Nov 19, 2019
Nov 9, 2023

Why companies should treat employees like customers

Level up your workplace experience with dedicated programs to foster a better sense of belonging.
Fayette Fox
Why companies should treat employees like customers

Every business should hold their customers in high esteem. But today’s companies also need to apply that same thinking to their employees, putting these ideas into action with their workplace experience strategy.

With a tight labor market, if employees aren’t getting their needs met at work, they know they can go elsewhere and find another job that’s a better fit. Employee retention has a significant financial impact on companies. According to the Wall Street Journal, it can cost up to half an employee’s salary to hire a replacement and train the new candidate. There’s also a loss of institutional knowledge when an employee leaves the company, and a potential dip in morale for teammates who are left behind — especially if they have to pick up the slack.

In this post, we explore the importance of creating a positive workplace experience and how companies need to rethink the way they attract and retain top talent –– by treating employees as customers. It can be useful to look at employee experience holistically, through a diversity, equity, and belonging lens. In other words, we recommend creating a dedicated strategy so your company’s diverse workforce feels included, valued, welcomed, and supported professionally. 

What is workplace experience and why does it matter?

Workplace experience is an amalgamation of all the experiences employees have at work. It’s shaped by the company culture, the physical aspects of the office space––like the office layout and decor––and the less tangible, more evocative qualities of how the space makes people feel. 

A positive workplace experience helps employees feel happy, more productive, more engaged, and motivated. But what kinds of improvements are employees looking for? A Deloitte survey revealed that although competitive pay and positive company cultures are most likely to attract both millennials and Gen Z job seekers, these demographics also want to work for––and will be most loyal to––companies that actively and intentionally foster diversity, equity, and belonging in their workplace experience strategy. 

Investing in workplace experience matters and is a competitive differentiator because employees who feel like they belong will stay longer. “Belonging” refers to how people feel they belong at your company, from onboarding to team structures, meeting and interpersonal dynamics, and career development. 

The reasons that employees leave

In 2018 employees quit their jobs at the highest rates since 2001. While seeking better pay is an important factor, it’s not the only one. Over half (51%) of employees who quit their jobs say that neither their manager nor any other organizational leader talked with them about their job satisfaction or their future at the company in the three months before they left. Understandably, employees want their manager to help them grow professionally, rather than just assessing their performance in their current role. A 2018 Udemy Employee Experience Report found that while 88% of respondents value emotional intelligence in leaders, 60% feel their manager needs more training to be a better manager. Indeed, a lack of empathy, trust, or professional support from a manager can have a huge bearing on an employee’s experience at work. 

Toxic workplace cultures such as high-stress environments with a lack of accountability, contribute to employees feeling burned out and ultimately pushed out. This poses a significant barrier to building healthy, productive workplaces. Why? People may be afraid or reluctant to speak up, for fear of reprisal or a lack of change. It’s no wonder these kinds of companies often experience high employee turnover. In order to improve employee retention, companies need to improve their workplace experience and treat their employees as customers so everyone feels a sense of safety and belonging. 

Bring a hospitality mindset to your employee experience strategy

Workplace experience has a lot to do with customer service and hospitality, which is why it can be helpful to think of employees as customers. Companies carefully consider their customers’ needs and desires, strategically tailoring their products and services to foster loyalty. Similarly, companies need to treat their employees (and prospective employees) with the same care and attentiveness. 

Treating your employees as customers, plays a key role in incentivizing people to join your organization and stay. While free snacks, coffee, and tea are often appreciated, not all employees are interested in a ping pong table or happy hours. It’s worth remembering that a company’s culture is not a homogenous entity; there are multiple communities within a workplace with different needs and desires, and it takes different approaches to make them feel like they belong. Here are some great questions to ask your employees to help you understand their differing needs.

  1. What challenges are you facing that prevent you from doing your best work?
  2. How are you feeling about the current meeting room and space offerings?
  3. What’s one thing that our company could do to change how you feel at work?

Rethink your company recruitment strategy

Employers naturally want to recruit from the best talent pool and companies with a more diverse workforce are statistically higher-performing work cultures. However, when employees refer their friends, family, and former coworkers, companies are more likely to hire more people who look and think like their existing employees. In order to hire a more diverse workforce, you need to diversify your recruitment, pipeline, and onboarding practices. 

One place to start is to rework job descriptions to avoid gendered language and rethink job requirements like college degrees. These changes to your recruitment process can help attract a more diverse applicant pool. Additionally, including a thoughtful EEO (equal employment opportunity) statement at the bottom of the job description is a proactive step to encourage diverse candidates to apply.

Invest in ways to retain top talent

Hiring diverse candidates is just the beginning. Companies also need to ensure everyone feels welcome and a sense of belonging. If you can’t bring your full self to work, then you’re not going to perform well. Help everyone feel welcome and included. Encourage the formation of ERGs (employee resource groups) which help foster belonging. Create inclusive facilities and policies like all-gender bathrooms, a mother’s room for nursing employees, a meditation and prayer room, and generous parental leave.

Offer continuous career growth opportunities 

Providing employees with opportunities for professional development—and making sure everyone is aware of these offerings—is a key way to boost employee retention. 

LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report found that 94% of employees say they’d stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning. The report found that about a quarter of Millennials and Gen Z workers listed “learning” as the top thing which makes them happy at work, while 27% of these workers cited not having the opportunity to learn and grow as the top reason they’d leave their job. Online courses are a great way for companies to offer employees the opportunity to expand their skills. With this investment in upskilling workplace technology, employees can learn at their own pace and online courses tend to be less expensive than in-person trainings and courses.

Career development and growth opportunities are hugely important to foster a sense of professional well-being and belonging for employees. In addition to learning opportunities, companies should also consider how to offer employees access to mentorships, new roles, and career paths.

When the company culture isn’t working, employees and the organization suffer. Employees who don’t feel a sense of belonging, are more likely to leave the company for an organization they believe will be a better culture fit. Level up your workplace experience with dedicated programs to foster a better sense of belonging––and stop top talent from jumping ship. 

Check out this ebook to get more insight into why diversity, equity, and belonging matter to workplace experience.

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Fayette Fox
Fayette Fox

Fayette is passionate about writing content to help educate and inspire workplace leaders. She covers everything from the visitor and employee experience to space management, to the workplace tech-stack that keeps it all running.

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