3 Reasons We Care About The Employee Experience in 2020

Employees happily working

The Employee Experience

Why should we care about the employee experience? Most leaders are beginning their strategic plans for 2020. As you work on ways to improve for the coming year, one key area to consider is your employee experience. Is it in good shape? Could it use some tweaking? Is it aligned with your business objectives for 2020 and beyond?

Read the Book: The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results

The Employee Experience (EX) is the human ecosystem in which your employees operate, carry on their work, contribute, innovate, and produce results. The challenge for business leaders, however, is that the employee experience is not a framework of easily understood inputs and outputs.

Instead, the employee experience is constructed from the various relationships between people within your organization and their perceptions about those relationships. In the case of the employee experience, perception truly is reality. It is more concerned with matters of the heart than flowcharts and diagrams.

As you reflect on how well your employee experience is aligned with your strategic objectives for 2020, I would suggest that you take the time to examine three “Ps” which are found in every business or organization. They are:

  1. People
  2. Product
  3. Process

We have found this model (the “Three P Model”) to be useful for a variety of reasons. It should also be noted that the order is intentional.

Employees happily working

1. People Come First

The most important asset in your organization is your people. Your organization is not a living, breathing object capable of action on its own.

Rather, your organization is a collection of people who have come together for a common purpose. The only way for your organization to actually do something is for a person, or a group of people, to take an action. Thus, it’s axiomatic that without your people, nothing happens. Thus, your people should be your first priority.

If you want 2020 to be better than 2019, you need your people to perform better than they did last year. And, for many organizations, labor is their largest expense item. So, everyone, including the buttoned-up finance department, has an interest in ensuring that your organization’s people are operating at peak efficiency and that your employee experience has been designed to get the very best results from your talent.

It’s a Leadership Job

Ways to improve your people include everything from providing development opportunities to attracting the right candidates. It also includes leaders who take the time to align their vision with what they expect from those who will put that vision into place. The task of building the right EX is critical, and cannot be handed off to an HR function that has been relegated to the basement in the company’s headquarters.

An organization’s employee experience is primarily the C-suite’s responsibility. A division’s employee experience belongs to the division leader. This concept is repeated all the way to the team leader who is the steward over her team’s employee experience. The HR department is there to support and provide counsel along the way, but as a resource and not as the function primarily in charge of the organization’s EX.

Woman buying grapes

2. Employee Experience = Customer Experience

The second component in the Three P Model is your product (or whatever good or service you sell in the marketplace). Some might question why this item has been listed second as opposed to first in our methodology. This argument makes some sense, right? If your product is substandard, it doesn’t matter how well your people are functioning. Wrong! Our database of over 50 million employee survey responses suggests two key principles that run counter to this conventional wisdom.

  • First, the data suggests that you build a world-class customer experience by creating a stellar employee experience. Stated differently, your customer’s experience is directly related to how well your employee experience is working. We are so firm in our view on this issue that we have called it a law – the Law of Congruent Experience.
    Your employees will deliver a customer experience that is directly proportional to their own employee experience (EX = CX).
  • Second, when your employee experience has been well-designed and is thriving, the reality of a substandard product or service does not exist. Our data shows that engaged and motivated employees simply will not allow your company to sell or produce something that is unreliable or incapable of being sold. Even if this principle doesn’t hold true in all cases, our experience suggests that an average product in the hands of a great customer experience/employee experience is more likely to succeed than a fantastic product that is packaged and sold within a lousy customer experience/employee experience.
Listen to Podcasts with the Authors of The Employee Experience Book
Employee using company software

3. Your Employees Know

The third “P” in our model is your business processes. As you contemplate how you might improve your processes, we urge you not to overlook one of the most important sources of data and insights: your front-line employees.

These employees often know your customers better than anyone within your organization, and they are most likely to know how your customers actually use your product, which can be invaluable information. And finally, apart from getting meaningful and actionable intelligence, our data shows that by asking your employees what they think you will improve employee engagement, create a culture of feedback, and improve your EX.

Chicago Transit

Chicago Transit Authority

Consider a case study from 2013 involving the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The CTA decided to spend nearly $500 million to transition its riders from a proprietary fare system to a third-party system called “Ventra.” As is commonly the case, the concept was simple: Improve the process of collecting transit fares from the riders. The implementation, however, proved to be problematic.

One reason for the breakdown was that system designers failed to talk with CTA employees. For example, an early malfunction was that the new system charged passengers twice. Passengers were charged once when they entered the bus in the front and their Ventra card was scanned by an electronic reader. Then, these same riders were charged again when, as is often the case in a busy city like Chicago, they exited the bus through the front as opposed to leaving from the rear door. Had those in charge spent time talking to CTA bus drivers, they would have easily appreciated the likelihood of this scenario and proactively worked on a solution prior to system implementation.

Of course, there are several more factors to consider beyond the three “Ps.” Yet, there is some merit to the Three P Model’s simplicity in that it reduces distractions by focusing on the most important keys to business success. Plus, in focusing on the three “Ps,” leaders will be able to consider how they might improve their employee experience within each area. With today’s changing workforce, the employee experience simply cannot be ignored and must become a critical part of business processes throughout every organization.

Get the book, The Employee Experience

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.

Read the Book: The Employee Experience

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.

Call to Action - Employee Experience Book Bestseller

No Time to Focus on The Employee Experience? Try Checklists

No Time to Focus on The Employee Experience? Try Checklists

No Time to Focus on The Employee Experience? Try Checklists. I mean we’ve all heard the advice: “Don’t forget to schedule time to work on the big-picture items.” Sometimes, this guidance is packaged as: “Block out and schedule uninterrupted time to be creative and to work on high-value projects.” Yet, in a world that seems to place tremendous value on “inbox zero,” where does a leader possibly find the time to create, plan, think strategically, or focus on his or her value proposition?

No Time to Focus on The Employee Experience? Try Checklists

The answer may lie in the more effective use of checklists to minimize the brain power and effort we spend on routine tasks. Dr. Atul Gawande, in his book, The Checklist Manifesto (2009, Metropolitan Books), is a vocal advocate for this concept. For me, however, I became a believer in the theory after several coaching sessions with a young and talented business executive. Let’s call him Stephen. Stephen was responsible for a significant chunk of revenue, and he oversaw several key retail locations within an important territory for his company.

Stephen and I had been exploring his value proposition, both on professional and personal level. Finding a leader’s value proposition is a coaching exercise we go through that is designed to help leaders focus on those areas where they create the most value as opposed to focusing on tasks that might yield a lower ROI or which might be a distraction. Stephen was convinced that he could create far more value for his company by developing and training his team and direct reports than by focusing solely on the administrative and operational tasks that comprised the bulk of his job description.

For several weeks, we explored ways he could devote more time towards his goal of developing others while still maintaining an appropriate level of operational proficiency. Our efforts seemed futile. Then, one day he delightedly explained that he had found the missing ingredient; he had taken the time to create a checklist for each of the various operational tasks for which he was responsible. Then, with discipline, he had been carefully adhering to these checklists. His mental approach was to first take care of his daily, core items so he could then turn his attention elsewhere. It became a challenge: How fast could Stephen get through his checklist (in a competent manner) so he could start working on what he loved to do?

Employee Experience and Employee Engagement

What he found in the process were significant blocks of time that he could devote to training and developing his people. In other words, by becoming disciplined in his routine, he found the time he needed to focus on the extraordinary – those initiatives that might be “game-changers” for his company and his career. He also found another added benefit, as he was using less emotional energy on routine matters, which meant he had more passion and drive for the challenging projects that require brain power and resourcefulness.

Now to some, Stephen’s example might be construed as another suggestion along the lines of: “Improve your productivity and you’ll have more time to focus on the more important things.” You might be right, but I think that level of analysis is a bit too shallow. The idea is a bit more nuanced.

In Stephen’s example, it’s not that he became more productive by learning to perform his routine tasks faster, it was that his checklists helped him to maintain operational focus and avoid switch-tasking. His checklists helped him focus his energy, which also produced the side benefit of conserving energy. Stephen was then able to spend the balance of his energy account elsewhere.

A “bank account” is often used as a metaphor to explaining interpersonal relationships. We have “trust bank accounts.” We have “goodwill bank accounts.” And, I am going to add one more, which is an employee’s productive energy bank account. Energy is finite resource. It cannot be created or destroyed. This is the first law of thermodynamics in physics, and it applies to organizational and human dynamics. If energy cannot be produced, then one possible way to get more from yourself and those you lead is to better focus energy on routine tasks by using checklists.

This tiny nugget of advice holds true at the organizational level as well as the individual level. As you examine the Employee Experience for which you are responsible, ask yourself whether you have spent the time needed to create checklists, processes, systems, etc., to manage and improve those tasks and operations that must be done an ongoing operational basis. By taking the time to focus your organization’s operational energy, other energy will become available to work on creative endeavors and innovation.

Consider using checklists both at a personal and organizational level to organize and focus key activities. A disciplined approach to accomplishing the “must-dos” may lead to additional time to focus on those activities that support high-value activities and organization-wide objectives.

How to Shape Your Employee Experience Using Data

Employee Engagement Example Graph

As humans, we are incredibly good at grouping things. We are also very good at seeing patterns. Indeed, pattern recognition has been shown to be a clear evolutionary advantage for our species. That said, our natural penchant for patterns can sometimes obscure what is really happening. If you spend any time with optical illusions, you’ll quickly see how our brains distort reality by using innate patterns, or “shortcuts.” Predictable patterns mean our brains have to work less, and nature loves to conserve energy.

Read the Book: The Employee Experience

So, how does this observation apply to your organization’s Employee Experience (EX)? If we follow our brain’s preferred course, we might naturally try and create an Employee Experience that is nearly the same for each employee. As noted, we are wired to look for repeatable patterns and processes. Yet, this tendency may create a bias that works against our most important business goals.

Consider the following. Your organization’s EX is the sum of the various human-based operating conditions that surround and influence your employees at a behavioral and social level. In other words, your EX is that unique social environment in which your employees do their work.

Staff meeting with great employee experience

In designing your EX, whether at the team level or at the organizational level, the goal is to create an EX environment that supports your organization’s key business objectives. For example, if you need precision in your engineering team, then the engineering team’s EX should promote and cultivate precision. If another team’s value is derived from creativity, then their EX should be tailored to foster creativity, such as designing work schedules that allow for uninterrupted chunks of time.

There is also a secondary lesson to be gleaned from these two examples. The Employee Experience should not be the same for every employee. Certainly corporate values and ethics need to stay the same, but other components must differ if you are going to get the most from your organization’s talent.

Armed with these insights, the next step is to try and understand your organization’s current EX. Every organization has an EX. Some are inherited. Some EXs are carefully controlled and created. But most are haphazardly acquired, or the EX has been foisted upon the organization’s current leadership. But, you can’t shape and improve your EX unless you have clear understanding of the starting point.

How to Better Understand Your Employee Experience

Analyze the Survey Data

We suggest that one way to better understand your current EX is to analyze your employee survey data. But, we suggest you use it differently this time. Rather than focusing on traditional groupings and comparisons, dig deeper and use your data to help understand how and why employees are having different Employee Experiences within your organization. The key question to be looking for in your employee survey data is: Do my employees have different Employee Experiences, and, if so, why?

Sort Employees into Groups

Here is one possible way to tackle this process.  Start by sorting your employees into four groups based on how favorably they viewhow to shape your employee experience using data your organization. We suggest you follow a traditional bell curve. For example, the highest raters might represent the top 15%. These are the fully engaged employees that give your organization top marks. They are the most enthusiastic champions of the organization, whose excitement is palpable and contagious.

The second group could be the next 35%. This group likely represents your key contributors. These are the employees that meet performance expectations, the “strong-and-steady.” They get things done, but they typically invest limited time innovating, improving processes, or breaking from the status quo.

The third group might be the next 35%. This is an employee segment where there is a strong opportunity for improvement. They generally feel underutilized, spend a lot of work time taking care of personal needs, do enough to get by and not get in trouble.

The last group is your remaining employees, and this group represents those that are disengaged at work. These employees are bored and frustrated; say negative things about the organization and tend to blame others for their failures.

Once you have sorted your employees as suggested, the next step is to look at the following three metrics.

Look at Three Metric Types

Metric #1

Compare the overall favorability score each group gives your organization. What do you see? What do you learn about each group’s Employee Experience?  Then work at finding who are in these groups. For example, are they mainly women, engineers, line workers, etc.? Try and understand the forces that have shaped and molded these groups.

Metric #2

Based on all the survey responses, find the top three questions from each group. These are the questions where the group gave your organization the highest favorability rating. Compare those questions across the groups. Ask yourself, why does my top group care about one particular set of questions as opposed to what the other groups have indicated?

Metric #3

Compare each specific question within your top group against how the other groups responded to these same questions. In other words, you are examining the same question across each grouping to see how they responded. Where are things different? What insights can you find?
Armed with this data, a picture, although fuzzy, will likely emerge as to what your current EX looks like. This will serve as a good starting point.

But, you can’t stop there. Next steps might include targeted surveys that measure everything from what drives your employee value proposition to running exit surveys to illuminate why individuals might be leaving.
The key is to build an EX data analytics plan that is both comprehensive in its reach and targeted in its depth. Also, make sure your analytics plan covers multiple time periods as well as natural employee lifecycle landing points.

One last tangential point. During the analytical process, don’t just look for points where data converges; rather, look for points whether data diverges. Check your natural bias in favor of patterns by looking for instances where you see strong differences. Then ask yourself why those differences exist and what insights can be found.

In the end, by taking an analytics approach to your Employee Experience, you will be able to explore the nature of your EX and begin the process of shaping it to create a winning organization.

Download the Employee Experience Survey

Podcast: Transition Into Management – Part 1

The transition into management can sometimes be difficult for new leaders. In EP007 Leadership Intelligence Podcast – Transition Into Management Part 1, DecisionWise COO and author, Matthew Wride, talks about what it takes to make the management transition successful. Learn about the five Ps of transitioning into management, motivations for moving into management, 10 myths about taking a management role, and how to navigate the “unfreezing” and “jelling” stages during the process.

Download 360-degree feedback sample survey to help new leaders.

Listen to Transition Into Management Part 2
Listen to Transition Into Management Part 3
Listen to more podcast episodes

Podcast on iTunes 

Podcast: 11 Ways 360-degree Feedbacks Fall Short

Matthew Wride discusses 11 things to watch out for when looking to do 360-degree feedback surveys. He talks about how no process is perfect, and the 360-degree process can have some serious shortcomings when not handled effectively.

Download your 360-degree feedback survey right here.

Multi-rater feedback (or 360-degree feedback) can be a powerful tool in your employee development arsenal. If not properly implemented, it can also have some serious drawbacks. However, when those shortcomings are studied and managed, the benefits and results of a 360-degree feedback program are heightened and improved.

Listen to more podcast episodes

Podcast on iTunes 

Podcast: Managing Expectation Gaps & Creating Expectation Symmetry

expectation gap

The Expectation Gap is the space between what an organization claims it will do for the employee and what the employee expects will happen. The less clear the communication channels, the more likely that gap will be filled with static, garbled messages, and broken promises. The result: resentment and disengagement.

Download your 360-degree feedback survey right here.

Expectation Symmetry gauges how closely the expectations an organization creates for its employees match what the employees expect to happen. The greater the symmetry, the higher the level of trust. And the more the employees trust that their employer has their backs, respects them, and keeps its promises, the more they will take the risk of becoming fully invested and engaged, transforming the customer experience with their delight and enthusiasm.

Listen to more podcast episodes

Podcast on iTunes