The ABC of Employee Experience
published by , on 30/10/2017

By Zoltan Vadkerti (Consultancy Director at the WorkLife HUB)

What do we know about employee experience? What’s in it for HR? More specifically: How can HR take the lead in designing and running employee experience? Keep reading to get to know about the many components of employee experience – from A to Z – that will help you find answers to these questions.

One of the biggest hits of organisational development in 2015 was the Chief Human Resource Officer of Airbnb becoming Chief Employee Experience Officer. Undoubtedly, over the last years the business world has witnessed the emergence of employee experience management. The trend has been in the focus of researchers, authors, (among many publications we recommend you take a look at The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers and Drive Results; and The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules For Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees) managers and business leaders recently, and it is no coincidence that Europe’s largest exhibition for Human Resource management, the Zukunft Personal, for its 2016 edition, has chosen this very topic to be in its spotlight.

A – Abhari

Professor Kaveh Abhari of University of Hawaii is regarded as the father of Employee Experience Management. He published several groundbreaking papers on the topic and thoroughly studied the way how companies can deliver excellent experience to their employees, which will lead to a more positive customer experience.

B – Bottom line

Before Zukunft Personal kicks off, let’s agree upon one fact. Employee experience strategies and models, done well, can lead to higher levels of employee satisfaction and engagement, and improved business performance. It also presents an excellent opportunity for HR to answer some of its challenges, explore modern ways of benefiting from new technologies, and frame vibrant and positive employee synergies.

C – Components

Lesson Nr 1: the key components of employee experience are: the social sphere, the work sphere, the physical sphere. Start getting these three right, and you are on track.

Source: IBM – Designing Employee Experience

D – Design thinking

Design thinking is one of the newest schools of employee experience. In brief, it aims to shift HR’s focus to employee experience through fascinating and simple solutions. It reaches back to some of the most important design thinking concepts such as mobile app design, digital design, user experience design and behavioral economics.

F – Fundamentals, Fringe, Fun

As many other forward-thinking companies worldwide, commercial software development company Nitro have also decided to shake up its old-school HR mechanisms completely. Consequently, Nitro has set up a unique employee experience scheme that primarily aims to protect and support its employees. Nitro’s employee experience model is focused on three core masts, the so called three Fs – the Fundamentals, the Fringe and the Fun. The 3Fs employee experience blueprint puts its finger on the pulse of every business: How to be at the top of your game while at the same time an employer of choice?

Source: Nitro Blogs

M – Methods

The most forward thinking organisations apply the newest employee experience methods: leverage analytics, understand differentiation touchpoints, build a cross-functional experience coalition and apply rapid, iterative design principles. Some of it resonates with other organisational methodologies like scrum, so not all is new. However putting employees first is a novelty.

P – Position(s)

Employee experience related positions have been mushrooming across sectors and organisations. It is no surprise that by now this powerful new mandate has became so influential that it can make a huge difference on how companies are perceived. A quick scan on LinkedIn yields a number of different employee experience related positions. Here are a few which we find particularly intriguing: lead- employee experience and diversity manager, employee experience leader, talent acquisition and employee experience manager, online employee experience manager, employee experience practice leader, global head of facilities and employee experience manager. Which would you prefer?

S – Simplification

Employee experience is the sum of all experiences an employee has, from leadership to workplace environment, during the entire term of his or her employment. This is obviously a long process. Therefore, companies undertaking employee experience schemes often focus on simplifying HR practices even from recruiting. Take, for instance Zappos, a leading online retailer and Holacracy pioneer. It designs its candidate experience to attract top performers and make the application process sound and smooth so it does not put off potential job candidates from submitting their applications.

T – Tactics

In improving their employee experience models, usually, companies apply the following five different tactics: personalization, transparency, simplification, authenticity and organisational responsiveness. Many of the new schools of organisational transformation and work design rely fundamentally on transparency and authenticity. Secrecy, individual accommodations, ad-hoc decisions without any explanation, backtracking on previous decisions, or putting in place policies (even well intentioned ones) that employees haven’t participated in designing are all contrary to a meaningful and positive employee experience. Think of it as democracy versus a dictatorship… which sounds more appealing?

W – Workplace as an experience

Room letting website Airbnb calls its employee experience scheme “Workplace as an Experience”. The core of this concept is having an emphasis on the fundamental components of work: physical, emotional, intellectual, virtual and aspirational. Airbnb’s experience is intriguing. Beyond typical HR roles such as hiring, promotion or reassignments Airbnb’s Chief Employee Experience Officer is in charge for a range of new fields which ultimately create the “Workplace as an Experience” concept. This extended function includes gourmet food, global citizenship, ground control and facilities.

Source: Forbes – Airbnb Chief Human Resource Officer Becomes Chief Employee Experience Officer

X – X marks the treasure

No, there is no secret sauce for an ultimate employee experience. One that will let you know exactly how to start blurring the lines between HR and all other organisational functions, such as communication, workplace management, marketing or sustainability.

Still, what if you manage or work for a company other than giants like Airbnb or IBM? How will you kick off an employee experience journey scheme? One of the best things you can do, other than attending 2016’s Zukunft Personal where the topic will be debated over the course of three days, is start exploring the ways through which you can create a workplace experience to which employees become strongly attracted to.

(This blogpost was originally published on

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