This CX Mini Masterclass explains why HR strategy underpins culture and how CX professionals can engage HR to foster a unified customer experience culture. Show host and customer experience expert, Julia Ahlfeldt, explains the basics of HR strategy and shares some practical approaches for linking this – the bedrock of company culture – to CX objectives. If you’re looking for clarity on exactly how HR strategy underpins customer-centric culture, then this episode is for you.
The power of unified customer experience culture
When we think about the leading customer centric brands of our time. Companies like Disney, Netflix and Airbnb, it’s no coincidence that strong company culture is a common thread. These organizations’ cultures support their brands’ visions, missions and customer centric aspirations through the realization of their respective values. When those values include a brand’s customer promise or experience principles, culture can become a powerful enabler of customer experience. But these unified force-of-nature organizational cultures don’t happen by accident. Culture is the manifestation of “how we do things around here”. It’s what we can expect from each other and how people will act, even when no one is watching. While the concept of culture can feel “fluffy” and intangible, the drivers to culture are definitely not. HR/People strategy sets the direction for all of the key areas of HR, including hiring, performance appraisal, development, and compensation. This is the bedrock on which culture flourishes.
CX professionals need to understand HR strategy as a driver of culture and how to link this to the organization’s customer-centric goals. If the linkage isn’t clear, it’s quite possible that an HR strategy can create the foundation for a high performance culture that is everything but customer-centric.
The key components of HR strategy
There isn’t a singular template for HR strategy, but most cover at least 4 key areas. These components of the HR strategy should support business objectives, including customer experience, though it’s often up to CX professionals to drive the alignment to CX.
- Hiring – Episode 37 includes a deep dive into how talent acquisition can support CX, but in essence, organizations must ensure that new hires walking in the door are aligned to the culture. We can train new skills, but it’s difficult to teach things like empathy and even more difficult to change deeply held beliefs. Make sure that your customer experience principles feature in your hiring process as both a draw card for candidates and as filtering criteria.
- Employee development – Training has long been featured as an important lever for customer-centric culture. Yes, training is important, but remember to assess how else your organization helps with the development of employees. Do things like on-boarding and skills development reflect the brand values and the customer experience principles? Are we treating employees as we would expect them to treat our customers? When it comes to employee development, don’t just get mired in the detail of service training, remember to ask the bigger picture questions about how development supports your organization’s delivery of its customer promise.
- Performance management and appraisal – “What’s measured is treasured”. It’s true, people will modify their behavior based on what they believe they’ll be evaluated on, so make sure that your organization’s customer experience goals and principles feature here. Episode 53 explored the connection between KPIs and customer experience management, and yes, KPIs are definitely important, but you may also want to appraise people on behaviors that aren’t so easily quantified. It’s equally important that the link between performance appraisal and CX goals isn’t limited to customer-facing teams. Everyone in the business contributes to customer experience, so this should feature in the appraisal of all employees.
- Compensation and recognition – If compensation is linked to performance appraisal and that’s connected to CX goals, you’re on the right track. But recognition can and should extend beyond what’s deposited into an employee’s bank account. People are motivated by more than just money. Recognition should be a mix of public, private, senior and peer to peer recognition. People should feel empowered to recognize their colleagues, and senior leaders can also use their positions to elevate and emphasize examples of customer-centricity in action. The key is that these recognition efforts need to support your CX principles and company values.
The foundation of CX culture
It’s easy to see how HR strategy contributes to the evolution of an organization’s culture. Over time, who you hire and how you engage with employees will shape the way people behave and what they expect from one another. If this strategy is linked to the company’s customer-centric vision, it can help support these efforts. If not, it can drag behavior and culture in a totally different (and possibly un-customer-centric) direction.
Want to keep learning about CX?
If you’d like to checkout more of these CX Mini Masterclasses or listen to my longer format CX expert interviews, check out the full listing of episodes for this CX podcast.
Decoding the Customer is a series of customer experience podcasts created and produced by Julia Ahlfeldt, CCXP. Julia is a customer experience strategist, speaker and business advisor. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional and one of the top experts in customer experience management. To find out more about how Julia can help your business achieve its CX goals, check out her customer experience advisory consulting services (including CX culture change) or get in touch via email.