Any wishful thinking that this crisis might blow over in a couple of weeks is pretty much shot. It now seems likely that we are facing a prolonged period of home-bound isolation, and, most tragically, the deaths of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans. March brought with it cataclysmic changes to the way we live, work, learn, shop, and interact, and most of us are still trying to acclimate to this new normal, which carries varying levels of stress, disorientation, worry, and risk for each of us.
Take the Pulse of Your Workforce
So how can you help your employees give you their best, when things feel like they’re at their worst? How can you maintain productivity with a workforce that might be simultaneously struggling to learn new tools and communication strategies, adapt their living spaces to remote work, homeschool their children, care for elderly parents they can’t visit, juggle unexpected financial hardship, and function while cut off from their traditional social support networks?
It’s a tall order, but it won’t come as any surprise to regular readers when I say that I think journey mapping might hold the key. Mapping your current-state employee journey will give your workers a way to tell you how they are experiencing this crisis and what they need to function effectively, and just as importantly, will let your workforce know that you care. Your customers will appreciate it, too, as they are the ultimate beneficiaries of employees empowered to give you their best.
As families hunker down together and find new ways of sharing and giving space, communicating, and supporting one another, it becomes clear that the most productive thing companies can do right now might be to focus on their “family members,” whose contributions are so essential to the long-term well-being of the organization.
What Do Your Employees Need Now?
You might even think you’re already doing that, because it’s easy to make assumptions about what your employees need from you right now. But as we know from customer journey mapping, those assumptions are likely missing the mark, because they’re not based on “voice of the employee” research. As a result, your efforts might be a waste of time and resources, and cause you to miss out on an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen your connection.
“Going through a downturn and making tough decisions to keep your company afloat is hard. However, if you lead with compassion you will touch the lives of your employees in an extraordinary way and come out of this potential slowdown stronger than ever before, enhancing the shared values of your staff.”
The Coronavirus Crisis Doesn’t Have to Lead to Layoffs, Harvard Business Review
At Heart of the Customer, our team has worked remotely since Day One, so internally we haven’t experienced much of a shift. But for most organizations, that’s not the case. This is sure to be causing significant anxiety throughout your workforce. So it’s time to redirect your customer-focused CX tools internally.
We’ve been thinking a lot about this and want to share the course of action we believe will be most effective. While most of our customer journey mapping initiatives take 3-4 months from contract to completion, we’ve found a way to compress the timeline for these unusual circumstances, so you can see some benefits immediately, and arrive at actionable results in just a few weeks.
One note before we dive into methodology: You might be able to accomplish this internally even more quickly, but make sure to account for the two biggest challenges you’ll face:
- You might not have access to seasoned researchers, whose data gathering and analysis capabilities make it possible to both collect and mine responses in an abbreviated timeframe.
- Your employees might not be as candid with a company representative as they would with a third-party, which might skew your results and lead to biased insights.
Below, we’ll take you through this expedited version of our proprietary best-practices journey mapping process step-by-step. It’s what we’re offering to our clients, adapted to show how it might work for you – a game plan, if you will. Even if you can’t get the same results we might be able to, rest assured that any effort at all is likely better than allowing simmering problems to fester, or inefficient processes to solidify.
And regardless of who undertakes the challenge of exploring your current-state employee journey, make sure you don’t keep your efforts a secret: just letting employees know that you’re undertaking this initiative can have an immediate and positive impact, as long as you follow up and follow through:
Expedited Employee Experience Mapping
Week 1: Align & Interview
- Gather (virtually, of course) your CX and HR teams for a quick hypothesis mapping workshop. Use your favorite online tools to capture your perceptions of your employees’ current-state journey and challenges, or check out the LinkedIn forum we’ve established for other tool ideas, Managing the Coronavirus Experience (the Other CX), which is designed as a hub for CX people to share their experiences working through their adjustment to COVID-19.
- Based on the results of your hypothesis mapping, align on what areas you want to explore and ask about, then build a discussion guide for your interviews.
- Schedule virtual interviews (perhaps 45-60 minutes each) with at least 20 employees. We use Zoom, but your organization might prefer a different virtual meeting platform – do try to avoid audio only, though, so you can observe the employee’s work environment. Use a minimum of two interviewers to speed this phase up, and be sure to interview employees from a variety of roles and family situations. (A 60-year-old single project manager’s coronavirus-related work-from-home journey will differ from the journey of a 30-year-old marketer with three young kids.) Record the interviews only to create transcripts – and reassure your employees that their responses will be kept anonymous.
Week 2: Analyze & Review
- Finish up your interviews.
- Once they’re complete, host a debriefing session for all of your interviewers to share what they heard. They should be looking out for both common themes and unique responses to determine whether your findings lend themselves to establishing employee personas.
- Determine whether you have enough interview responses to proceed toward action. If not, to expedite improvements, we recommend scheduling more interviews, but also moving ahead with your action phase, basing it on preliminary results.
- Analyze the transcripts. We use QDA Miner Lite, which is free for one user. But again, you might prefer other tools. The most important thing is to thoroughly review and synthesize the data you’ve gathered to identify Moments of Truth that point toward where your efforts can make the biggest impact.
Week 3: Ideate & Act
- Build a quick report, with or without an actual graphic journey map, if time is an issue. For this purpose, don’t get too detailed. A PowerPoint presentation with 5-6 slides, or even a two-page email might be enough to convey your findings. We love to fill our reports with videos and customer quotes, but the urgency of the situation (and need for anonymity) probably makes these merely nice-to-haves here.
- Host an online workshop. Determine what was learned and use this to ideate.
- Involve your Agile and/or Design Thinking coaches to determine how to quickly respond with a low-fidelity prototype of your top ideas. These ideas might be as simple as a personalized email or clarifying company messaging. The key is to tie your ideas to employee needs revealed in your interviews.
- Act. Implement solutions as quickly as possible. And be sure to let the people you interviewed know what you did and that their concerns were heard. Knowing the company cares about their feedback may be one of the most important results of this undertaking.
If you’d like to talk over this or any other COVID-19 issues, or explore how Heart of the Customer can be of assistance, please feel free to reach out to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re all in this together!