Is Employee Experience just a Fad or is it really the Future of Work?
Home 5 Blogs 5 Is Employee Experience just a Fad or is it really the Future of Work?
Is Employee Experience just a Fad or is it really the Future of Work?
Home 5 Blogs 5 Is Employee Experience just a Fad or is it really the Future of Work?

You must focus on your employees if you want a great experience that delivers service excellence. Unfortunately, that isn’t my concept. I got it from a book I read twenty-five years ago called The Service Profit Chain: How Leading Companies Link Profit and Growth to Loyalty, Satisfaction, and Value by James L. Heskett, Earl Sasser, Jr., and Leonard Schlesinger. However, today, this concept is essential and might be what saves your experience at a time when experiences need saving.

I was thinking about this because one of our listeners, Praveen Kumar, is in a pickle about his employee experience. He wants to know if employee experience is a fad and, if not, how one should build a great employee experience. I guess many of you have the same problem, so I decided to share what we told him on a recent podcast here, too.

Watch Colin talking about this on YouTube:


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Now, to answer Kumar’s first question, the answer is no. Employee Experience is not a fad. However, the term might be. We call it Employee Experience because it is alliterative and goes with Customer Experience. Still, it was probably called something else before that and may change to something else later. 

The concept that you will be more successful in caring about your employees is not a fad. Unless, of course, we are replacing our teams with robots. Sans that singularity, chances are you are employing humans, and ensuring they have a pleasant experience is essential.

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The key word here is “experience.” As experiential animals, we have experiences constantly. Of course, there are Employee and Customer Experiences, but there are also vacation experiences, family experiences, sport team experiences, etc. We experience things all the time. Ignoring any one of those doesn’t have good consequences for the experience.

Moreover, trends don’t always get the buy-in they should from senior management. If experience management is a trend, it could mean that organizations hire people to mind theirs but give them no budget and no authority to do anything. Eventually, when the experience manager can’t get anything accomplished, they will quit or get fired, and that will be that. So, for all of our sakes, I don’t want Employee Experience to be a fad.

Employee Experience Management is a Leadership Choice

An essential thing to remember is that minding how your employees feel during their time working for you is a leadership issue. Managers and senior teams need to decide how they will treat their teams. For example, will they appreciate their employees’ outside responsibilities, career goals, and personal well-being needs? Or will they pay them to work and stay out of all that?

Employee Experience management, like Customer Experience Management, needs to be diffused throughout an organization. Moreover, caring about these things not only makes it a better place to work, but it also has reciprocal effects. Feeling cared about as an individual inspires most people to give more at their jobs and try a little harder on behalf of their employer. 

So, just like it is everyone’s responsibility to provide a great Customer Experience, it is also everyone’s job in management to manage the Employee Experience. In many ways, all I say about Customer Experience apply to the Employee Experience. For example, Reference Points might apply here as they do in Customer Experience Management. 

What is Their Reference Point?

Let’s start with Reference Points. You might remember that the Reference Point is what people use to compare you to something. To understand people, you should determine their Reference Points in any given category. Those comparisons are how we evaluate things and drive much of our actions.

One example of changing Reference Points that will make HR managers cringe is when employees start talking about salary. In some places, employees are not allowed to talk about that (although a request like that isn’t legal everywhere, so be careful if that is your organization’s policy). If employee A is happy with their salary but finds out that employee B does the same job and makes more money, they will be unhappy. So their Reference Point changed, and not in a good way. 

However, salary isn’t the only Reference Point that can change. Work experience is another area that has a Reference Point. Unless this job is the employee’s first, they are likely comparing you to other places they have worked, hopefully favorably. 

One example that has played out regarding changed Reference Points is remote working. Before COVID, many people had no expectations about getting to work from home. However, after being sent home to work, a lot of people realized it was kind of nice to be able to skip the commute, the parking fees, the noisy/distracting environment they had to work in at the office, and any number of other annoying things about working in-person. They also liked having access to their kitchens, completing small home tasks during the day, and wearing sweatpants all day. Now, firms are asking people to return to the office, and many employees view this return to what used to be expected as a loss. 


Reference Points are also an expectation. Therefore, managing an Employee Experience might require discovering the Reference Point your experience is judged by and providing new Reference Points if you are losing out in the comparison. Changing these Reference Points and expectations is essential in a highly competitive employment market. Otherwise, you might not only lose in the comparison but lose the employee, too. 

So, How Do You Build a Great Employee Experience? 

If I consider the second part of Kumar’s pickle problem, there are a few things to manage when improving your Employee Experience. First, like Reference Points, another essential consideration when building a great Employee Experience is looking at what each kind of employee group wants. In other words, you should segment your employees. 

Twitter just went through this. You might have heard that when Elon Musk bought Twitter, he laid off many people. Then, those that were left received a threatening email that said, “If you aren’t ready to be hardcore, show yourself the door.”

Not surprisingly, many people left, 50 to 80 percent by some estimates. But, interestingly, many people stayed. To me, the people who stayed are an excellent demonstration of how different people have different goals and things they want out of work. These people read that email and thought, “Hardcore? No problem. I want to be a part of it.”

Whenever possible, you should accommodate your different employees and recruit accordingly. For example, management consulting firms often recruit MBA students. These positions are like Twitter these days, hardcore. They require an enormous amount of time and loads of travel. However, some MBA grads want to do it, at least in the short term (not surprisingly, another group wants to do it long-term, too). So, the job accommodates that. The MBA student takes the position, does it for a few years, and then moves on to a new post. When the employee leaves, the company understands, and everyone parts as friends. 

It also goes back to the questions I always pose my clients about their Customer Experiences:

  • What’s the Employee Experience that you’re trying to deliver? 
  • Which emotions are you trying to evoke in your employees? How are you going to go and evoke those emotions? 
  • How do you design that into the employee journey?

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The answers to these questions will drive your culture, which is critical to the Employee Experience. Understanding your culture is essential if you want to hire the right people who will be happy in this culture. Otherwise, you will suffer the consequences of a bad fit. 

For example, suppose your answer to the first question is an experience that fosters productivity. In that case, the answers to the second and third questions should relate to how to get that productivity. Moreover, productivity is the culture at your company, so you should own it. By contrast, if the answer to the first question is providing an experience that reduces employee churn/turnover, then the answer to the following two questions should work up to that goal. In other words, what emotion would make an employee want to stay for a long time at your company? How can you work that emotion into their working experience? And so on.

Leadership is crucial, too. We had another podcast on leadership recently called “5 Rules Guaranteed to Make You a Good Leader.” It’s a topic we return to on the podcast, and I cover a lot here because everything about your organization comes from leadership. So therefore, if you want to build an effective Employee Experience, you must have leaders who can get you there. 

Richard Branson has two quotes I love related to this concept that reflect his leadership style:

  • “Look after your staff, and they’ll look after your customers.”
  • “Train people well enough so they can leave, then treat them well enough, so they don’t want to go.”

The first one is reflective of what I have been talking about here. The second one is an excellent one to add to the first because not enough organizations take seriously that employees care about their career progression. Therefore, they don’t provide a path for someone to advance in the organization, which means they will leave. For some companies, that’s great; they designed that Employee Experience to end that way. However, other companies do not want their employees, whom they have poured their time and energy into, to leave. 

As I often say, making things easy is essential, too. However, in this case, the easy I am referring to is making employees’ lives easier. 

An example of a company that gets this concept is Coca-Cola. My podcast partner’s students work there. Some benefits of employment at Coca-Cola are the in-house daycare, the on-site dry cleaner, and a pharmacy. These three things make it easier for employees to handle parts of their personal lives at work. For working parents, it’s a huge benefit to have your kids on site, reducing the stress and strain of the morning rush with one stop for all of you. Plus, getting some of those errands taken care of during the work week frees up weekend time for employees, which is a benefit.
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So, maybe these aren’t practical benefits for Kumar’s company or yours. But are there things you could do to make employees’ lives a little easier and boost their enjoyment of the employee experience? Again, the return on investment for your efforts in this area is employees who appreciate the benefit and are a little less distracted and more focused on work.

Hopefully, that advice can help Kumar with his pickle. If you want to know more, my last advice might be to go back over the past five years we have recorded the podcast and listen to them all. Just substitute the word “employee” for “customer,” and you will have many more tips to consider in your efforts.

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