Chanel McFarlane is the Enterprise Customer Success Manager for the UK & Nordics at LumApps – a leading employee experience platform. Her role involves nurturing customer relationships whilst bridging the gap between LumApps and the client projects to help them unlock their full potential.
She maintains and exercises her client knowledge to collaborate effectively, in using LumApps to overcome client business challenges, define objectives, achieve their business goals and improve internal communications and engagement overall.
1. As a customer success manager, you certainly see plenty of challenges when it comes to engaging employees. What do you feel are the biggest obstacles businesses face right now?
Most businesses have put in place hybrid working schemes, meaning people are taking more control of their time. As a result, management styles have moved from being able to generate engagement through direct and present communication (e.g., within office spaces) to now needing to collaborate from a distance; all whilst still trying to create an organic feeling for employees that they are part of a community. This presents the following challenges: how can companies reach everybody? And how do they ensure that people are engaged? Though this is a problem that has always existed, we are living in an age where there is more awareness around it as businesses are monitoring everything from survey reports through to different types of ROIs on investments -and these are becoming much harder to track.
In tandem, there has also been a shift in the mentality of workers as people are starting to push back against their employers. This is not just down to the pandemic but also thanks to the new generation of workers. Gen-Z and millennials, for example, want to protect their personal time whereas an older generation are stereotypically ‘stuck in their ways’ and have different expectations. Therefore, businesses have to evolve and adapt in response to this generational divide, yet that’s easier said than done.
2.Following up on that, what can organisations do to overcome those challenges?
I think it would be changing this top-down mentality that’s happening in many companies. By blurring the lines between work and personal life, individuals will feel like too much isn’t being asked of them and participating in something that they’re supposed to do. There are a lot of younger start-ups that are creating a personal space within the working environment, where work life doesn’t have to stop somewhere and start somewhere else – it’s about making it really personable. Jobs should be enjoyable on the most part, regardless of what it is, and companies need to incentivise that. That doesn’t mean bribing employees but instead its about implementing rewards schemes that cultivate the employee experience. There are many great ways of connecting with individuals and keeping up with the times, for instance, having more of a social presence that also incorporates employees and gives everyone a voice. Simply put, people will leave if they are not happy, so how do you keep them happy and how can this be communicated effectively? Communication is the strongest asset a company has and the key is making sure that this comes across in an authentic way. This can be done by giving employees a means of support within the company and creating a space where individuals feel like they can turn to their employers about problems that occur in their personal life and not just their work life. This is what I mean by blurring the lines, creating that flow of intertwinement, and then communicating it effectively.
3.What role does LumApps play in that?
Essentially, it’s about framing it. A business may have fantastic ideas but how are they making sure it is being distributed to the right people at the right time. LumApps is providing that framework by making it possible for communities and dedicated spaces to be created around certain topics. From groups aimed at working mums or parents to support around mental health, LumApps enables this type of segmentation to be implemented for each individual company.
This can also be represented in the branding. For example, one of our customers has a gay pride section and branded their whole platform to represent that to help everyone feel connected without it being forced on them. LumApps has the flexibility to have that level of branding and communication to get everything out there in the least suffocating way possible.
The hybrid environment is probably best for the majority of people as they can connect with colleagues physically whilst also having the personal time to do that little bit more when at home.
4.The last few years have brought a lot of changes in where we work. The debate over office vs remote is still ongoing. What’s your view on this? Is hybrid a potentially permanent solution?
I think you would struggle to meet many people that would say that hybrid working is not the way forward because if one person isn’t doing it, someone else certainly will because they have seen the advantages of it – especially when it comes to employee retention. We have now experienced that it can work whereas it was the unknown that kept us in that structure before. Being in the office five days a week now feels obscene and unnecessary. I struggle to think of a time when I used to go into work all week, having to arrive and leave at a specific time. There was a collective pressure to stay in the office and I’m shocked that it lasted for so long. I don’t think it’s the way forward. Personally, it has been a bonus as it has given me my time back that I would otherwise lose on commuting. I find I have more balance and in doing so, it has made me more respectful of the time I spend in the office.
The hybrid environment is probably best for the majority of people as they can connect with colleagues physically whilst also having the personal time to do that little bit more when at home. Yes, there might be that ‘scary monster’ for some employers that employees will be sleeping in until 4pm but that’s simply not true. Humans are individuals that function and work together when they are in an environment that allows them to do their best. It has also had a positive impact on recruitment. Many businesses have been able to hire more types of talent because they are reaching out to people further afield.
5.One of the things that is certainly missing in the fully remote workplace is the “watercooler chat” we get in the traditional office setting. What can be done about that?
Workplace communities are something that needs to be built and developed. I think this is where the discussion should be focused on how you can use communities in an organic way as it’s not just a given to say there is a community already in place. You can’t just create a space where everyone has to talk because you’re obliging them to; that’s not the idea of the watercooler concept. Instead, it’s about individuals taking time to go and engage with others, and maybe innovative ideas will come from that which is a bonus. Allowing that space to foster communities is a great start as people are going outside of their regular working day to touch base on something and have that common point of interest. In the past, the watercooler was often an excuse for people to get away from their desk and chat to co-workers. So, the question becomes, how can you replicate that online or on the intranet? Communities would be the answer but it also needs to be by the individual themselves e.g. making it clear that there is a space where you don’t have to talk about work and general discussions within the platform can take place. Think about online coffee breaks via Teams or Google Meet. It’s extending this concept and animating it further so you can have conversations that pop up around you, communities linked with organic chats, and a relaxed leadership that allows these ‘watercooler’ moments to happen.
6.Is it possible to truly personalise employee experience in large organisations? How?
Yes, thanks to technology and AI. It’s about creating that journey online in a hyper-personal way, similar to social media. Your Instagram feed, for example, will be personalised to you based on what you’ve liked, shown interest in, and subscribed to. An intranet essentially wouldn’t be any different, which is why LumApps are constantly exploring ways to make the employee journey as tailored and personalised as possible. If a user subscribes to a certain community or newsfeed, they will have relevant content suggested and pushed to them in real time. And, if they commented on something, they would see updates that come in after those comments in the same way you would on Facebook. It’s about using what works and implementing it into the working environment without it feeling overwhelming or unprofessional.
7. What are your expectations for 2023 when it comes to employee experience? What about, say. 10 years from now, 2033?
I hope that there will be bigger steps toward gamification and really making the employee experience fun. In my view, there has to be a stronger effort to bring fun into the workplace without making it feel unprofessional. Since the pandemic, there has been a bigger push to get individuals to interact more with what they are seeing, rather than just saying they have read it. We need to understand how it makes them feel and tap into that dopamine rush when they’ve interacted with content or equally, when their content is being interacted with. I would like to see the personalised experience becoming just a bit more fun, more inviting, and more memorable.
In 10 years, I think my mentality will change but whatever happens, I hope that innovation will continue to be naturally encouraged within the working space to generate ideas from the bottom-up. Whereby, it wouldn’t rely so much on hierarchical positions to make decisions just because they have been put into that role. They should be a space where ideas are taken from every level and people are given gratification for their contribution as that’s what contributes to the longevity of a company. How will this be done? That’s still to be decided and if I have that lightbulb moment, I will keep it to myself so I can sell it. Joking aside, we need to be open to taking ideas from unfamiliar places that we wouldn’t have usually searched for, expanding on that watercooler concept.
8. Your message to the reader of Employee Experience Magazine?
I guess it would be that in an attempt to find that employee experience, don’t limit yourself to what you understand as ‘employee experience’, your own experience or those around you. Seek out diversity to create a unified experience that can apply to many and not just a few. I think this is something we often get stuck up in as we often go to those who are perceived to be the most successful. It’s important to take from the negative what you would from the positive and only then can you have a true experience that reflects the majority and not the minority. Final piece of advice, whatever you do just have fun with it!
LumApps is a global employee experience platform, transforming how companies engage, enable, and empower their workforces. The cloud-native solution is architected to tailor each experience to the individual needs of every employee, wherever and whenever they connect. With the industry’s first unified employee data layer to drive hyper-personalisation, LumApps is the only solution to deliver truly customised interactions for a game-changing employee experience. Since 2015, LumApps has been helping some of the world’s largest companies, including Just Eat, Galeries La Fayette, Palo Alto, and Publicis Sapient, revolutionise how they attract and retain great talent. Learn more at www.lumapps.com.