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Why Your CEO Is The Chief Experience Officer

There is only one Chief Experience Officer and that is the CEO.

There I said it. Experience is everything for customers and employees. It must mean everything to the business too. That’s why the CEO is the Chief Experience Officer.

In practice, it has always been that way. On either side of the experience, it is the CEO who is ultimately held responsible for brand success or failure. The data coming through from notable employee-led review sites is making a compelling case demonstrating the correlation between the CEO approval rating, quality of the workplace and the overall performance of the organisation. There are exceptions. High profile ones where an organisation appears to be a great success, but on the inside and outside something is not quite right. What happens? The wheels fall off. In some cases, spectacularly, wiping hundreds of millions off their valuations. Who is in the news? That's right, the CEO.

Imagine advising a CEO to ‘go back to the floor’ and engage more with staff. This would be unthinkable for those who naturally keep close to the action with customers and staff. Less executive, more experience. Experience, though, is a lot of ground to cover. How can one CEO lead a unified, experiential organisation? They can’t and that is welcome news. This type of CEO is inclusive and inspired by deep co-creation at every turn, holding people to account for the quality of the experience, and inspiring their workforces to higher standards. To do this, they need senior level support.

There are two elite business leaders that spring to mind, and there are two ultimate roles that should be flanking the CEO. The best of the best. Real and substantial board roles that are accountable for the most important aspects of the business. The titles of these powerful, human-centred roles? I think you know them already.

The Chief Employee Experience Officer and the Chief Customer Experience Officer.

It’s 2017 and you don’t have both roles within your organisation? Go get them, and what’s more, why not recruit them at the same time because, in practice and theory, they need to work as one, together, to uplift the experiences of your most important stakeholders and translate both experiences into profit and superior performance.

The biggest wasteland in business is unfulfilled potential. What gets in the way of a unified experience is often the humans at the centre of the transformation journey- singing out of tune or even sometimes, a completely different song. We know this after many years of experience, don’t we? The politics. The conflicting agendas. The scrap for resources. The petty rivalries. The bickering between functions. The blame game...

It’s HR’s fault we have a poor workplace. If only IT could deliver a solution that actually enhances the employee experience. Internal communications? Come on, they struggle to communicate with themselves let alone our employees. Marketing? No chance. They are all about product and customers, not the employees who make the great products and services, why spend time ‘marketing’ them? Estates? Forget about it. It takes 3 months to get a new chair. We need more ‘buy-in’ from the C-Suite. Ok, let’s explain one more time why people are important in delivering a profitable and sustainable business. Rinse and repeat across the global economy.

Hands up if this has played out at a meeting that you have attended. The centre of attention shifts to what you can’t do, what you don’t have, or what you or colleagues are not willing to do. The direct impact is felt not in that meeting room, but on the experiences of colleagues and customers.

“Isn’t it time that experience was discussed at length and in depth at every board and management team meeting? At all levels of the organisation?”

If you’re saying yes, then I’m with you because experience counts. You, more than any other colleague I know, understand this deeply. You have lived a life full of experiences- the good, the bad, and the rotten. It shapes your perception and the perception of others. Experience transcends our self and our organisations. The business case is our life. Our own experiences in this World.

Yet, time and time again, the traditions, rituals and insecurities of business get in the way of great experiences. Without focus, there really is no prospect of making a meaningful contribution to the World and this is tolerated and even encouraged in some places by an outdated system and outdated leaders.

I say put experiences first every time. If you need to break things to make this happen, then go ahead, because in the long-run, your organisation will be better for it. You may just deal with all those things and all those frustrations that have hindered progress and held people back for so long. You may also develop those things that really connect with your community to deliver an exceptional experience, and in turn, exceptional engagement and business results.

Will the real CEO please stand up?

Because the choice is simple. Put experiences first or your organisation might just finish last.


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 and his team of leading employee experience professionals frequently consult with the World's leading organisations.

Ben's writing, speaking and advocacy for employee experience have reached over 14 million colleagues worldwide.


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