It has been mentioned for some time that employee experience will replace human resources as a profession and a field of expertise.
Although the transformation of human resources teams as an experience center is big, powerful and a step forward, it surely is not enough on its own to provide a healthy and positive employee experience that takes the employee at the center from the beginning to the end of the employee life cycle.
A holistic and total effort is required in order to implement such a stable, consistent and widespread experience focus that can spread far and wide to the organization. An organization that wants to implement the work experience it offers to its employees in a positive, healthy and sustainable way has to go through a holistic transformation process.
So how will this happen? Compared to the hundred years old human resources, the employee experience is quite young and is still a discipline that is yet to be explored. Is the employee experience a cultural shift? Does it require structural changes? Will any systemic changes be needed within the organization? Organizational design units rightly need a roadmap to manage such a change and transformation project.
How Will the Employee Experience Be Adopted in the Entire Organization?
An action plan that needs to be implemented in order for the employee experience to be properly adopted throughout the organization requires a multi-layered integration work.
In this article, I decided to create a structured model so that what I will write about the corporate integration of the employee experience is easier to follow and understand.
As you can see in our model, which we will examine from the bottom up, I think that a 5 stage integration process is needed for the employee experience to be adopted throughout the organization. Let's go through each of these stages in turn.
Cultural Change in Employee Experience Adoption
Have you heard the saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” before? I believe this phrase, uttered by world-renowned management guru Peter Drucker, is critical to any change initiative. By this statement, Drucker surely does not mean that strategy is unimportant. However, he mentions that strategies cannot be sustainable without a strong corporate culture that will nurture and support strategies and gather people around them in difficult times.
Employee experience is a bold change proposition that encourages the organization to move its human resources perspective from an understanding of seeing human as a resource to a working model that presents resources to human.
If you add to this the mindset that needs to be cultivated in leaders and management teams who are accustomed to working with business success oriented metrics, and the awareness, ownership and trust that must be created among the employees, you can see how important the culture is in this tremendous transformation.
Let's continue by taking a look at the 3 sub-elements in the culture block in the model.
- Reason for Being
- EX Principles
- Corporate Values
Reason for Being
Jacob Morgan and Ben Whitter, two of the world-renowned opinion leaders on employee experience attach great importance to the reason for being, the purpose which reveals the reason for this journey. I also mentioned in detail in my book that the strongest layer within the 5f(x) Model for Employee Experience is Purpose and Meaning.
Organizations that want to move from the classical propositions of human resources to an experience-oriented, modern philosophy based on the user (employee) need to get rid of the dry and uninspiring mission/vision statements left over from the engagement practices of the 1990s.
The organizational answers to the “Why?” question that were written from a pure corporate perspective and with a focus only on the corporate interest such as "Higher profitability, number one in sales, being the leader of the market" instead should be written in a way that the employee can be a part of and that will excite and motivate.
Jacob Morgan's set of criteria can be a great guide when writing the reason for being in the employee experience.
- Something unattainable
- No talk of money
- Shows the company’s impact
- Rallies employees
The reason for being statement of Google is a good example in terms of being fully compatible with this criteria set.
To organize the world's information and make it accessible and useful to all.
An organization that will adopt employee experience must first determine what kind of experience it will provide to the employees and the basic principles that will support this definition under any circumstances.
If we remember that experience is a very personal perception, it is natural for every leader and manager within the organization to have their own understanding and interpretation of what the ideal employee experience should look like.
However, experience designers prefer standardized streams instead of random experiences because they want to provide similar experiences to all users within the same persona in the same flow. Thus, it is possible to measure the conformity of the flowing experience to the plan and also to intervene when necessary.
EX Principles provide an invaluable guidance to the leadership and management teams. In terms of guidance, EX principles are similar to corporate values.
Corporate values are a guide for the entire organization that answers the following questions.
What do we believe in as an organization? Who are our employees and leaders like? What kind of people are we looking for in this journey we embark on? How do we commit to behave even when the road gets tough?
In short: How do we choose to “be”?
EX principles, on the other hand, answer the following questions:
What kind of perception do we aim to create about us in our employees, subcontractors, suppliers and all other stakeholders whose lives we touch?
What emotions do we undertake to honor and to honor each time our stakeholders come into contact with our company throughout their working life with us?
In short: How do we intend to “make an impression”?
Therefore, while corporate values are a state of being that defines the corporate identity and character, the principles of experience are the definition of the perception that the organization aims to create in others.
Corporate values: We believe in a single team, we embrace our differences, we develop and improve...
Principles of experience: We make not just but also fair decisions. We listen to common sense, not the title. The well-being of our employees is our red line.
Structural Adaptation in Employee Experience Adoption
Culture is naturally a tremendous catalyst in all movements of change and transformation. It's also a great glue for sustainability. On the other hand, it is not enough on its own. Because leaders are in the right mindset for change and transformation it is necessary to offer them the ways and means in which they can implement the new perspective they have gained That is, roads to drive the car.
As the name suggests, structural change means exactly this. Building the roads. As you can see in the image, three sub-components stand out in the structural change layer.
- Organizational Structure
In the classical hierarchical organizational structure of the past, also known as the accordion organization, there is a long way from the lowest level employee to the leader working at the highest level.
Assistant Specialist, Specialist, Senior Specialist, Manager, Assistant Manager, Manager, Senior Manager, Director, Senior Director, Assistant General Manager, General Manager...
In this long journey, how is it possible for the feedback (the critical component for all experience based works) we mentioned in our previous article, namely the voice of the employee (VoE) to reach the relevant management level?
Or, looking at it the other way around, how likely is it in such a bureaucracy that the leadership team will be able to hear how well the experience of the employee in the work environment is flowing by the design? How will they tell which touch points are serving as gain points and which of them turned into pain points?
We know that the young generations who are preparing to step into the business world, as well as the older senior employees, expect from organizations to develop skills for personal and professional development and to up-skill/re-skill their abilities.
In addition, it is obvious that all employee groups, especially the younger generations, who are highly affected by the cost of living, want to climb the career ladder rapidly in order to increase their income and have a safer job security.
It is not easy to establish mentoring (and even reverse mentoring) connections where senior employees can transfer their experiences to younger generations in organizations with crowded hierarchical ladders, and to create project groups where employees of different experience levels can find the opportunity to work together. Therefore, the expectation of development opportunities of the employees is somewhere near hopeless in such a working environment.
Likewise, in cultures where bureaucracy and politics are dominant, where senior employees are buckled up tightly to their seats and where seniority is valued rather than merit, the expectation of rapid career opportunities cannot be met.
Leaner and more horizontal organizational structures are indeed a serious opportunity to close the communication gap between the lowest level employee and the highest level leader and to accelerate the information (feedback) flow.
The level of impact of the house you live in on the life experience of both your family and your guests is at the same level of impact of the physical environment in which you do your job in your work experience. In this respect, after you have established your EX principles and corporate values, I recommend you to sincerely review the working, resting, socializing and development environments you offer to your employees.
Consider your organization has a value set that promises teamwork, collaboration, innovation, creativity, and open communication. However, you design physical work environment as a closed office that separates departments from each other. You don't have white/smartboard rooms that can be used for brainstorming. You do not offer socialization areas where employees can socialize, communicate easily, get to know and bond with each other. In short, your workspaces do not offer the right environment for your values to come to life.
This naturally creates the perception that you are far from the unity of action and discourse as an organization. If you remember that the EX principles are about the perception we want to leave in the employee, I would not say that you are on the right track.
The same is true for organizations that offer a hybrid or remote working model (the bells may be ringing for you if you are one of the organizations that only offer in-person, on prem working) in designing digital spaces in line with employee expectations. Because, especially in the post-pandemic world, the digital employee experience (DEX) has become as meaningful as the physical world we can hold in our hands.
Imagine you have a plumbing problem in your home. You immediately call a mechanic for repairs. But when the mechanic open the tool bag, you realize that all the tools he brought with him are broken and shabby. What do you think? Would you still want to have your home repaired by this mechanic?
Don't you think the same is true for your employees to whom you entrust many different jobs that will touch the lives of your customers in your organization? Therefore, it is critical to offer up-to-date, high-quality and user-friendly tools to the employees in order to fulfill the tasks you expect from your employees. Tools that will both provide personal enjoyment to work with and that will provide the quality for tehnical success.
We examine the tools block in 2 layers within the 5f(x) Model for Employee Experience. One of these layers refers to the tools necessary to do the job, and the other refers to the salary and benefits offered in return for the job.
Your employees share an important time of their lives plus the knowledge, skills, experience and networks they have gained throughout their lives with you for the success of your organization. Don't you think it's only fair that the opportunities and privileges they get in return are competitive according to market conditions?
Systematic Change in Employee Experience Adoption
It's unrealistic to keep doing things the old fashioned way and expect different results. While all definitions of work are rapidly changing around us organizations need to rethink their way of doing business in a way that adapts to the requirements of the modern world.
The way of doing business in the new world is changing before our eyes. Every day we see another organization switching to agile business models.
This radical change in the way of doing business is not in vain. Agile business models create miracles compared to the past in that they concentrate the focus on the product/service, gather all the stakeholders affected by an issue in the same information circle, and provide close contact between the customer and the developers/designers of the product/service.
The biggest advantage in agile or even lean agile operation is to receive feedback as often and continuously as possible in line with the experience design and thus to rapidly develop a product that meets the minimum requirements in accordance with customer expectations (MVP) and develop it in iterations.
Call it employee experience or customer experience. All organizations that want to focus on user experience need to gradually get used to the agile methodology and working with more inclusive roles such as squad leader, tribe leader, scrum master or the chapter lead that act as bridges by working in circular collaboration models
Reports claim 41% of executives worldwide believe the job, workplace and workforce needs to be redefined. In such a world, it is unrealistic to cling to the roots of human resources as a profession and area of expertise with a century-old job description.
Human resources has been around since the industrial revolution. But with its rule-maker and disciplinary stance, its internal policing identity and more importantly its “man of management” perception has long worn out its relationship with its customers. It is hight time HR looked in the mirror and see its wrinkles.
Running with two-week sprints, the business world now expects faster and more agile solutions from a human resources working with yearly delivery times in critical service cycles such as personnel planning, salary, performance and talent management.
For all these reasons HR needs to adapt to this wind of change that blows its hair. By hearing the voice of its customers it needs to transform as an experience center and reposition itself as a catalyst in the experience of work.
According to the 2022 research conducted by Universum with 59 universities, 63,747 students and 27,363 graduates, 71% of students, 79% of young professionals and 77% of experienced professionals have a concrete expectation of working remotely. Those who do not express this expectation openly state that they are worried about not being able to connect with the rest of the organization in case of remote working. In other words, if this concern were to disappear, the expectation would bring all survey participants together on a common ground.
In the face of such a great expectation and in today's world where talent shortage has hit the peak of the last 17 years, with 77%, it is an extremely brave move, to say the least, to impose a physical and on-site working model on the employees.
In order for the employee experience to be adopted and implemented throughout the organization, it is necessary to move from a world where the employee is informed about which working model s/he is expected to work by, to a world where options are offered for the employee to work from wherever s/he thinks s/he can do his job in the best way. As Jacob Morgan stated, it is extremely important to leave this choice to the employee in terms of work/life integration.
Policy, Procedure and Process Modernization in Employee Experience Adoption
Have you ever thought about what day an employee is most committed to the organization? Moreover, what day is when s/he is not only the most engaged but also the most enthusiastic, excited and curious?
Amazon, which has the population of a small country with more than 1.5 million employees, believes that that magic day is the first day.
But what happens and the employee starts to lose this stellar engagement, enthusiasm, excitement and curiosity that he had on the first day through the following days he spends in the organization. Could the answer be heavy bureaucracy, rigid hierarchy, old-fashioned policies and procedures, endless streams of processes?
I want to ask you a critical question. Think about your policy, procedure and process flows that put your corporate operation and decision-making mechanism in writing. Who did you design these to protect and benefit? The answer to both of these questions often point to the corporate side.
The whole mechanism, from the leave policy to the expense procedure, from the performance process to the salary increase is built on the organization not being affected by any possible risk and protecting the corporate rights.
The outside - in thinking, which enters our lives with the customer experience, is based on the organization's shaping the entire supply chain from end to end by putting customer expectation in the focus. For example, did you know that Disney decides where to place the trash cans in the theme parks by marking the places where the visitors look around to leave the garbage in their hands while walking around the park?
While designing corporate processes, don't you think it would be a better behavior for an employee-oriented organization to hear the expectation of the employee (customer of the process) and at least create the balance of interests in a place where the organization and the employee can meet at a common point?
The experiential viewpoint does not accept that there is only one absolute way of doing a job. It embraces different approaches, expresses polyphony, diversity and inclusion, innovation, creativity and free thinking. As I say in my book, experiment and experience both come from the same family.
However, instead of the large resources and long delivery times required to provide the perfect product / service at the first move, it foresees agile movement and the product/service that meets the minimum requirements and making progress with iterations.
All this requires a culture with growth mindset that accepts mistakes as learning and doesn't look for scapegoats when things don't go according to plan.
Imagine replacing the complaint boxes in your organization with wish and suggestion boxes today. Only for the cost to change the box labels, you can trigger a magnificent mindset change in the corporate culture.
Human Focus on Employee Experience Adoption
The most critical component in adopting the employee experience and making it sustainable is naturally to put the employee at the center. To be able to look at what is happening through the lens of the employee by empathizing at every touch point that has an affect on the employee. As you can see from the image, if the foundation of this structure is culture, its roof is the human focus. Naturally, no one wants to live in a house with no roof.
Diversity and Inclusion
How can a healthy employee experience come to life in an organization where employees hide their authentic identities in order to comply with the expectations and corporate norms of others?
How long can people want to stay in a culture where they are not even allowed to "be"? How excited can they be to go above and beyond their job description for the sake of this organization?
Creating an organization where the voice of every participant is heard, not the one who shouts the loudest, and where everyone's ideas and contributions are valuable, regardless of their background, belief or identity is the only correct and sustainable way for the employee experience to be embraced and implemented.
Meaning and Belonging
Where does one find meaning? Of course, above all, in a culture where s/he is seen, heard, recognized, and allowed to contribute to his/her work, team, and organization as an individual.
How do we create opportunities for the employee to contribute to his/her work, team and organization?
- By allowing the employee to enrich, deepen and update the job description when necessary.
- By providing an opportunity to share what they know as an in-house trainer, mentor or coach.
- Informing the employee about the ongoing projects within the organization and ensuring that s/he can take part as a member in the projects s/he wants (even if they are projects of different teams) with the approval of the relevant project manager.
- By making room for him/her to create his/her annual goals in a way that will contribute to his/her own personal and professional development.
- By enabling the employee to take part in social responsibility projects and give them the opportunity to contribute to the society.
Many more possibilities can be easily found with only a well-intentioned and sincere brainstorm.
So, what can be done to meet the employee's need to be noticed?
- By appreciating the employee's achievements, his/her good behavior representing the culture, for his/her harmony and contribution to the team.
- By thanking him/her sincerely for his/her effort, the works s/he completed on time, the duties s/he fulfilled properly, maybe even just for his/her genuine smile and pleasant conversation.
- By sincerely apologizing to the employee for mistakes, negative behaviors and non-constructive communication.
Believe me, even just appreciation, thanks and apology can work miracles on their own.
Co-Creation and Voice of Employee in Employee Experience Adoption
Co-Creation: As I always say, the employee experience is not designed for the employee. It is designed with the employee.
It is essential to be able to hear and interpret user expectations correctly, not only for the employee experience, but also for all experience setups. What better way to understand the employee's expectation than to ask the employee directly?
There is no chance to miss the target of an experience flow designed with the contribution of a Co-Creation team as diverse as possible, composed of different teams, seniority, education, title and generations within the organization.
Since co-creation teams include employees to begin with, when the products/services are put into practice, they create better credibility in the employee's mind and therefore are more easily accepted. Because in the end, who knows what an employee wants better than another employee?
Likewise, the employees in the co-creation teams are the ambassadors of the product/ service they contributed in the design phase. And they take a much faster and more efficient way than human resources while explaining them to other employees within the organization.
Voice of Employee: We have already discussed in detail how critical it is to be able to hear the voice of employee, as well as hearing it correctly in a timely manner.
Would you like the employee experience, as a data-driven discipline, to shine and unlock its true potential? Then you should offer qualitative (focus groups, workshops, one-on-one chats, etc.) and quantitative (surveys, etc.) tools to receive the employee feedback at each touchpoint.
However, in organizations where the number of employees is thousands or tens of thousands it is not easy to instantly process the many real-time employee feedback coming from a multitude of touch points and to refine and visualize this insight in an actionable way.
Right at this point, employee experience platforms can create miracles for your organization with touch point mapping, smart data processing, visualization setup and mechanics.
Organizational Governance of Employee Experience
Now is the time to ask that important question. Who owns the employee experience within the organization? I think this question has multiple answers. Although the first name that comes to mind as the owner of employee experience is the human resources teams, I believe that the support of the leaders and the ownership of the management team are critical.
Ultimately, what we want to achieve is to ensure that the employee experience offered in this organization is felt in a healthy, positive and consistent manner. The only way to achieve this is to be able to see that all stakeholders who touch the employee and whom the employee touches are all at the same boat.
According to LinkedIn, there are 250,000 job postings with employee experience in the US alone. 13,000 of them are seeking directors and higher level leaders. Some companies where employee experience is represented at the directorial level are Uber, Oyster, Vimeo, Kickstarter, and Yelp.
Look how Airbnb, one of the first corporate examples to bring the employee experience to life, has set up its employee experience setup.
In the Airbnb model, all processes that touch the employee have been carefully reviewed. Among these processes, processes such as recruitment, training & development and promotion & assignment are in the HR Operations (HR Ops) Team, jobs such as salaries and benefits are in the Total Rewards Team, and all physical components that touch the employee such as food, resting areas, work environments were assigned to a team called Ground Control and all of these teams connected to the employee experience team.
On a given day:
- An employee checks in with the IT for laptop setup, mail, application and access authorizations
- Checks in with accounting for salary and payroll
- Checks in with legal team for enforcement, foreclosure and legal permissions
- Checks in with occupational health and safety team for the safety shoes that hit his heels
- Checks in administrative affairs for the the shuttle with no air conditioning
- Check in with HR for performance reviews and other issues
- And checks in with many other teams for many other tasks.
Can you see how many experience owners the employee run into in the ordinary course of a day?
Today, many organizations entrust the ownership and responsibility of the customer experience area to a single leader in order to design, implement and manage an end-to-end experience at all points where the customer comes into contact with the brand. This leader is often in the top management and reports directly to the general manager. The titles of Executive Vice President of Customer Experience are now frequently seen on LinkedIn.
Remember how we defined employee experience in our first post? Employee Experience is the holistic perception that employees acquire as a result of their interactions with their organization. Don't you think it would be great to appoint a leader responsible for the design, implementation and management of an experience that was consciously designed in order to create and sustain this perception in a healthy way?
Some organizations position this leader to report directly to the general manager / founder. For example, Mark Levy, while working at Airbnb, was the first leader in the world to hold the title of Director of Employee Experience, reporting directly to Brian Chesky, the founder and general manager.
However, there are also organizations that do not prefer to reorganize their entire human resources operations and management in the employee experience model. For example, some of the companies I mentioned in the introduction manage the employee experience with a single-person team, while others increase this team to 8 people.
The team composition includes employees from different professions and areas of expertise such as designers, analysts and data scientists. When we come to the organizational structure, we see that the employee experience team is generally positioned to report to the CHRO.
Agile Approach in Employee Experience Governance
I am aware that it is not easy to connect all of these functions directly to a single team in classical corporate setups. But why shouldn't it be possible to bring these functions together as an agile project group?
It may be possible to achieve this by appointing a squad leader responsible for each product (process), a tribe lead who will provide coordination support to this group, a chapter lead who will be responsible for the management of components that cut all processes horizontally, and a scrum master who will communicate with business units. TürkTraktör is a very good example that brings this setup to life almost exactly.
The most important point to be considered is how the roles and responsibilities that will be included in the job description of the employee experience team will be differentiated from human resources.
The employee experience specialist should not work as a specialist that deep dives in recruitment, performance, talent management, salary and other such specialty domains. However, in any of these processes, it is possible to act as a product owner to improve the experience of the employee.
For example, using insights from the co-creation team or targeted pulse surveys, an employee experience specialist can with the training team in a sprint (2 weeks of work) to help prototype a development program that provides the minimum user requirements.
In the next sprint, s/he runs this prototype through several classes, collecting participant feedback and supporting the development of the design with iterations. With the retrospective sessions to be held after the sprints, s/he goes over the wins and learnings with the training team.
The same specialist may meet with a different team in the next cycle, this time for the performance process, for example, or organize focus groups working with a human resources business partner (HRBP).
I don't know how it sounded to you, but it sounds like music to me.
In this article, we touched upon the adoption corporate governance of employee experience at the organizational level. I hope that the article has been useful to all readers and has given bold ideas.
Employee experience is still a vast ocean waiting to be explored. If the idea of being one of the brave explorers who will realize the immense potential of this ocean excites you, follow our series!