For many years, a common theme amongst Project Management professionals was the Voice of the Customer (VoC). The goal was to understand what exactly the customer wants and how best the project can deliver on those expectations. In practice, VoC programs were often put on guardrails by the project management office to ensure the customers were 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 it became another box that was checked before project handover.
There are great lessons for IT to take from long-standing VoC programs to deliver exceptional employee experiences, as well as the pitfalls to avoid.
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, regardless of what the actual experience of the end user was like.
Most recently, several analysts and champions in management firms have done some great work in investigating the concept of XLA (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 tools to allow the HR departments or People Officers to measure the engagement of their employees. 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 and goodwill
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 that they do selling products, building electrical grids, protecting or assets, or building new pharmaceuticals? For us, this means that we need to leverage the tools in an honest and thoughtful way. It means we need to ask frequent and honest questions to our end users. We must accept their feedback and do our best to understand their voices and seek to improve.
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. They will work better, faster, smarter, and yes, they will be more engaged (by however you choose to measure this). The truth is, if the experience of working is better it will breed 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.