This interview with Ben Whitter was first published by Connect Intelligence and talks about his visit to Australia and how HR and organisations are starting to realize the potential of their employee experience to re-engineer the workplace to deliver superior results for everyone.
How is traditional HR shifting? And how will these impact businesses?
This very much depends on the context as approaches vary. In one context, HR remains nothing more than a basic administration function. In other markets, we see a broadening of the HR role to encompass all the traditional HR functions being fused with functions that haven’t been within HR’s usual mandate such as estates, facilities, marketing and communication, and any other department that impacts on the employee experience to attract, retain and maximize the best talent. This is impacting strongly now, as businesses not only respond to advances in technology and shifts in employees’ expectations on the inside but also the increase in scrutiny of the quality of each workplace on the outside.
Which organisations are endorsing the new concept of employee experience?
Clearly, organisations that would like to stay ahead of the curve are tapping into the potential of employee experience. Airbnb is the No1 workplace on Glassdoor, a site which allows staff to rate and comment on their existing employers. The best employers around or those who understand that talent is in high demand are the ones that move quickly on progressive developments and chart a path for other organisations to follow. We see from our research that Microsoft, Nike, Orange, Sky, L’Oreal, Adidas, Nationwide, Cisco, Ralph Lauren, Adobe, Cathay Pacific, GE, and Facebook have all formalized employee experience roles within their structures, which is a clear signal that this trend is taking off.
What is also interesting is the extent to which small to medium size employers are embracing the concept. Some of the best employers in that range are reforming their businesses with the employee experience in mind. With traction at the global MNC level and traction at small, medium and local levels means only one thing and this is simply that views within business are aligning and suggesting the employee experience is about to go big. Fast.
What will happen to those who don’t adopt this new business imperative?
Like most situations in which trends, disruption and changes significantly alter the business landscape, you either get to the party fast or prepare to be swept away on a sea of change by your competition and everyone else. Employee experience is certainly not for everyone; it’s not for poor or average employers, for example. It really exemplifies and broadcasts a signal of intent to build the best organisation possible, a connected and meaningful one in which staff and customers move forward together. It is a compelling proposition and a much needed one at this point in history. The reality becomes a bit harsher as workplaces are placed under the microscope not just by regulatory bodies, but also by existing and former staff. There have been some very high profile stories around the world of employers with poor working practices and conditions, and the costs on those employers become significant in business performance and reputation terms.
Where do most organisations sit on the employee experience maturity curve? And why is that?
This is an area we are actively researching now, but early data suggests that most organisations are trying it on for size and seeing how nice the fit is. A lot of internal discussions are taking place between management teams and HR to start the journey. As usual, some are way ahead of the curve and have already implemented a full model of this approach and restructured accordingly to align functions to the employee experience mandate. Businesses tend to replicate (or try to) the practices of the bigger market leaders and as usual, a lot of the big organisations I mentioned earlier and many more besides are way out in front with employee experience. Masterclasses like this will help bridge that gap, but as you would expect, business context is a real factor as is where people are starting from and where they want to get to.
What is your advice for those tasked with transforming the employee experience?
At the outset, be very, very clear on the mandate from the CEO, the current organisational climate and context, and the condition of the current employee experience. In effect, know where you’re starting from. Then it is a case of looking out at the vision, values and mission of the organisation where things align and where they don’t. Once this becomes clearer I would suggest that transformation begins with the team mandated to transform the organisation, inside and out. The team has to be ready and fully up for the employee experience approach that it takes to the business.
Belief starts from within and then transcends our experience. Once people are in a strong position to move ahead it’s game time, and then working in partnership with staff, you can build an end-to-end journey that inspires, engages and connects the experience for staff and customers.
The final thing I would say, and this true about work in general, is enjoy the experience, because if you don’t, no-one else will either.