What is employee experience and why should you care?

eXo Platform Blog

“Employee experience”: two simple words that are inspiring complex projects and transformations. As with any buzzword, employee experience can mean different things. Many people have started wondering what is employee experience and why it’s a popular term.

Below are some thoughts on the concept and how to introduce it in your organisation.

From customer experience to employee experience

Think of an employee as a new customer. Does that mean you should install a table tennis table in the lobby, put a meditation room on the roof and provide free lunch? Would these truly satisfy your employees? Nothing is less certain.

Since the buzz of customer-centricity and customer experience has died down, employee experience is the new hype. In many ways, the concepts of employee and customer experience are similar; they offer a way of putting the user at the core of your thinking process and providing them comprehensive services that perfectly match their needs at every step of their journeys with you.

It is not surprising that many companies that started with a focus on customers also pioneered research on the employee experience. For example, Mark Levy, the HR director from Airbnb, became its Chief Employee Experience Officer, trying to find synergies between employee focus and customer focus.

Just as with customer experience, employee experience needs to be viewed as a whole, crossing all steps in an employee’s lifecycle with the company, from recruiting to his or her last day and at each touchpoint with the organization. But employee experience is not just focused on the employee lifecycle, nor is it about employer branding or employee value proposition; instead, it regroups all those concepts and transcends them. It represents all the perceptions, good or bad, an employee has in association with his or her different moments and activities within the company.

Employees at the heart of your business performance

I truly believe that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business”. This quote from Richard Branson beautifully sums up the importance of the employee experience.

Behind this modern aspiration to promote employee happiness and personal development lies a true economic justification. Laurence Vanhée, the infamous chief happiness officer for the Belgium Social Security Service, explains, ‘A happy employee is twice less sick, six times less absent and 55% more creative.’ Vanhée singlehandedly transformed the Belgium Social Security Service from the least popular to the most popular place to work in the Belgian government, boasting an 89% satisfaction rate and a 500% increase in job applications.

To put it plainly: A happy employee costs less and brings more value to the company. On the contrary, when employee’s expectations are not met through the employee experience, employee engagement suffers and leads to a direct negative cost to the business.

Implementing an employee experience project is not easy. Just as with customer-centricity (another buzzword out there), simply stating your intent is not enough. You must reinvent and redefine what is work. The four generations of employees now sharing the workplace do not necessarily share the same aspirations. However, it is clear that all generations try to get control over time since their quests for self-fulfillment do not magically stop at the office door.

Where do I start? Mapping your employee journey

An employee comes into contact with the company at numerous moments and points, each of which can be transformed to provide a better employee experience.

For example, your employees are in contact with your organization through the most obvious physical aspect, which is your office space. Beyond physical considerations, such as light, room, etc., you should analyse what a workspace means in your organization. As employees increasingly assume multiple roles and responsibilities, does one physical office still make sense? Is your workplace definition flexible enough to allow the best work performance?

Your employees are also in contact with your organisation through the digital tools you put at their disposal. If your company’s IT does not meet the standards of the consumer world, the employee experience suffers. Moreover, finding consistency and linking multiple siloed tools and information sources constitutes an important employee experience challenge that digital workplaces try to meet.

Your employees also interact with your organization through their peers and managers. Are your employees contained in rigid roles? What is your on-boarding process like? Do you value your human capital through collaboration? Is your hierarchical organization in line with your employees’ expectations of a modern workplace?

In truth, each of these questions and categories would merit a separate blogpost. Defining, improving and transforming your employee experience is an ambitious project that can, however, start with concrete actions at any of those points.

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I am eXo’s chief operating officer, ultimately responsible for all operations ensuring client acquisition and success. In this blog, I write about modern workplaces and their benefits to organisations and their people. Occasionally, I also blog about my personal areas of interest, such as communication, personal development, work–life balance, sustainability and gender equality.

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