The rise - and upcoming fall of employee experience

By Janus Boye

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The employee experience. Most organizations have now truly realized that it’s just as important as the customer experience. Even to the point where one can’t be successful without the other.

But how are organizations acting on the this newly found wisdom? In what ways are they really improving the employee experience?

Many organizations have jumped too quickly on this new buzzword, while consultants and analysts alike have found a new pot of gold after the GDPR rainbow. Don’t take my word for it, see Forrester on The Employee Experience Playbook for 2019. As one of our members said at a peer group meeting: Upon reading it, I felt like the ship had sailed and we were too late.

The below post is adapted from my keynote at the VALO Summit in Amsterdam on April 3.

What’s the problem with employee experience?

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In brief: Employees are not looking to be entertained. They first and foremost want to get their job done.

Having said that, the belief that a genuinely authentic, honest and safe employee experience comes from gadgets, digital tools, foosball tables and in-house cafés with your very own choice of organic muffin is naive. Simultaneously, remote working is on the rise like never before, so something screams discrepancy here.

To make matters even more perplexing, 70 percent report that they are not engaged at work. 9 out of 10 reports that they are frequently feeling stressed, and the speed of which people switch jobs have never been faster (yes, there are also other reasons for this, but in my experience, employee experience is a big one).

So, I’m not saying forget about employee experience, but we need to get back on track, and in my experience, it starts with something as simple as the words we use.

One’s immediate boss and colleagues are still 90 percent of the employee experience

It’s as simple as that. No matter how many tools and benefits we get, the people we work with everyday are unsurprisingly the most important part of our experience at work.

Even the greatest digital workplace will not fix your boss, and it won’t result in better collaboration in your team if there is no trust to begin with.

It’s been said many times before, but somehow we still end up forgetting:

“People before technology”

Or as Rachel Happe from the Community Roundtable said:

“Many people problems are actually management problems”. More on her thinking and vast experience in this piece: Control is for amateurs.

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Enter: Workplace services

If you work in IT or communication and are responsible for tools like Office 365 or perhaps VALO, it might work better to reframe your focus from employee experience to workplace services.

Workplace services might not sound as sexy as employee experience, but let’s not fool ourselves. It helps to frame the problem in a way, where you can actually control the outcome

Even in the context of digital employee experience (conveniently labelled DEX by consultants and analysts), I’m sceptical at best. DEX is also when your stressed boss sends too many emails or goes bananas on the social intranet. Yes, some education towards when to use what might help, but at the end of the day, the employee experience is about human beings - not technology.

Where to look for advice?

Just as the employee experience isn’t any one thing, neither is the solution. Some organizations are starting to invest more in culture change programs, which is good. However, it’s even better if organizations acknowledge that culture isn’t something that can be fixed by delegating enough resources. Culture, from how we talk to each other, and how comfortable we feel sharing, is a continuous piece of work, and something that everyone in the organization - from management to the people on the floor - has to be aware of every single day. Just as everyone of us hopefully are in our personal lives.

And then, when we go about purchasing new technology, we have to allocate the resources for implementation. We have to invest much more in training. I am not talking about simply giving people a quick tour of the cockpit, but rather formulating a very clear strategy for the use of the modern workplace; taking the time to show everyone how these tools together with on-going openness and honesty can make every day at work better.

Learn more and continue the conversation

For more depth on these topics, have a look at two of our recent articles:

- Lil Sawyer from Grand & Toy in Canada goes into detail with the adoption challenges of a digital workplace.

- Our interview with David Collins: No more culture change programs - we need a culture revolution

You can also meet with peers in our Future Workplace groups or consider joining our Boye 19 Aarhus conference in November.