Why you need to focus on employee experience

What is your employee experience and how does it shape the future of work?

I spend a lot of time visiting workplaces while advising companies to help them achieve communication excellence.

As soon as I step into their physical environment, I get a sense of their culture – the way things are done around here – and what they’re about.

My experience is formed instantly: through conversations I have with security, what I can see and read and how I’m treated.

I’ll let you into a secret… I imagine I’m a prospective employee and am there for an interview.

I want to see if the impression I have of the company based on external perception and our conversations to date, match what I experience first-hand.

Sometimes I find the customer experience doesn’t match the employee experience.

For example I may have been waiting for my client in a funky reception area and given a cup of freshly brewed tea in a company-branded mug.

However, once inside the organisation, employees may scrabble to find cups or dig out their own and wince at vending machine drinks, as we sit down to start our work together.

That tells me the company places value on customer, not employee experience.

It’s a minor observation, but forms part of my investigations and picture I’m painting of the organisation.

Shabby uniforms, old posters, mismatched chairs, outdated technology, cancelled social events and reduced menus are also indicators of poor employee experience.

They show a lack of care and attention for employees. If you’re trying to encourage your people to stay and thrive (or say/stay/strive to use AON Hewitt’s research), you need to think and act differently. Tweet this

This matters. It’s the difference between employees choosing to work for you and not.

Because that’s the thing – people can choose where they work and can vote with their feet if there’s a poor employee experience.

What is employee experience?

I’ve been reading a lot about employee experience recently. It’s an umbrella term, which often has employee engagement, wellbeing, physical environment, morale, retention and communication underneath it, and the notion has been around for a while.

However, employee engagement is an outcome of employee experience.

airbnbAirbnb has an Employee Experience department – we serve our employees in a number of different ways. Whether it’s through building a healthy and satisfying food programme, providing our employees with the latest technology, recruiting the best and the brightest to work for us, or ensuring that our buildings are spaces for an optimal work environment, the Employee Experience team touches every facet of Airbnb. We aim to drive the company’s health and happiness – and we have lots of fun doing it.

I’m interested to note they include internal communication in that department and currently have global vacancies, including two IC roles. Other roles in their Employee Experience department include Facilities and Catering.

When thinking about employee experience, it’s the whole package that needs to be addressed – from the food employees eat to having the right tools for the job.

If they have a bad experience, they’ll talk about it. They’ll also tell their friends, family and other prospective employees. Glassdoor is an example of that in action.

Further reading: Seen what your employees are saying about you?

How to create a good employee experience

Futurist and Author Jacob Morgan @JacobM has published an equation looking at what creates a good employee experience. I recommend his website if you want to find out more about this topic.

The equation is: culture plus technology, plus physical space:

He says: “All of these things are great, however, what many people fail to realise is that we now live in a world where organisations cannot just focus one of the above environments and expect to achieve any kind of impact.

You can’t just have a great corporate culture while ignoring technology and the physical space. You can’t have a great physical environment while ignoring culture and technology. And you can’t have the latest and greatest tools while ignoring culture and the physical environment.”

The power of the physical environment can’t be ignored. I shared the stage at Google with Hatch’s Monica Parker back in 2014 and enjoyed hearing her talk about this topic.

Hatch state: “Why do we have offices? Not just to house people, but to drive some sort of behaviour: performance, engagement, innovation. These are what matter to your business.  And while design is important, culture trumps design. So yes, “build it and they will come,” but only if your design is based on sound cultural evidence. How do you align culture and design?  By letting science do the work.  Ask the right types of questions in the right way and you will get the right answer.”

If you want to find out more about Jacob Morgan and the work he’s been doing, listen to Chuck Gose’s latest ICology podcast.

What’s next and what do I think?

We talk a lot about user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX), but I think we’re seeing the rise of employee experience (EX).

I’m excited by that and seeing how I can help my clients make smart decisions that have employees at the core.

It’s not about having slides between every floor and the ability to bring your dog to work.

Are you creating the conditions for your employees to do their best work? Is that still the case when they work remotely? What’s your employee experience like for people on long-term sick or maternity leave?

I’ll let you into another secret, I’ve seen some seriously swanky offices, with some pretty miserable employees.

You need to have the combination Jacob mentions above. It’s a delicate balance, but one which deserves proper thought, attention and resources.

As an aside, did you know there are employee experience awards? Finalists for the 2016 awards have been announced and will be honoured in May. Categories include: employee insight and feedback, business change or transformation, employee engagement – people at the heart and inspirational leader/manager.

If you have a story to share about your employee experience and the work you’re doing, do please get in touch if you’re able to write a guest post.

What can you do?
Every organisation’s employee experience will be different. That’s the point.

Take time to think about your workforce and the employee experience you need to create to achieve your company’s purpose.

Thank you as ever for stopping by,


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Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 31 March 2016.

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  1. […] Why you need to focus on employee experience – jepp […]

  2. tracey says:

    Great article on such an important element for organizational success! Love how AirBnB includes IC in their department.

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