Book Review: The Employee Experience

employee experience

In their new book, Tracy Maylett and Matthew Wride offer up a simple solution for building a strong and successful organization: focus on creating a better employee experience. Seems simple, right? But, unfortunately, many organizations put their energy into improving the customer experience, changing the way they market their brand or by throwing a few perks at employees without making meaningful change to the work environment. In The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results, Maylett and Wride provide a clear plan for how employers can improve the employee experience and create better results.

Book Review: The Employee Experience

the employe experience, Tracy Maylett and Matthew WrideOne thing that makes The Employee Experience an easy and enjoyable read is the authors’ use of familiar examples from the business world and pop culture references. They start by using an example from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first film to introduce us to Indiana Jones. When Indiana Jones and his friend Sallah realize that the staff the Nazis are using in their search for the Ark is too long and will give them an inaccurate location, the two happily proclaim: “They’re digging in the wrong place.” Maylett and Wade explain that many companies obsess over the customer experience and pour billions of dollars into improving it when all along they are “digging in the wrong place.”

Maylett and Wride urge their readers to forget about the customer experience and to instead focus on improving the employee experience. Companies are made up of employees, and if employees are unhappy and dissatisfied in their jobs, it will show in how they respond to customers. It does not matter what kind of customer loyalty program you have or how slick your marketing campaign is if employees treat customers poorly. As the authors explain, “Your employees are the soil and nutrients in which your Customer Experience (CX) grows. If you have a workforce of engaged people who feel respected and appreciated, and if they trust their leaders enough to take risks and invest emotionally in the organization, your CX will take care of itself.” In other words, put your energy into into improving the employee experience, and the customer experience will improve as a result.

Understanding the Three Contracts

Maylett and Wride offer up three contracts as a tool for fostering the employee experience: brand, transactional and psychological. They explain that these contracts are not static and can be changed, violated or reinforced over time.

The brand contract is your public face or how the world sees you. It plays a big part in helping to recruit top talent. It helps build loyal employees who are dedicated to the brand and overall values of the company. Employees who are invested in the company culture will put that loyalty into the customer service they deliver and also uphold the brand and image your company puts out to the world.

The transactional contract covers the agreement between employer and employee about how the relationship will operate. In simple terms, this is the area often spelled out in employee handbooks and company policies. While the transactional contract can seem dull, it is actually quite important in setting clear employee expectations. Take, for example, a company that has an employee handbook, but they do not follow it closely. Even though the handbook says reviews happen on employee anniversaries, they are often several months late. This violation of the transactional contract can create a lack of trust from employees. Conversely, if an employer is good about meeting the review schedule, it helps build trust and improves morale.

The psychological contract is the unwritten part of the agreement. It is the implicit set of expectations that define the relationship between employer and employee. This is what makes up the bulk of the contract with employees. When the brand and transactional contracts are not clear, the psychological contract takes over. Understanding the psychological contract involves building strong brand and transactional contracts and then asking questions and listening to what employees are saying. This can help leaders realign expectations.

Moments of Truth

The authors look at how companies handle moments of truth that test the contract with employees. Such moments of truth can reinforce or violate the contract, but they may also generate a new contract. Failure to handle these moments well can diminish trust. These moments may be small things that happen every day or big events that draw media attention.

Maylett and Wride analyze Uber’s mishandling of a situation where a driver in San Francisco was assaulted and the company refused to pay for his medical treatment. They then discuss a situation with Airbnb where a host rented out his Manhattan apartment through the service and found that the guests held a very destructive all-night party. This could have been a moment that damaged Airbnb’s brand, but instead they stepped in and paid for the repairs and put the host up in a hotel for a week. If you have followed Uber in the news lately, it is clear how their handling of moments of truth and violations of the contract with employees has affected their brand.

The Employee Experience offers up straightforward advice to employers who want to do the work to create a better workplace for their employees. Their solutions are rooted in real-world examples that can help lay the foundation for change in any size organization.

Learn more about The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results by Tracy Maylett, EdD and Matthew Wride, JD on the DecisionWise website.

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Stephanie Hammerwold

Stephanie Hammerwold, is the founder and director of Pacific Reentry Career Services, a Southern California nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated women find and maintain employment. She also blogs on a variety of HR topics as the HR Hammer. When not volunteering for her nonprofit, Stephanie has a day job in HR at a tech startup in Irvine, CA.


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