Early in the morning of March 8, 2023, 10,000 professionals, dressed in their best business casual attire, clutching backpacks and cups of coffee, streamed into the Salt Palace Convention Center. Infrared security systems and well-trained dogs in uniform approved the crowd entering the room. The music was loud and pulsing; moving bright lights pulsed around the room. The energy in the room was palpable.
After a three-year hiatus, the world’s largest gathering of experienced management professionals was back — live and ready to rock. Quite literally, with The Killers performing for attendees wrapping up their entire X4 experience.
Here’s what you missed…
Top keynotes delivered on the promise of an experience
I want to start with International Women’s Day for one obvious reason: I am a woman and I believe marking the day mattered. So thank you, Qualtrics team, for bringing in a female speaker who is an inspiration and a change maker in the global fight for equal opportunity and access to education.
At the same time the GreenBook team was publishing and promoting a timely piece by Jessica Sage at Women in Research (WIRe), Malala Yousafzai was speaking about dismantling gender inequities. She encouraged all of us to become activists, fighting for the equal education of women around the globe, specifically STEM education, as women are underrepresented in the fields pertinent to our futures (e.g., artificial intelligence).
“My morning message is unmistakeable,” Yousafzai explained. “Pause and think about how you are influencing and impacting the world around you, ensure that you are making every decision with full responsibility, and ensuring that it benefits and serves everyone fairly and equally.”
Yes, other keynote speakers entertained and inspired, e.g., Martha Stewart, the Original Influencer as she likes to think, and five-time Olympian Shaun White, who stepped up when Ryan Reynolds had to step down (Thanks, Covid).
But the most relevant wisdom came from C-level executives, including:
- Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines (pictured above)
- Cheryl Grise, Americas Industry and Solutions Leader at EY
- Jill Kramer, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Accenture
- Aarthi Murali, Chief Customer Experience Officer at M&T Bank
- Kevin Warren, EVP & Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer at UPS
Some of these high powered executives, especially Ed Bastian and Ken Warren, touted the benefits of Qualtrics XM for Frontlines, which is “helping organizations listen to and understand the needs of customers, then take the right action in the moment, across every frontline touchpoint.” Bastian specifically mentioned how Delta is activating their brand by focusing on how everyone collaborates to provide a great, reliable experience.
And yes, I can attest … free wifi for SkyMiles members does enhance the customer experience. Kudos to your team, Ed, and congratulations on the dividends that expensive decision is paying off as you build a larger, loyal customer base.
People leaders need to focus on their employees, right now
Across the two days, each of the keynotes were great. But the one that kept my attention the entire time and had me thinking well beyond his time on the stage? Johnny Taylor, CEO of SHRM. Yes, his talk was closely tied to talk of Qualtrics’ XM for People Teams … but nothing matters more than people, am I right? So listen up.
In Taylor’s talk with “Survival Tips for Business Leaders,” he explained that 80% of people who left a position during The Great Resignation regret quitting their jobs. “Boomerang” is a real thing, he explained; so, don’t harshly judge someone who might want to come back. They were going through a thing with millions of other workers who resigned in 2022.
“Our employees changed at the DNA level.”
Johnny also shared some critical intel for anyone in management: Wages are rising, labor participation rates are declining, and worker productivity is low. Let that sentence sink in. Employees are working less, being less productive, and demanding more money.
But wait, there’s more. 40% of your employees are looking for something else, right now. The annual turnover rate is 25%. The war for talent is not only real, it is worsening.
Why? Taylor explained the many ways “recruits” needs changed from 2020 to 2023. He let us know that “our employees changed at the DNA level” — then he walked us through how they’d changed and what they were currently looking for.
- Flexible work schedules: These matter more than remote work opportunities.
- More money. Data says employees are leaving for higher wages.
- Resent-eeism has taken the place of Quiet Quitting. Employees are staying, but they are resentful of their low wage and the fact that employers are making them work in an office/traditional hours.
- Career development is more important that job security presently. Employees want to grow their skills and for you to prepare them for their next role, even if they only plan to stay a few years in the job you’ve hired them for.
- Culturally Embedded IE&D. Rather than focus on DEI initiatives, work to build/maintain a corporate culture that walks and doesn’t just talk.
- Empathetic leadership: Employees want leaders to imagine the world they live in, what they might be going through, and take it into consideration in daily interactions.
- Mental wellness. This one is intuitive, really, or at least, it should be. Our mental health isn’t great right now. So add mental health programming into the physical wellness programming you might already have in place.
As a manager and a mentor, I was deeply vested in Taylor’s talk. And if I know one thing, I know this: the insights industry needs to listen and learn from these insights. We are all stakeholders and Johnny “reported up” the work of his team. We need to pay attention to what he is saying and take action.
What’s with the tension between CI and CX?
As someone who has been in the insights space for more than 30 years, this was the question I grappled with throughout the event. The language is the same, the methods overlap … but the overarching premises of each field are indeed different.
- The CX (customer experience) industry focuses on optimizing the overall customer experience someone has with a brand, product or service, tracking relevant touchpoints from the moment of awareness through brand usage and ultimately, repeat-purchase.
- The CI (consumer insights) industry is focused on gathering and analyzing data to understand consumer behavior and preferences, including their attitudes, motivations and decision-making processes … informing product development, marketing strategy and other corporate initiatives.
Both departments provide a tremendous value to the organization, wouldn’t you agree?
Yet while talking to several event attendees, I learned there are insights professionals who believe their company’s CX professionals should report into their department, and some CX professionals think the insights team should report into their department. The work of each department is often siloed … and that can’t be helpful. We certainly know that shared learning is critical, and there are ways to improve cross functional knowledge flow.
So yeah … CI professionals, CX professionals. They learn from different sources, they attend different events, and they might not see eye to eye about how their departments should interact at work. I’m new to the CX space so not likely to form an opinion of my own on this just yet … but feel free to share yours in the comments below.
Where does your customer’s journey begin?
As Ed Bastian shared in his Day 1 keynote, the customer journey for your next trip begins when your current trip is coming to an end. And it’s true … I am already anticipating next year’s X4 experience and I’ve barely unpacked my bags. I can’t wait to hear if Ryan Reynolds will take to the stage next year or if he just got out of his contract (Thanks again, Covid). I can’t wait to see what band is brought in to entertain the masses of attendees. I hope I am invited to facilitate another important conversation. I wonder who I’ll interview next year, even as I prep to write articles on the interviews I conducted this year.
I encourage you to think about both your customers and your employees. When does their journey with you begin? And what can you to do make sure their experience is 100% the one you want them to have. Be mindful about what you are creating … it matters.