Could Employee Experience be your next career move?

Are you feeling unsure what employee experience means? 

Have you thought about expanding your internal comms skills into new areas? 

Comma Partners, specialises in Employee (and Change) Communications and Engagement and regularly share insights from the profession. Between January and March, they hosted a series of career sessions for internal communicators, bringing together experts from multiple sectors and backgrounds to share their experiences and insights. 

In this article Tracy Smeathers, Communication Consultant at Comma Partners shares from the event panelists their key takeaways for readers of the All Things IC blog. 

The first session focused on Employee Experience (EX), a discipline that might hold the potential for a new and exciting career path for internal communicators, hearing from those who had already made the transition from internal communication to employee experience.

The panel included Nicholas Wardle, Head of Employee Experience at Brand Experiences, Emma Bridger, Managing Director at People Lab, Lee Smith, Co-Founder of The EX Space, Emma Jones, Head of Colleague Experience and Comms at Moto Hospitality and Caroline Tierney, Senior Strategist at Home.  

Could Employee Experience be your next career move? Tracy Smeathers, Communication Consultant, Comma Partners

Over to you Tracy. 

First up, let’s look at what employee experience is, and turn to Nicholas Wardle from Brand Experiences. He describes it as ‘the entire relationship between employer and employee. It encompasses every interaction and touchpoint within the organisation and its stakeholders at every stage of the employee lifecycle’. 

Isn’t this Human Resources’ world?  

Nicholas continues ‘You may be thinking but I thought this was HR’s space – and you would be right. Traditionally, HR have been seen as the umbrella term for all people related activity and it’s true to say that now the most senior person in a people role is a senior HR person – usually an HR Director or Chief People Officer. 

‘In many cases, internal communicators already work closely with HR colleagues and get involved with many elements of the employee experience, e.g., Employer Value Proposition, Diversity and Inclusion, wellbeing, benefits, and change transformation. Taken together, these strengths and current involvement in people-related activities, make them excellent contenders for the top job.’  

So why is EX growing?  

According to the 2023 US LinkedIn research report, ‘Jobs on the Rise’, employee experience is one of the top five growth roles in the USA.  

So why is that? Many of the reasons seem to be off the back of the pandemic when people re-evaluated what was important to them personally and professionally.  

The result? Many decided they expected more of their employers and wanted to see them take more account of their intrinsic values.  Improving the employee experience – from start to finish – is one way of addressing this, making it a great journey from advert to exit for everyone.  

Why IC people make good EX people 

From research Emma Bridger and Lee Smith have carried out towards the soon to be launched The EX Space, and listening to Emma James (Moto Hospitality, in-house) and Caroline Tierney (Home, agency) who have both transitioned from IC to EX, they agree that internal communicators have a great behavioural and technical transferable skills for employee experience.  

These include:

  • being articulate
  • grounded
  • good collaborators and facilitators
  • knowing their audiences and listening to what they say
  • hearing what is not said
  • thinking outside the box
  • connecting with people and
  • joining the dots. 

Making the transition from IC to EX 

For both Caroline and Emma, they have been fortunate enough to find organisations that believe in putting people first, but they have also taken risks and moved out of their comfort zone to be in their EX roles. 

Emma’s transition into EX came about because she took the opportunity to take on a range of IC, engagement and HR related activities. Emma shares ‘Hustle in on HR projects to get exposure to other elements that are part of the EX, such as reward and recognition. Then you can join the dots between IC, EE and other HR programmes. You also must link EX and CX and prove to senior leadership why colleague experiences are important and look at how it is being done right across the whole life cycle.’ 

Caroline from Home was fortunate in finding a company which put people first.

‘I was completely inspired by the message – doing work that makes people feel better for being at work.

It was an opportunity to do things differently – to go beyond the message. In my 15-year career, I had done all the big IC things multiple times. I was in corporate land and on a trajectory for my boss’s job when I realised I didn’t want it. I wanted something with purpose.’ 

Comma’s take on EX 

‘EX seems to be made for IC pros,’ said Comma’s Director, Andy Macleod. ‘It ticks all the boxes in terms of skill sets and, importantly, it’s an area where they can have real, value adding impact.  

‘That’s why we are extending our recruitment offering into EX. It’s fantastic to be able to offer alternative, career options for the incredibly talented IC network. IC pros are some of the most innately switched-on folks out there, they see and hear everything from the ground up and from the top down.’   

‘As a recruiter’, he said, ‘In the last six to 12 months I’ve seen the early signs of people who are heads or directors of internal comms who have added EX into their job title. There is a mix of reasons as to why people have done that.  A large proportion have added it on because feels like the right thing to do. Others, like Moto and Home are truly getting much more involved in EX and delivering on it. 

It will be interesting in 2023 to see how it develops. Can people be Heads of Comms,  Engagement and Experience, or is it a separate role depending on the size of the business?  Whichever way it goes, IC pros can influence it and drive it. Caroline Tierney gave some good advice ‘research EX, get in front of the Board and show them why and how they can deliver a great EX’. If you don’t someone else will. 

Dan Holden teaching in the All Things IC Hub

Dan Holden teaching in the All Things IC Hub

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Post author: Dan Holden
First published on the All Things IC blog 25 April 2023.

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