Why the employee experience matters.

July 5, 2017    Ken Bundy     

If people are a company’s greatest asset, it makes sense that far greater consideration should be given to their needs, be that health and wellbeing, investing in skills, unlocking productivity or nurturing talent. It’s this very realisation that has given rise to a new emphasis in some of the world’s largest and best known companies; they’ve created the position of ‘Head of Employee Experience’.

While some may see this as little more than semantics or a gimmick, these companies are taking it seriously and have put the employee at the heart of everything they do. Airbnb and TalkTalk have both made the decision to appoint individuals and teams whose focus is to look after their people. These companies have rethought their HR value proposition and adopted a far more consumer-minded way of viewing their employees. Instead of viewing employees as an asset to be sweated, they see them as one to be nurtured and protected. It is the task of these ‘experiential’ guardians to ensure that their employees have everything they need to thrive – from the right workplace tools and facilities through to a positive working culture, shared values and sense of community.

These roles combine elements of marketing and internal communications, HR, facilities and IT to provide a holistic view of an organisation and how it treats its people. By having one person or team focused on how all these factors coalesce and impact performance, culture and productivity, these organisations are taking a bigger picture approach.

As well as meeting the daily practical needs of a workforce, these new job roles are centred on finding additional strategies to engage employees and forge an invaluable, emotional connection too. This includes improving elements of internal communications by hosting regular staff forums and consultations, with the aim of turning the company’s employees into its most powerful advocates. With a raging war for talent and staff retention cited as one of the biggest concerns affecting UK plc, it’s hardly surprising that the ‘experiential custodian’ has been born.

It’s widely recognised that today’s workers want more than a job that pays well.  They also want to share in the company’s values, feel they belong, know their contribution matters and, perhaps most significantly of all, they want their work and home lives to fit together seamlessly. This all comes down to culture.

At TalkTalk, the head of workplace experience Jenny is responsible for just that. As well as dealing with the day to day irks of more than 1,300 transient staff, Jenny is instrumental in delivering the company’s commitment to its people. Having just moved into a new multi-million-pound purpose-designed office, TalkTalk employees have much to be energised about including a choice of flexible and creative workspaces and great team-building activities such as laughing yoga, selfie competitions and staff parties.

Wearing TalkTalk branded t-shirts, Jenny and her team stand out from the rest of the workforce and make it clear that they are internal customer assistants, able to deal with any issue efficiently. TalkTalk’s commitment to its people is plain to see.

Airbnb’s brand is all about belonging and that’s a crucial part of its employee experience. The office has been designed to reflect the Airbnb properties it markets, and features a host of homely spaces where employees feel comfortable. The head of employee experience played a pivotal role in not only realising this vision, but in instilling the right behaviours and investing in the right work environment to make this possible. Employees are free to choose which workspace they base themselves in, from the kitchen counter to the lounge.

The emergence of the ‘head of employee experience’ reflects the changing nature of the employment market, the need for greater employee engagement and the power of happy, motivated and committed staff. In the same way that big consumer brands seek to deliver memorable experiences for their customers, the corporate sector is now following suit to improve recruitment and retention, which in turn drives positive word of mouth and improved brand profile.

Employees are discerning and they’re looking for more than a salary. Companies that really consider the holistic needs of their employees are the ones that stand to benefit most, not only in terms of loyalty and retention but also by unlocking extra discretionary effort and improving productivity too. Differentiated and engaging employee experiences are most certainly the order of the day.

If you’d like to know more about our recent design and fit-out of TalkTalk’s new Salford office, you can read about it on the Manchester Evening News website.

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