The Rise of Employee Experience (EX)

The Rise of Employee Experience (EX)

Employee experience isn’t about the pizza parties, the movie nights, or the company picnics you have with your staff. Employee experience is about bringing out the best in your employees, developing them as individuals while growing your company. It’s about realizing your workforce’s full potential and tapping into that star employee reserve they have in them.

Focusing primarily on employee happiness doesn’t necessarily mean giving in to all of their demands, reasonable or not. Instead, you want the employee to see happiness in the challenge of solving a work-related problem and satisfying their customer. That’s where employee experience comes in.

Importance of EX

Before the Industrial Age, people worked on the fields almost non-stop from sunrise to sunset. While the rise of organized labor brought about better working conditions, many businesses still observed six-day workweeks. However, when Henry Ford adopted a five-day, 40-hour workweek for Ford’s automotive factories, other carmakers and companies followed suit, and the five-day workweek was soon codified into law.


Source: Hulton Archive - Getty Images

In today’s competitive market, employees have more opportunities to discover where they feel engaged and where they feel they fulfill a bigger purpose. According to Daniel Pink in his book Drive, when employees’ basic needs are met so that money doesn’t become a problem, employees start having a deeper motivation for their work.


Source: SketchPlantations

These motivators are:

  • Autonomy - The control employees have over their tasks and operations.
  • Mastery -  Employees’ desire to perform better.
  • Purpose - Employees’ realization as to where they fit in the bigger picture

Then there’s the fact that we can also observe the following nowadays:

  • If you start a business in today’s business landscape, one of the biggest challenges is finding talent that will grow with your business. The fight for talent encourages companies to look into bettering employee experience.
  • Job hunting platforms allow applicants to see employer reviews left anonymously by former and current employees.
  • The rise of social media has accelerated the process of spreading news. If displeasure in employee experience results in an outburst on social media, this may indicate a social media crisis for your brand’s reputation.

From all these, we can only conclude one thing: EX is now key to talent acquisition and employee retention. Ultimately, it’s critical to business success.

EX as perceived by different generations

There may be a general assumption that millennials prefer to live their lives as they come without caring much about employee experience. After all, they can just jump from one company to the other if they don’t like their current work.

However, according to a study by CBRE, millennials are more similar to older generations than employers would expect when it comes to their work and life choices:

  • Just like previous generations, millennials aspire to own a home. Only 16% say they will not buy a home.
  • While millennials may seek more Instagram likes, Facebook comments, and shares than previous generations who didn’t have access to those platforms before, they also express discomfort with the way technology can promote the intrusion of work into their personal lives.
  • Millennials, like previous generations, are social animals.
  • While they may not be that different from previous generations, millennials’ demand for challenge, development, and career progression is surely something to be welcomed by forward-thinking employers.

In other words, the CBRE study suggests that we ought to treat millennials the same way we do the previous generations when it comes to EX. Whether an employee is 23 or 64, they want a holistic employee experience.

Employee experience (EX) as mission-critical business function

It’s not just the HR department’s duty to foster a positive employee experience. The discipline of employee experience is large enough to merit its own department, similar to marketing, finance, and product development.

employee experience

There are a couple of reasons why:

  • There are many areas to look into when it comes to providing the optimal employee experience. These include engagement with middle management, a better physical workplace, work-life balance, and technological innovation.
  • Employers have a social responsibility to create an environment where employees feel motivated and connected with their personal lives. Employee experience has evolved from being an internal concern into a critical area of CSR.

So who is most responsible for creating a productive and rewarding employee experience if it’s not solely an HR concern?  The answer? Your EX team.

Creating a team dedicated to employee experience

When you see someone proactively making suggestions and changes to employee experience, you need to put them in a position where their work can positively impact more people. Even better, you can organize like-minded individuals into a dedicated team specifically for improving the employee experience.

Jacob morgan diagram

An employee experience team shouldn’t be too different from your other departments. Here’s what the employee experience department may look like:

  • A Chief Employee Experience Officer (CEXO)
  • Someone who oversees the physical environment.
  • Another who oversees the cultural environment.
  • Someone who oversees the technological environment.
  • An officer who creates KPIs and gathers employee experience data.

You may have more EX team members depending on the size of your organization, your industry, and some unique challenges you may be facing.

Responsibilities of EX team members

To clarify, the employee experience team will not replace HR. The human resources department is still responsible for recruitment and ensuring that your HR policies, including payroll and benefits, comply with the regulations. On the other hand, the EX team will nurture the employee as they progress through their career in the company.

The Chief Employee Experience Officer (CEXO) functions like any other executive. They oversee and mediate all the employee experience efforts done by the team. Ideally, this should be someone with tenured HR, administrative, or managerial experience.

Gaming area for employees experience LogitechSource: Logitech - Glassdoor

The officer who oversees the physical environment is responsible for finding that optimal workspace for employees. Besides finding the space itself, they also help determine different programs and amenities that can boost productivity, such as a game room, an indoor gym, snacks, or a pet-friendly policy.

employee experience at work

The officer who oversees the cultural environment is responsible for fostering a productive work culture that benefits both the company and its employees. This role manages employee-manager relationships, workplace policies, fun workplace activities, and employee engagement.

Github home

Source: Github

The officer who oversees the technological environment is responsible for filling in any technological gap that may result in a productivity bottleneck. This role outsources or creates the necessary tech for a better employee quality of life. An example may be coordinating with IT to provide the recommended computer hardware for each employee.

The data analyst establishes a baseline to measure employee engagement, happiness, attrition, and other factors of employee experience. They return valuable data to the employee experience team to constantly try and retest new methodologies.

How companies can create a top-notch employee experience

Once the EX team is in place, they can now find ways to ensure employees are happy at work. Now here are some characteristics and features of companies that are likely to successfully engage employees, fostering an excellent employee experience.

Innovative physical environment (if with a physical office)

There are a lot of aspects to explore when it comes to creating an innovative physical environment. Should companies use standing desks or communal work tables? What type of furniture boosts employee productivity the most?

standing desk

There’s really no right answer for this. The key is to be receptive to employee feedback and to adjust accordingly. Check, too, how the physical space allows employees to produce the best work results.

Constantly make changes until you achieve the best physical work environment for your employees and for the business.

Better employee-manager relationships

No one wants to work with managers who are passive and not likable. Just look at these studies below.

Using cortisol levels to measure stress, a study from the University of College London found a link between employee engagement with employee health and well-being. The research showed that employees who get feedback from their bosses were at lesser risk of heart attack than employees who got no feedback.

Boston College showed that sons and daughters of highly engaged employees got into less trouble at school than those of unengaged employees. This shows that employees who have a negative employee engagement from a poor employee-manager relationship bring that angst and stress to their circle.

So, if you want to create a good employee experience, make sure you hire good and friendly managers.

Autonomy-focused employee experience

Employees want to feel trusted and don’t like being micromanaged. So, why not have them do something their way?

In his book Drive, author Dan Pink talks about Atlassian’s so-called “FedEx Day”, when employees are allowed to work on anything they want as long as it’s not part of their regular job functions. The catch here is that these employees should show their colleagues what they’ve created after 24 hours.

Apparently, this policy helped encourage employees to come up with creative ways to solve problems.

ship it shipping deays

Some of the improvements that have come out of Atlassian’s FedEx Days include a simple portal for Jira users, more energy-efficient light bulbs at Atlassian offices, home-brewed beer on tap in the pantry, and an infinite stack of quarters at the employee arcade.

Your organization might not allow alcohol on office premises, but a more efficient Jira service desk – or something similar– is always welcome.

Stay interviews and one-on-ones

Stay interviews are periodic interviews between a manager and an employee. These structured interviews see managers asking the employees what makes them stay and keeps them engaged. With this essential data, the company can design a better employee experience.

workers conversation

Besides, conducting weekly 1-on-1 discussions with your employees gives you a chance to hear from them, something they also want. It is also a chance to give them your constructive feedback so they can improve their work performance.

Thirty minutes is plenty of time for these one-on-ones.

Job crafting

Job crafting involves changing tasks and methodologies to go about an end goal. For instance, if the aim is SaaS link building, you may allow a member of the outreach team to also write guest posts. Job crafting aims to provide employees with a change of pace, a new challenge, a wider perspective about their job, and a deeper understanding of their deliverables.

EX in the physical workplace vs EX in the digital workplace

There’s a major difference between ensuring employee experience in a physical workspace and ensuring EX in a digital workplace. Your employee experience department can factor in physical workplace innovation in a physical workplace (see above). So, you can easily include ergonomic chairs, a coffee station, or even an arcade machine like Google does in the office.

But in a digital setup that has no physical workplace to begin with, that’s a bit difficult.

So, how do you compensate for that absence of a physical space in a digital work environment?

Just leverage technology to provide an excellent digital employee experience. For instance, why not create a shared digital vision board with your branding where employees can post their own pictures, videos, and links? Or create a customized virtual break room on your communication channel? You can even launch a best virtual background contest like the one below:

Holiday podcast

Whatever strategy you choose, you’ll need to provide the essential communication and collaboration equipment, of course.

Role of company culture and values in designing the workplace experience

Your workplace experience should be a reflection of your company culture and values. If it isn’t, your employer branding will suffer. You might just end up with confused employees who don’t know who you are and what you stand for. You don’t want that. When employees don’t know who you are, you can’t expect them to defend you and pick up the slack for you when they need to.

Take your cue from Airbnb. The company focuses on providing housing and spaces to its customers. So, its employees feel and breathe these values as well. The company provides beautiful and spacious working environments for them, making them feel like they’re working, well, in an Airbnb.

Officespacesoftware employee experience

Since a company’s culture and value play a role in the design of its employee experience, it follows the specific experience offered to employees may vary from company to company.

So, if you’re a remote nutrition and wellness company, you might invest more in virtual yoga sessions for your employees. Or if you’re a design company, you might expose your workers to gorgeous wall art outside and inside the office.

Once these company values and culture are ingrained in employees, they can also properly represent your brand to your customers. The result? A good customer experience as well.


Your employees don’t just work for money. They may work for autonomy, mastery, and purpose as well if you give them an excellent employee experience. If they do, you can boost their productivity and improve their work performance.

In short, a good employee experience is critical to business success.

To ensure an excellent employee experience, make sure your company offers the following:

  • Innovative physical environment (for those with a physical workplace)
  • Better employee-manager relationships
  • Autonomy-focused employees
  • Stay interviews and one-on-ones
  • Job crafting

Remember that workers want a good employee experience, regardless of age. Just make sure your employee experience reflects your culture and values. Good luck!

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