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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.

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The employee lifecycle

Opinions differ, but the employee lifecycle, or employee journey as some call it, is normally split into 6 stages:

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?

Your brand is your anchor for creating all the other elements that go into employee experience design, from your compensation philosophy to your onboarding experience.

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 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.

Some further resources:
By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.