Are Employees and Customers two heads of the same beast?
And if so, then why do we manage them differently?
This was the question debated last night by a panel consisting of an HR director, an advisor to business leaders and a Marketing CBE at an event hosted by The Foundation.
To crudely summarise, everyone was in broad agreement that a) a company’s purpose was as important to customers as it is to employees b) the purpose needs to be reflected in how companies structure their internal processes and c) if companies don’t act quickly, they’re going to quickly lose their most valued staff and customers to purposeful competitors.
What putting HR and Marketing on the same stand also highlighted was that in the same way brand ads no longer compensate for poor brand experience, so too elaborate company communication does not inspire employees to greatness.
Instead it requires that the customer (whether external or internal) can tangibly experience what the company stands for through its actions.
So if that’s the problem nailed, what then is to be done?
One way of cracking it may be through Customer-Centric Design – though following last night’s debate we might choose to broaden it to Human-Centric Design.
CCD principles live in the Lean technology development methodology and forces the rigour of sense-checking every stage of a process with humans (customers or employees) who haven’t read the brief or the company’s annual vision document.
One of the most essentially human elements of the Human-Centred Design process is the expectation that the first solution will not be right. If something doesn’t quite work, you can’t proceed to the next stage of development until it does – or you stop and go and find something different that will. So whether exploring a rocket skate for octogenarians or whether to implement a Holacractic management structure – it’ll be done with eyes open and hearts engaged.
When CCD culture is combined with a purpose that’s easy for people to engage with and leaves no room for misinterpretation (deliberate and innocent) then a company might find itself being guided by what’s right for its people and its customers.
And that would be a beautiful beast to behold indeed.