Insight by Salesforce

Don’t overlook employees in the drive for better customer experience

The commitment to improve customer experience, a central focus of federal agencies under administration policy, is a 360-degree effort. Agencies can gain a great deal of effectiveness if they ensure good onboarding, provisioning and high-quality information technology tools for their own employees. That’s especially true for the front end of the employment lifecycle, namely recruitment and onboarding.

One simple reason:

“The government is competing for talent with the private sector and looking for the same...

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State of Employee Experience in Federal Agencies

We've learned time and time again, that engaged employees are more effective, and engaged employees deliver better mission outcomes and better citizen service.

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Modernization of the Employee Experience

At one agency, we found that they had four different forms that required virtually the same information. We worked with them to automate those forms … into workflows and created an experience that is, on the users end, seamless and personalized.

The commitment to improve customer experience, a central focus of federal agencies under administration policy, is a 360-degree effort. Agencies can gain a great deal of effectiveness if they ensure good onboarding, provisioning and high-quality information technology tools for their own employees. That’s especially true for the front end of the employment lifecycle, namely recruitment and onboarding.

One simple reason:

“The government is competing for talent with the private sector and looking for the same kind of commercial skill sets that industry is,” said Casey Coleman, senior vice president for digital transformation for the global public sector at Salesforce. “It’s important to pay attention to these things to be able to recruit and retain talent, and to give employees the tools that they need to do the mission.”

Coleman, who spent a dozen years as a federal executive at the General Services Administration, said regardless of the constituency for which agencies are trying to improve customer experience (CX), they face the same challenges.

“They’re dealing with systems that are old and hard to update, and processes that are very highly regulated,” Coleman said. By processes, Coleman referred to how the government recruits people, how it conducts interviews of candidates, background checks, and the myriad tasks related to getting people in the door and equipped. Often, she noted, differing organizations handles these processes, some by agencies other than the hiring agency.

CX applied to employees “is about creating an integrated experience, giving people transparency, giving them the ability to know where they stand at any time and being responsive and communicative, and meeting them where they are,” Coleman said. “So that you’re creating an engaging experience and giving them a positive first impression of your organization.”

From a technical standpoint, providing such an experience requires integrating systems supporting the various processes in a way that presents a single virtual face to employees and prospective hires.

“And the good news,” Coleman said, “is that this does not require a three year modernization project. This is not the kind of Big Bang thing that is never actually going to deliver results.”

She cited a Defense Department organization that Salesforce helped collapse some 100 systems into a single recruiting and onboarding platform. One resulting benefit was mobile capability people could use to submit forms such as fitness reports.

The multiplicity of process continues for established career employees, Coleman pointed out. As examples, she cited annual ethics and security awareness training, participation in the Combined Federal Campaign, and contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan. Coleman described a model where employees “have easy access to self-service, the ability to get to [services] when you are ready, and to be able to work from a hybrid environment. So you can do them online, you can do them in person, the records are up to date, and they’re available anytime, anywhere.”

Coleman describe this as a connected experience, adding that with digital cloud services platforms such as Salesforce, agencies can create experiences equal to the best of the private sector. A connected experience “is not only the kind of thing that a modern technology company can do. Departments and agencies and organizations can do the same.”

Low code, high touch

She added, “You can start small, you can solve a problem quickly with an agile approach, you can then move beyond that.”

In one instance Coleman described, after the onset of the Covid pandemic, a cabinet department needed to institute shift tracking of employees, to be able to track cases of Covid exposure.

“Within a few days,” Coleman said, “they were able to launch an application on our platform, so people could log their shifts. They could then start to analyze the data to see who had been on a certain shift in a certain location when there had been an exposure, and from then be able to notify people so that they could limit the exposure.”

Moreover, the application deployed in a matter of days using a low-code environment. Now, Coleman said, the department uses the low-code platform regularly for a variety of applications.

“These are the kinds of capabilities that are available out-of-the-box now that really contribute to a materially better employee experience,” Coleman said.

With the technology to support user- and employee-centric applications comes the need for agency managers and top executives to think in terms of the employee experience.

“This is an issue that is grounded in technology and the art of the possible with what digital cloud platforms can now do,” Coleman said. “But it also involves thinking about processes differently, really thinking from the outside in, from the point of view of the end user, whether that end user is a customer, a citizen or resident or a constituent, or if that user is an employee.”

That type of thinking can help guide the agency away from the dated e-mail or shared-drive mode to a more contemporary and intuitive way of collaborating. Or inspire them automate forms and integrate them into workflows, thereby ending some drudgery. This matters to the employee experience, given the degree to which so many governmental activities require collaboration across functions and across missions.

“What we’re working with customers to do now,” Coleman said, “is digital headquarters a concept where you can collaborate easily, seamlessly and in a way that is connected across organizational boundaries.”

She added, “That’s the kind of thing that is enabled by systems. But it also involves understanding that collaboration, case management, records management, all of these kinds of things can be sped up, improved and delivered in a way that’s personal, integrated and connected.”

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