Building Employee Experience Inside-Out

Building Employee Experience Inside-Out

During the pandemic, organisations with a well thought through culture and structure have had to relook at their Employee Experience (EX) management. This provided an opportunity for organisations to build or rebuild their EX strategy inside-out.

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel 



When the Hawthorne experiments were conducted in the 1930s, it resulted in a paradigm shift in management studies. The focus shifted from optimisation of work processes to the human being who is enacting those processes. One of the experiments done at the Hawthorne plant is well known as the ‘illumination experiment’. The findings of this study underscored that if an individual is made to feel special, then the person tends to outperform oneself. This happens irrespective of how difficult the physical conditions of the work might be.


Nearly nine decades after these first studies, the importance of Employee Experience (EX) is being talked about again. Now, however, the focus is laid upon the conditions of work. ‘Conditions of work’ encompass everything from the rewards, compensation, office layout, organisational policies and culture.


Employee Experience is an extension of the concept of customer experience in marketing. It refers to how the employee feels during his/her interactions with the organisation. The points of interaction are referred to as touchpoints. These touchpoints are encountered at various phases of the employee life cycle with the organisation- pre-joining, stay and post-exiting the organisation.


Whenever a new concept emerges in the field of HR, we witness organisations scurrying to implement them. Most of the time, it is done without clearly understanding the process. Employee Experience too has become the buzzword in the HR circles now, used largely by HR vendors to sell their products.


It is essential to decode the philosophy underlying employee experience so that organisations can create a deep-rooted positive experience for their employees.


Ex: Old Wine In A New Bottle?


Is EX really a new concept or just old wine packaged in a new bottle? To answer this question, we need to understand:


i. How EX is different from extensively studied similar concepts like employee engagement


ii. The different layers of the concept of EX itself


Employee engagement focuses on the attitude one has towards one’s work. The content and design of work usually determine the attitude towards work. Employee Experience, on the other hand, focuses on the conditions of work and the emotions (pleasant, unpleasant, frustrated, happy) one feels because of them. The anonymous saying quoted at the beginning of this article very succinctly explains the essence of Employee Experience. Employee Experience lies in the answer you get when you ask an employee, “How is it to work here?”


While the job is at the centre of employee engagement, the employee is at the centre of EX, like in customer experience. The assumption is that the product might be good, but additional features such as the look of the product, ease of use, customer service etc. give an added competitive advantage in selling that product. The rise in importance of EX comes from the changes in the value systems of the millennial generation, enhanced use of technology and ample job opportunities.


Understanding the needs and aspirations of the employee cohort is at the heart of EX. The principles of design thinking are applied extensively to create Employee Experience. This is because, in essence, the objective of both the processes are the same. Application of design thinking also starts with empathising with the customer, and then, moves on to ideating will EX be an advantage for the organisation.


Creating a pleasant EX through design thinking principles needs to follow a two-pronged strategy.


• A deep-rooted philosophical design of the structure and culture of the organisation: This forms the core of the experience.


Designing the interface of these deep-rooted philosophies: This is the outer layer of the experience.


Let us look at an example to clarify this inside-out approach.


Organisational Artefacts: Tip Of The Iceberg


Google, for example, has consistently topped the list of organisations for which millennials aspire to work for. It is an organisation in the Technology sector that is fast growing and cash-rich. There are several articles in the open media about the office layouts of Google. These reports show some Google offices with tents (nap pods) for employees to sleep in while taking a break from work, fancy ergonomic office equipment, free lunches, play areas etc. These are the artefacts that the employee interacts with daily. These create a pleasant experience for the employee.


Various generational studies have found that millennials like to be coached by reporting managers, they like flexible work hours and opportunities for innovation at work. Millennials are also extremely tech-savvy, and therefore, the technology interface of the organisation is crucial for their experiences. Google’s policies, therefore, also match the expectations of the cohort it hires from.


However, EX does not end here. In fact, these are mere reflections of a much deep-rooted philosophy the organisation believes in. At a deeper level, Google has clearly defined what it stands for: innovation, openness, customer centricity, democracy etc. The policies of an organisation need to be aligned with the strategy, vision and mission of the organisation as much as with employee aspirations. So, if Google focuses on excellence in innovation, its work policies need to promote innovation. Flexible work hours, nap pods etc. are aspects of design that facilitate innovation.


The head office of Facebook at Menlo Park, California is designed like an open warehouse, integrating art, health, and openness. The design of the office space is not a random choice. It is based on the values that the organisation stands for. It also considers the tastes and expectations of the employees who wish to work in such organisations. This is yet another example of how employee aspirations, organisational values, and the design of processes in the organisation can be aligned with each other.


Organisational Structure & Culture: Core Of Ex


Organisations that have invested a lot of time clarifying their vision and mission statements, their value parameters and their strategy have won the first battle i.e. knowing which way to go and how to go there. They then need to build a structure that can support the achievement of the organisational goals. If the goal is innovation, then it requires open organic organisational structures with heavy dependence on cross-functional teams. If the goal is efficiency, then a rule-bound, hierarchical system works best. The structure of Google, for example, is flat with a lot of crossfunctional teams at the product and functional levels.


The policies then follow. The organisational policies which are the outermost and tangible aspects of the core values of the organisation are the touchpoints that people talk about in EX. The recruitment processes and the onboarding process are the first experiences that employees have with an organisation. When the organisation is clear about what it wants, it can provide a clear picture to the applicants as well. The recruitment process of Google, at least in India, is well known for being extremely rigorous. New joiners at Infosys, eagerly look forward to their six months onboarding training at their beautiful campus in Mysuru. These initial experiences create a positive start for the employees as they join an organisation.


The manager-subordinate interactions affect the employee experience during their stay in an organisation the most. This is because the manager becomes the conduit for implementing all the organisational policies. Organisations that train, onboard, and socialise their employees in the values of the organisation, can bring coherence in the managersubordinate relations as well.


Design thinking, when applied to EX, should successfully create a coherent picture for the employee, a picture of what the organisation stands for. Organisations that fail to provide a good experience, usually fail at this. They do not clarify their vision and strategy, they do not think of how the strategy can be aligned with their policies, their culture is opaque to outsiders or they promise things they cannot deliver. When new employees join the organisation, they are disappointed.


A positive employee experience leads to an immediate increase in performance. Increased employee performance cumulatively amounts to increased firm performance. In simple mathematical terms, the return on investment is positive. In the long run, EX also makes people loyal to the organisation.


During the pandemic, even those organisations with a well thought through organisational culture and structure have had to relook at their EX management. This might look like a challenge, but it is also an opportunity for organisations to build, or rebuild their EX strategy inside-out.

Dr M V Anuradha is presently working as Associate Professor in the OB & HR area at IIM- Visakhapatnam. She has obtained her FPM from XLRI, Jamshedpur and completed her bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology from University of Delhi. Her research has been published in various national, international journals. She has also written for reputed outlets that includes the Human Capital. Her research interests lie in the domain of identity, self and various aspects of meaning of work and well-being


0/3000 Free Article Left >Subscribe