The pandemic, though terrible, has given us much-needed time to pause, reflect, and perhaps make some changes to the way we live our lives. We have a chance to reevaluate what is really important to us. What brings us happiness? What drains our energy? What experiences add meaning to our days? Which ones take it away? We have an opportunity to face this challenge in a way that makes us better people.
Businesses are on a parallel path. With the diminishing of old norms comes the possibility of reimagining our old processes. That has brought about an acceleration of technology adoption across virtually every industry. Still, there’s another storyline emerging as well—the rise of what Heather E. McGowan calls The Human Capital Era. McGowan believes that the workforce has exhibited incredible resilience and creativity during the pandemic. They’re “an asset to develop rather than a cost to contain.”
I’m all for it.
Everyone knows the term “return on investment”—or “ROI”—meaning you get more monetary value out of something than what you put into it. But money is not the only measure of value. As we take stock of our business and personal lives, I think we should re-establish a lesser-recognized concept: return on experience.
Return on experience is significantly more objective than a return on investment since the measurement varies by opinion rather than hard numbers.
For example, we all have gone out to have dinner and found that the bill was more expensive than expected. Maybe the food was just so-so, you had a long wait time, or the server was brusque. Whatever the reason, it just wasn’t a great experience. But you might gladly pay twice as much for dinner where the food is delicious, or the service is kind and attentive. That’s what I think of as return on experience—getting value beyond what money can buy.
We embrace this concept more easily in our personal lives, where there’s less accountability for how we spend our money. For example, pre-COVID, I enjoyed traveling with my wife and two kids. Those trips were expensive, even after accounting for the hotel points and airline miles I’d collected. But the memories will stay with us forever, long after the cost has been absorbed and forgotten.
When you think about your business and your accounts payable team, what is the return on experience from antiquated methods like processing checks? What is the opportunity for growth? One person can’t cut or sign checks much better than another. There’s a limit to the impact you can have by stuffing checks in envelopes every week. It’s the opposite of a good experience.
Incorporating automation in your back office is a good way to tackle ROI and ROE simultaneously. When you have removed mindless tasks from your AP team’s plates, they are free to spend their energy on more interesting, strategic, and valuable tasks. I think that’s an initiative that’s well-aligned with the Human Capital Era.
As we re-examine our lives and our businesses, let’s remember what it means to evaluate something in the first place: to judge or calculate the quality, importance, amount, or value of something. And in that calculation, consider the return on experience in terms of your business, beyond money. It’s about setting yourself and your employees up to live and work in a high-quality environment—one that encourages personal and professional development.