Employee Experience … EX .. Part One.
I’m interested in EX. Employee Experience. I’m starting to think it’s a long neglected component of business. Not just neglected, wrongly approached and considered. The phrase ‘Human Resources’ sums up all that’s wrong with conventional thinking about employees.
Fancy being a resource for a company? Or does that sound rather dehumanising? And it’s not just about the language, it’s about the embedded attitude. I’m becoming convinced HR is outdated and counter productive. As with all ideas of a commercial nature, considering EX, Employee Experience, as a primary factor, alongside and totally interconnected with UX, User Experience, has to make good business sense. And that ultimately means success in the competitive market, and profit. Does it?
Ever had really bad customer service? Maybe your bad UX was a reflection of their bad EX.
Let’s see what this looks like in practice. A real example of winning in a sector by understanding how client experience is a direct consequence of employee experience. Sounds obvious already.
First of all, Dan, please introduce yourself…
Dan Archer, Managing Director at Visiting Angels, Sheffield. We provide carers for the elderly.
How did you come to start Visiting Angels?
I got into Health and Social Care in 2011. The thing that drove me to try and make a difference then, and has driven me ever since, was the poor-quality care that my Nan received. My Nan suffered with severe arthritis and, in later life, she became more inclined to fall. After several incidents, we decided as a family that we needed to get a care company involved. We agreed with the company in question that they would visit Nan at 8am and at 9pm. My Nan had always been really punctual, so it was important to her that she was able to get up and get to bed when she wanted – safely.
In the first eight weeks of care we had 12 different carers visit the house.
Over time, I realised that the reason the care provider hadn’t been able to support my Nan properly was because they were always recruiting new staff to replace the ones that were leaving.
There was a constant churn of unhappy, undervalued staff. I could see that minimum wage and poor support was part of the problem.
With Visiting Angels, I have an opportunity to ensure that these fundamental issues are addressed.
The care sector is frequently criticised, and seems to find itself between a rock and a hard place, being under-funded and simultaneously under-valued. I was watching something on TV the other day, carers were talking about how they are time managed excessively, giving them only half an hour for each visit. Given that this might include hoisting and personal care, as well as cooking, it seems a rather impossible job sometimes… what do you say?
I would agree that there is a fundamental injustice in what is expected of carers and the funding that is available for the provision of care. Successive governments seem to be overphased by the scale of change that is needed. With my business I focus on the things that we can fix, caregiver by caregiver and client by client. We have taken a stand as a care provider to say that a quality service cannot be delivered at what a council is prepared to pay. Our service is for a minimum of one hour and by charging more we are able to pay carers fairly and incentivise the loyalty that is needed to ensure consistency of care.
Caring for the actual carers seems to be an important first step in enabling the carers to care for the elderly people they visit. How does this fit in with your company ethos?
We believe that, by treating our carers well, they are empowered to deliver an exceptional service with genuine care. Our approach sees us start from the core of the company and work outwards – placing carers at the epicentre of our success. We know that having happy carers allows us to build upon our achievements and continue towards becoming the Care sector’s Employer of Choice by 2022.
What’s happening in the care sector, Nationally? And is finding carers becoming more difficult?
The status quo in the care sector nationally is unsustainable. We have found that by paying carers more and looking after them better we are encouraging people to become carers who had previously ruled the profession out.
We also find that by paying better, caregivers feel less pressure to work every hour god sends meaning that they can have a better work-life balance.
It is challenging to find carers but by making them the most important people in our business, we are at least focusing our efforts in the right area.
With the aging population, it seems like a cultural adjustment might be required in order to make caring more of a career choice, do you think this could happen?
Sadly, care is often seen as a menial, low-skilled position, as a last resort or a role that people fall into by accident. We know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our mission is to challenge this perception so that caregivers get the recognition they truly deserve. We choose to help generate a feeling of pride and satisfaction in their work so that these real-life angels can enjoy a better quality of life and build a long-term career in the industry they love. By changing the public perception of care work, showcasing the benefits, the career opportunities and what happens when a company is truly carer-centric, we believe we can change the industry. For good. How many young people want to work in care when they leave school? How many consider a long-term career in the sector? Our ambition is that our approach will be enough to create a seismic culture shift within the entire industry.
We don’t deal in soundbites on the state of the industry – we do focus on our carers and the families they support. When you see the big problem in this way, it’s far easier to make a difference.
Thank you Dan, for sharing those experienced insights.
Focusing on the carers enables the carers to focus on the people they support. It would be easy to get it very wrong and focus on the financial bottom line. The actual bottom line is this: Putting the employee experience first enables the employees to do their jobs at the level they know they can. All of which benefits the client. And feeds straight back into the success and growth of the company. Call it a ‘person centric’ approach, call it EX, call it what you will, it’s common sense, business sense, common human decency, and one of the outcomes is commercial success and financial reward.
Putting humanity first, and trusting that humanity responds in a positive way. Which it does. Who knew?
More on this subject to follow.