Salesforce VP and Author, Karen Mangia on why employee experience matters most

What follows is a continuation of our interview with Karen Mangia, author of two important books about the changing landscape of work, Working from Home and (just-released) Success from Anywhere

In this part, Mangia explores the meaning and importance of employee experience as a key component of retaining and attracting talent.

How do you define employee experience/EX and why is having a good EX important for employers?

Mangia: Employee experience is the new customer experience. Great organizations should implement an “employee promoter score,” much like they use “net promoter score” (NPS) for their customers. Employers should know how many promoters, passives, or detractors they have working in their organization. How likely is an employee to recommend them as a great place to work? We have to take that same experience-based mindset we use to understand customers and apply it to employees. 

Going back to the office, for example, is a ‘make or break’ moment of truth for many employees: how that’s handled can make people quit, begrudgingly stay until something better comes along, or maybe stay and do their best work ever. Building a great employee experience means mapping the entire employee journey to fully understand all those ‘make or break’ moments -- then working to improve them. Employers need to get more curious and ask more questions about their EX. I call one question the ‘genius question’: How could we make this experience easier for you? 

What challenges do business leaders face in accommodating employee demands for flexibility?

Mangia: It’s their existing belief system, something I discuss at length in my books. We all default to what we've always known and what helps us feel comfortable. And we're all carrying around a lot of myths and assumptions about work that have now been significantly challenged. I like to ask people, ‘how do you know this belief to be true?’ For example, holding a belief that you need to see people in person at the office in order to manage them. What would happen if you let go of that particular belief?

When we trust employees to do their best work, they tend to step up and do their best work. The success or failure of these distributed and hybrid work models comes down to managers changing their mindsets, letting go of beliefs around needing to see people in person in order to manage them well.

What role does technology, including Robin, play in supporting employee flexibility, hybrid work, and EX?

Mangia: In Success From Anywhere, I write about ‘the four Ws’ framework when we consider the future of work. First, what is the work that needs to be done and how has that work changed? Second comes workforce, which is about who needs to do the work and what skills they need. Third comes workplace, meaning where work happens. When do people need to come together in the same space to work? The fourth piece is critically important for enabling work, workforce, and workplace, which is workflow. The workflow that worked for all of us pre-pandemic is not the one that best supports us today.

Since those first three Ws have changed, you also need a different workflow with different tools and technologies to support it. Technology can make work easier, reducing employee stress and burnout. Doing that enablement well with tools and technology means putting the needs of people above places and processes.

What is the most valuable benefit of the modern office for hybrid work?

Mangia: We're all in a future-of-work experiment now. Work doesn't have to be employees showing up at a specific place and receiving marching orders. Today is the closest companies have ever been to having a blank slate, to starting all over again when rethinking work.

The office can still be used in a purposeful way for gathering. Many employees still want the structure, cadence, and routine of going into the office. That can be part of how they do their best work. Lots of managers today only see their employees from the shoulders up on Zoom, and ask ‘how can these employees learn what our culture is like when they've never walked inside our offices?’ Relationship building and networking can also be more purposeful when you bump into someone in an office. Space has its place.

What else would you like to add about the evolving nature of work?

Mangia: Given how much work has changed since the pandemic, yesterday's playbook isn’t going to get us tomorrow's results. I work with big organizations who tell me, ‘we're planning to grow our business 4X in the next three years, and then they're leaking talent like a sieve. You simply can't get there from here without retaining and attracting top talent.

For example, I'm currently working with a tech giant that’s planning to return employees to the office in January, mandating that they be in-office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The leadership assured me: ‘that's what our employees want.’ I had to push back because none of their employee survey data indicated that’s what their employees wanted. It's incumbent on everyone to get more curious and ask more questions, especially of their employees, and then listen and respond to what they hear.

To hear more from author and future of work expert Karen Mangia, read part 1 of this interview series.