How important is the ‘Employee Experience’?
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Before the pandemic, there was a lot of emphasis on what has come to be known as ‘the employee experience.’ This emphasis was not misplaced. A tight labor market, good economy, and the Millennial / Gen-Z ethos of entrepreneurship, social impact, and purpose were all top-of-mind for companies in the search for the right talent.
The other day, someone mentioned to me that they thought the ‘employee experience’ won’t be as important now because there will be a larger labor pool due to the economic hardships produced by the pandemic, with plenty of talent to go around.
As I processed their opinion (which seemed awfully cynical) – my response was just the opposite. Employees (and companies) have experienced unprecedented freedom based on the diaspora caused by the pandemic: freedom from commutes, freedom from micro-management, freedom from the time clock, freedom from reliance on ‘being seen’ as a stand-in for productivity, freedom from geographic location, and freedom from connecting time spent with the product (this may be the most critical and deserves a separate blog post!).
Because companies depend on people for all the value of their business, this new-found freedom will require that companies place more emphasis on the employee experience. Now, the questions are: what do we do to harness all this freedom and convert it into some powerful outcome for people? How do we create a new employee experience?
Brian Kropp of Gartner (in a January 2021 HBR article) goes even further, speculating that companies might go from ‘managing the employee experience’ to managing the life experience of the employees! The most important thing about this concept is that it recognizes employees as people. Managing the work / life experience will mean paying attention to the line between work and life, to physical and mental health, and how to incorporate all of this into a meaningful whole – one that serves both people and their companies.
Before the pandemic, it was already difficult for companies to fully integrate the design of the organization – how and where people can do their best work - with both the physical environment and the technology toolset required to make the business run. Now, because of the pandemic and subsequent WFH phenomenon, there is no real connection between physical design and organizational design, because everyone is at home. Or, said differently, the gaps in organizational design and getting the work done without a physical space have become more apparent. This raises the important question as to what the connection should be, and how do we design it anew? How do we get it to work for both people and their organizations?
Let's get a little better definition of ‘works’ (as in, this thing works). Often, we look at a group or a system and say it works because it produces some semblance of the product or service we need it to make. But if we look closer, these groups and systems work only because they have to work, not because they were designed to work. They only work because some employees are willing to do heroic things to keep them going, contributing to frustration, burn-out, and disengagement. In our current situation, helping people navigate these new structures and systems will be paramount to our collective success.
So what if we took a deeper look at how our people, technology, and physical environment actually fit together? What if we started to think about these three things as an integrated whole, working harmoniously to deliver on our promises to our customers and clients? What if we actually committed the necessary resources and designed these things to fit together? What would that do for the employee experience? What would it do for our people? What would it do for our businesses?
Well, as it turns out, quite a lot. As Jacob Morgan details in his book The Employee Experience Advantage, the positive effects of designing the components and processes of a work platform to support the employees is astounding. When analyzing 252 public companies, he found that companies that invested in this employee-focused, integrated approach out-performed their competition by more than two to one. More importantly, both employee pay and employee growth was 50% higher! And, by the way, these people-focused companies made four times the profit, too. Which in turn meant more employee support, more growth, more pay, and more opportunity. Really good reasons to get this right.
So, I believe that now more than ever – and as a result of the incredible work freedom resulting from the pandemic – getting the employee experience right will be the defining factor in the success of both people and their companies.
Here is our chance to create something new – more holistic, focused on people, and better than we had before.
Building a better experience!