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Time for an EX intervention?

Mark our words: Employee experience is the new standard for defining how companies should interact with their people.
Empowering employee experience
Mahin Samadani

Passionate about inspirational approaches to creating digital products and services, with a focus on service design, design-centered thinking, and leveraging emerging technology

Mark our words: Employee experience is the new evolution from employee engagement for defining how companies should interact with their people. It reflects a move toward human-centered interaction, not a paternalistic approach, with employees in directing organizational performance.

With employee engagement, Human Resources tends to drive interaction in one direction – company to employee – based on insights from employee surveys. These surveys offer a sense of how employees feel at a moment in time, but they don’t provide a true sense of how work gets done or ties to business performance.

Employee experience, or EX, shifts the relationship to one that ignites employees with enthusiasm and empowers them to create experiences they desire. EX interventions must be designed holistically and break through functional barriers to address how work gets done.

With great employee experience:

  • Individuals do purposeful work for meaningful rewards and recognition, encouraged by managers who provide regular coaching and feedback.
  • Teams are empowered to make decisions, operate with trust, and employ user-friendly ways of working and processes.
  • The company provides a positive workplace environment and culture that reinforces its DNA.

Great experience equals thinking about how people interact with organizations before they start there to after they leave and how they drive value, reputation and equity. At McKinsey, we invest significantly to create a powerful alumni experience via events, special access to research, and networking support. This generates value because many alums become our clients and help recruit back to the firm.

What is critical to improve employee experience?

  1. Start with performance – not experience for experience’s sake. Understand your organizational DNA that supports business performance. We measure this DNA via our Organizational Health Index survey. It underscores that companies with a well-understood DNA post outsized financial performance of three times total return to shareholders versus companies with weak organizational health.
  2. Get obsessed with your employees. Apply the best of customer experience – and go further. Examine how employees interact with the company throughout their career. Go beyond mapping journeys based on HR processes to recognize the moments that really matter, then make those extraordinary.
  3. Recognize it’s not about free sushi for lunch. Experience is often confused with fancy perks. They play a role, but starting there probably won’t make a material difference. Determine which elements of EX will fix pain points and strengthen performance – ranging from workplace environment, ways of working, and the implicit contract between employer and employees.
  4. Build a sustaining culture. Experience is about lasting change in how an organization operates and requires a culture change, not just slogans and short-term incentives. Altering how work gets done means changing ingrained employee habits, which requires recognizing the mindsets, values and beliefs that drive them and designing evidence-based interventions to shift daily behaviors.
  5. Bear in mind it’s for the people, by the people. Empower your employees to design and develop solutions. Use agile approaches to let them prototype and scale solutions themselves. Provide the guardrails and skill-building to generate ideation, trial, and iteration. This will save money, build employee ownership, and make change stick.
  6. Ditch an annual employee survey. Experience is lived, deeply felt, rapidly changing, and highly personal. Annual engagement surveys don’t provide insights that are deep, fresh, or personal enough to effectively shape experience. Use a mix of different approaches, from real-time measurement and mining employee data to using novel technologies–such as biometrics–and rich qualitative sources like mobile video diaries. These will deliver an immediate pulse on what experience is really like and where to focus for the biggest impact.

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