Build a Company Culture Obsessed with EX with Samantha Gadd, Founder & CEO Humankind
In a recent Frontline Magic podcast episode, Susanne Axelsson sits down with Samantha Gadd, the visionary founder of Humankind and the Employment Experience Design School. Samantha's journey starts with a single HR paper at university, and her story unfolds over a decade, shaping businesses and cultures that prioritize and celebrate the pivotal employee journey. Tune in to discover how to build a company culture obsessed with EX, which in turn drives world-class CX.
Where it All Began
Samantha kicks off the conversation by reflecting on her journey into human resources at Victoria University in Wellington. "I remember doing a human resources paper at university, and immediately, I just knew that I was going to spend the rest of my career in this field," she shares. Her passion for the intricate fusion between people and business laid the foundation for her decade-long dedication to shaping employee experiences.
Decoding Employee Experience:
For Samantha, employee experience transcends mere job satisfaction; it's a holistic and intentional connection between individuals and the organization's overarching purpose. She accentuates the significance of employees comprehending and genuinely connecting to the broader organizational strategy, fostering meaningful connections in the workplace, and being equipped with the right tools and systems. “It doesn't matter what role someone is in, whether they are cleaning up after employees at the end of the day, or they're in an administration position or a leadership position, every employee should know. It's really important that people have that connection to the bigger picture”.
Samantha also points out that in order for employees to be having a great experience, they need to be equipped with the right tools. She says “If people feel really enabled in their job with systems and processes and tools and technology that makes things seamless, then of course, they're having a great experience, which directly impacts the customer experience.”
Navigating Challenges in the Modern Landscape:
The past two years have ushered in unparalleled challenges, compelling organizations globally to reassess their strategies for employee retention. Samantha observes that employees today yearn for deeper connections to their work, seek recognition as unique individuals, and desire a genuine understanding of their impact. To counteract retention hurdles, Samantha urges organizations to actively seek feedback from employees, acknowledging their invaluable insights into workplace enhancements.
“I think employees also are looking to be recognized as unique individuals at work. It's really important for leaders to understand every unique person on their team.”
Samantha also suggests getting to know your employees. What motivates them? What improves their day to day at work? Use these learnings to facilitate a work environment that supports the needs of your employees, so they’re set up for success.
Empowering Frontline Leaders:
In alignment with Frontline Magic's mission to empower frontline leaders, Samantha delves into the symbiosis between a positive employee experience and its profound impact on customer experience. She emphasizes the imperative for leaders to grasp the unique needs of their teams, empower them with the right tools, and regularly celebrate their achievements.
“I think an organization that has a culture of great customer experience will more than likely be investing the same amount, if not more, in the employee experience, because they probably understand that without great employee experience, it's almost impossible to deliver great employee experience.”
Samantha underscores the pivotal role of frontline workers in shaping a brand's identity and asserts that investing in their experience is paramount for delivering exceptional customer service. She points out that a bad customer experience is almost always the result of a bad employee experience.
“We only need to think back in our own experiences to the last poor customer experience that we had. And you can almost guarantee that that drives back to a bad employee experience.”
Personalization: The Essence of Exceptional Experiences:
Contemplating customer experiences, Samantha draws parallels between personalization and employee experience. Just as customers crave personalized interactions, employees seek workplaces that tailor experiences to their unique needs. The challenge, she notes, lies in meeting the rising expectations set by personal experiences in the digital age. Samantha envisions the future of HR as an ongoing journey towards more human-centered workplaces, guided by data and design-led approaches.
The Pinnacle Attribute of a Great Employee: Passion:
When queried about the most critical attribute of a great employee, Samantha passionately extols the role of passion. Employees with genuine passion for their work, she believes, possess the resilience to overcome challenges and go the extra mile to deliver exceptional results. Samantha advocates for individuals to find roles aligned with their passion, asserting that such alignment is crucial for fostering happiness in the workplace.
“It's up to the leaders to really connect them, connect those individuals and those teams to the difference that they are making on a daily basis for that organization.”
Taking the Inaugural Step: Asking Your People:
According to Samantha, the inaugural step towards creating a better experience for customers and employees alike is deceptively simple—ask your people. She believes that organizations should overcome the fear of employees requesting unreasonable things and trust that employees want what's best for the organization. The act of asking not only empowers employees but also fosters a collaborative and engaged work culture.
“And it's really super simple. So asking your people, like why they joined your organization, why they stay. What they love, what's getting in the way…really simple questions here. This is not rocket science, but what we'll find is that actually most employees have never, ever been asked.”
Addressing the reluctance some organizations may feel towards asking their employees for feedback, Samantha identifies a common fear that employees may ask for unreasonable requests. She encourages leaders to dispel this fear, believe in the alignment of employee and organizational goals, and let go of the ego that assumes leaders must have all the answers.
To wrap up the conversation, Samantha shares a guiding principle that has served her well throughout her business journey— “everything only lasts for a moment” This perspective, encompassing both highs and lows, emphasizes the transient nature of challenges and triumphs in both employee and customer experience. It encourages individuals to savor the victories without resting on laurels and navigate through setbacks with resilience and a willingness to learn. The future of work, as envisioned by Samantha, is a continual odyssey of improvement, steered by a profound understanding of the symbiotic relationship between employee and organizational needs. To construct a company culture that flourishes, leaders must embrace openness, ask their people, and acknowledge that every employee's journey contributes to the larger narrative of success.