Employee Experience And The “Dreaded Employee”

Marc Havercroft

When Airbnb decided not to have a head of human resources, or even a human resources department, the subject of employee experience became newsworthy.

Instead of an HR department, Airbnb has an “Employee Experience Group.” It’s a team devoted to creating employee experience that involves compensation and benefits, facilities, and a food and beverage program.

I believe employee experience is grounded in two changing principals:

  1. Organisations are now recognising that people aren’t a necessary evil.
  2. People are actually an asset to the business.

Employee experience: an explainer

Employee experience is easy to describe: It’s the experience of the employee in the workplace. But what I believe many companies are missing is the ability to see people as an asset. It’s a nice campaign title, but employee experience, in its truest form, means that whether your business is product or service-centric, the unique difference is when your people are being recognised and treated as an asset.

What employee experience means to me is taking time to think about the individual in the role. How can we make them successful? I know that if they’re successful, my business will be successful and my employee experience translates to my customer experience: happy customer = great business.

But I believe people are missing the fundamental step!

An attitudinal shift

There needs to be an attitudinal change that people are an asset and not a cost or liability. If the processes and the policies in the organisations and technologies don’t change, then it’s never going to be successful.

My biggest concern is if you’re not opening up your organisation to the individual, then your hands are tied. The whole point of business right now is to free up your whole creative, humanistic skills, your innovation, knowledge management, and your empathy, to make the outcome better for the customer. But you’re still expected to do it in the confines of policy and processes that were written to protect the organisation from the “dreaded employee.” This is where it goes pear-shaped.

Command and control

When I talk to companies around the world, I say to CEOs, “You’re still operating on a ‘command-and-control’ basis. What I’m seeing are policies and processes that are exactly the same as they were 20 years ago. They might be marketing this lovely open space where they desire innovation and diversity, but their employees are being dropped into a 1970s environment.

Let’s look at it with a tech analogy. How many of us have great tech at home, but when we go to the office, it’s like stepping back into the 1980s?

There’s a real disconnect around this. My concern is that our technology is ready to take a person and make them an asset to a business, to empower them. But what marketers can’t do is change the fact that your company might still have a personnel department rather than an HR department. Or we can’t change the fact that your organisation still restricts access or has restrictive processes that are based on the fear that an employee might bring the company down.

(Have you ever met an employee who goes to work thinking, “I’m glad I’ve got this job, I’m going to see how long it takes to bring the organisation down to its knees.” I very much doubt it!)

Create a place where people want to work

It’s critically important to create a space where people want to show up to work instead of needing to show up. We all know there’s a huge difference between “want” and “need.”

At the end of the day, work is all about finding something that you’re good at and you enjoy. That’s the ideal for all of us, regardless of what line of work we’re in. But that often gets stifled within an enterprises’ structure.

Organisations with a good brand don’t struggle to get CVs through the door because people have a view of what it’s like to work there. People say, “I want to work in a place where I can do great work and also in a place that’s socially responsible where it can be.” I think that’s typical of employees today. They want to work for an organisation that’s doing good.

It’s believed about 70 percent of the younger generations coming into the workforce are more socially aware, due to issues such as climate change. But they’re really no different to older generations who want to work in a place that reflects what we want people to think of us.

But few companies are delivering on that promise.

So while employee experience is great as a buzz-phrase, and employees absolutely are an asset, the truth is that many companies still see employees as a risk. Their processes and policies still think of them as a risk. It’s opening up the system for disaster and for some, it will end up in a real mess.

For more insight on the employee experience, read “Employee Experience (EX): The Forgotten User Experience.”


Marc Havercroft

About Marc Havercroft

Marc Havercroft, COO & Vice President Strategy, brings more than 20 years of experience within the future workforce strategy and transformation, helping clients adapt their HR strategy to meet the opportunity of the new digital world and the future workforce needed. His expertise includes advisory & strategy and workforce design for organizations going through major change as well as new entrants into EMEA, North America, and APJ & Greater China regions from both green field to M&A structures. Marc has worked across industries from financial services, Telco, energy, media, digital social, and public sector, turning current and global trends into meaningful workforce strategies that deliver.