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The Employee Experience Opportunity

By Nicholas Wardle, Co-founder of the Employee Experience Opportunity and Head of Employee Engagement & Communications, One Housing

Nicholas Wardle, Co-founder of the Employee Experience Opportunity and Head of Employee Engagement & Communications, One Housing

In 2017, Forbes named creating a compelling employee experience (EX) as the topmost HR trend. And yet, as we head into 2020, the reality is that most organisations do nothing more than pay lip service to employees being their best asset. According to 2018 Gallup figures, only 15 per cent of employees worldwide feel engaged in their work, leading to the global cost of unproductivity at a staggering $7 trillion.

In most organisations, HR is responsible for the people agenda—so what has gone wrong? One thing is for sure, something has to change.

Defining EX

There is still some confusion about what EX is. What it isn’t, is next generation employee engagement. Mike Sharples, CEO of Brand Experiences, defines it as: “The entire relationship between employee and employer. It encompasses every interaction and touchpoint with the organisation and its stakeholders.”

"The money saved by keeping employees in the organisation may be greater than the extra sales revenue—and retained, motivated employees are likely to contribute to sales"

So, it’s the work environment, the tech used, and relationships. Employee engagement, motivation, and productivity are all outcomes of EX.

Why EX is important

It’s about the people, stupid! Only those not on LinkedIn won’t have read Richard Branson’s quote about if you take care of your people, they’ll look after the customers—no sweat. The customer may well be king, but the king will soon look for different subjects if he’s served with indifference.

What’s gone wrong?

Put simply, EX is not treated as seriously by senior leaders as customer experience (CX). Think about it. If an organisation improves sales by 10 per cent, this would be a widely celebrated; if it decreased employee turnover by 10 per cent, few would know. And yet, depending upon scale, the money saved by keeping employees in the organisation may be greater than the extra sales revenue—and retained, motivated employees are likely to contribute to sales.

Whereas, attracting new customers and attempting to keep current ones happy usually receives adequate funding; little is spent on EX, and key touchpoints on the employee lifecycle are often managed by HR employees as an add-on to their core duties. There are tech tools out there to support an effective EX, but few organisations are budgeting for them. EX is underfunded and undervalued.

What HR can do?

As those usually responsible for the people agenda, HR should take its fair share of the blame for the appalling worldwide engagement figures. The industry clearly hasn’t made an effective case for EX—this is simply not good enough. IT has made the case for investing in tech. Governance has made the case for investing in fail safe data processes; now it’s time for HR to make EX front and centre in the boardroom. (And think about it from a selfish point of view… how much more money than you do your counterparts in IT and Governance make? If EX becomes central to an organisation, those involved should receive more rewards…)

The Employee Experience Opportunity Roadmap

There are three stages to the roadmap:

• Define your EX strategy, underpinned by evidence-based research

• Monetise EX, so that senior leaders can see its value

• Create action plans for each part of the employee lifecycle, zoning in moments that matter to employees and creating memorable moments

Time for someone new to lead the people agenda?

There are countless LinkedIn articles these days about HR being in crisis. Indeed, I chaired a conference recently entitled ‘Reinventing HR’. Look outside the industry, and many see HR as not those responsible for the people agenda, but those responsible for policing an organisation. There is a school of thought that HR should be lumped in with Governance to create one big policing department. And, according to McKinsey 2018, only 37 per cent think HR functions facilitate a positive EX.

HR has had someone at the top table for years, and with this comes the feeling that only a ‘pure’ HR professional can be an Exec Team member. Whereas, it’s common for an HR Director to oversee functions such as L&D and Internal Comms (even if they have no experience of these areas); it would be seen as strange if it were the other way around.

With EX this could change. In fact, it could be argued that those with engagement experience are more closely aligned with EX and have the skills and knowledge to drive it forward. And some may believe that the influencing skills of L&D professionals lend themselves to be a great fit to lead EX. In short, it’s a landgrab, and HR should not simply assume that they will be the chosen ones to lead. Perhaps, is this why some HR articles on EX are dismissing it as the next fad?

Investing in EX is a win-win

Some organisations are already reshaping/renaming their ‘people department’ as Employee Experience (as opposed to HR and so forth). This makes sense, as you have Customer Services/Customer Experience, CX and EX are two sides of the same coin. Whereas, many organisations have customer success roles, they should surely have employee success-style roles too.

Ultimately, EX is about putting people at the heart of every organisation, because everyone matters at work. Effective EX leads to a more motivated, engaged and productive workforce… which will, ultimately, lead to a positive impact upon the bottom line.

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