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Aligning colleague and customer strategy

Tim Baker, people & culture partner


Organisations are looking to attract colleagues as well as customers, then offer both a great experience. From attraction to onboarding, engagement to retention; the parallels are clear and there is an opportunity to learn from each other. Recently, these functions have been coming closer than ever before.


We are seeing the adjoining of the two functions in companies such as Adobe where Donna Morris was EVP, customer & employee experience. She has now gone back to focusing on people as CHRO since the company has doubled in headcount. On these shores, Rob Painter was most recently the managing director of people & brand at Skybet. Painter explains:


“At Sky Bet we worked to align the culture and the purpose of the internal organisation with the promise of our consumer brands. In our case a relentless pursuit of ‘better’. This way all teams knew and bought into what we were doing and our customers had a greater chance of finding our marketing promises were real. The success of the business suggests we managed it.”


Individuals from other customer-centric functions are now leading the people strategy in several leading organisations. At Schroders, Emma Holden leads the HR function and has a communications background. Jenny Grey, MD HR EMEA at Citi brings a similar experience set. Nigel Miller, now senior advisor - employee experience for Edelman, began life in corporate communications agencies before leading public relations at Labatt Breweries in Canada. He moved into the people space with AB InBev before taking on HR leadership roles with Coca-Cola and then Edelman. Miller says:


“It’s become much more common for HR leaders to spend at least a part of their career in other parts of the business, with customer or client-facing roles really helping to build a foundation of both knowledge and credibility.  In my case, a communications background has been really helpful.”


In addition to this, a recent Harvard Business Review article argues that every company needs what they have termed a “chief experience officer”; an individual responsible for employee and customer experience, integrating these two disciplines and leading them across the company. The report points to a study by MIT that found companies classified in the upper quartile for employee experience created more successful innovations, delivering twice as much revenue from them than those in the bottom quartile. They also have double the industry-adjusted net promoter score.


Before joining Wilton & Bain, I interviewed with our group chief executive, David Heron, who was already thinking along these lines for our organisation. Heron expanded on this:


“At Wilton & Bain, we primarily talk about two things; our customers and our people. I believe that great customer experience, is driven by internal company culture. People who care about their firm, care about their customers, so for us, combining these two elements is critical to our objectives of being an outstanding firm to work for, and an outstanding firm to work with.”


True to his word, Clare Elliott is now our people & brand director and has been working on the alignment of these two areas for some time. Elliott remarked:


“I am delighted to continue leading the strategy across our people and customer brand. We have worked hard to shape a distinct culture here and we want our customers to be able to see and feel it. By ensuring our people have a great experience, as David mentions, we will ensure clients have the same. We want to share our internal successes with the market, which is why you will see news about our future leaders programme cohorts or recent promotions”. This is as important to us as client successes and the two are connected.”


Painter agrees, drawing on his time with Sky Bet:


“Functionally it made a lot of sense to take a brand and marketing approach to defining our employee brand and marketing the company to existing and prospective employees in the right channels with the right messages. Acquisition and satisfaction of customers and employees after all requires a similar approach and set of skills.”


At Wilton & Bain, we believe it will differentiate us and enable us to take our culture out to the market more effectively, so our networks and communities get a feel for us, our values and our style. In turn, we can draw from Elliott’s expertise in marketing enhance our employer brand.


Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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