How do you feel when you’re working? It’s a question that’s being asked more often as colleague experience rises up the corporate agenda. In the wake of the pandemic, there has been a colossal shift in the way we all think about work.This shift has taken a particular toll on sectors with large numbers of deskless workers and historically high levels of staff turnover.
For Hannah Barnes, VP of operational excellence for bp’s retail outlets across Europe and Southern Africa, colleague experience will be a big strategic driver in 2022.
In our webinar on industry trends in food retail, she highlighted colleague experience as one of her top priorities for the coming year.
This blog explains why colleague experience is so important and what can be done to improve it.
Why is everyone talking about colleague experience?
There a several reasons why colleague experience matters. Employees who are engaged in their work are less likely to leave and more likely to perform better in terms of productivity, customer service and other important metrics. This is confirmed in research by Gallup into workplace culture. Highly engaged business units see 24% less staff turnover and a 10% rise in customer ratings, plus a 20% sales increase. Overall, the research estimated that engaged employees achieve a 21% increase in profitability.
For Hannah Barnes of bp, continually improving colleague experience is a personal mission. “What really drives my passion and motivation is when I see things getting better for our teams that work at our retail sites. And I then see that translated into a better experience for our customers. And I think you can't go far wrong in operational excellence if you start from the customer and work backwards. That's my mantra and how I work,” she said.
“I'm a passionate advocate of trying to make things easier for the people that are on the front line of our operations because they do a tremendous job, particularly over the last 18 months, which have placed even more stress and strain onto what's already a really challenging job.”
Jobs market makes colleague experience essential
Current challenges in the jobs market are not lost on Hannah Barnes. “Retention and attraction of talent and team is an issue across the globe, and certainly across Europe,” she said.
“The jobs market has never been more fluid than it is now. And we've seen some impacts of that in the UK with the recent supply chain crisis. That has filtered out into different industries where people have got a lot more opportunities. Therefore, the need for us to attract people into our businesses is really important. How do you bring people into the business, get them to stay with you and be loyal to you? Often it’s the way they work with you that that attracts them to keep coming back or to be more loyal.”
3 ways to improve colleague experience
Improving colleague experience requires organisations to adapt to changing demographics, build digital connections and encourage advocacy.
Consider the needs of different generations
The digital experience of people at work is increasingly important in attracting and retaining talent. A lot frontline activity has historically been carried out without digital capabilities, but that is beginning to change as new generations join the deskless workforce.
“We've got quite a split in the different generations that we are attracting into our businesses and how people interact with work is changing,” said Hannah. “We see gradual changes in some places and monumental changes in others. People want to work different hours, so the gig economy comes to life. People want to be able to work when it suits them, where it suits them and how it suits them. As a business, you need to be able to adjust to offer them different ways of doing that.
The introduction of an intelligent operations platform across bp forecourts across the UK has provided frontline teams with digital assistants that guide, prompt and log their activity. The technology is saving staff time, freeing them from manual reporting tasks and supporting the work they need to do.
“Some people want to be digitally able and some people don't,” said Hannah. “How do you approach that hybrid workforce and make sure that you offer the right things? We've been working hard on making our operations more intelligent, to enable people to interact with us in the way they are used to.”
Get to know what the colleague experience feels like
Knowing where to start with workplace transformation is one of the biggest upfront challenges for employers. Hannah recommends spending time away from your desk.
“I think one of the easiest ways to think about how digital helps a colleague is to do the colleague journey,” said Hannah. “You should walk through the daily basis of what you expect someone to do in your site and work out which elements would benefit from automation and which would not. If you look at it through the eyes of the colleague, that helps you understand. And more often than not, they'll tell you if you just go and spend some time with them. What you need to do is surface the problem and find the product that fixes that problem.”
Involve people in changing the colleague experience
A strategic approach to change management is vital to transforming the colleague experience.
“If you want to change something, you really need to think about the change journey that you're going on,” said Hannah. “How do you take people on it? How do you engage people? How do you make them see the value in what you're doing?”
Hannah recommends involving colleagues at the outset of any change programme and taking time to explain the purpose of the project.
“Ask yourself how you will get people involved upfront and explain why you’re doing something. Helping people understand the decision that you've made and the benefits for them is very important.”
The next stage, according to Hannah, is gathering data on adoption and targeting support where it’s most needed. “Make sure you have the data to understand how it’s landing and manage by exception. One of the key pieces of feedback I’ve had is that if you take a broad brush approach and say everyone needs a refresh because there is low compliance, that's frustrating for people who are good with it.”