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December 5, 2023

From internal structures to external success

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How to navigate the relationship between employee experience and customer experience

Richard Branson said it best: “Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your business. It’s as simple as that.” And yet, 82% of companies believe their employee experience (EX) levels are low and that it’s impacting their success.

This week on Catalyst, Kim Curley, NTT DATA’s Vice President of People and Organizational Consulting, joins Chris and Gina to discuss how internal structural problems can lead to external problems for users. Check out the highlights below, then dive into the full episode to learn more about how organizational culture affects customer experience, and the growing recognition of the importance of employee experience.

Address the full range of organizational issues

Software is straightforward, it’s people that are complicated. In addressing organizational challenges, you’re likely to find issues with both structural (tools and processes) and human elements. When adopting new systems, it’s important to address both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of individuals within your existing organizational structures.

Remember brain science

Humans have a natural resistance to change; it’s how we’re wired. Understanding that is critical to successfully implementing new systems. Comfort, as well as fear of being vulnerable in learning something new or adapting to change, keep individuals anchored to familiar ways of doing things. Have a plan to overcome these challenges. 

Better tools = empowered employees 

Efficiency and user-friendliness of workplace tools play a vital role in employee empowerment. When tools help them manage their time better, it frees up their cognitive resources for strategic and high-value thinking — meaning they can spend their time contributing to the higher mission of the company.

Better tools = happier customers

The way employees interact with systems, tools, and processes is integral to shaping the overall culture of an organization. Make your employees’ lives easier and they’ll be equipped to make your customers’ lives easier. 

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to Catalyst wherever you get your podcasts! We drop a new episode every Tuesday, and each one is jam-packed with catalysts for digital experiences that move millions.

sources
Podcast
December 5, 2023

From internal structures to external success

How to navigate the relationship between employee experience and customer experience

Richard Branson said it best: “Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your business. It’s as simple as that.” And yet, 82% of companies believe their employee experience (EX) levels are low and that it’s impacting their success.

This week on Catalyst, Kim Curley, NTT DATA’s Vice President of People and Organizational Consulting, joins Chris and Gina to discuss how internal structural problems can lead to external problems for users. Check out the highlights below, then dive into the full episode to learn more about how organizational culture affects customer experience, and the growing recognition of the importance of employee experience.

Address the full range of organizational issues

Software is straightforward, it’s people that are complicated. In addressing organizational challenges, you’re likely to find issues with both structural (tools and processes) and human elements. When adopting new systems, it’s important to address both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of individuals within your existing organizational structures.

Remember brain science

Humans have a natural resistance to change; it’s how we’re wired. Understanding that is critical to successfully implementing new systems. Comfort, as well as fear of being vulnerable in learning something new or adapting to change, keep individuals anchored to familiar ways of doing things. Have a plan to overcome these challenges. 

Better tools = empowered employees 

Efficiency and user-friendliness of workplace tools play a vital role in employee empowerment. When tools help them manage their time better, it frees up their cognitive resources for strategic and high-value thinking — meaning they can spend their time contributing to the higher mission of the company.

Better tools = happier customers

The way employees interact with systems, tools, and processes is integral to shaping the overall culture of an organization. Make your employees’ lives easier and they’ll be equipped to make your customers’ lives easier. 

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to Catalyst wherever you get your podcasts! We drop a new episode every Tuesday, and each one is jam-packed with catalysts for digital experiences that move millions.

sources

Podcast
December 5, 2023
Ep.
410

From internal structures to external success

How to navigate the relationship between employee experience and customer experience
0:00
34:34
https://rss.art19.com/episodes/794e65ea-eeb5-4ce5-a16b-449511ada140.mp3

Richard Branson said it best: “Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your business. It’s as simple as that.” And yet, 82% of companies believe their employee experience (EX) levels are low and that it’s impacting their success.

This week on Catalyst, Kim Curley, NTT DATA’s Vice President of People and Organizational Consulting, joins Chris and Gina to discuss how internal structural problems can lead to external problems for users. Check out the highlights below, then dive into the full episode to learn more about how organizational culture affects customer experience, and the growing recognition of the importance of employee experience.

Address the full range of organizational issues

Software is straightforward, it’s people that are complicated. In addressing organizational challenges, you’re likely to find issues with both structural (tools and processes) and human elements. When adopting new systems, it’s important to address both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of individuals within your existing organizational structures.

Remember brain science

Humans have a natural resistance to change; it’s how we’re wired. Understanding that is critical to successfully implementing new systems. Comfort, as well as fear of being vulnerable in learning something new or adapting to change, keep individuals anchored to familiar ways of doing things. Have a plan to overcome these challenges. 

Better tools = empowered employees 

Efficiency and user-friendliness of workplace tools play a vital role in employee empowerment. When tools help them manage their time better, it frees up their cognitive resources for strategic and high-value thinking — meaning they can spend their time contributing to the higher mission of the company.

Better tools = happier customers

The way employees interact with systems, tools, and processes is integral to shaping the overall culture of an organization. Make your employees’ lives easier and they’ll be equipped to make your customers’ lives easier. 

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to Catalyst wherever you get your podcasts! We drop a new episode every Tuesday, and each one is jam-packed with catalysts for digital experiences that move millions.

sources

Episode hosts & guests

Gina Trapani

VP, Product Innovation
Launch by NTT DATA
View profile

Chris LoSacco

VP, Product Innovation
Launch by NTT DATA
View profile

Kim Curley

VP, People & Organization Consulting
NTT DATA
View profile

Episode transcript

Gina Trapani: That's fun. That's fun.

Chris LoSacco: Cool.

Kim Curley: Really sorry about the landscapers.

Gina: (Laughing)

Chris: It's dead quiet right now.

Kim: Of course it is.

(CATALYST INTRO MUSIC)

Chris: Hello and welcome to Catalyst, the Launch by NTT Data podcast. I am Chris LoSacco, the VP of Product at Launch, and I'm joined, as always, by my co-host and business partner, Gina Trapani. Gina, how are you?

Gina: Hey, Chris, I'm doing well. Just going about the business of building good software for our clients. You know, just like any other... 

Chris: Designing good experiences.

Gina: I can't even keep a straight face.

Chris and Gina: (Laughing) 

Gina: (Laughing) I'm good. I'm very excited about this episode, because we have a very special guest.

Chris: We have a very special guest! We have a colleague at NTT Data, from the consulting side. I believe her official title is Vice President of People and Organizational Consulting. You can correct me if I got that wrong. Welcome, Kim Curley. 

Kim: You got it. It's spot on. Now, my preferred title is queen of all she surveys, but don't get called that...

Chris and Gina: (Laughing)

Kim: ...and the company rarely lets me use it.

Chris: But it is on your business card though.

Kim: Yeah. It is. My secret business card.

Chris: Let's... yeah. Let's... Let's let the record reflect. Right.

Gina: I'm gonna have to change... I have to take that one. I like... I prefer commander in chief of my one-woman army, but that's a little too war-y.

Kim: Yeah.

Chris: Mhm.

Gina: You know, I like, I like the queen of everything she surveys, that's good.

Kim: Sometimes I go with Empress if I feel like I really need to pull rank. That's a good one.

Gina: That's beautiful. Kim, I am so happy to have you on the show, because the thing about you and the work that you do, that fascinates me to no end, and that I really, really want to dig into with you... Because I see it. I see that you, like, love this. Tell me if I get this right. You, Kim, love, love people. 

Kim: I do.

Gina: Like, people. Like, irrational, illogical, risk-averse... 

Kim: Messy... 

Gina: Change-averse, messy, emotional, unpredictable, annoying, agenda-driven, irritable... (Laughs) Like, you... Because, you're talking to two introverted software nerds. Like, computers are rational and behave in ways that are predictable and logical and rational. And so we... We really like that part. Although, but, we understand that humans use software. And so, this is why I'm fascinated that you've spent your career working with people, and leading people through change, which is when people are not at their best selves.

Chris: That's the thing. It's like, the worst... 

Kim: Yeah. Rarely.

Chris: Tell us a little bit about, like, what is a day-to-day experience like in your world?

Kim: Sure. The first thing I'll say is, you know, at heart I'm probably really a social scientist. So, how people work and why they do the things they do, and sort of the, all the theories of why people make decisions and act the way they do, I just find all of that fascinating. If we have time, I'll tell you about an interesting interaction this morning with clients and client executives, and it was just fascinating to watch. Right? Everyone else was really fired up, and I was like, wow, that's really interesting. That's really interesting. So back to, you know, what I do and why I do it. I do it because I do find humans absolutely fascinating. I also believe, and this is no ding on software or data or technology of any kind, but it's all about the humans. And it's always going to be about the humans. Always has been about the humans. You take the humans completely out of the situation, and I don't actually know what we have. You know, maybe one day there will be not many humans in the system. 

Gina: (Laughs)

Kim: But I'm... I'm struggling to conceive of a world in which that exists. So for me... 

Chris: Yes. 

Kim: The thing that's constant is the humans. Right? Like, we get all these cool tools, we get all this cool technology, we learn how to do different things, we have all these different capabilities than we had before. But the constant is the human, and how that human interacts with all those choices and all of those things they have around them. So, to me, that's by far the most interesting part. And then when you take a human and put them in a work setting, you know, talk about a challenging scenario, right? You're there maybe by choice, maybe not by choice. You're there to earn a paycheck. You're there to fulfill your purpose. There's, you know, a vast array of reasons that you are in the workplace. And how you get people to a state where they can thrive and be their best, whatever their best is, in a workforce. I mean, I just think, to me, there's no higher calling. I really believe it is a calling.

Gina: I mean, it truly, truly is. Because when you have activated, engaged people who are, you know, care about a mission and are working together, I mean, that is like...

Kim: Unstoppable.

Gina: You can move mountains.

Kim: Partner that up with all that cool software you're developing for, you know, cool clients everywhere. And now we're really unstoppable, right?

Gina: (Laughs) Right.

Chris: Yeah. Well, if you can get the people part right, and then the software is like a multiplier on top.

Kim: Yeah! Yeah. Yeah. 

Chris: And now you're doing some really good stuff.

Kim: Yeah. That's exactly right.

Chris: But yeah. The software part is straightforward. It's the people that get in the way.

Kim: Totally. We are not rational. We don't do... 

Chris: We're not rational.

Gina: No.

Kim: You can't program us.

Gina: No.

Kim: Darn it.

Chris: That's exactly right.

All: (Laughter)

Gina: Yeah. Well, you know... In our line of work, client services, which is why I love client services, is that we get the opportunity and the privilege to sit in rooms with our clients and their teams, right? We embed ourselves, these are long-term relationships, and a lot of times, you know, people forget that we don't work there, right? We become really part of the team.

Kim: That's right.

Gina: But you get to observe these interactions in very different cultural environments, you know, with different missions, certainly, but also just different cultures and different strategies. And that thing you referenced earlier about being on a call and being like, isn't that interesting? I call that putting on my binoculars. Like when things start to unravel or get heated...

Kim: Yeah.

Gina: ...get hot or get cold, it's so interesting to read a room and to like, go into, like, put on my binoculars and observing this. Like, what's happening here? How is this person feeling? Why is that person reacting that way? It is. It's endlessly fascinating, but it also is not, cannot be programmed. Or predicted in any way, which is terrifying. (Laughs). 

Kim: It can't.

Gina: It's true.

Kim: But, you know, it's kind of... It's really cool that you have the ability to put on your binoculars, because that's actually something I learned in school.

Gina: I had to grow that. (Laughs)

Kim: ...that, like, for the degrees that I have in organizational development, that's one of the things that they teach you how to do, is to... They call it getting up in the balcony. So you want to get up in the balcony and watch the dance.

Gina: Yes.

Chris: Mm.

Kim: What's happening down on the dance floor? If you stay on the dance floor, sometimes you're sucked into the dance. Then, not only can you not see all the moving parts of the dance, but you're really hampered in what you can do about the dance and for the dance. But if you're up in the balcony, you can see the whole play. Or if you like sports analogies, you know, if you're up in the Play Callers' booth, you can see everything that's going and understand the strategy.

Chris: Totally.

Kim: But if you can't get up, you know, where you're using those binoculars, you really have a much harder time. And that's what was fascinating about my interaction this morning, is I was a little bit enough removed where I could sit in the balcony and just watch what was going on. Nobody needed me to do anything.

Gina: It helps when you're a little bit removed. Yeah, yeah. You're right. Right. 

Kim: Yeah. But I can help, and coach in the background, because it was, you know, not something that I was hooked in, or... 

Chris: Right. 

Gina: Right, right. Attached to.

Kim: Yeah. That's right.

Chris: You're using the distance to your advantage. To be able to say, I can see some things that you can't see because they're right in front of you or right at hand, and, you know, let me offer a different perspective to you because you're too close to it. Essentially. Yeah.

Kim: That's right. 

Gina: Not to get too woo-woo or too, too far into, like, personal development. This is something that I've had to, like, practice, and not something I've mastered. But, like, in your own psychology, there are times when you have to be like, let me get out of this, the being on the dance floor with my ego at this moment and get up to the balcony.

Chris: A hundred percent. Yes.

Kim: That's right.

Gina: And just look at, look at the facts on the ground, and just try to detach a little bit from my own swirling stress and emotions or whatever I feel about this in the moment. But, I don't mean to go down that road. But that's also... Man, it's so important. But I really... Chris turned to me the other day. And I forget what the situation was. We were... We have, like, a joint office. We were standing there. We were trying to get something done. I forget, I forget what the situation was. But you said something to me, Chris, about the software tools that we were using. Something hadn't happened the way I would have expected it to happen. And then I messed up and didn't, you know, I forgot to follow up with somebody on something. And you said to me, we default to the baseline of our tools. Is that what you said?

Chris: Yeah. And this is not my quote. I heard it somewhere, so I don't know the original source, but it's something like, we don't rise to our goals, we fall to our systems. You know, it's the systems that really dictate how we are working, not our aspirations. And I think this is what is so interesting to talk about with you, Kim, which is like, how much of that is the... You know, when you have a team that's not functioning, how much of it is, like, the people and how they are organized and how they are interacting with each other, and how much of it is the tools? Like, the ways that they are working and the things that they are using. It's probably not 100% one way or the other.

Kim: Never. 

Chris: You know? 

Kim: Never.

Chris: But it's... you got... You gotta kind of, like, parse out, how do we need to rearrange, you know, the working dynamics between these people. And, how do we enable them with really good tooling so that the systems are not getting in the way?

Kim: Right. And that's a great question. It's actually some of the most fun work we do, is trying to figure out what the actual root problem of something is, or what the core of the challenge is. And, you know, y'all do a ton of that work in, when you're designing CX. But when I think about the CX and the EX, you're sort of, to a large degree, designing clean. And where I usually am is, it's a mess. Let me figure out what the mess is and unravel it, as opposed to, I'm going to design it the way it should be from the beginning.

Chris: Yes, totally.

Kim: Very often, y'all almost have a, you know, a blank slate. You don't have to unwind it. But when you talk about existing organizations, there are hierarchies in place. There are processes and muscle memory in place. There are deeply embedded cultural norms in place that sometimes you can't see and you can't read. But man, you can feel 'em. And man, you can hear 'em.

Chris: Yeah. 

Kim: When somebody does a certain thing or interacts in a certain way. So my team tries to weed through that noise to figure out what's a structural problem, which could be organization structure. We include tools in structures because I believe, if you're going to create a particular culture for an organization, every decision you make about that organization is part of that structure. So, the tools that you choose to give people, the norms with which you use those tools in your organization, all fall into that structure.

Chris: Completely agree.

Kim: So there are structural problems that you can... That are, frankly, more easily fixed. You can make decisions and change from this tool to that tool, or add a new tool, or redesign, or fix a process in a tool. And then you've got the human elements. You've got the capabilities of the individuals themselves, you've got the motivations of the individuals themselves. And those motivations are both intrinsic and extrinsic, right? So, the intrinsic ones, that's where my work and my certification  as an executive coach comes in. Working with people's intrinsic motivation. But the extrinsic motivation very often is anchored back to those structures that we talked about.

Chris: Yes.

Kim: How were people literally incented to behave? And that could be monetarily. It could be, I'm punished if I go against the norm in a particular way. So there's intrinsic and extrinsic, all of which kind of sits around or gets wrapped around the skills and the capabilities of the individual as well. So it's really, really complex.

Chris: It's so complex. My brain is lighting up with, like, a thousand questions. I mean, one thing that occurs to me is, people get really good at bad systems. And so sometimes, their intrinsic motivation is, I already know how to do what I'm doing in the way that I'm doing it. And so, I don't have any motivation to change. Because I'm really good at... Even if this way is dysfunctional, I'm really good at it, so I want to keep doing it, you know? And it can make making that structural change that much harder.

Gina: And that's my value to the org. I know how to do this thing. 

Chris: Exactly.

Gina: I know how to work this machine. Don't change my machine, because I know how to operate it like nobody else. Yeah. Yeah.

Kim: And there's two things that factor in there. One is actually brain science, right? So now I'm going to nerd out for a minute. The brain as an organ takes a lot more energy to run than its relative size in your body. And I think everybody's probably heard that. It takes way more energy than it should, quote unquote, should. So what the brain does is it creates shortcuts. So all of those things that you know how to do really, really well, and have done a million times over, the brain creates shortcuts for. The example I always give is, the last three blocks when you're driving home from the grocery store. How often do you not remember those last... Was the light red? I don't know. Did I turn? I mean... 

Gina: I lose whole parts of my day.

Chris: You're on autopilot. Yeah.

Gina: Total autopilot. Yeah. That's right. 

Kim: That's right. So those are heuristics, what we call heuristics, that are actually formed in your brain. They're literally neural pathways that means, my brain can just run. The nerve endings, everything that's happening can just run down that established pathway. I don't have to think about it, I don't have to send any energy to it. And people are programmed... I mean, our brains are designed to save energy. Because if we save energy in non-stressful, non-novel situations, we can save it, save that energy, for when the saber-toothed tiger pops out from behind the rock in the cave.

Chris: (Laughing) Yes. That's right.

Gina: (Laughs) Yep.

Kim: And we need to somehow survive, right? And our brains really have not evolved beyond that. You know, that lizard brain, which is down here in the base of your brain, that lizard brain still controls a tremendous amount of what we do. So you've got two primary reasons that we kind of anchor back to our systems. One is that heuristics, we've got them programmed, they really work well, I don't have to think about 'em and I can save my energy for something else. But the second one is fear. So don't know how, if either of you spend any time with Brené Brown or any of her amazing work.

Gina: Yes.

Kim: When you think about, there's, I think there's only four pure emotions that the brain can do, and three of them are negative, right?

Chris and Gina: (Laughing)

Kim: So, when you think about needing to save energy. You gotta save energy, right?

Gina: Right.

Kim: Because so much of what's going on skews to the negative. So, when you talk about fear, that fear can be fear of being vulnerable: I've gotta learn something new, which is when I need to aspire to my, or move towards my aspirations, or be led by my dreams instead of pushed by my problems. You know, that fear of being vulnerable in a space where you have to learn something new, create new heuristics or new skill sets, that's really what keeps people anchored. So, two reasons. Number one, it's a heck of a lot easier, technically, and literally, in the energy in your brain. And then the second one is, you know, fear and vulnerability are scary.

Chris: Right. You don't want to be there.

Kim: Whatever level, whatever kind you're in. So when we're working with clients, we're dealing with fear and vulnerability. Sometimes we talk about that really directly, and sometimes we use more work-like language. But that's really what we're dealing with. And so it's no wonder that we spend a lot of time sort of in that fight-or-flight mode. That's natural. It's connected with those negative emotions. And so everything we do as programmed humans, because the way our brains, evolutionarily, still work, we look for shortcuts. So, you know, it's...

Chris: Right.

Kim: One of the simple examples I give is, just try to brush your teeth with your other hand tonight. Let me know how many weeks it takes you to be able to do that.

Chris: Yeah, right. Weeks. Yeah.

Kim: That's what we're asking people to do in the workplace. We're asking them to brush their teeth with their other hand.

Chris: Yeah. 

Kim: It's a tough road.

Gina: And this is also why, you know, when you're given a set of tools... So, I don't think about or worry about whether or not my email is going to reach me. I assume that my email inbox is going to work. My calendar guides my day. I have no idea where I need to be right after this, but my calendar is going to tell me. And... So, I rely and depend upon the system that I have, right? So I'm connecting, you know, when we talk about CX and EX, so, customer experience and then employee experience, the digital tools inside of our employee experience, I think... Because we want to take shortcuts, we depend on our systems to do the work, take away the tedium and toil and the engagement of having to use our brain cycles for the stuff that it's easy for software to take care of. Right? And we want our software to free up our brains so that we can do the strategic and the human thinking and the high-value work, right? And this is why I think, you know, employee experience and the tools that we use in the workplace, I think, are so important. Because they tell you so much about how the company... Like, you expect your company to empower you to do your job and to hire you for your brain and for your strategic, high-value thinking, and not for, like, the tedium and toil of, like, pressing buttons and changing levers, you know, kind of in the tools that you use. And so I think having those, those tools that make you feel like, oh, that was easy. I got that done in one click. Or like, I understand the system, or I didn't have to file this TPS report and go through three different systems to do that. Or, like, this makes sense to me, like, that this is the next step to file this expense report or whatever that is. I feel like that's so important because it connects, you know, the employee to their... the mission, the higher mission, and not the TPS report, right? It also makes them feel like, I'm happy that I work here, because I have what I need in order to get my job done and do the stuff that's, like, really activating.

Kim: Yeah. That's right. And then that's that much time I don't have to spend on TPS reports, that I can spend delighting my client. 

Chris: Exactly.

Gina: Yes.

Kim: Whether that's my internal colleague or my boss. It's that much more energy that we can spend. You know, we're all just a giant... It's just a giant brain, right? Like, so, the heuristics work in the brain, or work within the system, you know, that's that much more energy we can spend on higher value added activities.

Chris: There's also a direct correlation between how much time you are spending struggling with your internal systems, and how much time you can devote to your customers, right? Your colleagues or your customers. Which is directly related to what you're saying, Kim, and how you are optimizing your energy flow as an employee. Right? An example I love to use is, we have a client who's an insurance company, and they came to us and they said, we want to rework our claims process so that if one of our policyholders has to file a claim, we want to change how they, you know, they notify us that there is a claim. And so we designed a really great, flexible, you know, extensible system for them to define how they file claims. It was like a, kind of a walkthrough for the policyholder. It was really clean and straightforward, it had conditional forms, so you weren't answering questions that you didn't need to answer. It was really great. It was a really great customer experience, where they were in a, you know, a stress position, and we could guide them to filing the claim in the easiest and simplest way possible. But, the processor for the claims was using this very outdated, you know, decades-old processing software on the backend. And the result was, it was really easy and great to file a claim, but then the process of waiting for that claim to be handled was really bad. It wasn't the customer's fault, right? The customer had a, theoretically, a great experience, but what happened was, because the employee-facing systems were not good, the internal systems, the ultimate customer experience suffered. And it wasn't because the interface was designed poorly. It was because they were feeling the ramifications of the internal folks not being able to do their jobs well. There's a direct correlation between how efficient your internal systems allow your employees to be, and how happy your customers are. Because if it's bad inside, it's going to be bad outside.

Kim: That's right. And it's kind of a double whammy, too, because if you gave the external customer that great experience, what are they expecting? They're expecting the rest of it to be that great. So if you went from a bad experience filing a claim, you know, you've gone up in terms of the client experience, you've raised their expectations of how that company is going to work with them.

Chris: Yes. 

Kim: But you've actually made the experience inside probably worse, because you've probably created a logjam. The claims filing goes much faster, which means there might be more in the pipe. Right? And it's all hitting that old system and getting stopped. So you've actually created a double whammy. You've heightened the experience expectations of the client, and you've decreased the ability of the organization to deliver on it. Which is just... 

Chris: That's right.

Kim: ...awful. And nobody intends that to happen. But if you're only focused on a part of that equation, that's all too often what happens. We give them the shiny frontend, and man, they are so ticked off, because that shiny frontend just disappears.

Chris: Yes. That's right.

Gina: Right. It doesn't fulfill the promise.

Chris: That's right. It all falls away. You have to look at the system... And I say system, I don't mean software system, I mean, like, the whole flow of what a customer experience is. You have to look at it holistically, from end to end. Right? When we say end to end customer experience, this is what we're talking about. It's not about one particular screen or particular interface. It's like, how do I see through the entire flow of what I want to do?

Kim: That's exactly right.

Chris: Yeah.

Kim: You gotta go all the way through it.

Gina: You know, we talked about, there's, like, people and there's software. Well-designed software, I love talking about experiences, especially for people who are in an incredibly vulnerable moment in their lives, and their brains are already in fight or flight. Like this first notice of loss example that you gave, Chris. Because these are people whose houses just got flooded, and whose garages just burned down. Like, are in, you know, financially in a moment of panic. And we all know that in those moments, empathy... Like, a well-designed interface, in that moment, is a way to... to make those situations a little bit better. It's so, it's so important, right? Because you're just lower-functioning and you're panicking, and, you know... Eric Meyer, who's a really good, great writer about empathetic software, gives us a great example about emergency rooms. My kid just fell and they're bleeding, and I need to bring them to the emergency room. How do I find it? How do I check in? And he talks, tells a story about, like, frantically on the phone, like, trying to figure out, you know, as they were driving their kid. Those are moments that I think really great experiences are so important, but through and through, just the way that you all said. Like, end to end, right? It can't be just... that first touch point goes really goes really well, and then it, right, you don't fulfill...

Kim: Yeah. Then falls off. And we talk about the importance of empathy and human-centered design and the importance of human-centric design, period. (Laughing) But for real, we need empathy in the middle of that. Right?

Gina: Yes. (Laughs) Right.

Kim: Like, it's not just an interesting word that we've thrown in there because, oh, let's be more human-centric, isn't that cool? No.

Gina: Right.

Kim: It's because, you know, you're catching people when they need you. And the more empathetic you can be to that entire experience, the, you know, the better everything goes for that human. And when we, as a company, talk about, you know, NTT's global mission is about making the world a better place, we mean it for everyone in every situation, right?

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: Right.

Kim: So, like, really making sure we're tackling that empathy thing, or bringing it with us in every interaction is so important.

Chris: I completely agree. I think more organizations are recognizing this. There was a wave, right? There was a wave around customer experience that happened, I don't know, I'm cherry picking a little bit here, but maybe, like, 5 to 7 years ago, it seemed like it was really heating up. The iPhone came out in 2007 and it kicked off this idea in the business world that like, oh, design matters, and you can drive big business through design, and, like, it really peaked, I think, you know, maybe five-ish years ago, where it was like, okay, we need to make our customer experience great. Now it feels like the next step is going to be employee experience. And tying customer experience to employee experience, and bringing that empathy just as you would to your customers, bringing it to what your internal people are using, your internal systems. My background is small companies, right? But now we're part of a big company. And one of the really cool things about NTT is, there's a lot of different people looking at a lot of different things. And because our headquarters in Japan has a very long view, right? They're trying to look about, where's the industry going in three, five, ten, 20 years. They do research. And they commission people to come look and say, where should we be focused? Not in a, like, let's just check a box on a, on a sheet and say we've done some research. Let's really understand. Like, what do we think is out there and where do we think the world is going? And so, some folks did a global customer experience report where they looked at, they did a lot of interviews and they looked at what matters to companies. And there are some fascinating stats in here. Like, 82%, so 80-plus percent of companies think that their EX levels, their employee experience levels are low, and it is negatively impacting their business delivery or success. 82% of people that are talked to say, we're not doing well enough for our internal employees, and it's having a negative effect. That is so telling to me, that it's starting to pick up, to say, hey, this stuff actually matters. Because it connects back to how much revenue we're getting, you know, how do we make sure we're operating efficiently? How do we make sure we're thinking about our operating margin, our profit? Like, these are real business factors that are driven by the interfaces your employees are using, the tools your employees are using.

Kim: It is fascinating. And I do hope it keeps going. What we tend to see in some of these big research studies is 82% say it's bad, but, you know, 6% are spending money on it or whatever the crazy number is.

Chris: Right, right, right.

Kim: I'm not quoting the report there.

Gina: That's the big divide on investment versus concern. (Laughs)

Kim: Exactly, exactly. But I do think... I think the pandemic changed some of that. I think the great resignation changed some of that. 

Chris: Totally.

Kim: Before that, how often did you hear CEOs talking about mental health, or connection to purpose, or wellness, or things for the employee base? Not very often. And now you can...

Gina: Not very often.

Kim: ...you can't listen to anything on mainstream media or pick up a newspaper or pick up a, you know, thoughtful periodical, that doesn't have something in there around what we need to do to make sure that the workforce is okay. And so, I love that trend. I'd like to see us spending more money on that trend. I do think it's a much bigger lever pull than people are giving it credit for, I guess I'd say.

Chris: Yeah. It's still not there. But, I mean, the arrow is pointing in this direction, right? It does seem like this is where people are going to... You know, leaders in companies are going to start to look at, okay, there's a real return on this investment. And if I spend my dollars here, you know, I get something out on the other end. And so, I anticipate that we're going to start to see more of this kind of work.

Kim: Yeah. I mean, for the first time ever, I'm getting pulled into things like, hey, let's do a culture transformation in our company. We want our company to be different and better tomorrow. We want to be able to compete, and we know we won't be able to if we don't change our culture. And that's one of those investments, are your processes... Let's talk about your processes, your systems, your tools, the way you lead, how you teach people to lead. You know, my favorite definition of culture is that culture is the worst behavior you will accept.

Chris and Gina: Mm.

Kim: So if you think about that, apply that to your systems, apply that to your technologies... 

Gina: Yes. Yes.

Kim: Well, if the worst that you will accept is pretty crappy, guess what you're going to get?

Gina: Pretty crappy. Right? (Laughs)

Chris: Just... exactly.

Kim: Right back at you, you know?

Gina: Yeah. (Laughing) Garbage in garbage out. 

Chris: That's a great rule of thumb. Garbage in, garbage out.

Gina: Yeah, that's great. It's so true. Oh my gosh, Kim, I just I can't imagine a client coming to us and being like, we really would like a culture transformation. I think I would, I would run screaming out of the room. So again, much respect for you and your work. (Laughing) Like, it sounds terrifying.

Kim: (Laughing) I'd be like, c'mon let's go. This is awesome!

Gina: I mean, the fact that that's the prompt is, I mean, it's tremendous. It's a tremendous opportunity. That's wonderful, but also very scary. But it's all connected, right? It's all connected. Systems, tools, processes, and also just culture. You know, it's not a top down thing, right? It's about how people talk to one another and the history of the place and the stories and the way people connect. You know, leadership really sets, sets a precedent, right? But then the team creates culture, too.

Chris: That's right. 

Kim: That's right. Yeah. How do you hire for it? How do you, you know, all those things. So culture... Culture comes from the top down and from the grassroots up. And you have to have both of them kind of pulling in the same direction to get what you're, you're really looking for. And Peter Drucker, who I love, and I still use that quote all the time, culture still eats strategy for breakfast. It still does.

Gina: That's right. You mean the way that people talk to one another every day and interact is more important than the big leatherbound binder on the shelf of the chief... whatever officer at the office? Is that...?

All: (Laughter)

Kim: Weirdly enough, I think that might be true.

Chris: Was it harder to do this kind of work during the pandemic? And, to a lesser extent, like, now? Because it feels to me like you would have to be in the room with people to really effectively do this.

Kim: Yeah. So, we all... My team, myself, we always love to be in the room, but the reality is that we can't. So, you know, we find new ways of doing it. You know, one of the things that I think is so interesting and that the world hasn't caught up with us about this yet. The brain hasn't even caught up evolutionarily with sitting in a desk and working, right? That's why you need to get up and move around at a minimum every 90 minutes. Your brain just simply doesn't function the way work does today. But your brain also doesn't function staring at a pane of glass either.

Gina: Yes.

Kim: Like, we haven't caught up with lots and lots of things. So I'm really intrigued by the concept of, when and how do we teach people to notice things through glass that are more easily noticed if you're in person? So, you miss micro-movements of the face, you miss different parts fidgeting that you can't see. Take healthcare, for example. When you think about the fact that so much more of our health care is taking place virtually today, are we teaching those skills to do it? So I'm really intrigued by what's coming next in terms of, how we teach people to be more effective in these more virtual environments. I will tell you, I always want to be in the room with my clients. Sometimes my clients really want me in the room, sometimes they don't. That's okay. We figure it out. But if you ask anyone that works on my teams or with my teams, they would all tell you if I had my choice, I'd rather be sitting in the room with Gina, playing with the T-Rex that's in the background. You know?

Gina: Yeah. (Laughs)

Kim: Or whatever that might be. Or feeling the background of the wall behind Chris to know what that feels like, because you're interacting in a really different and richer way that way.

Gina: I think it's important to mention that Chris is in a podcast studio with sort of, like, with... 

All: (Laughing)

Gina: ...with a textured soft wall behind him, which is why Kim wants to feel the wall. That sounded a little weird.

Kim: It did sound a little weird, but I do want to touch the wall. I'm not, I'm, you know, I'm going to be perfectly honest.

Gina: It's nice. We have to have you... We have to have you to the office. Yeah. Yeah. I've definitely stood and rubbed the wall. So that's, that's a thing. (Laughs) Kim, you and I had the opportunity, we spoke to a leader at a company that had a US-based team and an India-based team. And she said, we work together as if we are the same team. And we're like, oh, yeah? So, like, tell us a little bit about that. She's like, well, IT set us up so that their email server and calendar is a separate domain name than our email. And I was like, okay. She's like, so, you know, we can't see each other's calendars. So it's hard to schedule meet... And I was like, wait, you can't see one another's calendar? How do you schedule meetings so that include everyone? She's like, yeah, that's... that's hard. We have to like talk... And I was like, okay. (Laughs) So, I hear that you see yourself as one team. But she said, you know, we have challenges being one team. And I was like, tell me about the challenges. And part of it was literally just time management. We don't know when people are working or not working or, like, on... And I was like, why? And she said, well, we can't really access their calendars. So it's one of those moments, I was like, this system is not set up or empowering you to be the one team that you want to be. And it seemed like such a... Nothing's ever easy when it comes to IT. (Laughs) I mean, things are easy, but they're not easy. It seems like, but it seemed like such an obvious thing. Like, your system is not set up in order for you to interact as one team and, and be with one another. And it's like, you know, the India team is typically in the room together. The US team is all remote. So that feels weird, right? Because they all know what's going on. Ambiently. Because they're in the room and we're not. So it's so... I mean, and that's not a system, that's not a software thing, that's a cultural thing. That's a, how people work in different countries type of thing. I think it's important to understand, as we think about software and people, that the software doesn't dictate how people work, but also the way that people want to work, the software has to be set up in order to do that well. 

Kim: Yeah, it does. Because sometimes the software does dictate people how people work.

Gina: Yes.

Kim: So, in that case, what it's dictating is, we think we're one team, but we're really not. 

Chris and Gina: Right. Right.

Kim: They're not really working as one. It's really hard for them to work as one team. 

Gina: Right. Right.

Kim: Because it prevents certain interactions. Or it... Permissions can make one group feel like the in-group or the out-group.

Gina: Yes. 

Kim: Which affects the level of collaboration and cohesiveness as you're working through. So it does dictate how you work. Because again, Chris, you said at the beginning of the call, we revert to our systems, right? We revert to the way the systems work. Back to those heuristics.

Chris: Yep.

Kim: You know, how many of you are going to work on a workaround versus just doing what the thing lets you do?

Gina: That's right. It's so true.

Chris: This was great. I feel like we could talk for hours about how to make things better. I want to put this out there to people listening to this. If you have software problems, we would love to talk to you at Launch. Launch loves to strategize, ship and scale great technology solutions, and if that can be your internal systems, we would love to tackle those too. So if you're listening to this and you're thinking, I could use some help on my stuff, it's not great, please reach out. Also, if you're listening to this and thinking, you know, my team is not really working as effectively as it could, I feel like our structure is not really great. I love that Kim laid out, you know, you have to think about the structures because that's, you know, how people work best. If you want to reach out about that, we would love to hear that too. So please hit us up. The email address is catalyst, c-a-t-a-l-y-s-t, at NTTdata.com. And we will read that email. We read them all. Kim, thank you so much for joining us today.

Kim: Oh, it's my pleasure. This has been a great conversation. We could nerd out for hours and hours more, I know it.

Gina: We really could. It was so good to have you. And honestly, now, after this conversation, I'm really hoping that, you know, next time you get called in for a culture transformation, that Launch is right behind you, helping build out those good tools. Because I think it's really about doing it together. It's a both sides. Both sides of the coin.

Kim: Agree. Agree. 

Chris: Both sides of the coin. Alright.

Gina: Thanks for listening, everybody. And we're going to link that report we talked about in the show notes as well, so you can take a look at it.

Chris: Yes.

Gina: Customer experience and employee experience research. We appreciate you. Thank you so much for listening. Until the next time.

Chris: We'll be back at you soon.

Kim: Bye, everyone.

Gina: Bye all.

(CATALYST OUTRO MUSIC)

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