Excellence Breeds Excellence: A Q&A With HR Guru Sharlyn Lauby

Ursula Ringham

This is Part 5 of the series: “Transforming Your Enterprise for the Experience Economy

It’s easy to see the impact front-office employees have on the customer experience. From fielding customer service requests to one-on-one sales conversations with potential buyers, your front-office team members are on the front lines of service and experience. But what about those working behind the scenes?

Make no mistake, all employees – front end or back end – leave their mark. But how do you measure their mark?

Enterprises need more insight into their employee experience to truly understand how all employees, their work, and their happiness impact customers. Without this visibility, organizations are blind as to how they can attract, retain, and grow the exceptional talent that breeds exceptional experiences.

We recently sat down with author, writer, speaker, and consultant, Sharlyn Lauby of ITM Group and HR Bartender, to find out where enterprises can start more effectively measuring the mark of their employees and inspire exceptionalism. Read our full conversation with Sharlyn below.

A Q&A with Sharlyn Lauby: How to inspire exceptionalism from your workforce

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and your career. How did human resources become your passion?

A: I entered human resources in a very unusual way. I was in a car accident, which left me unable to do my original job. The company I worked for looked at my background and helped me transition into human resources (HR). They paid for me to attend classes and training programs so I could learn about the profession. I’ve never forgotten my journey into becoming an HR professional, and I’d like to think it helps me remember why organizations have HR: to help the company develop the most in their talent.

Q: What advice do you have for HR leaders hoping to gain a more strategic vs. administrative role in the business?

A: Make no mistake, there is an administrative side to HR. But even administration and compliance have a strategic component. Human resources professionals have to juggle a lot of demands. Being strategic involves understanding how all the pieces fit together, as well as prioritizing responsibilities to align with the organization’s needs.

Q: What insights are the most important for employee retention and engagement?

A: If I have to choose the top insights that organizations should focus on, I’d say “stay” data and reasons for looking.

First, organizations are missing a big opportunity if they don’t know why their employees stay with the company. It’s one thing to guess; it’s another thing to know. Organizations could use this information to attract the right candidates. “Stay” data also ensures organizations aren’t altering or eliminating the things employees love.

The second is understanding the reasons employees start looking for another opportunity. This isn’t the same as the reasons employees leave. When an employee resigns, they might say that they found a job closer to home or one that pays more money. And that would be absolutely true. The real question organizations need to answer is: What is the reason the employee started looking in the first place? Was it that their manager was a jerk? There’s a big difference between why they left and why they looked. Because if the company wants to take action, they need to allocate their resources in the right areas and fix the real problems.

Q: What do you think is a common misstep that organizations make in their approach to employee engagement?

A: Unfortunately, I think some organizations view employee engagement as an activity, event, or program. And while those things can contribute to engagement, they’re not the single cause of it. Engagement is about the employee experience, and there are so many factors wrapped into that term.

Q: How can technology like artificial intelligence, machine learning, or the Internet of Things help organizations attract, develop, and retain the right talent?

A: Technologies create opportunities for automation, standardization, and scalability, while at the same time providing personalization. This frees us humans up to do the things that technology can’t do.

In recruiting, technology can be used to answer common questions, screen information, and send out standard responses to candidates. It can also be used during pre-boarding to welcome new hires and make sure they receive information about their first days and weeks at work.

I’m seeing artificial intelligence and machine learning used in employee career coaching situations and microlearning. This allows organizations to become learning cultures where employees can improve their performance anytime, not only when formal classroom training is scheduled.

Employees are looking for organizations to provide them with experiences similar to the ones they can have outside of work. I can learn from platforms like YouTube. I can check my bank balance on my phone, so why shouldn’t I be able to check my vacation balance?

Q: How does having an engaged, motivated, and connected workforce impact the customer experience?

A: Very simple. Engaged employees equal happy customers. And we all know what that means: happy customers buy more and tell their friends how great your organization is.

Q: Tell us about a memorable experience you had with a brand as a customer. What made the experience so special?

A: My favorite customer service story involves Oprah, a red handbag (or should I say three of them?), and one of the best service recovery stories I’ve ever experienced. It’s too long for this interview, but readers can check it out on HR Bartender.

Great experiences start with great employees

If you want to win today’s experience economy, you cannot overlook one of the most important customer influences: your employees. As the people who produce, deliver, sell, and support the goods and services your customers depend on, you need to make employee engagement, motivation, and retention a priority.

To help you create exceptional experiences through people engagement and other areas of the enterprise, we asked 25 futurists, technologists, and experts to share their top technologies and strategies. See what they had to say.


About Ursula Ringham

Ursula Ringham is the Head of Global Influencer Marketing at SAP. She manages social media and digital marketing strategy for the small and midsize business community. She was recently recognized as one of 15 Women Who Rock Social Media at Top Tech Companies. Prior to SAP, Ursula worked at Adobe and Apple in their Developer Relations organizations. She managed strategic accounts, developer programs, edited a technical journal, managed content for an entire website, and wrote and taught course curriculum. In her spare time, Ursula writes thriller novels about the insidious side of Silicon Valley.