We talk a lot about User Experience (UX), we talk about Customer Experience, and these days we're even talking about Developer Experience. But talking about Employee Experience is hugely important and in this episode, we discuss the missing link between Employee and Customer Experience.

Maria (00:06): Bear in mind that if you want in the end good customer experience, ensure that in the transformation, you will have a good employee experience.

Marc (00:21): This season, Andy and Marc are back with a fantastic group of guests.

Andy (00:26): I've been to depths that remain classified, and Marc keeps his head in the clouds. With our combined experience in the industry, we can go from the bare metal to the boardroom.

Marc (00:35): In DevOps Sauna - Season 3, we'll explore platform engineering and the people and cultures that make it happen.

Andy (00:42): Enjoy your time in the DevOps Sauna.

Marc (00:53): Hello, and welcome back. It's really exciting here today. I've got my usual cohort Andy Allred.

Andy (00:59): Hello, hello.

Marc (01:01): And we have two fantastic ladies in the house today. We have Maria Wan.

Maria (01:05): Thank you. Great to be here. It's one of my favorite topics.

Marc (01:09): And Emmi Tammiluoma.

Emmi (01:12): Hello. Nice to be here. 

Marc (01:15): All right. The topics for today are employee experience. And what, Maria?

Maria (01:22): Yeah, for me, it's a customer experience, which is sort of deriving from great employee experience. My bottom line is that you cannot have a great customer experience if you don't have a great employee experience. Not that they are 100% one-to-one, but doesn't harm to have a good employee experience.

Marc (01:46): Indeed. I think this is really exciting because  So to introduce the topic, how do we relate digital transformation and employee experience and customer experience? How do we relate those together?

Maria (02:09): Well, they are related to one another. When you do digital transformation, you have the process and tools, and you have the people as well there. And we tend to focus so much on the how to the process and which tools to choose, and how to use them. And we also think of the ways of working, which is spuriously important. But sometimes we forget that people are a little slower in changing, so it demands a lot of people management as well.

Emmi (02:45): Exactly. And if the people don't know what we're doing, and why we're doing it, so there won't probably be any really good outcome of it.

Marc (02:54): Yes. I think that one thing is like, when you're a customer of a place, you can obviously tell if the employees are having a good experience or not. Or if they're happy with the place that they work. And it can be quite challenging. If you're a customer of somewhere where employees don't seem to be very happy, then do you want to continue to do business with those or not? And I guess it can also go the other direction, can't it? That if you have really difficult customers, the employees might not have that great of an experience.

Emmi (03:23): Exactly. And that poses a problematic situation for the company, then if the employees find the customers really hard to work with. And then again, employer needs to take responsibility on the employee experience. Our people are really like that they like what they're doing. You don't want to really force them to stay with the customer that they're not satisfied with.

Maria (03:53): I really liked, Emmi, that you brought up the fact that it's also important for the employees to know why they are doing so to bring meaning to their work is so important. And it also guides them to do the right thing. Right thing, the right way.

Marc (04:11): I'm counseling and mentoring and coaching people a lot. And I say, the greatest two things that you can do in a company is you can work for your team, and support your team and you can work for your customer. And if you focus on those two things, which essentially is raising the employee experience and raising the customer experience, if you focus on those two things, you can be really happy and then everything else is just outside of that if you focus on your team and focus on your customer.

Maria (04:41): Yeah, it's important to focus on both because if you focus only on employees, then the customers may not be happy. And if you focus only on customers, you may be just bouncing your butt towards the other. It's important to have both on check.

Marc (05:02): I completely agree. We are in a technology industry. And we talk a lot about tools. And we even sometimes look at tool changes in order to try to impact culture. But I think it's really important for us to realize that you're not going to win or lose on the technology, you're especially not going to win or lose on your tools, but you're definitely going to win or lose on the culture of your company.

Maria (05:29): That is true.

Emmi (05:30): Yeah, I agree. I think that culture always comes before the technology, I guess this is something we could agree on whatever the technology is, so it won't change anything, it'll just enforce the culture that you already have.

Maria (05:46): One of the reasons why I really wanted to participate in this podcast is that particularly because we work in the digital world, and our customers are in the urge of digital transformation, or change, or whatever you call it. And I see so many companies, teams, hey, including us, I'm not counting our company out either, is that we concentrate so much on the tools that I'm sometimes afraid that we eventually forget about the people, even though we say that it's important, but then it's so difficult because people are difficult! People are complex! But to us, they are pretty straightforward. And I mean putting the process in place, it's fine. But getting people to actually use the tools the way that they should be used, it's painstaking. I'm saying it's difficult, and we're not here like saying keep the Hooray! for us either. It's really a challenge. And that's why I think it's important to bring it up.

Andy (06:52): The first time in my career, I had a chance to be a people manager, I decided right away that I need to focus on something else. Because when I was working just on servers, I can make a server do anything I want. And it always works the way I expect it to and it's predictable, and it's malleable, and I can get it to do whatever I want it to do. People aren't so simple. Getting people to do what I need them to do, or what I think they ought to do, or what I think is best for them is complicated. And people are moody, and they have different motivations. And we have to communicate with like these words, which can be misinterpreted and whatnot, it's just so much easier with the technology. But I have learned that as much as I like the technology, and I like the tools. And I think they're awesome. And that's where I play and spend most of my time: any bad culture can overcome the best technology. I do think it is important to have the right tools and the right technology. But if you have a bad culture, it's still not going to help anything.

Emmi (07:57): Exactly. It'll just reinforce the bad company culture, then yeah, and what you said about people being moody and like more difficult to handle, that is so true. And that's why it's also so important to give them the direction and be transparent and communicate about what we're doing and why we're doing it. The people are really, truly understand and they can see the purpose of it all that we're not just taking in the technology for what? You need to understand why and also maybe what's in it for me, why should I get bothered, even you know, trying to adapt to this change?

Maria (08:36): Good. Andy for a while, I was thinking that you married the server, but in the end, I figured out that you actually married perhaps human being instead of server. <laughs> The reason why I love customer experience and employee experience is the fact that they are so complex, and especially with customer experience, which is more of my field, and Emmi's is employee experience is that with customers, especially in digital world, you have no contact with them. You just have to figure out how they use the service, what their needs are, what their desires are, what their emotions are. Of course, you can study that, but it's not so clear as it is in the concrete world. That's for me, the complexity and the unknown world of the customer. It's so exciting for me.

Andy (09:28): Yeah, I did marry a human, but I've been accused many times of spending more time with my computer than my wife. <laughs> But yeah, it is a lot of figuring out how to balance these two and when to focus on what and how to communicate. And of course, I have grown since that initial time and I do spend time with people and I like it. I'm playing devil's advocate a little bit now. But I think it is really easy to just focus on the tools and think of the tools and get lost and think that people are so complicated and messy, that that's the hard part. The soft skills are actually the hard ones to learn. But when you think about the motivation of who you're communicating with, and what their experience is, and how this affects them, and how they see it, and how it affects their job and their life, then it's easier to communicate in a way that's meaningful for them. And then you can get your message across and things and start actually to happen and be fun and interesting. And you're on the same page and working together and have the shared goal and whatnot.

Emmi (10:34): Exactly. As Maria, you were saying all the things about the complexity about the customer and the customer experiences, is that how customer's needs can be really personal. It all goes with the employees as well. And it's good to remember that the employees are actually the company. And if the employees don't feel at home at the company, and don't enjoy their job, and what they're doing and the culture around them, it's obvious that it will be visible for the customers eventually as well.

Maria (11:07): Exacto!

Marc (11:08): Excellent. I think we've described really well the problem space here. What can we do to ensure good employee experience, especially when we have a large transformation that's going on around them?

Emmi (11:23): Maybe if I started with the basics of the employee experience, so obviously, there is always the question or the sense of trust that you need to have. And as we talked about earlier already about the transparency and the goals and the understanding the purpose of it all, this kind of like really basic stuff, and people need also, then you need to appreciate and recognize the people for the job they are doing and appreciate them for them being unique. This is also something that is really important nowadays, to understand that we all are our own persons. And we do want to be seen and heard as we are.

Marc (12:10): Very important. And do you have anything to add Maria?

Maria (12:14): Well, not really, because Emmi really said it all. <laughs> But yes, I think the motivation and understanding is important. And I like the fact that to say also that in the leadership, one should know how to keep the motivation on per person because sometimes the employee wants to do what he is good at. And another time, he wants to experience something totally new, something that he hasn't done before. That might be motivating for him. Pulling the right strings is important. And of course, the background should be good to like the environment where you work, and the tools that you have or to be good because if your tools suck, it's pretty difficult to be happy in your work.

Emmi (13:01): That is true as well. Although I do remember reading somewhere that both technology and pay are like these hygienic factors that if they suck, so then they suck, but if they're really good, so it doesn't add that much value. But obviously the technology also it has to be usable.

Maria (13:23): Yes, you need to put up the user experience there as well or the customer experience there as well. Because it's the employees experience of using somebody else's tool or system or whatever.

Marc (13:40): I often talk that there are there are some different things at play, employee wants to do certain things. And it could be new things, it could be the things that they've always done. But there are things that they very strongly want to do that they're passionate about, or that they like or that maybe that come easy or whatever, then there is what the customers are asking for, what the market is looking for. And those may be different. Then there's a third one, which is what the customers actually need. And that may or may not have any overlap with the first two. And then unfortunately, sometimes there's also a fourth one, which is what the customers actually get. Now, if we go back though, to employee experience, if the employees are not able to do the things that they are passionate about that they want to, first they're not going to be very happy. And second, they're probably just going to leave. And we've had a very difficult market for getting top talent as developers and technical people in many companies around the world and if you are letting your people go simply because you're not allowing them to do the things that they are most passionate about, then perhaps there's something that could be improved a lot because maybe that is very important for the business, but they're just in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Emmi (14:58): Yeah, I agree. This is probably one of the biggest challenges in being a leader, how to be able to position the right people to the right places. And then again, it's not always possible to just do what the employee wants because there is the business to lead, as you said. It is a tricky business, but then again, if we don't allow our people to go where their motivation is, and what they're really interested, so eventually, then it's obvious that they're just going to go, leave the company.

Marc (15:32): Hi, It's Marc again. If you'd like to hear more on excelling in customer experience by focusing on employee experience, Eficode recently published a guide on Building Winning Customer Experiences. I'll leave a link for you in the show notes. Now, back to our show.

Maria (15:57): I'm going back to Andy's love for the server although as a young man and now he's a bit older and more experienced. But anyway, so for me, you can think of people, whether it's employees or customers as technical issues, they have features, in other words, personalities and characteristics, but you can put it in an Excel or whatever, make JIRA tickets or whatever is your thing. And think of the personalities and characteristics as features that you can manage. And then you can find the people management easier. I don't know, I actually tried that one time and it helped me because I was in a really tricky change management situation. I started to think that instead of putting my emotions, as a leader to the stake, I would rather be calm and think what to do. And so I figured out how the people are as technical features rather than personalities.

Emmi (17:00): That's one way to think of it.

Andy (17:02): Well, I don't know what I think of people as having features in that sense, but that's an interesting idea. The people definitely do have personality traits and certain motivations. And when you understand them, then you're able to map out in your head, how certain things motivate people differently, and how to understand why they're doing a thing they're doing. And then it's more clear, and it's easier to look at them as a human and deal with the human you have in front of you instead of here's a list of features and traits that you have. But it's a tricky balance of how do you get that empathy for a person when you're looking at: here's the job I want to get done. You need to be able to get in the mindset of we're a team doing this together, and what's the thing we're trying to accomplish?

Maria (17:56): You said it much more elegantly than I did

Marc (18:01): There's something you both reminded me, someone once told me something very simple advice that has resonated for a long time, which is, you can't blame people for being how they are. And what this enabled me to do was to realize that, okay, when we have differences, and sometimes those can be strong differences, if we may be not looking exactly as features. But if I look at how a person is from my perspective, and I respect that, even if it's difficult, or even if we have disagreements or things, it makes it easier for me to approach that person with this baseline that it's okay. They may look very strongly for certain word choices, or they may disagree strongly for certain technologies, or whatever. But if I understand that and accept it, when I come to them to talk about something, then oftentimes it can make it a lot easier to find some consensus or even agree to disagree or something like this, but you can't blame people for being how they are, I think.

Maria (19:02): Sometimes it's difficult to understand people and how they want things to be. And if that's really the case, the best thing to do is to accept if it's not on critical issue.

Andy (19:15): I've often been accused when I was younger, especially, of going in somewhere and saying, "Well, this is stupid. Who did that? Are you kidding me? Why do you have this?" And it's taken me a while to learn that nobody comes in to work and wants to do a bad job. There's a reason why people do things the way they do. And I have tried not always successfully, I'll admit to instead of saying that stupid, say, "That's interesting, help me understand what was the motivation for this." And when you start assuming positive intent, and assuming that the person is doing the best they possibly can with what they have available, and saying, "Help me understand that and then we can together decide what to do next," it changes everything.

Emmi (20:08): And this is really, really important learning that you just told us and it's not easy, but it is essential because it's not just black and white. We're not black and white. And you can go into a situation assuming something and with really, really strong opinions. But when you actually position yourself into the other person's shoes, so it'll open up a totally new world.

Marc (20:33): All right. Do we have like a key message for our audience? If you're in a transformation, what do you need to know? What's the takeaway from this discussion about employee and customer experience?

Maria (20:50): Well, employee experience makes the transformation happen! Anyway, either it goes well, or it goes bad. And that outcome, how it's done for the customers, and how the customers experience. And then the top management and investors anyway, they're interested in good customer experience. Bear in mind that if you want in the end good customer experience, ensure that in the transformation, you will have a good employee experience.

Emmi (21:22): And remember that if you're able to engage your people, so they are more likely to think what they can do for the company, instead of thinking what the company can do for them. It'll end up better this way with more engaged people.

Marc (21:40): There's another little story. I've seen this so many times in a good way. And I've seen it more times and in a negative way, where we the directors or the board of the company, we went into the boardroom, and we were involved in creating a strategy. And we felt we understood it quite well. And we were very committed to it. And then when we went out, and we presented it in the auditorium to the employees, they never really seemed to be that committed, or to really understand it that clearly. And it's like, "You have a question?" It's like, "Yes," the question is, were they involved in creating the strategy? If we ask people, what can they do, we often get much more than if we just tell people, "This is what you need to do." And I think one of the great things that has happened in recent years is we've gone from agility meaning processing tools in your team, to meaning: here are some interesting problems to solve. How can you, as a team, find creative solutions for those. And I think that's where a lot of the employee experience, and we all want innovation, but it's where a lot of the employee experience comes to fruition, so the fruits from the roots.

Maria (22:55): Middle management has a huge and big role in that they should to interpret the ideas of the top management and the strategy, how it's seen and used in among the employees. And going back to agile, what you mentioned, is that you should also bear in mind that people don't transform overnight. It's a change, it's a process. And therefore, you should educate first the employees towards the change and the objective, but also the customers that it's not a complete surprise at the end what it is, so steady movement.

Marc (23:35): Really well said. Okay, so I have a couple of questions that we ask everyone that comes to our podcast. I'll ask you one at a time, but you can both start to think about the first answer, which is, think back to when you were young. What was the first thing that you wanted to be when you grow up?

Maria (23:57): I know. I wanted to be a pilot because I love airplanes, and the atmosphere and the unknown as well. I'm a cultural strategist, or cultural anthropologist from my background. And I would have never managed being a pilot because I can't even be in a swing without feeling obnoxious.

Emmi (24:21): I can remember that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I have no absolute idea why. And I'm not really confident that I would be a good lawyer. But then maybe in a later stage, I thought that it would be nice to be a psychologist because then probably I already started to realize how interesting the people complex the people are. But yeah, I didn't end up being a psychologist either, so here we go.

Maria (24:49): Hey, I'm far from pilot.

Marc (24:55): <laughs> Two very good answers and a relatively unique as well, I think. Okay, so second question is, was there a point in your life where you either crystallized that you were on the right path, or you realize that you needed to change the path you're on?

Maria (25:11): Am I on the right path? That would be my first question, but I think wherever I landed, as my first job started to build me up to what I am, is that I ran a big call center, I was a Call Center Service Manager. And from there on, I got more interested on how customers experience and how the service is all in all managed.

Emmi (25:41): I'm not sure either if I even know. Well, I know where I am, but I don't know what I want to be when I grow old. Not necessarily, there can be still many different paths. But yes, certainly I do feel that I'm on a good path at the moment. And there has been times when I haven't felt like that. So, making this transformation of my own to get to the path where I am at the moment is definitely there, I've been through that.

Marc (26:12): All right. Lovely. I'd like to thank Maria and Emmi for joining us today. And as usual, thank you, Andy, for being a good cohort. And we will sign off now. Thank you for coming to DevOps Sauna once again.

Maria (26:28): Thank you, this was more fun than I expected.

Emmi (26:31): Thank you so much for lovely discussions.

Andy (26:35): And thanks for joining us and bringing up these important topics and reminding me that I did marry a human, not my computer.

Maria (26:20): Regards to your wife. 

Marc (26:32): Excellent. 

Maria (26:46): Or husband or human being because nowadays, you're not supposed to make any assumptions. I made an assumption. I'm so sorry. <laughs>

Marc (26:57): I think it was a safe one in this case. <laughs>

Marc (27:04): Before we go, let's give our guests an opportunity to introduce themselves and tell you a little bit about who we are.

Maria (27:12): Hello, I'm Maria Wan. And I'm passionate about customer experience and how to make companies and teams more customer centric and to understand what customers and users mean to them.

Emmi (27:26): Hi there. I work as an HR business partner here at Eficode. My passion are the people. How can we support the people to create a work life that suits them the best possible way?

Marc (27:40): My name is Marc Dillon. I'm a lead consultant in the transformation business at Eficode.

Andy (27:46): My name is Andy Allred. And I'm doing platform engineering at Eficode.

Marc (27:50): Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed what you heard, please like and subscribe, it means the world to us. Also check out our other interesting talks and tune in for our next episode. Take care of yourself and remember what really matters is everything we do with machines is to help humans.