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How To Focus On Employee Experience (And Sell It To Your CFO)

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Pamela DeLoatch

Don’t get me wrong– your CFO isn’t the bad person here—most likely, your finance guru wants the same thing you do—an organization that runs at its peak efficiency, with employees who are productive and committed to helping the company succeed.

It’s just that you may come at that goal from different directions. You believe that intentionally creating a positive employee experience (EX) is necessary to make the organization competitive—and to do that, you may need to invest in organizational restructuring, work space restructuring, process reorganization and additional programs and activities to make that happen.

Your CFO believes in investing—when it’s prudent. When the outcome clearly is greater than the cost. When risk is minimized—or in order to further minimize risk. They want to protect the company from unnecessary or untimely financial losses, so big ideas may sound great, but if the numbers associated with those big ideas don’t add up, the best ideas just aren’t going to fly.

To get the CFO on your team and to know your plan is rock solid, take the following steps:

Make sure your CFO understands what employee experience is.

What might be second nature to you could seem like a second language to your CFO. Employee engagement vs. organizational culture vs. employee experience. Be able to clearly outline what they all mean, and why are they important—particularly, why are they important right now?

Here’s a succinct definition:
Employee Experience is the sum of everything an employee experiences throughout his or her connection to the organization — every employee interaction, from the first contact as a potential recruit to the last interaction after the end of employment.

To improve the employee experience, the first step is to discover what your people are currently experiencing. Find out with 15five.

Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience Advantage describes employee experience as a combination of three distinct environments (physical, cultural, and technological). Unlike employee engagement, the employee experience cannot be measured as effectively, but the level of engagement can reflect the overall employee experience.

So you will want to outline the ROI of employee engagement for your CFO. If your finance person has bought into marketing efforts to support the customer experience and the technological tools that support that, your employee experience strategy may resonate.

Describe the problem that necessitates a definitive change.

Perhaps employee turnover is high, time to fill jobs is increasing, organizational goals aren’t being met, sales are slipping, or employee survey data indicates widespread dissatisfaction. Maybe external factors, such as a disruptive technology, or a new competitor are forcing you to consider new approaches.

Or maybe the driver of change isn’t a negative event, but the desire to surge ahead of the competition, to integrate employees and processes from a recently acquired company or to take advantage of a new opportunity.

In any case, lead with the issue at hand and explain how, if unaddressed, it will have negative effects on your company, employees or customers. Provide empirical evidence, not just anecdotes that tell the impact of the problem—how widespread it is, how long it has been occurring and the overall effect.

Be able to explain if it is systemic or isolated. An employee experience strategy makes much more sense for widespread issues than ones that are localized and that may be addressed with other strategies that include a less extensive focus on employee engagement.

For example, if a department lacks resources to succeed or has an ineffective manager, employees will become frustrated. But if that issue is primarily limited to that department, addressing the issue at hand (acquire the resources, train/counsel or remove the manager) will yield a faster turnaround. While EX strategies can always benefit, make sure the problem can’t be addressed with a tangible solution first.

Give a snapshot for where your company matches up against competition, and if that reflects your organization’s mission or objectives. If your goal is to be a leader in the industry, your company must invest in the people who are needed to make that happen.

Detail the costs of implementing your employee experience strategy.

The cost is not just financial, but may also include a loss of time and productivity when learning new technological systems or adjusting to new workspaces. Crunch the numbers to determine the full picture so you can acknowledge the inevitable downsides and have a plan to address them.

Once you’ve determined the cost of implementing the plan, assess the intangible cost of not making the improvements—or not making the improvements now. Are you likely to lose your position as an innovative leader? As one of the Best Places To Work? Will you lose customers if you can’t make the needed improvements, and what will that financial loss amount to?

In his research, Morgan found that companies that were focused on EX had more than four times the average profit of other organizations, and more than two times the average revenue. Morgan’s research also suggested the companies that were doing the best also had fewer employees, indicating higher levels of productivity and innovation.

Outline the expected outcome and include evidence.

If you proceed, what happens and when? How will the changes be measured, and how will you know that any improvements are correlated to the changes? Your best measurement may be employee engagement factors, such as changes in retention, sick days, turnover, productivity, etc., even if these measures cannot convey the entire picture.

Use case studies available to show what initiatives other companies have taken and what results they have seen. What stumbling blocks or successes have they encountered and what lessons can your company learn from them?

Explain how your EX efforts will address issues that reverberate beyond actual employees, such as customer satisfaction, company and brand image (think Glassdoor reviews) and decreased recruiting time.

Tie back to your ongoing critical projects and the imperative for engagement and retention. (What does it cost if you lose an employee who leads a critical project–not just the cost of replacing her, but the decreased productivity until a new person is hired and up to speed?)

Finally, ask your CFO what kind of outcome they would like to see. What areas are they struggling with? How would these changes make the CFO’s mission easier? Get them to share in your vision of change, seeing how they can benefit too.

When you think about getting your CFO on board with your employee experience initiative, start thinking like them. Not to try to outwit them, but to truly understand their concerns and determine if your responses are valid.

Rather than a knee-jerk reaction, assume any hesitance or questioning on their part has merit. By figuring out the answer, you’ll develop a stronger argument and perhaps even a better employee experience strategy that will ultimately benefit your organization—with your CFO in your corner.

Pamela DeLoatch HeadshotPamela DeLoatch is a B2B technology writer specializing in creating marketing content for the HR industry. With a background as an HR generalist and specialist, she writes about the employee experience, engagement, diversity, HR leadership, culture and technology. Follow Pamela on Twitter @pameladel.

Image Credit: Sarah Ackerman