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Is it time to talk about employee experience again?

In 2015 Jacob Morgan wrote an article for Forbes in which he positioned employee experience as the future of work. Two years on, has the concept moved forward – and what does it mean for people leaders and organisations?

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Over the past two years, in most industries the customer expectation and experience has shifted. We live in a world where we expect a seamless, joined up omni-channel experience in most aspects of our interaction with organisations. This includes government organisations, energy suppliers and, of course, retailers and suppliers of services.

Particularly in the case of retail, brands want to engage with us as their customers, they want to inspire us, empower us and give us beautiful places to shop, both online and on the high street. They want to make it easy for us to spend our money with them. Enhancements in personalisation and customer experience are at times breathtaking.

If we consider this from an ‘employee experience’ perspective, we need to look at ways in which we can make it easy for employees to deliver great work for us. What can we do to inspire them, empower them and give them great places to work virtually and physically? Most importantly, we need to tap into the discretionary effort and engagement that leads to enhancements in productivity and passion for the work that needs to be done. Our employees should be our best brand ambassadors and if we can get the employee experience right this will be a natural by-product.

Our employees should be our best brand ambassadors and if we can get the employee experience right this will be a natural by-product

There is no doubt in my mind that the power to create great brands and create a great customer experience is firmly in the hands of employees. In Morgan’s 2015 article he notes: “Organizations have always assumed that they can create a place where they assumed people needed to work there and are now realizing that they must create a place where people want to work.”

This is now an embedded truth and a major focus for HR and leadership professionals in all businesses. Great people will struggle to deliver great work if they don’t have the right tools to do their jobs or if the environment or leadership effectively blocks progress and productivity. We need to find ways to identify productivity blockers as part of enhancing the employee experience. Again, let’s find ways to make it easy for people to deliver great work.

Over the past two years, trends that were then emerging have continued to grow and we see a continuation of non-traditional employment models and a rise in entrepreneurial start-ups and work opportunities facilitated by technology platforms. The reality today is that employment legislation is struggling to keep pace with new models of work. The challenge continues to be how to protect individuals' rights and ensure appropriate reward mechanisms are in place while also acknowledging the desire of a growing number of workers and organisations to be able to work in a more fluid and agile way.

In 2015, Morgan also noted that: “There is no cookie cutter approach that every company can take and apply. Not everything that Google does will work for your company and not everything you are doing at your company will work at Google.” This sentiment also applies today. Every business needs to establish its own practices to enhance the employee experience that are right for it and which fit within its culture.

So, employee experience is still a focus for work now and it will continue to be for the ‘future of work’. However, it will evolve along the way as the expectations of people in work change, much of this led by technology and changes in working practices. The truth is that people are the only real competitive advantage we have, so let’s give them the best experience. Let’s find ways to enable great people to deliver great work and for them to actually enjoy doing it.

I’d like to leave you with one point to consider. If you are in a HR role and your job title currently has ‘HR’ in it, consider replacing ‘HR’ with ‘employee experience’ and ask yourself if it makes you think differently about the work you do – or the work you could do.

 

Karen Beaven is HR director of River Island and a member of The People Space Leadership Board. This article first appeared on The People Space on 8 May 2017

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