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HR: Leading Through Employee Experience

How can HR professionals lead through Employee Experience? What difference does it make in practice?

With demand for exceptional employees at an all-time high, especially those with unique skill sets, talent is controlling the market in 2018, not companies. Walk into most progressive human-centred workplaces and you will find an array of eye-watering benefits, perks, and experiences that are designed to attract and retain the best team possible. Why? Because it makes absolute sense to do so and accelerates progress, growth, and business outcomes.

With Employee Experience now being recognised as a competitive advantage, employers are now working hard to clearly differentiate their experience from companies competing for the same talented people. Questioning and challenging the status-quo in a way they haven’t done before, businesses and CEOs have never been as open to new approaches as they are right now. Attracting talent is at the forefront of their mind, and for real success, businesses worldwide are going deeper – much deeper – into the experience of work.

Why? Because Employee Experience is not about simply introducing new high-value benefits programmes and best-in-class technology, it goes before and beyond that.

Before we embark on defining, designing and delivering new experiences, we must understand the core purpose of the business. Behind every experience, our purpose will be seen, heard, and felt every day. It will be aligned, clear, and – increasingly – positioned in a way that connects the employee community to the outside world.

Experiences that have societal impact: they make a difference to the human experience as well as the Employee Experience. When companies do this, and everything lines up in such a way, it is inspiring to see, and even more inspiring to be a part of.

In this sense, every process, procedure, or policy can be viewed as an experience. It is this truth, when acted upon, that sets the great HR functions apart from the good or average ones. They deeply understand that anything they interact with affects the quality of the Employee Experience, and in turn, performance and business outcomes.

The very best spot the connections that every department has on Employee Experience and work to ensure that each touchpoint is taken care of and is considered thoughtfully. Even the most routine and basic policies come into play when Employee Experience as an approach is in full flow.

A compelling example, and a beat that we can all dance to, comes from Spotify, a company leading the music streaming industry with 70 million subscribers, and 140 million active users. Leading the market is one thing, but staying ahead is an entirely different proposition when faced with competitors like Amazon and Apple. To stay out in front, businesses need to consistently innovate, and not just maintain but strengthen the connection with staff, and to do this there is no better way than focusing on the Employee Experience.

I’m sure that every colleague can relate to the bank/public holiday policy, which is usually placed on the corporate intranet, contract, or in the onboarding pack without a second thought. A couple of A4 pages and job done. Nothing ground-breaking here.

Inspired by the work of Swedish Telco 3, Spotify HR, namely Katarina Berg and Alexander Westerdahl, took this very ordinary HR policy and turned it into something that was extraordinarily impactful and celebrated by people and their employees worldwide.

Celebrate to your own beat

“Every Spotifier has the opportunity to take the holidays that matter to them. They can choose to work on a day that is a public holiday in the country they work in and swap it for another workday instead. This means they can be off work on a day that fits their observations or beliefs better.”

Promoting inclusion, flexibility, and autonomy, this purposeful ‘experience’ quickly captured the attention of a global audience (resulting in major brand outcomes) and shows what can be achieved when we apply the lens of ‘experience’ to HR work. Not only did this work transcend the business, it brought to life a HR policy that has never really fulfilled its potential before. If you look at the HR function, I imagine there are many other areas where a shift in thinking will help integrate purpose, people, and profit.

It is also worth noting that Spotify acknowledged they had built this new approach on the experience of others, which is why I am so pleased to be the Chairman of the UK Employee Experience Awards 2018 so we can rightly learn from, and build on, our collective experiences of work in the UK.

With more organisations embracing Employee Experience, we will really start to see some stunning outcomes across the economy, and we can then celebrate them accordingly.

This article by Ben Whitter was first published by Customer Experience Magazine.


Ben Whitter is described as "Mr Employee Experience”™ and the “number one figure in employee experience around the world right now’. In 2017, and again in 2018, Ben was officially named as one of the world's leading experts and influencers within employee engagement and also acknowledged as one of the top 30 HR Influencers in the UK.

Ben is the Founder of the World Employee Experience Institute (WEEI). Ben and his team partner with medium to large organisations worldwide to elevate the 'experience' of work as either a catalyst to get an EX approach started (EX Keynotes, EX Masterclasses, HR/EX Breakathons) or as a longer-term partner (EX Coaching & Training, EX Design & Transformation Programmes).

Ben's writing, speaking and advocacy for employee experience have reached over 16 million colleagues worldwide. Ben is the Chairman of the UK Employee Experience Awards 2018.

Book Ben for a keynote, masterclass or EX Breakathon today!


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