Employee experience, which has been with us for about ten years, is fast becoming a new area of investment for HR, sometimes as a more advanced practice replacing employee engagement. Some companies, like Airbnb, are now replacing old titles like CHRO with Chief Employee Experience Officer, and one Employee Experience Index helps measure the impact of the workplace on employee performance. For these practitioners, Employee Experience can be defined as “a set of perceptions that employees have about their experiences at work in response to their interaction with the organization” (IBM’s Employee Experience Index). These perceptions are linked both to organizational processes and to the workplace as a physical and virtual place, “the three environments that matter most to employees: cultural, technological, physical” (Jacob Morgan, Why the Millions We Spend on Employee Engagement Buy Us so Little), or to “the levels of trust, quality of relationships, interest of work, assessment practices, empowerment levels and work life balance” in this workplace (IBM’s Employee Experience Index).
According to McKinsey (Putting Customer Experience at the Heart of Next-Generation Operating Models), Leaders in customer satisfaction have seen their TRS grow four time faster than laggards in a ten year period. Conversely, one study argues that companies that invest in employee experience vastly outperform those that don’t in terms of average revenue, average profit, revenue per employee and profit per employee (Jacob Morgan, Why the Millions We Spend on Employee Engagement Buy Us so Little). For IBM, a better Employee Experience, measured through its impact on “belonging, achievement, purpose, happiness and vigor" helps increase the odds of positive outcomes in terms of discretionary effort, work performance and retention.
The question for HR officers then is, how to build, fine-tune and manage an employee experience that positively contributes to corporate performance and talent performance and well-being. We have found that mirroring best practices in Employee Experience is a good starting point ; however, it is necessary to maintain a strong link with talent management practices and fundamentals.
Customer Journeys as the building block of Customer Experience
Mirroring best practices in client experience design and management is an interesting way to make progress in employee experience design. From this point of view, three elements are important.
In the first place, client experience is part of a brand’s overall value proposition. There are different definitions of what a value proposition is, but most definitions would include brand and reputation, product or service, pricing or value and customer experience. The first key idea then is that employee experience in itself cannot aspire to excellence if the other dimensions of the employer value proposition are not at that level already.
Second idea, clients do not engage in a global client experience: they engage in one or more specific customer journeys (shopping for a service online, shopping in a boutique, buying a product, requesting support, giving feed-back, …) which, taken together, result in that sum of perceptions that make the client experience of a given brand or company. Similarly, employees do not experience an employee experience, they engage in different employee journey that have different purposes (onboarding, being recruited, giving feed-back, leading a project, …).
And therefore, as a last important element, what marketing, digital and product development teams aim at designing and managing is not a global customer experience, but a portfolio or a system of customer journeys which respond to a number of objectives or design principles to bring the omni-channel consistency and permanence that is one of the key defining characteristics of successful customer experiences. Employee Journeys are also part of portfolio of journeys. For those with experience in talent management and mobility, it seems obvious that this is the portfolio of development opportunities for which we often ask when facing the challenge of developing a leader or high potential.
To what extent is this idea of Employee Journeys really useful in designing and managing talent management practices?
Learning Journeys, the building blocks of Employee Experience
It could be argued that the purpose of any customer journey is to delight the customer so that she remains loyal to the brand. In the purchase journey, obviously, there is an additional purpose which is closing the sale.
We think that, from a talent management perspective, learning should be the purpose of employee journeys - or better, learning journeys, as we would rather call them. A learning journey should be a consistent and purposeful set of work activities (including professional interactions), resulting in a visible outcome: giving feed-back, solving a problem, preparing a presentation, coaching a team member would be some examples. However, leading a take-over bid, managing a call-center or leading the implementation of a new cloud-based CRM are also learning journeys.
Such a definition of learning journeys is interesting as it suggests that there can be very different levels of granularity of learning journeys, and therefore very different levels of outcomes. In every case, however, a journey is a learning or professional development opportunity. The learning opportunity could be for honing a skill, like in preparing a presentation or for developing a new leadership capability, like in leading a take-over bid. But learning is the constant in the learning journey.
Once it is accepted that Employee Experience is made of learning journeys, the two questions suggested above can be addressed: how is any learning journey integrated in the overall Employer Value Proposition? And who ensures the consistency and overall quality and performance of the learning journeys that make the portfolio of journeys of a given organization?
Building Learning Journeys for Performance and Potential
An Employer Value Proposition is made of five elements: the reputation of the Employer (that impacts the reputation or professional status of any employee), the interest of the work (from a professional development point of view), the context of the work (physical and virtual environments of work), the compensation and rewards that are attached to the work and the employee experience that links the other elements together.
Much as it happens with Customer Experience, it is very difficult to aspire to excellence in employee experience in a non-reputable organization that pays below market average and where work has no interest. But in organizations where the former are above average, it is possible for HR to start thinking about the management of Learning Journeys.
Once again, the practice of customer journey development is interesting as a starting point. If McKinsey (Putting Customer Experience at the Heart of Next-Generation Operating Models) goes as far as suggesting to reengineer the organization from the design of adapted customer journeys (including simplification of product and supporting processes), for HR the effort should be less dramatic.
It would basically go through three steps:
Journeys as components of Leadership and Talent Engines
From a talent management point of view, however, one of the main opportunities of such a Learning Journeys approach is to improve talent and leadership development, by bringing its definition of potential within the framework responsible for Learning Journeys management
Most organizations today use a framework for potential that distinguishes four dimensions for potential: past performance, foundational aspects of potential (personality and intelligence), experiential aspect of potential (functional, managerial and leadership capabilities) and learning ability (including widening the capability for organizational fit).
It is interesting that the organization can, to a certain extent, use all four aspects of potential when selecting candidates, but it can only help with the development of potential in its experiential aspect: most experts would agree that the foundational aspects of potential change very little after childhood and that organizational fit is difficult to change after mid-career. Experience, however, is the specific wealth of any organization, from a leadership potential point of view, and Learning Journeys provide an interesting approach to manage a portfolio of development experiences.
Ensuring that the potential framework of the organization is conveniently integrated in the design-thinking based journey development approach will help provide the talent management team with a fact-based portfolio of development opportunities.
This approach will help business and HR leaders to collaborate for corporate performance and leadership potential.
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