Getting started with employee experience
Today, most CIOs, CHROs and COOs have employee experience on the agenda. However, we believe that the talk is over, and the doing has begun. The reason is backed by research.
We have come a long way in management theory and practice since scientific management – and so has the work life in organisations. Today, knowledge work is produced away from the assembly line, and organisations are constantly exploring new ways to unleash human potential. But when you observe the development in both management and organisations, it is surprising how little we have changed the way we think of workplaces.
In modern management, we have started to preach intrinsic motivation over extrinsic motivation and purpose over goals in order to optimise performance. And modern workplaces have reacted by shifting from cubics to activity-based working (ABW).
ABW is now a well-established concept in most companies. However, the current workplace transformation has mostly focused on the physical design of the workplace but failed to match the human-centric approach from modern management. In many situations, ABW has not unleashed human potential, and in some cases, it has even contributed negatively to the employee wellbeing and performance1,2.
Based on current knowledge, organisations need to ask themselves if they are making the most out of their workplaces by creating positive employee experiences. This is essential because successful employee experience is a competitive advantage that will directly affect business KPIs such as revenue growth, profit and productivity:
Research by Jacob Morgan shows that companies that invest in their employee experience outperform their competitors that do not. Not only do they grow 1.5 times faster, pay better and produce more than double the revenue, they are also 4 times more profitable!
So, how can such a relatively simple concept deliver such a competitive advantage? And why do so many organisations still struggle to harvest the benefits, when ABW has become the new normal?
Naturally, the reasons are multifaceted, but one central denominator is how we define “a workplace”. Here, we have to broaden the definition to match the human nature.
Obviously, workplaces are not solely about walls, tables and laptops. And organisations that do not design the workspaces beyond just the physical space will fail to make organisations that are more fit for humans.
A workplace creates little effect if it is not experienced and valued by the employees. But since experience is not a one-dimensional concept, we must design employee experience in a way that includes both the cultural, technological and physical space altogether3 (see figure above), and we must think of all touchpoints between the workplace and the employee. In that sense, we should make our workplaces a combination of workspaces.
"[Employee experience is] The sum total of all the touchpoints an employee has with his/her employer, from the time of being a candidate (active or passive) to becoming an alumnus/alumna."4
The message is clear. If you want to make the most out of your employees, then you need more than just a workplace. You need workspaces that deliver great employee experiences as a whole. And in order to create those experiences, you need to understand all of the workspaces.
In the following, we will provide three concepts which will help you and your organisation to get started with employee experience.
For nearly a hundred years, companies have focused on their customers’ needs and wants, which over time have translated into the concept of customer experience (Cx). Organisations have developed and implemented a wide range of tools to explore, understand, design and measure Cx in order to meet and exceed customer expectations, and for all organisations this is translated into an overall strategic vision.
Employee experience, on the other hand, is only a few years old. It stems from, but is not limited to, the concepts of employee motivation and engagement. Few organisations have4 managed to think beyond the classic tools such as surveys and yearly appraisals and thus create differentiated work experiences for their employees.
So far, the Ex toolbox is rather limited, but we can easily build it up if we dare to take the concept of Ex seriously and formulate strategies, ambitions and KPIs.
We should not treat the Ex strategy as an isolated initiative, but as a well-integrated part of the overall strategy of the organisation just as a Cx strategy.
We propose that you start out by analysing the As-Is situation by answering three simple questions:
Once you have defined the current status, you define the ambitions for employee experience. In this step, a great place to start is revisiting the current goals related to employer branding, employee engagement, customer experience and productivity.
From then on, it is all about getting experimental.
Experiences are complex and multidimensional. Thus, you must build an Ex organisation with the capabilities to design integrated experiences by linking culture, technology and physical space at the same time. In our opinion, this means that HR, IT and FM (Facility Management) resources must be on this journey together in order to transform employee experience into a competitive advantage.
In the best of all worlds, the worlds where organisations have Cx people hired, the Ex team should of course be linked to the Cx team. This will accelerate the development of the Ex team by translating existing Cx methods into Ex experiments. Over the last couple of years in the Nordic region, we have seen a few visionary organisations developing these hybrid Ex/Cx teams, and we expect more to follow.
When the Ex team is all set, it is important that you foster an experimental mindset where ideas get turned into experiments which then get measured and evaluated in co-operation with the entire organisation. You must not treat employee experience as a “first time right” game. Ex is a “how did this work” game.
In order to be experimental and create impact, it is important that you remember to relate all experiments to specific organisational goals, so they become evaluateable.
All organisations know that it can be powerful, yet complex, to work in multifunctional teams as different mindsets, skills and personalities get mixed together.
But before you spend three months on developing the perfect concept for your organisation, you could get started by applying a brain-friendly approach to Ex.
At the centre of all ideas is an ambition for creating a specific experience. The brain-friendly approach provides a common language for the different contexts that frame specific experiences.
Our experience is that most professions’ strengths are within one of the framing contexts, and the brain-friendly approach can facilitate new and better conversations around a complex topic such as experiences.
When you drive conversations around Ex through a framework such as the brain-friendly approach, it will lead to a more engaging process where resources from HR, IT FM and Cx can connect with their colleagues and together create experiences that matter.
1. Rachel L. Morrison, Keith A. Macky (2017). "The demands and resources arising from shared office spaces" in Applied Ergonomics. 60: 115
2. Mari Anna Chatarina Skogland (2017). "The mindset of activity-based working" in Journal of Facilities Management, Vol. 15, Issue: 1, pp 62-75
3. Jacob Morgan (2017). The Employee Experience Advantage (2017)
4. Deloitte (2018): https://capitalhblog.deloitte.com/2018/06/25/deconstructing-employee-experience/
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