The experience economy is prompting businesses to reconsider how they engage with not just consumers but also their greatest asset, their employees, to ensure they develop a true connection with their place of work.

Volkswagen is one business that is at the forefront of this shift. Jason Bradshaw, Volkswagen’s chief customer marketing officer, says taking this approach to optimising an employee’s experiences of work has real business benefits.

“Finding and retaining the right talent is everything because it helps drive business valuations. So having highly engaged employees adds real value,” he says.

Bradshaw says a highly engaged employee is one who is prepared to advocate for your business. “The idea is that they are sufficiently engaged in your long-term success, so that effort is freely given because success for them is success for the company.”

The secret to achieving this, he says, is making it as easy as possible for staff to do the job for which they have been hired. “Make sure they’re not bogged down in bureaucracy so they can focus on their role and delivering for customers. No one wants to go home and say, ‘I achieved nothing today because I couldn’t get the computer to work’,” he says.

Looking at experience data (X-data) can help show how employees are feeling about where they work and help to find engagement solutions for shared success.

“If you can’t invest in both the customer and employee experience, then invest in the employee experience because that will lead to better results for customers in the long run,” Bradshaw says.

Episode three: How focusing on experience took this start-up to #1

The Experience Effect podcast series

At SAP Australia & New Zealand, HR head Debbie Rigger, says her team has been tracking X-data and working to optimise these types of employee experiences. Putting people at the centre of the business plan like this is a move that has seen SAP place seventh on the 2019 Best Places to Work list as ranked by global workplace consultants Great Place to Work.

“In recent years, People & Culture leaders have been actively dedicating time and resources to improving the employee experience and developing the right culture to engage, motivate, and inspire their workforce,” Rigger says.

“X-data reveals the employee experience. It’s the human data, or the beliefs, emotions, and intentions that tell you why employees are leaving the organisation or why candidates are rejecting offers.

“Capturing employees’ experience data, and where the experience gaps exist, provides a baseline for HR to begin making improvements that will deliver real business results.

“The best People & Culture leaders today must care as much — or more — about employees as they do customers. It means redesigning experiences with the end user in mind across every HR touchpoint.”

Knowing how employees are feeling can help redesign their experience of work and retain talent. Getty

Andrew Morris, director of recruitment firm Robert Half, says attracting a cohort of talent that combine soft skills, brand expertise and analytical insight to help enhance the customer experience journey across the enterprise assists in retaining business and growing revenue.

Morris says to drive customer experience, staff also need analytical skills to track and analyse customer encounters to identify errors, inconsistencies and areas of improvement. “This in-depth knowledge is critical to developing new products, marketing plans and engagement strategies.”

But optimising employee experiences to create customer-focused and engaged workers like this ultimately relies on the right approach from everyone in the business and setting the tone from the top.

Importantly, says VW’s Bradshaw, employers must demonstrate values that attract people, who in turn transmit those values back to customers. This helps to build the right culture and employee experiences to spur the business on to success.

“Customer experience is everybody’s job, especially the leadership team, because they are the ones who give staff permission to embrace creativity, innovation and environments that breed success,” he says.

This article first appeared on the Australian Financial Review.