As the world undergoes tremendous changes due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are being forced to rethink their business and people strategies. Businesses that will work on creating an environment of trust during these times will emerge as winners in the long run. And employee experience will be at the heart of all these multiple changes organizations are going through.
We talk to Jacob Morgan, a 4x best-selling author, TED and keynote speaker, futurist, and creator of FutureofWorkUniversity.com on the changing dynamics of the workplace during the time of COVID-19 and what employee experience means today. Morgan is a highly sought after keynote speaker and speaks at conferences and events around the world on the future of work and employee experience. He believes in creating organizations where we all ‘want’ to show up to work, not where we ‘need’ to show up to work.
In this exclusive interaction, Morgan talks about how employee experience is about creating an organization where employees ‘want’ and not ‘need’ to show up to work each day by focusing on three environments: culture, technology, and physical space. He also suggests how organizations should figure out the moments that employees care about most by asking them and then creating experiences around them.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
In the age of the machine, do you think people matter more than ever, especially in times like COVID-19?
Absolutely, we are seeing this especially with the Coronavirus as well. Much of the conversations around automation and AI have completely been replaced by the need to connect, to be human, to practice empathy, and to just be kind to one another. It's unfortunate that a virus had to make us realize this. Business is still about relationships and relationships are one of the things that make humans so unique. In a technology-driven world, it is going to be these "soft skills" that will matter most.
Why has EX become a top priority for business leaders across the world, especially in times of COVID-19? Can you throw some light on the competitive advantage of employee experience?
I looked at 252 organizations around the world and found that only 6% of them do an amazing job of investing in employee experience. These organizations are on average 24% smaller, have over 4x the average profit, and almost 3x the revenue of non-experiential organizations. They also have superior stock-price performance! Examples include Cisco, Microsoft, Facebook, Rio Games, Airbnb, Hyland Software, and others.
A recent study by Linkedin actually found that Employee Experience is the #1 talent trend for 2020. From my research of interviewing over 140 CEOs around the world, I found that attracting and retaining talent is one of the top trends for leaders over the next ten years. The smart leaders out there realize that it is no longer about paying people more money. Employees care about more than just money which means we need to move to creating better experiences for them so that they actually want to show up to work each day.
So, why is employee experience becoming such a priority? Because, leaders are finally waking up to this realization. Instead of people convincing you why they should work for you, it is now YOU that needs to convince people why they should work for you.
You have always insisted that Employee Experience is not Employee Engagement. Why is that so and what are the key differences?
For decades we have invested in employee engagement programs but around the world, the scores are still terrible, that doesn't make any sense. The problem is that engagement is the effect but it is the employee experience that is the cause of an engaged workforce. Most organizations around the world view employee engagement programs as a type of short term adrenaline shot to temporarily boost employee satisfaction. They do this with things like free food or hot yoga! The problem is that there are no changes made to the core workplace practices of the organization. Employee experience is exactly that, it is about creating an organization where employees ‘want’ and not ‘need’ to show up to work each day by focusing on three environments: culture, technology, and physical space.
In short, employee engagement has become about investing in short-term perks whereas employee experience is about making core changes to the organization.
There has never been more money spent in trying to create employee experience, yet surveys show that nearly 7 out of 10 people report being disengaged at work. Where lies the rub?
That's actually not true. The money was spent in employee engagement programs that I talked about earlier. Employee Experience is just now getting more traction and momentum. Organizations are now making core changes to their workplace practices
Who are the major stakeholders when it comes to ensuring employee experience in an organization? Is it the sole responsibility of HR to ensure EX?
I created a ripple model which starts at the CEO and C-level. These are the people who must be the evangelists for all things employee experience. They need to be the biggest cheerleaders for this stuff! One layer out of that is the HR team, these are the people who are basically the employee experience task force. They develop the strategy, the tactics, and the plan and help make it all become a reality. One layer out of that are all of the leaders inside of an organization. It is their job to make these employee experience strategies and tactics come to life by implementing them with their teams. The final layer out of that is "all employees", because it is up to everyone to make sure that they speak up to share their ideas and what they care about and value.
How can employers leverage AI and next-gen technologies to fuel differentiated employee experiences?
We are just starting to see more of this happen now but I think a few things will happen. First, AI and tech will help us create more personalized experiences for our people because "it" will know employees better than a single leader ever could. AI can help recommendations for the types of work we should be doing, what roles we would be best at, when we are getting burned out, etc. In fact, all of these things are happening today. Second, AI and technology will help us automate routine and mundane tasks so that employees can focus more on the human aspects of work, this too positively contributes to the overall employee experience.
We have to remember that from the three environments I mentioned earlier, technology is 30% of the overall experience. The best thing that an organization can do here is to give employees the best tools and resources so that they can do their jobs as effectively and seamlessly as possible while at the same time making the organization more human.
The best thing that an organization can do is to give employees the best tools and resources so that they can do their jobs as effectively and seamlessly as possible while at the same time making the organization more human
What are some of the biggest pitfalls you see organizations making when executing their employee experience strategy?
First is not completely understanding what employee experience is. Remember, it's about three environments: culture, technology, and physical space. Free food and hot yoga are not a strategy, changes need to be made to the "engine" of the organization vs just repainting it. Second, employee experience is NOT just an HR thing, it is an organizational thing. Everyone needs to be involved here, not just the HR team. Third, understand that this is never-ending. We will be in a rapidly changing world which means that our workplaces practices will change; just take a look at what Coronavirus has done. All of a sudden, employees at organizations around the world are being told to work from home when many of these companies never had flexible work programs.
What is the future of employee experience? Where do you see EX five years down the line?
In the next five years, I expect to see great progress made in this area. My hope is that most organizations around the world will have teams in place to address this, that the term "employee experience" will become mainstream, and that organizations will constantly be revisiting their workplace practices. We all deserve to be a part of an organization where we WANT not NEED to show up to work each day and in 5 years, I would like to see more people around the world fit into that category. This means we can expect more investment in workspace design, technologies which dictate how we work, and cultural investments in things like leadership, health and wellbeing, learning and development programs, and the like.
How can companies win the war for talent by giving employees the workspaces they want, the tools they need, and a culture they can celebrate? How do they prioritize a meaningful work experience for people?
This is actually the subtitle of my book! My advice for organizations is simple. Every decision you make needs to be run through the "employee experience equation". Meaning, you should constantly be asking yourself how does "THIS" impact the ways in which employees work, the spaces in which they work, and how they feel about working here. These are the three environments of culture, technology, and space. Second, treat your organization more like a laboratory and less like a factory. Factories are linear and process-centric; they are all about the status quo. Laboratories on the other hand embrace failure, they test ideas, use data, and constantly experiment with things. Your organization must be an employee experience laboratory. The last piece of advice I have is identify the moments that matter for the employees at your organization. These could be personal or professional moments such as buying a first house, getting that first promotion, working on a big project, a first day on the job, having a kid, or the like. Figure out the moments that your employees care about most by asking them, then create experiences around them.
Investing in employee experience is a choice, and it is one that the smart forward-thinking leaders are making!