|6 Minutes

“Experience is truth”: ABN AMRO’s Real-World XLA’s

Madelon Kors & Jelmer Berendsen
“Experience is truth”: ABN AMRO’s Real-World XLA’s

“Experience is truth.” That was one of the slogans my colleagues and I came up with in our first meeting as the newly-formed Digital Employee Experience team at ABN AMRO, one of the  largest banks of the Netherlands.

The subtext being that Digital Employee Experience, had to be top of mind for every IT project, even if that meant some unconventional thinking.

But we were ready for unconventional.

For years, our  team experienced the complacency which comes from operating under the old way of thinking in IT—stale SLAs (service-level agreements) that ignore the employee context and user experience.

In addition, we implemented XLA’s (experience level agreements) to help us answer questions we couldn’t even imagine just a few years ago.

Why discrepancies are good…

During our first meeting together with the entire Digital Workplace department, our employee experience team wrote down overarching values that we felt were most important to us: employee happiness came out top. But to turn our values into actionable workplans, we had to first become better at looking for and solving discrepancies between our end-user data and key performance metrics from our employees’ devices, applications and networks.

In the past we relied heavily on traditional IT performance and ticket data from employees, but a huge piece of the puzzle (end-user feedback) was missing. We used to email surveys to employees and the response rates were abysmal. Looking back, it makes sense why. Our questionnaires were unnecessarily elaborate and wordy, costing users lots of time to complete! Plus, email is an outdated medium to reach people. Here we were competing for our employees’ attention from real work emails, hoping they’d open voluntary surveys.

Eventually we found a direct-to-device onscreen survey tool that allowed us to automate and send very specific questions to employees, based on real-time computing context (when a user opens a certain application, when they had contact with our help desk , etc.).

The survey tool of course helped, but its efficacy really came down to our team’s ability to improve our approach to collecting data. There’s a lot of psychology that goes into survey design that IT teams could benefit from.

Instead of asking employees 10+ multiple choice questions, we stuck to very specific, concisely worded surveys, with a maximum of 5 questions allowed per survey. And now we test each survey first to ensure it takes less than one minute to complete. We also include a clear sender and ABN branding to let employees know it’s coming from us and create a sense of familiarity. But above all, the most effective change we’ve made is take more care in the way we ask questions—we now have a thorough editing process for each survey, always with the aim that the language comes off as neutral as possible, or steers respondents in the direction we want.

The change in approach has paid off. Our response rates typically are in the 30-40% range, (with e-mail this was around 10%) and from this data we’ve been able to sometimes reconfirm our assumptions, and sometimes uncover important discrepancies.

For example, when we shifted most of ABN’s employees to work from home, we were able to corroborate that most survey feedback was related to VPN connectivity, something that clearly was top of mind for a lot of people, and an area where we were planning on focusing more resources and attention.

Conversely, we’ve collected survey data that can sometimes challenge our initial hypothesis. One morning we noticed a significant drop in VPN performance among a subgroup of remote employees. After some digging, we discovered most of those users also had a weak Wi-Fi connection. Our prediction was that based on these two ingredients, these employees are going to have a really poor work experience. We thought ‘They must be frustrated. We need to create an entire action plan.’

But when we surveyed those users and asked them what was going on, the responses were split roughly 50/50. Some complained about the weak connection, yes, but others were indifferent. Apparently, they didn’t need a lot of bandwidth or even require a particularly strong Wi-Fi connection to get their jobs done.

That proved that discrepancies help tell a more complete story, and help IT to make more informed decisions about what’s best for their digital workers. – experience is the truth.

For an XLA to truly work of course, you need to “politicize” it and start small

The progress we’ve made in the past year wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have a management team advocating and promoting on behalf of us.

We created an XMO (Experience Management Office) to help articulate and explain to the rest of the department what they could do with our survey data.

‘So what? ‘What can we do with this data?’ What does this mean to me and my team?’

Each sprint our XMO team puts out a “road show” where they break down new experience data and propose next steps for specific IT units. By making each team feel responsible for the data and informed about what they can do to fix it, we’ve managed to create several continuous improvement plans across our business application owners, and help desk.

Needless to say, with so much data being shared and analyzed, trust is a big factor in the success of this collaboration. Every team and stakeholder needs to be confident in our mutual sensitivity around user and team data. This comes down to our respect for the privacy of each, as well as compliance with GDPR protocols.

Of course, getting to a point where you have your own XMO team might take time, but that’s ok. We started out quite small by first taking on very specific end-user problems and seeing how we could bridge the gap between IT and our employees.

In our experience to state it best, ‘We started out like a small snowball, but we keep getting bigger each month, adding in new product lines and XLA’s into our Digital Workplace strategy.’

And that’s our piece of advice to other IT leaders: start small with your XLA project and be cognizant of how you can turn your research into actionable recommendations for the rest of the IT department.

Madelon Kors (Customer & Digital Experience Specialist, ABN AMRO Bank N.V.)

Jelmer Berendsen (Enablement Lead, ABN AMRO Bank N.V.)