human interaction. But this idea was considered very progressive until March. Now all of a sudden, the future of work is the stark reality.

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The challenges of going remote

Matt details some of the challenges Liferay has faced going remote, despite being a digitally-driven company are, “As prepared as we were, families were not prepared for this. While we have the infrastructure, the resources and the technology, we need to be patient with our people to catch up, and to care for them in the process.”

“I think if the future of work had come at a time when children could still go to school, it would be a very different experience, but you have a lot of families that are adapting to the future of work, working remotely, and also having to do remote school and be their kids' educator.”

“I think the biggest challenge has come in the area of just helping our people be humans during this time. If they were machines, we'd be set. But there's that human element that's been challenging. It’s about continuing to invest in shaping the employee experience with care and concerns for those small but important interactions they have with our company. The more we invest in that, the better experience our customers will have with our people and our products.”

Encourage a positive employee experience

A positive customer experience boils down to the employee experience, so why not equip your employees with the tools they need to succeed in a digital world, especially as we face this new future of work. 

Increase productivity in your employees and create a collaboration culture with Liferay DXP. Discover how Liferay DXP can help your organisation overcome the common challenges that prevent an organisation from being a truly collaborative workplace and learn about the important ways leadership can help facilitate collaboration.

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