A lot of the articles we read about the employee experience (EX) are, to be honest, rather fluffy.
What I mean by this is that they talk in generalized terms about “how the world has changed” and “what employees want now”.
We think these articles are a bit misleading and not particularly useful, so here’s our non-fluff guide to EX and how you can use it as a concept to shape your thinking around talent management.
What is the employee experience?
The employee experience describes every interaction someone has with an organization. It begins before they’ve even formally joined and never really ends because, even after someone leaves, they’ll still remember and talk about their experience.
Like with customer experience teams, those responsible for managing the employee experience break it down into different stages so it’s easier to optimize. These stages are what’s referred to as the employee lifecycle.
The employee lifecycle
Opinions differ, but the employee lifecycle, or employee journey as some call it, is normally split into 6 stages:
- Attraction - employer branding and marketing
- Recruitment - sourcing, interviewing, negotiating offers
- Onboarding - and preboarding
- Development - performance management, learning and development, coaching, mentorship
- Retention - wellness, engagement, DEI, flexibility, compensation
- Offboarding - exit interviews, alumni groups.
Naturally, there’s a lot of overlap between each stage, but separating them out like this allows HR/People Ops and those tasked with employee experience management to focus on particular areas of improvement.
Some organizations even hire a Chief Employee Experience Officer to lead and coordinate all these efforts.
Further resources to help: How To Run An Employee Journey Mapping Project To Improve The Employee Experience
Designing the employee experience
Your brand as the anchor
As everyone is a potential employee, every interaction someone has with your organization will influence their experience of you as a potential or current employer. For example, this could be how your customer success team handles a complaint or a conversation with a friend at a dinner party.
Therefore, the fundamental aspect of designing the employee experience is your brand—or how you’re perceived as an organization and employer. Do you deliver on your promises? Do you offer a great compensation package and invest in your peoples' growth and development? Are you working on interesting and challenging projects? Do you champion a wider cause beyond making profits?
Some further resources to help you: Employer Branding: Where To Start And How To Keep It Authentic
The employee experience as a product
Again, as with designing great customer experiences, designing great employee experiences is a never-ending process of hypothesizing, experimentation, and iterating.
This could be rolling out new employee benefits, making the switch to hybrid working or a 4-day week, or optimizing your performance management system.
One of the best ways we’ve come across to operationalize this way is thinking of the employee experience as like a product and calibrating HR/People Ops like a product team.
This means ensuring that all initiatives regarding the employee experience are aligned with, and help contribute to, the organization’s mission and objectives. For example, “We’re losing top talent to competitors and this is hurting our ability to innovate, what can we do to stop this?”.
It also means that HR/People Ops teams are responsible for working with others to create tools, processes, and operating procedures that need little-to-no HR/People Ops management upon completion (managers are responsible for carrying out performance reviews, for example).
This is so HR/People Ops has the capacity to keep experimenting and creating new products and initiatives that improve the employee experience and help achieve business goals.
Some further reading here:
Join the conversation
Hopefully the above has helped clarify your thinking around EX and EX design. We deliberately didn’t delve into crucial aspects such as HR metrics and methods of collecting employee feedback as these are best left to their own dedicated articles.
We’re always looking for new and interesting angles on this topic, so leave something in the comments or join the conversation in the People Managing People Community, a supportive community of HR and business leaders passionate about building organizations of the future.