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Experience Design

The Great Resignation and the Cost of Confusing EX and CX

Amid the disruption wrought by the Great Resignation (the informal name for the widespread trend of a significant number of workers leaving their jobs during COVID-19) and the chorus of companies yearning for “normalcy” to return, this change management professional would suggest “normal” was a trigger for the exodus, to begin with. In fact, forget “normal.” It won’t fix your problem. 

Nor will excuses like “better pay” (people have always chased higher pay) or “work ethic” (unemployment is currently 4.6%). That dog won’t hunt.  

Reviewing myriad articles about what makes the Great Resignation different, I see other themes surfacing. Company, not just employee, behaviors have played a prominent role in these mass departures. 

None appears to be more prominent or critical than the culture companies encourage and nurture.   

Culture Counts. Now More Than Ever. 

By culture, I don’t mean the ubiquitous pre-COVID foosball table or next virtual happy hour. Culture is enduring, embedded employee beliefs about the company, its leaders, and what they value. Culture, together with the right resources, and empowerment to use them, define employee experience (EX). 

While EX can influence employee tenure and turnover, its impact is reduced when conflated with other essential interactions, like customer experience (CX). Thus, companies miss warning signs when their employees are disengaged, divested, or disheartened. Worse, they miss the chance to address it. 

As a result, the necessary buy-in and business benefits of the latest transformational initiative or technology launch are unrealized. Lack of EX investment can turn silver-bullet solutions into duds, misfires that don’t go unnoticed by employees impacted by the change. This creates a culture of doubt about the real level of organizational interest in their success.  

Rinse and repeat this cycle enough times, and employees are likely to take their talents and ambitions elsewhere, although it’s never been so pronounced. The sustained impact of the Great Resignation suggests COVID-19 was less an outlier and more of a catalyst.  

CX, EX, and Unintended Consequences 

So how does this ambivalence toward the EX happen? Usually, it’s due to the best of intentions. In this case, the need to keep a high bar for CX. 

No one would deny CX is critical to valuable business outcomes, even more so as digital commerce has superseded in-person interactions between businesses and customers. To their credit, CX professionals continually hone and measure their approach to deliver quality CX – concise messaging, consumable content, and a pleasant interaction comprising ease, speed, and convenience. 

Using the CX approach to create EX, however, creates a false equivalency between very different audiences with very different needs. Nonetheless, it predominates because CX methods are relatively mature, represent a substantial investment, and offer a notional way to measure intangibles like emotion.  

Perceived as convenient and cogent, using CX approaches as a quick fix for EX issues not only subordinates the importance of EX but can cause long-term EX malaise to linger by delivering a cure that can perpetuate the problem. Here’s why: 

Successful CX and EX are Different 

The importance of customers to their success compels businesses to continually analyze customer needs, behaviors, and investment in appropriate and efficient solutions and experiences. During their busy day, customers will interact with many companies, making it essential for those interactions to be easy, effective, and fast.  

Today’s customers prefer an experience that is predominantly online, self-guided, and invested in two-way interaction (chat or a phone call) only as a point of escalation. Customers consider their experience a good one when they can complete their business via minimal interaction with yours.  

Until our robot overlords take over, however, employees are still necessary to make good on every promise, implied or explicit, when customers make a transaction, ask a question, or report an issue. Meeting these expectations means employees must bring their “best selves” to work every day and be fully focused despite ongoing real-life circumstances.  

Good EX Takes Time – To Build or to Fix  

The cultural dynamics that foment employee dissatisfaction and skepticism are usually rooted in issues that have been neglected for years in favor of imperatives of greater notional value. This lack of EX investment creates a reality in contrast to typical corporate missives about employees being the proverbial “engine behind business success,” with success often measured using CX conventions. 

If their workplace ecosystem is based on methods and metrics built to minimize interaction and offer “fast-and-easy” solutions for everything, they won’t have an experience anything like your customers. Instead of “all-in,” “engaged,” or “empowered,” they will feel overlooked, unappreciated, and misunderstood. Or worse, not even worth the effort. At this point, you’ve likely lost their trust as well, and the real engine of your business will shut down.  

Employees Expect Different Things from Their Company Brand  

Good CX and EX both rely on respect for the audience as a core component. Good CX means respecting the customer’s time, while good EX means respecting what employees value, and what motivates them to bring their best selves to work. 

Respecting your employees also means treating their side of the EX-CX formula as unique and essential to success, creating and cultivating the right kind of synergy between EX and CX. Creating this dynamic is not easy and means discarding the hide-bound “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” mantra. Work and the workplace are evolving much too quickly, and employees are willing to move quickly to adapt.  

Your approach to these changes must be equally responsive and robust amid a pace of change and dynamism no one could have imagined in the pre-COVID world. Miss the opportunity to invest in your employees to show they are valued, and they will move on to someone who does. 

And That’s Why Change, In Every Aspect, is Necessary 

The “normal” some continue to pine for is gone, and it’s not coming back. Just like 30-game winners and ABBA 8-tracks, it’s time for a change and frank discussions about how to make that happen the right way. As a long-time change manager, I’ve watched the drivers behind the Great Resignation play out at countless companies for years. They’re nothing new. But this time, they’re too costly to ignore. To learn more about how to create both incredible employee and customer experiences, download our guide, The Future of User Experience Is Here: Why and How 5 Emerging Trends Are Making Dreams a Reality, or contact our experts about our CX AMP jumpstart today.

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Eric Hutchins

Eric Hutchins is a Senior Solutions Architect & Manager in Perficient’s Organizational Change Management (OCM) Practice. For 20+ years, Eric Hutchins has led teams and efforts to deliver various OCM, communication, user engagement, change readiness, executive coaching, training, and support solutions. Before joining Perficient, he worked in consulting and the private sector for clients that included financial services, biotech, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, information technology, and the Department of Defense.

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