in conclusion

The Employee Experience Imperative

Culture is at the heart of digital transformation BY JUSTIN SMALL

Justin Small is chief strategy officer at The BIO Agency, a London-based agency that helps companies develop digital strategy. He can be reached at


uccessful digital transformation rests on four pillars: technology, operations, customer experience and culture. The last one is the most challenging to get right.

Implementing a cultural transformation in response to commercial problems or market disruption is difficult because changing culture implies changing people. But an organized and engaged employee experience, or EX, culture can deliver major benefits.

Getting it wrong is dangerous. Culture doesn’t just eat strategy for lunch. It will have operations and customer experience for breakfast, too. Investing in employee experience is crucial. Employees are no longer the malleable delivery function of a product or service. They’re central to the delivery of competitive customer experience and the CLO can be a force in building digital solutions alongside cultural and behavioral changes.

There are four powerful benefits to getting EX right:

Employee engagement: Engagement depends on internal practices and processes that drive a strong culture. It covers a hierarchy of employee needs from creating stable and secure jobs to empowering employees to make decisions and collaboration between employers and employees. A sense of meaning at work allows for wholehearted commitment to the success of the organization. A recent KPMG study pointed out that “If the typical day-to-day employee experience is at odds with that which is sought for customers, it becomes very hard to excel at serving those customers.”

The development of high EX culture drives positive employee behaviors, creates advocates for the organization and builds commitment. These behaviors are crucial to creating an agile, constantly improving culture that allows the organization to anticipate and react to changing customer needs and competitor strategies.

Operational execution: Agile, data-led organizations that can react instantly to market changes are driven by efficient standardized processes and trained and motivated employees. Without employees that feel empowered and engaged in their jobs, operational execution is impossible.

Organizations with low EX cultures will find the tenets of Lean management and other continuous improvement methodologies beyond their capabilities, leading to delivery failures and decreased productivity.

Talent acquisition and retention: The digital revolution and its accompanying tech innovations have irretrievably changed what customers want from their products and services. Digital native employees are driving organizations to meet the digital needs of the tech-driven customers like themselves.

Last year, GE’s Susan Peters told Forbes: “We define employee experience simply as seeing the world through the eyes of our employees, staying connected, and being aware of their major milestones.”

Becoming a learning organization means taking account of employees’ development and embracing change and new ideas. Employees’ expectations of an organization have been transformed in the past 20 years — and legacy culture is beginning to hold back many organizations. To compete and win over customers, an organization must win over employees. A high EX culture becomes a competitive advantage through the ability to find and hold on to future talent and deny that talent to competitors.

To be successful, organizations need to move from filling jobs with employees to fulfilling employees with jobs.

Customer experience: Highly engaged employees make the customer experience and disengaged employees break it. The way employees feel is the way they make customers feel.

Employee experience and customer experience are two core elements of future organizational success. They create satisfied customers and develop advocacy. Ron Ritter, a partner at consulting firm McKinsey & Co. stated it this way in a McKinsey report: “Building that alignment and closeness to the customer brings the organization together and keeps it together.”

To be successful, organizations need to move from filling jobs with employees to fulfilling employees with jobs. EX has always been a key element but with customer experience now so crucial, it’s a strategic priority for all organizations that want to compete.