As competition has increased and consumers have become more demanding, across a growing number of channels, the relationship between companies and their customers has undergone a two stage digital transformation.

Firstly, organisations have encouraged consumers to use online, self-service channels, such as the web to interact with them. This delivers benefits to both sides – consumers can find information, check account details and carry out transactions themselves, without having to call or email, saving time and effort. Self-service also benefits organisations by increasing efficiency and reducing costs, helping the bottom line. Think of industries such as banking – when was the last time you actually visited a branch, compared to logging onto your account?

Building on this, companies are now at the second stage of digital transformation, using digital data to create a more holistic customer experience. This is driven by the desire to increase revenue, based on the fact that engaged customers are likely to be more loyal and to spend more.

Employee experience lags behind customer experience
In comparison to the focus on customer experience, digital transformation of the employee relationship is still at the first stage. Self-service has meant that many large companies have shrunk their HR departments significantly and automated many routine enquiries. So employees can check holiday allocations, book training or view their benefits online, but it is focused on efficiency and time-saving for both sides.

It’s only now beginning to move to the ‘experience’ stage as organisations realise that this is what attracts and retains the people who will create and maintain their competitive advantage.

There is much that companies can do to learn from customer experience when it comes to engaging and motivating with their staff. For example, most organisations still rely on annual reviews and surveys to interact with their employees – compared to the instant feedback and ongoing dialogue that they have with their customers. So how can companies apply the lessons of customer experience to employee engagement? Here are four areas to focus on:

1. Cross department boundaries
The typical customer interaction with a company could involve multiple channels and different departments, from sales to customer service. They want the process to be seamless and integrated, and not to have to explain themselves multiple times or change channels. This has forced organisations to take a holistic view of their operations and break down silos so that departments talk to each other, in the best interests of the customer. It is time for companies to apply the same logic to employee engagement, with HR, line of business managers and internal communications working together to manage employee insight and feedback – and to then link it to business objectives and to address any staff concerns. Rather than just focusing on the customer journey, it is time to map the employee journey.

2. Understand employee motivations
The working population has never been more diverse. Later retirement ages mean companies have a greater number of older staff, while at the other end of the spectrum there are an increasing number of millennials within the workforce. Add in a desire from many employees for more flexible working patterns and home working, and you can quickly see that there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ or standard employee any more. Every employee has different aspirations and motivations, which must be understood and encouraged if businesses are to get the best out of them. The traditional ‘one size fits all’ annual employee survey alone simply cannot cater for this variety – what is needed are more personalised feedback mechanisms that fit with the working style, age, and role of individual staff members.

3. Keep listening and communicating
As we’ve said an annual cycle of reviews and surveys doesn’t fit with today’s workforce. In the same way that companies aim to open a continuous dialogue with their customers, they need to do the same with their employees. Companies such as Accenture and Deloitte have recognised this, moving from annual performance reviews to more frequent, simpler, appraisal processes, based on fewer questions and focused on the individual. Listening – and acting on the insights gleaned from this process – allows companies to engage better with employees and boosts engagement. It can act as a virtuous circle – the more staff see that they are being listened to, the more they will contribute in terms of feedback. Whilst there are a wide range of ways of collecting feedback what’s important is that there is an overall strategy to bring this feedback together and provide it in a way that can be easily acted on.

4. Act on the insight
Ask any manager responsible for customer experience how their organisation is performing and they can immediately provide up to date information on metrics ranging from customer satisfaction to Net Promoter Score. The same should be true for all managers when asked how their staff are feeling. This can appear daunting to achieve, but can be delivered by following the same approach of integrating data from different sources across the company and then displaying it in a way that is easy to understand and relevant to individual managers. Providing a real-time, cockpit view that can be accessed anytime, from any device, by managers not only helps engagement, but embeds HR as central to achieving business objectives.

The last ten years has seen enormous investment in the customer experience. Given the importance of employees to business success, it is time for HR teams to learn from this best practice and move to the second stage of digital transformation to benefit the wider organisation.