Jack Davies

Four things we learned about Employee Engagement from Qualtrics Experience Week

Employee experience was a central theme in the recent Qualtrics Experience Week, an online event of 50+ talks and keynotes from experts and practitioners who are using cutting-edge research to inform the core experiences of business.

Work is the primary experience of our lives, taking up almost 40 per cent of our time. This, according to Qualtrics’ Jay Choi, makes employee experience absolutely relevant to every single person, not just HR. If work isn’t good, then life isn’t going to be great either.

So how do brands make work ‘good’ for employees? Here are four lessons we learned from real-life anecdotes from an army general, customer experience director, author and CEO on how they lead and motivate to keep top talent, develop top performers and empower their employees:

  1. It’s not all about the money

Understanding whether your employees are engaged — or not — is easy. Finding out why is harder. It’s a scenario that was brought to life by Qualtrics’ Jay Choi, when he highlighted the employee experience challenges facing the CEO at Hooli. The company was losing engineering talent to other big tech brands and employee satisfaction showed the lowest scoring area of satisfaction was pay. Yet Hooli’s strategy to throw millions of dollars at the problem with benefits packages, big pay increases and on-site yoga wasn’t cutting it.

Hooli thought it had found the employee experience gap — the difference between the pay they offered and the pay that people wanted. But key driver analysis uncovered that while pay scored poorly, statistically it actually had no impact on attrition for Hooli’s engineers. Hooli’s best engineers didn’t really care about money. They wanted new, challenging and interesting work. Hooli had been throwing money at a problem that was not money related. Don’t take your data at face value — the real employee experience gaps lie behind the data.

  1.     Apply radical candor — care personally, challenge directly

Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, highlighted the power of radical candor and how this is achieved by doing two things at the same time: sare personally, challenge directly. But she admits it’s not easy. According to Scott, “we all often have this sort of false dichotomy in our minds where we think either I’m going to be really nice, or I’m going to be a really powerful leader.” The key to bringing your best self to work, she explained, is in caring personally AND challenging directly.

This message was brought home to Scott following a short interaction when walking her new puppy (who was out of control, but who she admits she couldn’t bring herself to say a cross word to). The puppy jumped in front of a car and she pulled him back just in time. A nearby stranger said ‘I can see you really love that dog. But you’re going to kill that dog if you don’t teach it to sit.” The man then pointed at the ground and said, “Sit.” The dog sat. The man said: “It’s not mean. It’s clear.”

The truth is, as Scott pointed out, you don’t have to choose between being a good person, and being a great leader. You can be both.

  1.     Don’t tell employees what they need to do – give them freedom to do great work

Linda Moir most recently worked on the organising committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, but it was her previous role as director of customer service at an international airline that she learned a lasting lesson about employee motivation. Moir explained how she received a letter from a customer about a recent flight, traveling in economy with his three children. He hadn’t ordered children’s meals, so was faced with exclamations of “I’m not going to eat that, Dad” when the food came round.

The customer explained what had happened to the crew member. Moir highlighted how she didn’t say he should have sorted out the menu options in advance. Instead, she went to the galley, found three

clean sick bags, wrote the children’s names on them and filled them with sandwiches, fruit and sweets from the food loaded for the flight and cabin crew. It was an action didn’t cost anything, but was incredibly valuable to the customer.

When Moir phoned the crew member and thanked her, the employee said “It doesn’t matter, I love my job”. As Moir pointed out “great leadership isn’t about telling people all the detail of what they need to do. It’s about being really clear about what needs to be delivered and then giving people the freedom to go out and just do great work.”

  1.     To have a good leader, you need to be a good follower

Do we get the leaders we demand or the leaders we deserve? Retired United States Army general Stanley McChrystal isn’t sure, but one thing he does believe is that if you’re going to have a good leader, you’ve got to start by being a good follower.

You’d be hard-pressed to find any workforce that doesn’t have one employee that shows disloyalty or just don’t work very hard. Or one that criticises what their boss does or takes umbrage when the boss tries to be motivational, with a demeanour that cries: “motivate me, I dare you”.

But McChrystal stresses the importance of being a really good follower: “Make an effort to understand that that person is doing their best to lead. They may not be perfect but they’re doing their best, so come half way at a minimum.”

He concedes that it’s not always possible to go up to your boss and tell them how to change, but he highlights how you can try to model the leadership traits you would like to see and start creating an environment that shapes the behaviour of others. As McChrystal says, “Be consistent, be absolutely honest, work hard, take care of people.”

To access and watch all the sessions from Experience Week 2017, visit https://experienceweek.com.

Jack Davies, Head of Content for Qualtrics in EMEA 
Jack researches and writes about Experience Management and how organisations are driving results by focussing on optimising the four core experiences of business – customer, employee, brand and product.