Consumer Grade is The New Commercial Grade

If there’s one thing the race for talent has taught us, it’s that we don’t stop being people when we come to work. At work we still desire to be part of a culture. We still seek meaning and purpose in the things we do every day. We still strive to bring brands into our lives that share our values. And we demand that the products we use in the workplace are as good–if not better–than what we use as consumers. This is why today’s most successful brands are re-inventing the employee experience and seeking innovation in the workplace.

Stop treating employees and consumers like different people

I’ve seen my fair share of consumer insights and workplace insights. Never have I seen blended insights that look at the behaviors of consumers and employees as being one in the same. Why is this a bad sign?

People are more connected to their jobs than ever before. It used to be that once we left the office, maybe someone would call the home phone for urgent matters. Nowadays, spending dinner time with your kids while browsing the web, sending email, and answering texts is the norm for a lot of professionals.

People used to be able to live compartmentalized lives with strong boundaries between work and life. Their behaviors and expectations for work and life could exist separate from one another. Today, the blended role of the modern worker means that they’re more likely to share the same expectations, behaviors, and even purchasing patterns across work and life.

People–not “consumers” or “employees”–demand more from their all experiences in their lives; whether we’re talking about engagement and experience, or product simplicity and usefulness.
In a new workplace where choice is the new benefit, we must establish the same benchmarks in employee loyalty as we do for customer loyalty.

Lean on consumer loyalty frameworks

If choice is the new benefit and employee loyalty is the new consumer loyalty, then where do we start? The good news is that there’s no shortage of consumer frameworks to help us think more clearly. My favorite has always be the customer loyalty loop. The premise is simple really. People learn about your product, explore it, purchase it, use it, and if all went well, tell their friends about it–which in turn–starts new loops for new customers.

Connecting great experiences at through phase of the loyalty loop (not just individual touchpoints), creates loyal customers that attract additional loyal customers.

When we “employify” the customer loyalty loop, we get a new-ish framework that’s strikingly similar and just has helpful.

The logic behind the loyalty loops isn’t mind blowing. Their not supposed to be. They’re supposed to feel very simple and very logical. The real value comes in how we use these to make sure we deliver on great experiences across the entire journey, not just individual touchpoints.

When thinking through your employee product design or engagement experience, you must account for a continuous but non-sequential series of moments that speak a clear message.

At first glance, this should feel complex. That’s because it is. The biggest brands from across the world are always struggling to deliver on connected omnichannel brand experiences for consumers. It’s why firms like ours add the value.

The good news is that there’s a lot of overlap between addressing the needs and behaviors for consumers and employees alike. What we can apply to one, we can almost leverage entirely for the other one. It can seem daunting, but if you achieve it, something great happens….

If you can make the most of omnichannel experiences for customers and employees alike, then you can create a virtuous cycle where great employee experiences drive loyal customers, and loyal customer drive better employee experiences. It’s a win, win, win.

Are companies embracing the need for consumer-grade experiences in the workplace?

Yes. As a matter of fact, large organizations are going beyond superficial messaging and looking at underlying models to restructure their business. Here are some signals showing that big brands are taking big steps to creating their own virtuous cycles:

The lines between HR & Marketing are blurring

While some organizations are already taking steps to align HR and Marketing, pioneers like Suffolk Construction are going even further…meet the CMHRO role.

Organizations are increasingly seeking mission-driven cultures

We’ve known for some time that consumers are willing to pay more for brands with a purpose, but they’re also willing to take a pay cut for them. Companies are responding by trying harder to win both the hearts and minds of their employees.

Choice is the new benefit

As the race for talent heats up, employers are giving their employees something they’ve only seen as consumers…choice. Recent upstarts like Maxwell Health and Stride Health are enabling choice in healthcare providers, but we’re also seeing emerging practices towards more flexible working arrangements.

So what’s your starting point?

There are lots of things you should do, but where do you start? Ultimately this will be different for every brand, but there are some simple things you can to start consumerizing your employee experience:

Write a Creative Brief

Since the days of Mad Men, creative briefs have been helping create distinct, effective messages that hold together at every touchpoint. If you can find some time with your marketing friends, writing a creative brief will help your HR team connect insights, provide clarity, and–if done right–add a bit of inspiration. Here are a few tips from the pros to writing a better creative brief.

Run a Design Sprint to Solve a Critical Business Challenge


Made popular by Google, Design Sprints help answer critical business questions through rapid prototyping and user testing. HR teams can use this process (even if they’re not designers) to solve–or even just kickstart–a challenge.

At Carter Edwards & Company, we run Design Sprints all the time. When done right a 4–5 day sprint can get a prototype, a vision and/or a blueprint in your hands that you can use to communicate with your leaderships team. If you need help setting up or running your sprint, we’re happy to help!

Plan the Experience From Interview to Exit

OK, this one may a bit more work, but it’s one of the most important things you can do to create a continuous experience that drives towards employee loyalty (and the benefits that come along with it). It may feel intimidating, but it can be as simple or as complex as you want. It can be a whiteboard, a napkin sketch or an office-made video…use your imagination!

About the Author

Ryan Mulloy has spent his life creating great customer experiences for the biggest brands in Boston. But now he’s applying everything he learned about creating customer experiences to creating great employee experiences.

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