A Positive Employee Experience: The Employee Must Choose to Engage

Leo Tolstoy said: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” The employee experience often is more about the employee than the experience itself. As organizations look to create a positive employee experience, begin with the employee. Let’s look at a scenario from the book The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results.

Monroe and Reggie have been friends since they were eight years old. They come from the same side of town, attended the same schools, and worked at the same fast-food restaurant as teens. They remained close through college.

Reggie hears about a great new job, and he and Monroe apply together. Both are hired and start their new roles on the same day. They are excited to learn that they will both work on the circuit assembly team under the same boss. They will have similar responsibilities. Their compensation is identical, and both consider it a great career opportunity. In fact, through the eyes of the company, nearly every aspect of these friends’ first year is identical. After all, their Employee Life Cycle is identical in every way, from pre-hire to new-hire orientation, to benefits eligibility, to the one-year review.

Yet, their Employee Experience (EX) is very different.

During the past several years, we (DecisionWise) have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of organizations that approach us, asking the question, “We are doing so much to create employee engagement, so why doesn’t our engagement seem to be improving?” That’s an interesting question that gets at the heart of employee engagement. In order to answer that question, we must re-examine our views of employee engagement.

First, many organizations—over the past decade, in particular—have come to see engagement as something that is done to employees. We “engage our employees.” However, engagement isn’t something that is inflicted upon them. It is something that is chosen by the employee. I “choose to engage.”

Therefore, the organization can create the environment in which an employee can choose to engage but, ultimately, it’s the employee’s choice. Engagement involves both feeling and doing. One can “feel” engaged, but employee engagement also means that employee must be acting on that feeling as well. Engagement is a 50/50 proposition.

Back to our two employees. Monroe has three children, each involved in athletics. When he joined the company, one of the things he found most attractive was that the company touted the importance of work-life balance, which was important to him because he wanted to support his children’s athletic events. Reggie is single. He’s all about the late-night party scene, so he finds getting to work before 9:00 in the morning (at least with a clear head) challenging, particularly on the nights he plays guitar in the band.

Fortunately for Monroe, the company has some flexibility in how early employees leave in the afternoon, as long as they begin at 8:00 sharp in the morning and finish critical projects before heading out for the day. Monroe finds this a real plus. Reggie, however, feels constrained by the 8:00 a.m. start time. It simply doesn’t meet his needs. He thought that “work- life balance” meant he would have some flexibility that facilitated the “life” part of the equation as much as it did the “work” part. No such luck. He had also understood that he could be fast-tracked to a management position if he showed promise, which, in his mind, he clearly has. But he’s still in the same role he was in when he started with Monroe over a year ago. He begins looking for new employment.

Reggie becomes disengaged and checks out. Monroe thrives. Identical Employee Life Cycle experiences. Very different EXs.

Part of the reason some companies aren’t seeing progress in their employee engagement efforts is that they fail to understand the basics of EX. While an organization can do its best to design a stellar EX, EX depends largely on perception and expectations. The perception portion dictates the outcome of the experience. The EX is based on the employee’s perception of what is going on, not always on the reality of what occurs. This is why Reggie and Monroe can have identical experiences, yet their EXs can be vastly different:

EX = Experiences + Expectations + Perceptions 

Some companies believe that creating a stellar EX is a matter of tossing out a few perks they believe to be universally appealing (seriously, who doesn’t like TacoTuesdays or a tube slide from the third floor down to the lobby?), then calling themselves “great places to work.” Yet their workers are still unhappy, and they move on to places where their EX is better aligned with what they’re looking for.

A positive EX isn’t just a factor of what the company throws at the employee. Rather, it’s a result of how the employee perceives those experiences, and whether or not they meet expectations. While an organization can create the environment in which an employee can choose to engage, employee engagement is still a choice—the employees’ choice.

This article is based on an excerpt from the author’s latest book, The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results, written by Tracy Maylett and Matthew Wride and published by Wiley. The book is available in bookstores or on Amazon.

Does Employee Engagement Matter to Organizations with High Turnover?

High Employee Turnover

Recently, we have had several organizations come to us with the same basic question: “What can we do to improve employee engagement if 90% of our employees stay less than 6 months?” It’s important to note that these organizations are not fundamentally flawed and somehow hemorrhaging talent. It’s that their business models lend themselves to high employee turnover. Their industries range from janitorial services, to fast food, to call centers, to agricultural workers, etc. Employee retention equates to millions of dollars a year.

It might be tempting to think that employee engagement simply doesn’t matter in these types of scenarios where employee turnover is high and retention is low. This might be the case if you view employee engagement as primarily a survey activity. Why would you take the time to survey an employee who has been with the organization less than three months, and, in all likelihood, will be gone within the next two?

Employee engagement, however, is much more than a survey. It’s a broader approach that considers a variety of factors and calls upon other business disciplines for assistance, such as strategy, talent management, recruitment, leadership development, and succession planning. So, while it might not make sense to survey all your employees if your workforce is transient, you can still do a lot to help those core employees that manage, direct, and support that segment of your workforce that is constantly coming and going.

Employee Engagement Case Study

Let’s consider a simple case study. ACME Cleaning Services, Inc., employs 2,100 employees in a three-state area. ACME is focused on government buildings and corporate campuses. Most of its workforce consists of part-time janitorial workers that make at or just above minimum wage. These folks don’t have a company-issued computer, and many aren’t even provided a company e-mail address. The average employee tenure is 5.5 months. The vast majority of these positions are filled by students or those needing employment while they continue to look for something that might provide better growth potential. ACME would love to retain its people longer, but its margins are thin, and it can’t afford to pay the labor costs that would be needed to keep people around for a longer period of time. So, ACME does the best it can, and it has become very good at quickly on-boarding and training people.

Nonetheless, ACME is missing many of the benefits it might otherwise realize from an increase in employee engagement. Particularly, it has not focused on that core of key leaders who handle the constant migration of new employees. Thus, the question on the table is whether ACME could improve its bottom line and overall employee experience were it to undertake some efforts to build employee engagement within its workforce?

An Employee Engagement Road map

Here is a suggested roadmap on how ACME might improve its employee engagement efforts across the board:

First, ACME needs to clearly bifurcate its efforts and treat its two distinct employee segments differently. For the segment of employees who are likely to come and go within a year, ACME’s efforts should be life-cycle based. The onboarding process should be simple and easy. Trainings should be standardized, and it might even be a good idea to create a simple knowledge base where employees are able to look up simple questions. Simple-to-use portals would be a key. Finally, termination and exit need to be straightforward and easy to handle. But, surveying these employees, except in an onboarding or exit capacity, probably does not make sense.

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On the other hand, for those employees that ACME needs in order to manage its transient workforce, a strong employee engagement effort will yield real ROI. These core employees need to be empowered with specific skills on how they can inspire, lead, and engage their direct reports. To retain these employees, they need to be given a clear growth path. ACME also needs to understand its employee brand and the value proposition it is giving this employee segment. Additionally, in this instance, surveying this sub-population will show that ACME is willing to listen and address issues that might come up during an employee engagement survey. Lastly, these are the employees that need an ACME employee experience that provides healthy doses of ENGAGEMENT MAGIC®: meaning, autonomy, growth, impact, and connection.

Why Build Employee Engagement?

But, does ACME really need to do all of this?  Its margins are thin anyway. Will a focus on employee engagement really make a difference in employee retention?  The answer is unequivocally yes. Even if the only factor you take into consideration is the cost of replacing employees at the manager level. But, there are benefits that are real (monetarily so), which cannot be readily quantified. We all know that a workforce with the right culture/employee experience is far more formidable than one mired in mediocrity and dissent.

More Than The Survey

Employee engagement is far more than survey analytics, which typically only tell us “what,” “where,” and “when.” Survey analytics are limited because they cannot tell us the “who” and, most importantly, the “how.” That’s where DecisionWise helps companies move beyond the survey to build employee engagement capability and then turn that capability into a true competitive advantage within their marketplace.

Are You Throwing Your Employees Under the Bus? [Case Study]

Chicago Transit Authority

A Case Study on Improving The Customer Experience (CX) at the Risk of The Employee Experience (EX)

What is an organization’s greatest asset? Is it the product, equipment, customers or employees? In this case study we examine how the Chicago Transit Authority sought to improve its Customer Experience while failing to focus on its Employee Experience.

In 2013, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) spent $454 million to transition its 1.7 million daily riders from its own proprietary fare collection system to a third-party system owned and developed by a company called Ventra. But rather than saving money and time, the CTA only succeeded in enraging tens of thousands of Chicagoans.

The CTA’s mistake was that it focused on improving its Customer Experience by increasing efficiency but did so without taking into account its employees—you know, the people who best knew its customers’ behavior, who knew that they were happy with the current system, and who would be on the front lines of customer anger and frustration. It was a costly miscalculation.

For example, buses were redesigned so that riders boarding through the front door would be automatically charged by electronic sensors as they passed by. No swiping cards—great, right? Sure, until you realize that on a crowded city bus, riders tend to use the fastest, most convenient exit. Unfortunately, the CTA didn’t talk to its bus drivers before installing the expensive system. If it had, it would have learned that many riders also exit through the front door. After the new system came online, many riders were inadvertently charged twice. Whoops.
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Technical problems plagued the new system, and the CTA dropped the ball by making customer service available only between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays. Since many people ride the trains and buses in the evenings and on weekends, this decision left huge swaths of time that passengers couldn’t get help from a real person. In some cases, the customer service issues were tragicomic, including the experience of one passenger who started getting email after email telling him his new Ventra card was on the way, followed by a blizzard of mail: 91 envelopes, each containing a new card. The comedy of errors didn’t stop there. “The next day, 176 more [cards] arrived, each one, he later discovered, canceling the last. ‘You have to call and activate it,’ the rider told Crain’s Chicago Business, ‘but I’ve been afraid to do that.’”

Eventually, the CTA had to go back to selling its former magnetic stripe cards while it figured out what went wrong, which was something its employees could have pointed out before the costly move to a new system. Meanwhile, as riders became more and more fed up and indignant, the agency threw its employees—pardon the pun—under the bus. In December 2013, one call center worker lost her job after the Chicago Tribune published a letter in which a frustrated customer recounted his repeated attempts to get a Ventra card. But customer support calls were routed to a call center in San Francisco, so call center workers had no firsthand knowledge of the city or the system. The sacked worker was merely the last service rep the customer had spoken to, and she had been working for eleven days straight. Nevertheless, she was sent packing—on her birthday—for “bringing bad press to Ventra.”

The CTA’s greatest blunder wasn’t choosing faulty technology or dealing with incompetent partners to fix a system that wasn’t broken. It was failing to work with its greatest asset, its employees, to understand and improve its Customer Experience.

Learn more about how to manage your organization’s trust with its employees by picking up The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from The Employee Experience by Tracy Maylett and Matthew Wride. Copyright (c) 2017 by DecisionWise, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Trust is the Oxygen of The Employee Experience

Trust is the Oxygen of the Employee Experience

Trust is the Oxygen of The Employee Experience and stepping up in moments of truth helps make organizations sustainable and resilient.
When something happens that tests the validity of the promises that make up the Contract, that’s a moment of truth (MOT).

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 The result of a collision between expectations and MOTs is like what happens when physicists at the Large Hadron Collider bring elementary particles together at near-light velocities: unpredictable energies and particles hurtling off on random vectors. Those energies and particles can be harnessed for greater productivity, or they can rampage out of control and destroy the entire system. Trust is the Oxygen of the Employee Experience

Moments of Truth

In a moment of truth, the Contract that both employer and employee have established is put to the test. Until a MOT occurs, any Contract—the Brand piece with its implied promises, the Transactional piece with its explicit promises, and the Psychological piece with its messy web of expectations and beliefs—is theoretical and untested.
But once a MOT arrives, the Contract gets very real. Employees quickly learn whether their employers or supervisors will keep their promises. They also find out in stark terms how the organization’s leaders view them, which can be a pleasant surprise or a rude awakening.
From the employee’s perspective, it doesn’t really matter as much whether the outcome of the MOT is positive or negative, as long as the outcome is consistent with expectations.

Every moment of truth is also a potential turbulence point in the Expectation Gap, that space between what employees expect and what they experience. Mismanagement of these moments of truth creates a situation where no one trusts anyone else.

Three Effects of Moments of Truth

What’s essential for leaders at all levels to understand is that MOTs are never neutral. They always have an impact. In fact, a MOT always has one of three effects:

  • Reinforcement of the Contract

    Contract reinforcement leads to feelings of safety and validation. Employees feel more secure and believe more strongly that they can trust in and invest themselves in the organization. They also feel good about themselves for having believed in the organization. A relationship of trust is the result.

  • Violation of the Contract

    Contract violation produces anger and cynicism. Employees feel varying degrees of anger at the organization, ranging from annoyance to rage, for not keeping its promises. Because they also feel manipulated and even betrayed, they can develop the cynical belief that the organization’s leaders can’t be relied on to do anything they say they will. It’s not hard to see how this attitude can lead to total disengagement. A relationship of distrust is the result.Incidentally, revising the Contract, even when changes are minor, is often seen as a violation. The thinking goes, if the organization can change its mind at the drop of a hat, what will change next? Even if the change in the Contract is positive, the fact that it can change suddenly, and without the employee’s consent, can create a net negative outcome. Revision can lead to uncertainty and worry.

  • Creation of a new Contract

    New Contracts may lead not only to confusion but also curiosity. These aren’t necessarily negative emotions, but confusion can lead to more problematic feelings if employees remain unsure about the new rules, their new roles, or what’s expected of them. That’s one of the reasons why change is hard. But communication is key. Curiosity can be a force for good and presents an opportunity to engage employees at a deeper level. Depending on the way the new Contract is handled, a relationship of trust or distrust could be the result.

These emotions are where the rubber meets the road with the Contract. They’re what you have to acknowledge and manage. Your subordinates aren’t going to say “You violated our Contract last week when you announced that pay freeze.” But they will reveal their anger, cynicism, and feelings of betrayal in subtle ways . . . and some that aren’t subtle.
Being mindful of those emotions isn’t a touchy-feely New Age management trope; it’s a leadership survival skill. A change to the Contract, whether company-wide or between a team lead and a line employee, often evokes powerful emotions that can dramatically affect your EX and engagement. 

Trust is the Oxygen of the EX

Stepping up in moments of truth makes trust lasting and resilient, and helps your organization be sustainable. Trust is the oxygen of the EX. With it, you have life. Without it, trust dies. Trust isn’t static. It can’t be expected to run on autopilot. The level of trust your employees have in you today won’t be the same tomorrow. Trust is a continuum, not a state. It is always being increased or decreased.

This article was taken from the book, The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results. Read the book today and learn more about creating an effective employee experience and how to manage your organization’s trust with its employees.
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The Employee Experience Equation

Did you realize you were making a contract this very moment? Not a formal one, but in your mind, you made the choice to read this article and you naturally came in with some expectations. This “brand” contract is based on what you know about me or the source through which you found my work. Additionally, you’re filling in other expectations from past experience that go beyond just what’s been implicitly promised so far. This “psychological” contract is formed when those expectations you’ve drawn up in your mind get paired with the time you give up to read this article in exchange for the assumption that I’ll provide you with something that makes it worthwhile. So, thanks for your trust – I’ll do my best!

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Happy Employees
Unfortunately, if I don’t meet those expectations, you are going to be unhappy. So now the pressure is on for me; I have to meet your expectations, but chances are, I haven’t even met you! So what ARE your expectations? I’m guessing you want to learn something. Maybe leave with just one thing that’s useful. You probably have an expectation of readability, although maybe you’ll forgive some awkward turns of phrase if I can at least provide useful content.

The point is you have expectations. And those expectations inform your experience. Maybe this is a decent article, but a friend recommended it as “life-changing,” so you were ultimately left disappointed. Maybe a smart friend passed it along so you could both have a chuckle at how rudimentary my command of words is, but I managed to exceed your expectations a bit, leaving you satisfied with your time invested. Objective experiences are a myth, so we need to start embracing subjective experiences.

In fact, your entire life is a series of expectations that are being either met, exceeded, or violated. And your “experience” is a combination of both acute experiences that dramatically shape your paradigm and small, chronic experiences that add up over time. You could even quantitatively frame your experiences as the difference between your expectation and your reality. I walk into a performance review expecting the worst and instead receive glowing praise and a raise; expectations exceeded. Experience? Very positive.

On the other hand, let’s say I was expecting a big Christmas bonus, as usual, so I could build a pool in my backyard but instead got only a subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club. You could argue that I’m better off than I was before the bonus, so economics predicts I should be happy. But anyone who has seen Clark Griswold’s reaction to this scenario in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” can attest that happiness, most certainly, is not the outcome.

But not all experiences are created equal. My experience with favorite childhood cartoons rebooted as gritty movies is nowhere near as important to me as is my experience regarding the health of my spouse.

And there is one last piece of the puzzle. None of this exists in a vacuum. You enter every experience with the sum total of your prior experiences in play. Are you a generally happy person? One moderately bad experience isn’t going to change that and you might even remain net positive through it. Are you a Negative Ned? Well a good experience might not be enough to swing you out of the doldrums.

Putting all this together, we have the product of your expectations (E) and the reality of how well they were met (EO), all multiplied by how important (I) the moment was to you, all added to your general disposition (GD). Or, more concisely:

I(E*EO) + GD = Experience

Try it out! Start with something easy, like the last movie you saw. How would you rate it?

Your Expectation (E) ? The Expectation Outcome (EO) ?
4 Very Low -3 Drastically Did Not
2 Low -2 Did Not
1 None 1 Met Expectations
2 Some 2 Exceeded Expectations
4 High 3 Drastically Exceeded
The Importance (I) ? Your General Disposition (GD) ?
1 Not Important -5 Fairly Negative
2 Somewhat Important -3 Slightly Negative
3 Important 0 Even-Keeled
4 Very Important 3 Generally Positive
5 Vital Importance 5 Annoyingly Chipper

Where does your score put you?

1 to 15

Scores in this area describe contentment. Generally a positive experience but not enough to elicit much emotion. Maybe worth a mention if a friend asks about it or if it’s been a slow social media day.

-1 to -15

This might cause a vigorous eyebrow raise. Maybe a verbal scoff. Inconvenience, frustration, irritation. By itself, no big deal. But watch out if these experiences start to add up.

16 to 30

We’re getting into emotion here. This is creating enthusiasm and genuine positive emotion. Here you share your experience willingly with friends and acquaintances. This experience fosters enthusiasm and forces you to recalibrate your expectations.

-16 to -30

The emotion here is strong enough to inspire behavioral change. Something needs to be done. Doubt, discouragement, and worry. These are experiences that need to be shared with comforting friends and food.

31 and higher

These are experiences that can shift your whole paradigm, redefining expectations. Joy, passion, and love fall here. You’ll share these experiences with anyone who will listen.

-31 and lower

Watch out! These are the experiences that bring about major life changes. If you see someone acting in anger, fear, or despair after one of these experiences, everyone would completely understand.

What separates this equation from a fluffy Cosmo quiz? With this in hand, now you can identify the pain points in your organization. Are certain departments or demographics having drastically different experiences? Do you need to meet their expectations, or recalibrate them? By asking questions about different categories of experiences, you can pinpoint whether employees are having good social experiences but bad personal ones. Good customer moments but bad bureaucratic ones. Maybe someone else is dropping the ball or maybe you have unnaturally high expectations.

If you find a part of your job that isn’t necessarily a Greek tragedy but consistently fails to live up to expectations, you’ve identified something that has the potential to erode your experience until one day you’re fed up and you can’t even point to a single reason why. Better to see it coming and course correct.

Now that you understand how identifying and measuring expectations is the key to creating an elite employee experience, give it a whirl with some job-related scenarios! Here are some prompts to help you start identifying where your expectations aren’t being met.


Your most recent performance review Your previous job
Your relationship with your boss, significant other, kids, or peers The last project you completed
Your last dispute with a colleague Your last compensation discussion

Did you rate an experience that didn’t quite fit? We would love to hear from you and how we can improve.

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The Employee Experience: Interview With Authors Tracy Maylett and Matthew Wride

The Employee Experience Book

(This article and interview originally appeared on SwitchAndShift.com)
Shawn Murphy, CEO and Co-founder of Switch And Shift recently talked with authors Tracy Maylett, Ed.D and Matthew Wride, J.D., P.H.R. about their new book, The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results. The book explores what is shaping up to be the hot HR topic of 2017—the employee experience. Maylett and Wride are chief executives at DecisionWise.


S&S: What’s behind the momentum in organizations to begin evaluating their employee experience? How do we know it’s not a management fad?

Maylett: We can thank the recent push in employee engagement for a good part of this momentum. Organizations have discovered clear ties between engagement and operational performance. Engagement has become more than a nice-to-have, HR-sponsored idea. When something has financial measures, ROI, profitability, quality, attrition, etc., tied to it, that tends to get the attention of the entire organization.  The Employee Experience Book
The Employee Experience, or “EX,” is the sum of perceptions employees have about their interactions with the organization in which they work. Organizations now realize engagement is only a part of the human equation regarding these measures. Sometimes EX is positive, sometimes it’s negative. But it’s always there. EX directly impacts performance. The way in which employees perceive their experience is a strong predictor of organizational performance. Emphasis on performance certainly isn’t a fad, so it’s important to understand all the indicators associated with that performance. Understanding EX is foundational.


S&S: What trends do you see regarding the connection between employee experience and customer experience?

Maylett: There has been a great deal of attention focused on creating a stellar Customer Experience (CX). There is no doubt customer satisfaction is rocket fuel for the bottom line. However, today’s organizations are burning billions in fruitless efforts to create a profit-boosting CX. Many companies fail to recognize their employees create the customer experience. The employee is the face of the company. The Customer Experience (CX) is a direct result of the Employee Experience (EX). CX = EX. We call this the “Law of Congruent Experience.” Employees will deliver a Customer Experience that matches their own Employee Experience. And some organizations are finally realizing the sole focus on CX is a backward attempt to delight customers.

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Wride: Over the past several years, the trend has been to focus intently on customer experience while many times ignoring those who interact with the customer on a daily basis:  the employees. We try and remind business leaders to lay a foundation built on a well-functioning employee experience rather than obsessing over whether a customer spent 32.3 seconds on the website as opposed to 36.9 seconds last year. If you want a superlative customer experience, start by creating an environment that fosters and promotes an engaged workforce.


S&S: Talk about the role employee expectations play in the employee experience. What are other important factors?

Maylett: There has been a great deal of research in both clinical and organizational psychology that points to the fact that expectations form the basis of relationships. Every relationship, be it husband and wife, parent and child, boss and subordinate, or company and employee, has a “Contract.” This contract is a set of expectations for all parties involved.
Some of these expectations are explicit (“You will work X hours per week, and I will pay you Y amount”). Others are implicit (“I will work extra hours on this project because the company will take notice next time promotions come around”). This set of expectations, or a contract, is always being reinforced, violated, or renegotiated. Our research shows whether this contract is honored has a greater impact on the relationship than does the environment in which that relationship operates.

In the workplace, this means one’s engagement is less dependent on foosball tables, Taco Tuesdays, benefits, and compensation than it is on whether the individual’s expectations are met. Much of our EX perception is based on how well expectations are fulfilled. If expectations aren’t aligned, an expectation gap is created, causing disengagement.

Wride: Expectations are these ephemeral atomic elements that either build or destroy relationships. Yet, we don’t spend nearly enough time worrying about them. Instead, we focus on getting down to the “real work” of the day that might consist of meetings, memos, spreadsheets, and forecasts. Of course, that stuff is incredibly important, but not at the expense of building alignment within one’s team.


S&S: Whose responsibility is it to have a positive employee experience—executives? Middle management?

Maylett: In our book, ENGAGEMENT MAGIC®: Five Keys for Engaging People, Leaders, and Organizations we state that engagement is a 50/50 proposition. 50 percent of the responsibility is on the company. The organization must create the environment that encourages employees to choose to be engaged. But it’s still a choice; employees must choose to engage.

Similarly, the employee experience is half of the responsibility of the employees. Many leaders can point to employees that will constantly chose to have a negative employee experience (remember, EX is all about perceptions), despite any management effort. However, the organization is still responsible for the other 50 percent.

Managers and supervisors are the foot soldiers with the direct connection to employees. They are the beginning and end of in-house EX management. In other words, we are ALL responsible for creating and maintaining a positive EX (even the employees).


S&S: What role does the Employee Value Proposition play in engagement?

Wride: The Employee Value Proposition is simply one component of a well-functioning employee experience. It’s what we call the “brand contract.” It’s those expectations an organization has about what it needs from future and current employees, intertwined with expectations these same people have about what it will be like for them personally within that organization. (Sorry, that was a long-winded answer). To the extent an organization’s EVP properly bridges the chasm separating the organization’s needs from the employees’ expectations, that organization will be more successful in attracting and retaining the type of talent that will help it win.


SA&: Where do leaders go astray when intentionally developing their employee experience?

Maylett: Leaders are most likely to go astray when they fail to intentionally design an EX at all. A poor EX most often is created when leaders neglect the EX, or allow an EX to form unintentionally and without concerted design. EX must be intentional. EX is like culture; it will develop, whether it’s planned or not. When an organization purposefully creates a positive EX, rather than letting it unintentionally develop, the EX more likely will reflect the positive values of the organization.

Wride: It’s like parenting. When I became a parent, I was cocky. I thought I had the natural ability to be effective. Wrong!  I had to work at it, and I needed to make it an intentional area of focus. Most leaders are high achievers, which makes them believe they are talented across the spectrum. They fall into the same trap I did with parenting. They erroneously believe prior success in other areas means they have the inherent talent to manage, motivate, and engage human beings. For a small percentage, that might be true. But our employee survey responses tell us for the clear majority of leaders, they need to improve their people skills.

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INFOGRAPHIC: The 3 Employee Experience Contracts

Handshaking partners

INFOGRAPHIC: The 3 Employee Experience Contracts

(As conveyed in the book, The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results)
The Contract is a concept, a mental construct that we use to understand and tweak the expectations at stake in any relationship, whether it’s business or personal. Every relationship has a Contract. The Contract is the totality of explicit and implicit expectations that define the operating rules of the relationship, whether we are aware of them or not––every relationship comes with a Contract. The Employee Experience Book Cover

The Contract is the totality of explicit and implicit expectations that define the operating rules of the relationship. Every relationship has a Contract.

Some Contracts are explicit, visible, and understood by all parties in a relationship, such as a written statement of work from a vendor or the offer letter to a new employee spelling out the job description, benefits, bonus structure, and the you-do-this-I-give-you-that details. Like the tip of an iceberg, these Contracts are seen by all parties and well-understood. The expectations are out in the open and clearly defined. We call these the Brand Contract and Transactional Contract, but what’s underneath the water. We all know the iceberg has a larger mass that dives deep into the water yet remains unseen. We call this the Psychological Contract. These are the implicit expectations that aren’t openly or clearly defined yet exist within every organization and relationship.

The Three Contracts

Every contract is made up of three sub-contracts, as mentioned earlier:

  1. Brand Contract

    The Brand Contract is how we are viewed publicly or are seen by others. It consists of the promises that our brand identity––what we profess to be and what we stand for as an organization or team––makes to the people who are exposed to it.

  2. Transactional Contract

    The Transactional Contract is the mutually accepted, reciprocal, and explicit agreement between two or more entities that defines the basic operating terms of the relationship.

  3. Psychological Contract

    The Psychological Contract is the unwritten, implicit set of expectations and obligations that define the terms of exchange in a relationship.

Why is The Contract between employee and employer like an iceberg?

Like an iceberg, only part of the Contract is openly visible to all parties involved. Not every expectation makes its way into the written Contract. The implied part of any Contract is what carries the weight of the subconscious, unspoken expectations that each party brings to the relationship. These implied Contracts are the type your grandfather meant when he talked about doing business based on a handshake back in the day––nothing formal, other than the mutual belief that each party would act with the best interest of both sides at heart. With this Psychological, or implicit, Contract, trust is everything. Without it, there’s no deal.

Read the Book: The Employee Experience

So a Contract is really like an iceberg: You might see the written, express part bobbing above the water, but the larger part––the implied part––is submerged. The implied component is the most important section of any Contract, and that’s where things can go sideways. This is where Expectation Alignment Dysfunction runs rampant.
Infographic: Employee Experience Contracts

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