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Employee Experience

What is the Employee Experience?

The employee experience is a critical component to HR success. In this blog, Stela Lupushor talks us through designing an EE in your organisation.

Article written by Stela Lupushor. Stela will be presenting on our 'What is the Employee Experience' webinar on 30 June. Please click here for webinar details.


EX / PX / WX - many abbreviations attempting to describe what it’s like to be a worker and our ability to produce, delight, perform. So what is it? There are a multitude of definitions out there, ranging from a replacement term for employee engagement, all the way to a total overhaul of HR systems to be more user-friendly, and everything in between. And before we dive into the definition let’s start with the question: 


Why do we need to design a Workplace or Employee Experience?

Understanding the steps it takes to create a great employee experience, as well as critically engaging with the many valid counter-arguments that follow, is even more confusing. 


We need to change the culture! Again? But we did an XYZ program last year and it didn’t make a difference. Plus, what is our ‘culture’ and can we really change it? We need to double down on the quarter-end results, not deal with the fluffy HR stuff. 


We need to listen to the employee’s voice! But we’ve been running quarterly engagement surveys and we have a 95% participation rate! We are also sending weekly pulse surveys. Isn’t that enough? 


We have to become digital! Of course, we invested in a new HRIS system last year and are in the process of implementing a new ATS and now going through an RFP for a new LMS. (How many more acronyms can HR use that employees don’t really care to know?) In the wake of the pandemic crisis, we all moved to remote work so we’ve already become digital! Mission accomplished!


We have to make the work environment open and fluid! Well, an open floor is not conducive to productivity, so people need to have private space. No, we need to keep everyone remote because the productivity spiked since we went remote (and “so what!” if it might be related to overworking the backdrop of the crisis). No, people better come to the office when we reopen the office.


Maybe we leave everything the way it is -- too much change creates chaos and people are experiencing change fatigue.  


Any of this sounds familiar? 


No judgement.


Here is the definition I use: workplace experience is the cumulative experiences workers have with an organization before, during, and after their employment journey, designed to maximize organizational and individual success. 



What does an Employee Experience Framework include?

Naturally, you need a mental model of the Employee Experience. Here is a way to build an organizing framework and a limited set of questions to reflect on - and maybe even consider when building your people analytics strategy.



Inclusion: Do you have a culture where everyone feels they belong? Do you have a “public square” or “town hall” channel (be that a physical way of gathering and discussing, or virtual way of raising questions, issues, and concerns)? Do employees feel they can freely speak about things that are of concern without experiencing repercussions? Are policies designed for everyone or are they only benefiting specific segments? For example, better health insurance coverage that is only available to executives, eligibility for student loan assistance only available to recent graduates (and more likely on the younger age spectrum) versus parents who are carrying the burden for loan repayments for their children. Are you age inclusive? 

Accessibility: is your workplace accessible? Do people with physical limitations have the ability to use the same tools, same entrances, same spaces? Is your website and digital tool accessible? Do you consider people who have certain physical and mental limitations as people with disabilities or people with diverse-abilities?

 In short, when you design any workplace offerings, are you making people feel they belong to different classes or they are all treated in a way that makes them feel cared for? This doesn’t mean that everyone expects riches to be bestowed upon them, but rather that there is fairness in how resources are allocated, and more importantly, there is transparency on how those decisions were made. 



Culture: How do people treat each other? Both in the moments of success and failures? Do people understand each other and empathize? Do they feel visible? Do people relate to what it's like to be a family caregiver, or a parent, or a single mom, or a person with a disability (especially of invisible one)? Do people have the ability to adapt their workload to the times when they are performing at peak capacity and when they slow down to recharge their batteries? Is there tolerance for being human? Do leaders role model the behaviors of compassion and empathy?

Teaming norms: Is the work organized to be done primarily by one individual? Is the organization believing in the “lone creator” with exceptional abilities and traits? Do you have an individualistic culture or a collaborative? Is there belief in tapping into the organizational community that stretches you, challenges you and also helps you get things done? Do people generally enjoy working with each other? Do they have the ability to work on some “skunk works” projects with each other, just because they are passionate about it? 

Processes and Policies: Do you have policies that govern nearly everything in the company, or procedures that describe exactly how things need to be done, or processes that one cannot deviate from and there is an army of compliance professionals policing the adherence? Do you add to the collection of those or refine them every single time someone makes an error, or does not comply? Are there loopholes that allow people to make exceptions from all those rules if the opportunity to “do the right thing” comes up? Do you trust your employees? Do you trust that they generally have a positive intent? Do they trust you?



Physical work environment: What’s the look, feel, and vibe of your office environment? Is it an open space or a cube farm? Is the furniture ergonomic? Does it allow you to reconfigure things fast? What color scheme are you using -- bright and loud or calm and subdued? What is the level of noise and can people find quiet spaces where they can concentrate without being interrupted by a loud conversation or startled by the running of the espresso machine? Do you have an espresso machine or free tea/coffee? As the organizations start reopening their physical offices, the post-pandemic world looks a whole lot more different. Are you providing sufficient comfort and confidence to your workers that it is safe to be there?

Digital workspace: How do people use technology to get work done? Do you have a single sign-on option or do they have to log in to 17 systems to be fully productive? We might be exaggerating with 17, but maybe not -- no judgement. Are systems integrated and does data flow seamlessly between them? Are the technical features available on the desktop also fully available on mobile interfaces? Can you activate anything with voice control? Is the Wi-Fi strong enough? Does your tooling feel like you are in the Flintstones era, or in the Jetsons’? Do they have a choice?

Virtual workspace: Can people access the work tools they need and do their work from anywhere? Do they have the ability to continue to be productive regardless of when they choose to do the work? Do they have to carry two separate phones (one personal and one work-issued) because the security doesn’t allow data to be separated on one device?

Of course, some of these questions will not apply to workplaces where you have to be physically in a warehouse, or on a manufacturing line, etc.


The core question is -- are you using what you have at your disposal to make the work environment work for people (versus against them)? Is the workplace supporting them in getting their work done, in being productive, in feeling safe? Or is it a source of minor or even major irritations?


Mirrored Reciprocation: the principle driving great Workplace Experience

To understand how WX works, let’s reflect on the laws that govern our world. Let’s start with Newton’s Third Law of Motion: "For every action there will always be an equal and opposite reaction.” In the inorganic world, this law looks like this: you push a wall with a force X and the wall will push back with an equal force Y. In the biological world, the same principle applies: the more forcefully you pull a cat by its tail, the more painful the resulting scratches from his claws will be.


In human relationships, the same idea holds true: when you disrespect, ignore, trick, manipulate, discriminate against, or disempower someone, the chances of receiving anything different in return will be slim. In personal relationships, also the same: you’re looking for someone you can completely trust, with principles and courage, who is smart, kind, loyal, understanding, forgiving, and unselfish, and once you think you’ve found them, you spend all your life probing and testing them to make sure they are real, which, after a while gets old and irritating. 


The exact same laws of mirrored reciprocation apply at work. 


An Employee Experience Example: The Hiring Experience

Let’s start with hiring. You look for the ideal candidate out there, and in your image, they have to be someone trustworthy, smart, loyal, and dedicated to everything your company stands for. You court them and convince them your organization is the best place to work. She might have some inklings of discomfort with the not-so-glowing Glassdoor reviews, and she may experience some cognitive dissonance during interviews while meeting with the hiring manager who seems hurried, stressed, and overwhelmed, and she might not like the low-ball compensation offer, but she still accepts the position. 


Then she walks through the door and starts seeing reality: systems are outdated and not integrated (slows down productivity, increases errors, and leads to frustration, especially when contrasted with our external consumer experience), and getting anything done requires dozens of approvals (lack of trust in employees and big bureaucracy), and making a suggestion for improvement is frowned upon (fresh thinking is discouraged, status quo is preferred), and everything is done to attain unrealistic or meaningless targets (focusing on the process and effort, and not the outcome), and all the decisions are made in the context of increasing shareholder value and satisfying customers, at times at the expense of other stakeholders like suppliers (“oh, we squeezed all we could from them"), employees (“they are on H1B visa and can’t go anywhere”), regulators (“how can we do some financial engineering here to pay less in taxes"), environment (“there is no global warming"), and the communities in which you operate (“ it’s too expensive to do business here"). How can she continue to stay trustworthy, smart, loyal, and dedicated to everything your company stands for the long haul? 


You might say: But our company is different. Take another look, on the ground, in the trenches, when the targets are missed, when a person quits “for better opportunities,” or when she goes and posts about your company on Glassdoor.


No judgement… 



For more information on our services, please visit Want to read more on people and HR Analytics? Check out our Definitive Guide to HR Analytics blog.




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