In many of my conversations with business leaders, senior HR professionals and people technology companies there is a growing shift of talking about Employee Experience rather than Employee Engagement. In one recent conversation with a senior HR leader, we discussed how can the HR function directly influence Employee Experience when it is such a complex and personal thing.

This made me do some research into this area, resulting in a two-part blog (of which this is part one!), related webinars and dedicating our next Forum in London to this topic. I see Employee Experience being a key focus for HR professionals this year and into 2019.

Defining Experience vs Engagement

This is not clear cut. There is a common misuse of terminology by some tech companies that is confusing the issue – many are trying to brand their products with the latest “trendy words” to capture our attention. However, there is a general view of Employee Experience that leads to a greater understanding here.

Luke Fisher, CEO of ThanksBox, recently said to me that Employee Engagement is how senior business leaders in an organisation measure their people, based on issues that they already know about. (Hear more from Luke on our next Webinar on Wednesday 17th January).

I like this definition of Employee Engagement as it shows that the traditional engagement survey reports on what the business wants to know, not necessarily what the employee wants to say! The Employee Experience however is “always on”, with every interaction either building or eroding their love for their job in your organisation.

The Harvard Business Review ran an article about a year ago summarising another train of thought that I am hearing more and more that you should “Design Your Employee Experience as Thoughtfully as You Design Your Customer Experience”.

Indeed, building on this, talking recently to a senior HR professional at a leading UK-based supermarket chain, who were rewriting their HR skills for the future, she commented that the skills needed by HR seemed to mirror many of the skills of the Marketing department. For years our Marketing Departments have “got under the skin” of our customers and analysed their behaviours, what they are saying and their perceptions of what is important from them to gain their loyalty.

Now, with the advancement of technology in HR we are being asked to “analyse our people’s behaviours, what they are saying and their perceptions of what is important from them to gain their loyalty”.

Do you see any similarity here?!?!?!?

So, a couple of key ways that we can better understand Employee Experience could be:

1) Customer Experience Management from Marketing might need a parallel to get the best experience for our people. Maybe Employee Experience Management???

2) We need to be looking at Employee Experience as a “bottom-up” process of feedback and always-on experiences, not just a discrete snapshot in time from a survey.

(NB. We will probably still need the annual Engagement Survey in the medium term to satisfy the shareholders/owners, yet the main strategies for HR need to revolve around these intricate experiences of our people and what affects these if we are going to win their “hearts and minds”).

What are the components of Employee Experience?

Now that we understand this, what are the key factors that will drive a positive Employee Experience? There are a couple of excellent pieces of recent research on what are the components that drive a great Employee Experience. These both draw similar conclusions.

Firstly, the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute produced a white paper called “The Employee Experience Index” in 2017 continuing their research in this area. They state that the environment, the work and the person dictate the Employee Experience, specifically these 6 sub-areas:

  • Organisational trust
  • Supportive co-worker relationships
  • Meaningful work
  • Recognition, feedback and growth
  • Empowerment and voice
  • Work-life balance

Out of all of these, their research shows that currently employees identify Meaningful Work as the area that most influences their own positive Employee Experience (27%).

A second study was completed by Deloitte in their “Human Capital Trends” study, also in 2017. In their “Simply Irresistible Organisation” model they identified the 5 factors to a positive Employee Experience as:

  • Meaningful work
  • Supportive management
  • Positive work environment
  • Growth opportunity
  • Trust in leadership

As you can see, there are some direct and indirect similarities…

They also call for all HR Centre of Excellence strategies (Reward, Learning, etc) to come together as an all-encompassing Employee Experience strategy.

Now, let’s go back to the conversation I had with a senior HR leader about this topic: How can HR directly influence the Employee Experience as it is so complex and personal? Based on the above, my research shows that the following key points are useful when attempting to build any Employee Experience strategy:

  1. Break down the entire employee lifecycle into its component parts from attraction to resignation as Employee Experience is “always on”.
  2. Use the factors that most effect Employee Experience from the research above as key focus areas for ideas/actions.
  3. Get every sub-function of HR to come together and identify where they can have a positive impact on each of the areas in point 1 and 2.
  4. As an HR leader, keep a holistic focus. Help identify interconnectors to bring together a “now, next and later” strategy.

This is a complex task and often needs some great facilitation to pull it together as we are all so “busy being busy”.

In the next part of this 2-part blog I will look at the areas above and see how organisations can look at key parts of the business to make the maximum impact with moderate degrees of effort.

If you have any comments or questions please do connect on your media platform of choice!