What employee experience means for HR: 5 industry experts explain

The employee experience is a new buzzword that has gained rapid recognition from Deloitte, Forbes, PwC and industry leaders like Airbnb. A study by IBM and Globoforce also found that a positive employee experience is linked to higher work performance, discretionary effort, and lower turnover. But, what does the employee experience actually mean? We've asked 5 thought leaders and industry experts on their thoughts.

In Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, almost 80% of executives rated employee experience as important or very important. At the same time, 59% also reported that they were not, or were only somewhat ready, to address this challenge.

By now, we know we all want a great employee experience, but what exactly constitutes a great employee experience? Is it providing healthy food, gym memberships and dog-friendly offices?

The problem is, the definition is not as straightforward as terms like turnover, eNPS or real-time feedback. Instead, the employee experience is a concept that encompasses all of the different factors that influence how your people think and feel about your work environment.

We decided to go deeper into this question by gaining insights from internationally renowned experts and top innovative thinkers at the 2017 Beyond HR Forum. During the conference, cutting edge HR topics from the consumerization of HR to the rise of artificial intelligence were discussed. However, the underlying message running throughout the entire conference was the complete and total shift of HR’s focus from a company centric to a people-centric orientation.

Elliott Nelson, Partner at KennedyFitch

In line with this theme, management consulting firm KennedyFitch announced the launch of their new global survey to learn how companies worldwide are creating the Employee Experience. Elliott Nelson, Partner at KennedyFitch, explained that the survey involved 15,000 HR professionals worldwide, aimed to find out how companies are going about building the employee experience, what measures they are putting in place and how they are re-structuring HR as a result. See the results here.

One of our hypotheses is that there is actually no generally accepted definition of what the employee experience is, and no common proven approach for building it, making it more difficult for companies to know what to do to drive real business impact.”
Profile Kennedy Fitch Elliott Nelson 01
Elliott Nelson

Nelson continues: “We work with a lot of companies that are undergoing a digital transformation and the challenge is to use digital to enhance and improve the human interaction, give greater access to development opportunities and communication, and help employees increase productivity as they connect with a greater sense of purpose and meaning in what they do.”

At the end of the day, a more positive employee experience will lead to competitive advantage.

John Ryan, CEO of Great Places to Work

Catching up with the CEO of Great Places to Work, John Ryan, he explained, “For me the employee experience is every single touchpoint that the employee has, combined with their overall sense of who the organisation is. This is interpreted through their interactions with leaders and colleagues, in their living of the culture and values, and through the behaviours they see in action every day. When asked what he thought was the most important element to creating a great employee experience, he shared:

Depending on your stage in the employee journey, different aspects of the employee experience will be more important. If you’re experiencing a high trust relationship you’ll be predisposed to viewing your overall experience in positive terms."
Profile Great places to work John Ryan 01
John Ryan

However, the opposite is also true – if you are experiencing a low trust culture then your overall employee experience will be poor and consequently your performance will be diminished. Organisations should therefore obsess about building high trust cultures as trust is the currency of success and will lead to a great employee experience.

David Green, Leader in People Analytics

When speaking with People Analytics Leader, David Green, he agreed with the high importance on trust.

While listening, analysing, and then acting on employee sentiment are all important, but I’d have to say the most critical element of providing a great employee experience has to be trust and transparency. Without it your efforts are doomed.”
Profile David Green
David Green
People Analytics Leader

To get a better feel for how these concepts are viewed in practice, we also spoke with some top HR managers.

Constanza Loboguerrero, HR Manager at Accenture

Accenture has been recognized both as a Fortune 100 company and one of the top companies for employee experience. We spoke with senior HR manager Constanza Loboguerrero to find out from her perspective what the employee experience means. She emphasized that the concept goes deeper than the previously more surface level relationship between a company and its employees.

Employee experience refers to each one of the moments that matter in my interactions with my employer. From before onboarding when I am in the process of recruiting, to when I leave the company and after, becoming an alumni.”
Profile Accenture Constanza Loboguerrero
Constanza Loboguerrero
HR Manager

One of the key things HR can do to streamline the experience throughout the employee’s journey is to provide technology that will help enable them to pick and choose according to their needs (consumerization of HR). Loboguerrero explained that one of the most unique features of Accenture’s Employee Experience is, “having a one stop shop for any need we might have in terms of career, benefits, learning, information, development, requests…. You name it… in our Accenture portal.”

Rani Verschoor, Head of People Ops & Culture at Orderbird

However, this doesn’t mean that creating a great Employee Experience is limited to companies with a large budget to spend. We caught up with Rani Verschoor, Head of People Operations & Culture at one of Berlin’s hottest hyper growth companies, Orderbird. At just over 100 employees, Verschoor explained that maintaining a very transparent culture was the most important element of Orderbird’s unique Employee Experience.

One way Orderbird does this is by keeping communication flowing openly in all directions. For example, Verschoor shared that they hold, “Weekly business updates every Wednesday during a company wide breakfast. It’s a great way to mingle and get to know more people while also getting an immediate update on important decisions that were made.”

Her advice to other HR managers looking to transform their organizations is to break with outdated ways of thinking.

To actually become more employee centric, we need to completely change our mindset on how we see and approach challenges: Not being restricted by regulations and processes but by putting people first and leveraging digital to create a great experience.”
Profile Orderbird Rani Verschoor
Rani Verschoor
Head of People Ops & Culture

Ultimately what we learned is there is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a great employee experience. Your company’s employee experience will be influenced by your culture, people and values. However, the way your employees experience your organization isn’t fixed. It can be shaped by the processes, technology and trainings you put in place. However, trust and transparency are two of the most important and commonly agreed-upon cornerstones needed to create a truly positive employee experience.

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