It has been an excellent 2017 for employee experience (EX). There have been many impressive examples coming through of EX Organisations, and many more that have started the journey this year.
It is clear which sectors are demanding more radical change in how they develop and deliver a great experience for staff. For instance, out of hundreds of organisations, approaching 20 major banks have taken part in our one day EX masterclass this year, which is designed to help professionals who are embarking on significant EX projects and transformation. Industries being heavily disrupted or challenged by new technology and new types of organisations have had no choice but to refocus on the employee and customer experience.
Employee experience, in the view of the World Employee Experience Institute (WEEI), is a practitioner and employee-led movement. This is a compelling and important point to consider. This means that we are not being driven by anyone or anything, but our own context and people. This is a refreshing change. For far too long, there has been a dependency on organisations with a vested interest in employee engagement being so low every year- it helps them promote, push and sell their magic with the promise to wash away all your engagement worries.
Whether it is a tech solution or a consultancy framework, the truth is, they can’t fix your engagement or performance challenges. Only you and your organisation can. We know this, don’t we? 2017 has been a watershed moment in how organisations approach EX transformation. Gone and going are the fragmented and short-term fads and quick fixes that lead nowhere.
As professionals, it is often easier to bring in a brand name and outsource part of the engagement work. It is safe and if things don't work out, there is another party to blame. Employee engagement is a multi-billion-dollar industry, in part, because organisations have made it that way. The economy has started to build in specialised roles focused on engagement or culture, but these are often isolated and disconnected from operations and the C-suite so whatever progress is made, the impact is watered down significantly because the holistic view of the company has not been considered.
In fact, from 2018, WEEI will hold a party every time another company comes out with another survey with new statistics about the employee engagement crisis. You're invited!
‘According to (insert company with a massive commercial interest in providing employee engagement services), the number of employees that are actively engaged in their work is…..(drum roll)……. only 10%’.
Solution? Let’s do some more surveys and spend a lot of money and time doing it! Well, quite frankly, I’m not buying and nor should you. Save your money, do your own year-round internal research, and build from within partnering with people and companies that can strengthen your context, community and the connections within it.
Yet, genuine co-creation is a huge part of any successful EX approach. Co-creation with internal colleagues as well as external ones who can guide or support an EX transformation to succesful delivery. I would seriously question working with any provider who doesn’t have this as a core part of their approach. Anything that shifts or shares the leadership with an external partner should be challenged. This is often the reason so many projects fail because it ends up with the external vendor or supplier dictating what can or cannot be done based on their business model or limitations. Thankfully, organisations and external partners are creating eco-systems that challenge and change traditional models. This is good news, but will take time to implement for people and organsisations used to receiving the 'answers' in a shiny PowerPoint and then having their projects driven by an external agenda.
This is why employee experience as a field is so different to what has preceded it and this is the reason why I have been out on the road for so much of 2017 helping educate, train and coach colleagues on how to apply it in practice. It puts organisations and EX professionals in the driving seat. It should be the much needed confidence boost in the arm for HR and any function working closely with staff. It is empowering for professionals and the people of our organisations.
Experience is everything so we need to define, design and deliver experiences that make a massive difference to people and our organisations. It doesn’t cost the Earth either. There is great power in the smallest of experiences within work. EX gives us the focus to bring out the best of these moments to enable our colleagues to connect more with each other and the company’s purpose.
In that sense, we are talking much, much more about Context, Community and Connection.
The biggest failure within an organisation’s attempts to top-down employee engagement, usually via HR, is that none of these factors have been considered to the extent that they should have been. Not only that, but the team mandated to drive much of the work often starts from a disconnected position in the organisation and never really recovers despite very noble intentions.
“We need to work back from our business strategy in order to fully connect our employee experience and the outcomes we seek.”
One of the early Employee Experience Organisations™, our term for the EX trailblazers, called me up recently. This was a company that had been leading the way with EX and was a frequent case held up as an icon for others to follow. But they had lost their way. The vision for EX that they had when they started the journey was fading. Some key decisions here, some key leadership changes there, and the momentum that had been built suddenly started to fizzle out. The context had changed. The community was seriously affected, and the strength of the connections within the organisation suffered as a result.
Herein is a beautiful lesson. EX is never-ending. It is not one change programme. It is way of being and working within an organisation. It is sometimes revolutionary, but it is almost always, evolutionary, a work in progress. As you meet or exceed the expectations of your employees today, we will be moving to keep up with the expectations they have for tomorrow to ensure our companies stay out in front rather than get behind.
I don't think there is any debate about the fact that EX is red hot in 2017, and will be even hotter in the next few years. Some have internalized EX and have made rapid progress- it is already business as usual. Many others are testing the water, but what is clear is that there has never ever been a better time to work in employee-facing functions. We can now make the difference we have always wanted to, can't we?
In 2018, let other companies provide processes, products, or services because your company will win BIG, now and in the future, if you are fully focused on providing great ‘experiences’ for customers….and greater 'experiences' for employees.
Ben Whitter is described as "Mr Employee Experience”™ and the “number one figure in employee experience around the world right now’. In 2017, Ben was officially named as one of the world's leading experts and influencers within employee engagement and one of the top 30 HR Influencers in the UK.
Ben is the Founder of the World Employee Experience Institute (WEEI)- an organisation dedicated to creating organisations where people belong, find meaning, and co-create astonishing human achievements. Ben's writing, speaking and advocacy for employee experience have reached over 14 million colleagues worldwide.