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Owning the Employee Experience
Roles HR can play to improve EX
“Employee experience (EX) should be owned and enabled across functions” is a statement you often find in EX definitions, however we do not (yet) see a lot of organizations where this is the case. In fact, there are normally two scenarios: (1) As responsibility should be across functions, no one takes the lead, thus no one feels responsible for the end to end employee experience or (2) HR is seen as the sole owner of employee experience, which is reflected in their KPI’s such as retention outcomes, employee engagement scores and eNPS results. In this blog we will explain why we believe that HR shouldn’t be the sole owner of EX, and what roles HR can play in improving EX.
Just to clarify: “Employee” experience might be misleading to just include “regular employees” (whoever would be defined to be a “regular” employee), but for us it also includes managers, potential employees/candidates, freelancers or gig-workers, so all people who are in contact with the organization.
Why HR shouldn’t be the sole owner of EX
At Deloitte, we define employee experience as “all interactions between an employee and the organization that lie at the intersection of the organizational, physical, digital and human environment” (see illustration below). It consists of tangibles like the location employees work in, the hardware they work with and the compensation they receive, and intangibles such as leadership styles, software used to perform, communication, collaboration and secondary benefits. A lot of these aspects are not directly influenced or managed by HR, and other functions like Communications, IT or Real Estate play an equally important role in this.
Also, the well-known quote “people leave bad managers, not bad companies” underlines the importance of managers. Managers account for as much as 70% of employee engagement scores, as they are often the ones creating ‘moments that matter’ for an employee. They are the ones who provide you with a warm welcome during your onboarding experience, hold engaging career conversations, offer you opportunities to work on topics that are close to your heart or support you when things do not go as smooth as they should. On the flipside, they can also damage team morale, motivation and productivity.
The role(s) HR can actually play
Even though a lot of the aspects mentioned are (or seem to be) outside HR’s control, we believe that there are three key roles HR can play to improve EX: the role of the Listener, the Driver and the Educator.
1. HR as Listener
The first role HR can play is the role of the Listener. HR owns employee data in their systems and often collects engagement data or data from processes such as learning or performance management. These mainly quantitative insights provide an initial understanding of employees and their experiences. A next step would be to conduct focus groups and interviews as this leads to highly effective qualitative insights – and as a bonus can increase engagement because employees feel being listened to.
Mature EX organizations have combined quantitative and qualitative methods into a process called ‘continuous listening’, where data is collected and analyzed on a constant basis to ensure they have real-time insights in the employee experience. If done well, this data can potentially be combined with sources from other parts of the business to analyze where people work (Facilities), how they use digital solutions (IT) or what people read on the Intranet (Communications). This fosters an even greater understanding of what employees like or dislike, what they find important or unimportant, why they join, stay or leave. It is key to translate this tremendous amount of data into valuable insights, and personas or journeys can be valuable tools to support this.
2. HR as Driver
The second role of HR is the role as a Driver – more specifically the driver for a supportive work environment where employees can perform to the best of their abilities. We already explained that each function (e.g. communications, IT, facilities) of an organization owns and impacts parts of the EX, which can lead to a fragmented and disjointed approach. This is where HR can play a significant role.
Once HR has developed a deep understanding of employee needs (in their role as Listener), they can make these insights available to other functions and co-determine and re-assess priorities. This requires commitment, mandate and leadership and is a big change for most organizations. Pioneering EX organizations are already starting to combine support functions under an EX-umbrella with HR being in the driver seat most of the time.
3. HR as Educator
The third role HR can play is the role of an Educator, for leadership, management and support functions. We elaborated on the major influence managers have, and HR can train them on how to create a positive employee experience. They can provide guidelines, tools and trainings on, for example, creating high performing teams where people feel save, hire people who are a good cultural fit, be a mentor3 or properly provide feedback.
Next to using the impact managers have, HR can also educate functions on how to focus on employee needs by using methods like design thinking. Design thinking is a problem solving philosophy that involves studying your employees and understanding their needs. It heavily relies on generating ideas quickly and testing prototypes to collect feedback. It allows organizations to develop a “fail fast, learn fast” culture and can transform the way products, services and experiences are delivered.
Where does this leave us?
There are many roads that lead to Rome, and this is certainly true for improving EX. We believe HR is not in the position to take full responsibility for this task, but can make their mark by listening to employees, driving a supportive work environment and educating managers and functions. It’s a high level vision for what HR can do in any organization, regardless of size, sector or country.
For more information please contact Jeroen Andreae or Judith Eickhoff via the contact details below.