HR Strategy

How Workhuman’s CCO and CHXO collaborate on their customer and employee strategies

Spoiler alert: If you treat your employees like your customers, they might be more engaged.
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Alex Castro

· 4 min read

Employees are customers, too. Ever heard that adage?

If you work at Workhuman, it’s not just an adage—it’s part of the company’s ethos, according to Zoe Peterson-Ward, its chief customer officer.

Workhuman, which has its US headquarters in Framingham, Massachusetts, is an employee recognition software company. Employees at client companies, including LinkedIn, Cisco, and IBM, can recognize work accomplishments and share life milestones with coworkers on the platform.

Because employees are at the heart of the platform, Workhuman’s 1,000+ employees test new features before they’re rolled out to customers, Peterson-Ward said. This has led to her working with KeyAnna Schmiedl, Workhuman’s chief human experience officer (CHXO), on improvements to the platform’s employee experience.

“We can be our own guinea pigs,” Schmiedl told HR Brew. “We can see what happens when you take theory and put it into action.”

HR Brew sat down with Peterson-Ward and Schmiedl at the Workhuman Live conference on April 16 to talk about how they collaborate on their customer and employee strategies.

EX and CX. Since people are central to the platform, Peterson-Ward told HR Brew that she relies on Schmeidl for typical HR advice, like how to be a leader to her employees, as well as guidance on how to connect with customers.

“[KeyAnna has] been with me on the front lines. She’s been with me in the back office, just thinking through the challenges,” Peterson-Ward said. “As a people leader, I leverage her brain a lot to figure out like, ‘Okay, you’re a people leader, so if I’m going to have a conversation with this client that’s challenged with this, how would I approach that?’”

Schmiedl said she sees this collaboration as essential to business longevity.

“It’s trying to understand not just what our sales team or customer excellence teams are doing, but how they [were] connecting with our customers,” Schmiedl said. “What I don’t want is for folks to look at the human experience team and only think about us as the team for when something goes drastically wrong…I want them to see us as strategic partners to the business.”

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Workhuman is currently incorporating a performance management feature to its platform, and it’s testing it with employees first, Peterson-Ward said, adding that Schmiedl worked with the product team to design the new interface and advised on improving the employee experience, which helped “simplify it” and “made it easier” to use.

EX = business. Peterson-Ward believes that every company should have their heads of HR at the decision-making table, so they can help decide how to introduce new tech to employees.

“It’s very important that anybody who is considering new technology is bringing those folks that are responsible for the actual culture and the organization into the mix,” she said. “We want everybody to be excited, but at the same time, we need to care…and make sure that we’re not destroying the culture at the same time that we are advancing with all these great technologies.”

One of Schmiedl’s priorities as CHXO is fostering a culture that fits the employees-are-customers ethos at Workhuman. She tries to ensure that employees feel connected to the platform, especially when new features are incorporated. So, when Workhuman recently incorporated generative AI into its platform, Peterson-Ward said leaders on the sales team contributed feedback on how the function was working, from an employee perspective, before it was launched to customers.

“When we’re talking about our people, we are talking about the business, and the only way for our business to be successful is for our people to be successful,” Schmiedl said. “And the only way for our people to be successful is for us to understand…how are they contributing, how are they feeling seen and valued, and how can we create opportunities for them to share feedback with us about how it’s going?”

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.