For many years, a common theme amongst Project Management professionals was the Voice of the Customer (VoC). The goal was to give the customer a chance to voice what they want and how best an organization or project can deliver on those expectations. In practice, VoC programs were often put on guardrails by the project management office to ensure the customer was giving voice to exactly what the PMO wanted to give voice to. In a great PMO, the voice worked fantastically; in the practical and average PMO, the voice became another box that was checked before project handover that lacked any real insights we could learn from.
There are great lessons for IT to take from long-standing VoC programs to take action and understand engagement to deliver exceptional employee experiences, as well as the pitfalls to avoid.
Employee engagement survey and the evolution of Voice of the Employee
CIOs and IT professionals have long been asked to quantify their performance through an abstract and formidable process known as “Customer Satisfaction Surveys”. This practice, which could impact the pay scale of all enterprise IT employees, was a challenge in that it always required some level of improvement – but not so much that you wouldn’t meet your targets the following year. As such, the questions were built to ensure a positive response was given and that everyone was happy. This made it difficult to gain analytics and insights that gave organizations a picture of what the actual end user experience was like. And without data that accurately depicted engagement and experience, there was no way to improve effectively, regardless of the technologies a company invested in – no matter how good the technology is, it’s worthless if it doesn’t actually improve employee engagement or experience.
Most recently, several analysts and champions in management firms have done some great work in investigating the concept of XLA’s (Experience Level Agreement) and its effect on CX. From the world of IT and the lens of the IT professional, the experience of the user is the single most important metric. And yet, for many years it has been shrouded in mystery.
There have been a host of new survey tools brought to market in recent years to allow HR departments or People Officers to measure the engagement of their employees and gain valuable data and insights to learn from. Now, employee engagement is linked time and again to the effectiveness of the workforce. A quick search will uncover troves of information written on the topic and its link to company success.
IT-driven Voice of the Employee programs must be built on integrity, goodwill, and sentiment analysis
What does this all mean for us in IT or those of us who have spent our lives in service to end users and the work they do selling products, building electrical grids, protecting our assets, or building new pharmaceuticals? For us, it means we need to leverage the tools in an honest and thoughtful way to gain insights into how users really feel, open a channel of communication between company and employees, and then utilize this for sentiment analysis. It means we need to share frequent employee satisfaction questions or surveys with our end users. We must accept their feedback and do our best to understand their voices, pay attention to the survey data, and seek to improve and learn from these insights.
We cannot allow ourselves to be trapped in the cycle of asking questions we want positive answers for, but instead allow the people who rely on us to give honest feedback about our services. Think of the difference between the question “What did you think of the meal?” and “How good was the meal?”. If we avoid asking leading questions, if we instead go with honest inquiry, we can make a real difference to the people who rely on our support: employees.
Deriving business value from employees’ biases, gripes, and opinions
IT organizations and the businesses they support are about to undergo significant change in the years to come. Bringing employees on the journey requires IT to be open, honest, and welcoming of feedback (whether good or bad). Most critically, it requires us to swallow some home truths because it’s those very opinions that will lead to greater IT-business alignment and robust IT practices that help employees become the best they can be. They will work better, faster, smarter, and yes, they will be more engaged (by however you choose to measure this).
The truth is, if an employee workplace experience is better it will breed better employee engagement—and for those of us in the field of IT, that is the best gift that we can give to those who count on us for service.