by Julia Ahlfeldt (@JuliaAhlfeldt) CEOs already have a lot on their plate but, in today’s competitive landscape, attracting top talent and rallying teams around a common purpose is critical for brand success. This shift has put HR in the spotlight.

Traditionally tasked with recruitment, staff turnover, talent management and remuneration, today’s HR leaders are increasingly using customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) to amplify employee engagement in an effort to deliver a financial return for their firms. HR and marketing play key roles and must closely collaborate to ensure that a company’s vision, mission and values are more than just words plastered on the wall, but rather something that is realised through each employee.


It’s taken some time for CX to take its rightful place at the boardroom table, but according to Gartner, 90% of businesses see its value. The next step is now to integrate CX with EX (ie every interaction staff have with a business, from the first interview to resignation) to really make a commercial dent.

Google, the tech company with the best corporate culture, famously brought the beanbag, nap pod and office ping-pong table to life. It also encourages employees to come to work happily by offering work flexibility, providing opportunities to spearhead innovation, and developing team-mindfulness programmes so that everyone in the team is cared for and may perform at their best. It may sound fluffy, but it brings in the bucks: as of May 2018 Google’s brand value was US$132.1bn.

Google and other Silicon Valley giants such as Airbnb and LinkedIn have also emphasised culture, invested in employee engagement and reaped the rewards of motivated and purpose-driven teams. These organisations realised that, if you want employees to look after a company, they must feel valued and respected.

While the Silicon Valley institutions are renowned for treating their employees well, not every business is as progressive. In South Africa, there are a handful of businesses that follow in the tech giant’s footsteps but many others have been slower in adopting this approach and still consider HR as being exclusively responsible for acquisition, retention and the bare-bones of employee well-being ‘tick boxes’. Have they, or will they, take the necessary steps to put their HR hat on and show their trust in their internal ‘customers’ too?

Bring on the CX cavalry

When an HR team needs help ramping up employee engagement, it creates an opportunity for a highly impactful collaboration with marketing. Marketing teams are the stewards of a brand’s purpose and values, and often the closest to customer insights. These messages must form a key part of employee engagement. From values-based interviews, to ongoing skills development, HR strategy must be informed by brand strategy.

Marketing teams are also masters of communication. The same skills that masterfully communicate a company’s value proposition into the marketplace may be used to communicate this internally as well. And marketing teams are always under the gun to demonstrate ROI, something that HR teams will need to do, as they motivate for investment in culture. They also bring confidence and cred to sit down with the CEO to demonstrate the value of a strategic EVP and how, by integrating it across the business and aligning with its goals, there is a higher likelihood of financial gain. After all, what catches a CEO’s attention faster than demonstrating how an approach will impact the numbers?

Given that engaged employees contribute to better financial results, it’s worth everyone’s time to fully understand the role that employees play as internal customers and update business, HR strategies and communication tools that inspire, inform, instruct, involve and incent. Companies that do align culture with brand values and invest in employee engagement make more than four times the average profit and more than two times the average revenue.


Whichever way you look at it, HR, CX and EX make good business sense. So, too, does a mutually beneficial collaboration between HR and marketing: successful EX will impact CX. This supports the CEO’s long-term goals and creates an organisation that is future-fit for competitive differentiation.


Julia AhlfeldtJulia Ahlfeldt (@JuliaAhlfeldt) is a certified customer experience professional (CCXP). She consults to blue-chips and multinationals, working with Virgin Active, Momentum, Absa, and American Express, Ross Stores and JP Morgan Chase in the US, among others. By tapping into her vast local and international network, she produces a monthly podcast, Decoding the Customer, interviewing leaders on CX trends and adoption (including Michelle Beetar). She contributes the new column, “The CX-Files”, to MarkLives.

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