Employee Experience

There are some great insights and quite a bit of unhelpful froth relating to employee experience around these days. Here are my thoughts, trying to put a bit more focus around some of this. You may well disagree, in which case it’d be great to hear from you. This is a new area and I know I’m not always right about things. I just suspect I’m right about these –
1.   Employee Experience isn’t more important than Engagement
Experience is important but it’s still only an attribute of activity ie it’s about the things which happen to someone. But it’s not as useful as an outcome which is about the state or quality of the person receiving the experience. Engagement is the main outcome which experience is designed to increase. So we still need to focus, and focus more, on engagement.
If you don’t do this, the liklihood is that you’ll improve the experience but you won’t necessarily achieve a benefit for engagement, or another outcome, eg retention, or the quality of your employer brand that informs your ability to attract, etc.
Some people do criticise engagement for being all about bells and whistles – office slides and fussball tables etc. But that’s just a gross mis-representation of the employee engagement agenda. Engagement has always been about doing the right things to deliver this. What experience gives us is a new angle and insight into doing so.
(By the way, I’m not a great supported of the engagement term, as I find this tends to be quite disengaging. But that’s a need to find a better outcome, not to switch focus to the activity.)
2.   Employee Experience isn’t the secret to Customer Experience
Yes, they’re linked but claims that you can’t have a good customer experience without a good employee experience are wildly simplistic. Engagement leads to customer experience, and employee experience leads to engagement. But:
–   Lots of other things inform employee engagement too, including the organisation, the manager, etc. Note this isn’t just the experience of the manager but the decisions they make about their people too.
–   Lots of other things cause customer experience too, particularly the firm’s products / services and its customer processes, as well as the capabilities and behaviours of its employees.
A good employee experience is unlikely to do any harm, but it’s probably not the most direct or important thing to focus on to increase customer experience.
3.   Experience isn’t about Experiences
The London Employee Experience conference today has been talking quite a bit about experientialism. I agree this is a thing, though I don’t think it’s a new thing, or a millennial thing. I resisted owning a house, or really very much at all until I got married in my 30s, on the basis that I wanted to own as little as I could. I prided myself for a long time on only having one key on my keyring. (I’ve made up for lost time since.) But these days we’re definitely reaching peak stuff, and more people are turning away from material goods.
But this has nothing to do with employee experience. Experience isn’t about providing experiences, it’s just about helping people do their work effectively and in a positive, satisfying way. And I shouldn’t really say ‘just’ – there’s going a lot of work involved in that for most firms.
If you can provide ‘experiences’ on top, that’s great, but that’s more about total rewards than it is employee experience.
4.   Experience does include Work
Yes, experience includes technology, the workplace, culture, leadership, community, and so on. But actually more than anything else, it’s driven by the work. If a firm’s processes and jobs are designed poorly, nothing else is going to provide a positive experience.

See, for example, my post on Bullshit Jobs.

And a strong Agreement
There is one thing I do strongly agree with which is that experience is important, and we do need to focus on it more. It may be less important than engagement, and it may not have much direct impact on customer experience, but it can do a lot of other things.

In fact, this is the main opportunity for me. By focusing on people, and their experience, we can create value for our businesses by making work simpler or just plain better.  Which hasn’t necessarily got anything to do with employee engagement or customer experience at all!

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I graduated from Imperial College, London in 1987 and joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as a systems development consultant. After ten years in IT, change and then HR consulting, I joined Ernst & Young as an HR Director, working firstly in the UK, and then, based in Moscow, covering the former USSR.More recently, I have worked as Head of HR Consulting for Penna and Director of Human Capital Consulting for Buck Consultants (the HR consultancy owned by ACS).

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