Lessons from Amazon on Employee Experience

By Natanya Rutstein

I recently came across an interesting article in the New York Times on the e-commerce giant Amazon, titled “Hard Lessons (Thanks, Amazon) Breathe New Life into Retail Stores. Now, I must confess my complete awe at the manner in which Amazon has reshaped and established itself as the dominant player in the online retail market. Amazon’s successful disruption of the market has placed retail stores under huge pressure, with many Wall Street analysts describing it as the retail apocalypse.

But, according to this article, American consumer behaviour is beginning to change, with more shoppers returning to the traditional brick and mortar stores. The retail outlets that are currently flourishing are those that have successfully reinvented themselves in response to this market disruption. They are doing so by offering a quicker, more convenient and personalised shopping experience with multi-channel options to purchase, take delivery of and even return items purchased.

“The retailers that get it, recognize that Amazon has forever changed consumer behaviour,” said Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor and former director of the retailing centre at the Wharton School. If retailers want to survive they need to create a customer experience which parallels the effortlessness, personalised and instantaneous experience of on-line shopping.

When designing employee experiences (EX) and looking for new ways to attract, engage and retain the best talent, HR should look to the lessons learned not only in the retail industry but across the entire customer service spectrum. We should strive to extract the value from best practice in customer experience (CX) and apply this knowledge to our understanding in the design, delivery, measurement and improvement of EX in our own organisations.

With the consumerisation of society, both employees and shoppers have many similar needs and expectations in relation to their respective employee or customer experiences. Ultimately, they are both looking for a personalised experience which offers them curated content via multiple channels, using the most appropriate technology and meeting their needs in the simplest and quickest way possible, on-demand and always in the moment.

To their detriment, retailers seem to have responded too slowly in adapting to market disruptions and evolving to meet the needs of their customers. Let’s hope that we as HR professionals will be more agile in our response and adaptation to this consumerisation of the workplace and its impact on employee expectations and needs.

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