This blog is part of a monthly series brought to you by the America Works initiative. As a part of the MEP National Network’s goal of supporting the growth of small and medium-sized manufacturing companies, this series focuses on innovative approaches and uncovering the latest trends in manufacturing workforce development.
Do your customers feel valued all the time, or do they only hear from you when you want a sale?
How are they interacting with your salespeople, and do the frequency, channels and messages make them feel good about your company?
When customers have a complaint, do they feel heard — or ignored?
Customer experience, or “CX,” is all the rage in marketing circles nationally. Customer experience refers to how a customer experiences your company at every point of their buying journey — from marketing to sales to customer service, and everywhere in between. These can be tangible actions, such as emails and phone calls, but it also can be the feelings that coincide with their buying journey.
Businesses around the country have realized the importance of providing a great CX, and the resulting return on investment (ROI) from customer loyalty. In past years, Gartner reported that “customer experience is the new battlefield.” In fact, my quick Indeed search for CX jobs brought up more than 61,000 postings nationally!
Despite all this, I’d like to make the case that small manufacturers need to refocus from CX to EX, the employee experience, if they want to grow and succeed in the years to come.
Sadly, what’s gotten lost in this unrelenting focus on the customer has been optimizing your worker experiences. In fact, it’s almost paradoxical to expect your workers to give great customer experiences, but not expect them to have great experiences themselves! Unfortunately, while many companies have meticulously planned out their customer journeys — from marketing to ecommerce to communication — very few have done the same for their employees. Perhaps that’s why the national “quits” rate continues to hover near 3%, well above the long-term average of 1.99%. In a time of workforce shortages and talent mismatches, it’s never been more important to create a new discipline: worker experience.
The good news is that, as a small manufacturer, you aren’t alone. Whether you aspire to become an “employer of choice,” or talk about strengthening your work culture, or focus on improving job quality, there are numerous resources out there to assist you on your employee experience journey. MEP Centers can help you with all your team’s functions: attraction, recruitment, onboarding, upskilling, career pathways, and even exit.
The benefits are huge: more engaged and productive employees, lower absenteeism rates, reduced turnover, increased quality of work and better customer interactions. Another study showed that employees with good EX feel belonging, purpose, achievement, happiness and vigor in the workplace. An additional benefit I’m sure your HR department will love: When you’ve built a strong EX, you don’t have to focus so hard on recruitment because you don’t have nearly as many openings.
–No One, Ever
Love this from my colleague Bob Fangenmeyer in his blog post.
To help you get started, your local MEP Center almost certainly has best practices to share in attracting and retaining workers. This is a primary focus of the MEP National NetworkTM these days, and a simple phone call or email to your local Center can get you started on the right path.
Second, the new Job Quality Toolkit is available to assist you. Developed by the Baldridge Performance Excellence Program, the Toolkit covers eight areas critical to your worker experience:
An overview of the eight drivers along with how they have been applied to real world challenges by the MEP National Network in this infographic serve as a valuable teaser for the whole toolkit. Whether you already apply these drivers or recognize that there are improvements that can be made, the real value is in starting the job quality conversation with your team internally, from management to employees. At the same time, your initial self-assessment serves as a baseline for a conversation with your MEP workforce professional, who can gather your employees’ perspectives, create an action plan and help you implement it.
In effect, we’re asking ourselves the CX questions but with a focus on workers:
Do your workers feel valued all the time, or do they only hear from you when you want something?
How are your workers interacting with your leadership, and do the frequency, channels and messages make them feel good about your company?
When your workers have a complaint, do they feel heard — or ignored?
MEP Centers are well-positioned to help you move from assessing your EX via the Toolkit to actually addressing it. While the list of tactics is long, they generally fall into three categories:
As I discussed last month, not every worker issue can be solved internally. But identifying and addressing what you can control is a huge first step. Perhaps you want to focus on “inclusive excellence,” creating a work environment that is radically welcoming and fosters a sense of belonging. Or maybe you want to increase the various benefits of working for your company.
Regardless, don’t wait another minute to focus on your EX. Start the journey toward improving your workers’ experiences today, and know that the MEP National Network is here to help you along the way.