Employee experience offers a way for organizations to drive success by connecting with their people on an emotional level in moments that matter. But how can organizations enhance the employee experience in an increasingly fragmented world?
The artist Paul Cezanne said we live in a rainbow of chaos. This was his way of expressing that our world is a vibrant, sometimes-chaotic place and human beings are a complex species. Within our organizations, we’re constantly trying to control that chaos and solve problems to make it all work better.
This is why employee experience (EX) is important. It’s an effective way to embrace the complexity of life, provide purpose, meaning of work and prioritize moments that matter to help your people and organization thrive.
Know your challenge: a meal, a rocket or a baby?
There are generally three types of challenges in the world: simple, complicated and complex. Simple ones, like cooking a meal, where you can follow a recipe, have a high chance of success. Complicated ones like launching a rocket, which, while literally rocket science, still usually have a good result. This is because they’re often a sequence of simple challenges with known outcomes. Then there are complex challenges, like raising a child. Unlike following a recipe, every child is unique, so you need a bespoke solution each time.
In work, the temptation is to apply simple or complicated solutions to address the complex, human challenges of our people. However, people are messy things; they have emotions and feelings. That’s why, despite that new, fancy bit of HR tech or that detailed performance management approach, people don’t often behave the way we think they would.
We’re also a social species. We built our survival on emotional instinct and working together, and we value interactions with others – through recognition, guidance, teamwork and banter. How we manage this now is more relevant than ever because of the way the world is changing. In a digital, “always on,” fragmented, diverse and global climate, speaking to our people’s emotions and maintaining the human connection is difficult but vital.
Making the complex, simple
EX recognizes this. It works by creating an easily understood framework that aligns and helps HR and managers deliver complex solutions to complex problems in a more agile, joined-up and emotional way.
The power of EX is in connecting people to purpose. It taps into the emotional core of people to build loyalty, excitement and passion – and to explain clearly how this lives and breathes through their behaviors, work and the way the business and leaders deliver their experience.
Often, we design our work environments to suppress and numb emotion. This works quite well when you want people to only make rational decisions and follow protocol, but less so when you’re looking for powerful innovative thinking, outstanding creative solutions, amazing customer service or in-the-moment problem solving. EX is about creating the environment and culture that amplifies good emotion, allowing it to flourish.
Recognizing the emotional landscape and complexity of people means we can create human-centric solutions that feel authentic, have a personality and express the essence of the organization.
This isn’t to say that we need to create more face-to-face human touch-points. Technology and digital are playing an even more important role in connecting people and elevating their work through automation, artificial intelligence and agility. What’s critical though, and the focus for the consumer world, is to understand the moments that matter, and when we use technology, to replicate the best bits of human interaction. Done well, it actually provides opportunity to enhance the experience.
The bottom line
Employee experience isn’t just the latest buzzword, it’s a proven way to prioritize your efforts and create unique, inspiring experiences at key touch-points. It’s about creating environments and cultures that help both your people and organization become stronger and more successful.
Nigel McNeil is a senior director in the Talent and Rewards practice at Willis Towers Watson and a global leader in employee experience and agile consulting.