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Greg Stevens


Analytics Manager, WorkHuman Analytics and Research Institute.

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Employee experience: the five practices that will create a more ‘human’ workplace


With the war for talent increasing in intensity, organisations cannot afford to ignore employee experience anymore. Here, we’ll explore what makes a workplace more ‘human’ and engaging to attract and retain the best employees today.

McKinsey has dubbed employee experience ‘essential to compete’ in today’s war for talent. This couldn’t be truer.

Some companies, like Airbnb, have even replaced the chief human resources officer position with chief employee experience officer.

Despite this, those of us who have been in the people business for a while may wonder how experience is different than satisfaction or engagement or happiness. What is employee experience, in practical terms?

Employee experience can be a positive, powerful, and ultimately human experience, in which employees are able to invest more of their whole selves into the workplace.

When senior leadership ensures that employees feel appreciated and valued for their performance, work can be more meaningful, particularly where recognition is aligned to core values. When employees can recharge and work more flexibly, they can be empowered to work and connect in ways that best suit them.

Measuring employee experience

The concept of employee experience is gaining mainstream popularity. In the past six years, Google searches for the term ‘employee experience’ have increased dramatically, however, until more recently, validated measures of employee experience have been in short supply.

This is something both Globoforce’s WorkHuman Analytics and Research Institute and IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute are working to change.

Together, they have created the Employee Experience Index (EXI), a tool that measures employees’ personal experiences at work to help identify areas where senior leadership within your organisation can make a significant positive impact on human talent.

The tool considers the following five key dimensions:

  • Belonging – feeling part of a team, group, or organisation
  • Purpose – understanding why one’s work matters
  • Achievement – a sense of accomplishment in the work that is done
  • Happiness – the pleasant feeling arising in and around work
  • Vigour – the presence of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement at work

The roles of connection and contribution

In addition to creating the EXI tool, through their continued research, IBM and Globoforce learned that a ‘human’ workplace is primarily characterised by opportunities for:

  • Meaningful work
  • Empowerment and voice
  • Feedback, recognition, and growth
  • Co-worker relationships
  • Organisational trust
  • Work/life balance

These six practices of a human workplace are effective because they emphasise the interrelated nature of two core human needs: connection and contribution.

Connection refers broadly to the social nature of humans, to not only have the support of co-workers and individuals outside of the organisation, but also to connect to the organisation as well based on trust and dignity.

Contribution reflects the core needs humans have for agency, to have control over our environments, and for competency and growth. It is a desire to do work that is meaningful, to have input over the ways that work is accomplished, and to receive recognition and feedback that help contribute to growth.

In today’s modern organisation, employees are just as likely to connect through the contributions they make, and to contribute through their connections at work. It is up to the senior leaders and management teams to ensure that a human culture supports this activity.

Creating a positive employee experience and a human-focused workplace are two tasks that go hand in hand.

To that end, it is fortunate that there is an increasing focus on human-centric, social applications – or simply ‘human applications’. These are technologies that keep pace with the speed of both connection and contribution in modern organisations and augment the positive effects on the employee experience.

Take modern performance development, for example. Rather than solutions that emphasise documentation and compliance around an annual review, social performance development tools acknowledge that work happens best and is best improved through continuous conversations.

Feedback, recognition, and growth are all sides of this same coin, pointing to the benefit of an integrated approach to appreciating and improving the contributions that employees make through their connections – and of course, vice versa.

Five steps to improving employee experience

For employers looking to improve employee experience within their own workplace, here are five key steps that will that are essential to include in your strategy:

  1. Leverage existing large-scale, global research on the Employee Experience Index (EXI) to understand the experience of your employees within your organisation across and within geographies and functions.
  2. Deploy innovative employee listening solutions to understand your organisation’s employee experience and the specific profile of human drivers that are present in within your company, and which are areas of opportunity for improvement.
  3. Develop integrated talent strategies using HR technologies that are aligned to a human workplace and positive employee experience, beginning with senior leadership. Examples include A-I enabled recruiting and career development solutions that enable a fast, personalised and engaging experience.
  4. Leverage human and cognitive cloud applications that allow for a shared, yet personalised experience within the workplace. Examples include social recognition, continuous performance development, and intelligent skills matching.
  5. Track the employee experience against key performance indicators for your organisation to demonstrate the value and return on human capital investments.

Creating a positive employee experience and a human-focused workplace are two tasks that go hand in hand.

The good news is that today’s business leaders and HR managers have access to tools that help them establish a baseline of where the culture of their organisation stands today.

Additionally, these same tools can help them identify areas in need of improvement and offer solutions to help achieve their goals and measure successes.

It’s important to remember that while taking steps to creating a positive employee experience and a more human workplace have an immediate impact on current talent, they are powerful indicators that can be used to define the success of an organisation by those on the outside, including new employees and customers.  

Interested in learning more about this topic? Read How to use technology to support healthy living and boost the employee experience.

2 Responses

  1. As a manager I reckon that
    As a manager I reckon that there’s a lot of pressure to perform and pull the numbers, but I think if the people in those positions remember that they used to employees a long time ago, perhaps we could have more empathy and community spirit about various issues in the working environment…

  2. Amazing point about
    Amazing point about leveraging human and cognitive cloud applications that allow for a shared, yet personalised experience within the workplace. I am also interested in this topic and we have built a unique platform that caters to all employee needs and a lot more. It connects the entire people chain and is designed for the Future of Work. Inviting you to check out peopleHum, Of course, it’s free and the concept around it is Hire Right, Engage Right and Nurture Right. Will be wonderful to get feedback from someone like you.

Author Profile Picture
Greg Stevens

Analytics Manager, WorkHuman Analytics and Research Institute.

Read more from Greg Stevens

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