Article: Employee Experience: EX 4.0

Employee Relations

Employee Experience: EX 4.0

EX in Industry 4.0 era is crucial to help leaders create & deliver business value, as well as help employees, navigate ambiguity to find purpose, meaningfulness, and fulfillment in work & life.
Employee Experience: EX 4.0

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In just two years, i.e. 2020-2021, a lot is changing and course-correcting in our lives & perspectives than has in the last two decades! And we are just past halfway this 2 year period, which means there is substantial ambiguity waiting for us in 2021 & beyond. These are the times when we somewhere start to reimagine the first principles in our work and life. Some of these back to basics principles, but in a new and hyper-connected tech world, demands things to be done a bit differently. But where do HR and Business Leaders even start? A future-proofing guiding framework or a set of principles is the crying need of the hour and Employee Experience has to be entrenched at the heart of it in the Industry 4.0 era. But we need to unravel the mystery of EX and its framework in a simple manner. However, even before we attempt that, we need to reset our long-range vision apparatus first for this ‘new unpredictable world’, in which many of our existing paradigms are irreversibly changing for upcoming decades. These paradigm disrupting ‘global factors’ are:

  1. A new world order: From a bipolar to unipolar and now a multi-polar world transition, the realities of the globalized business world are poised for few shocks over the next decade. The evolving geopolitics, nations’ race on technology, re-drawn global supply chains, sustainable energy mix, financial world digital shifts, and possibly localized military skirmishes, would demand agility of unprecedented levels. Organizations that build an effective ‘culture of innovation’ in the true sense, will be better prepared for these challenges!
  2. Accelerated digitalization: With the convergence of new technologies like Cloud, Mobile, Big data & AI with low code platforms is already turning successful and well-entrenched business models upside-down. Further, with the potential disruptions from 5G, Blockchain, AR/VR, 3D Printing, and Genetic Engineering, the world within 5 years can become unrecognizable! To be able to ride this ‘wave after wave’ of tech disruption, ‘an ecosystem of agile platforms’ is central to the business capabilities of Industry 4.0.
  3. Millennials and Gen Z: Millennials, while being digital natives and the so-called entitled generation, will bounce back with newfound strengths of strong character, tenacity, and adaptability. They have been exposed to ‘humanity and personal challenges of a lifetime within few months. It’s this age group that is best suited to adapt and not the 45-year-old plus! Millennials will have their own yardsticks of meritocracy, equality, transparency, innovation, and ‘fun’ in their workspaces and larger lives, basis their own ‘direct experiences’. A ‘Human Centered Design’ approach is the only way to look toward the future through their eyes. It will require the leaders to adopt several Human-Centered fundamentals and be ready to get challenged on a daily basis!

So where does EX really fit along with the above global context? In fact, what is really EX, and why is it so important now? Well, EX is often defined as the “sum total of all interactions (digital and human) that an employee comes across to do his or her job in an organization”.


This definition is all-encompassing and such definitions are not very practical and helpful. We need a definition that answers both, what and why of EX, and here is one – “EX is essentially the sum total of all ‘touch and feel’ moments of an employee, through which an employee might gauge the organization’s culture and purpose”. Hence, EX determines the “first touch-points” for an employee, which might make her part of a larger mission! And in a world, where a fresher talent is as independent and confident as a Vice President, with plenty of global options to choose from (including now work from home!), best organizations want to ensure that they deliver an EX, which attracts and makes talent stick, like a talent magnet, even before a fresher joins their organization! And the parochial view of ‘EX' for employee retention will be irrelevant soon, as ‘WFH’ and ‘Gig’ workforce will give rise to multiple careers and multiple jobs in the near future. In this future, talent is going to bond with organizations basis their ‘personal and direct experiences’, that too multiple times in their careers!

Then how should organizations ensure a great EX with so many variables and possibilities? There is no single formula to this, and in a truly agile world, the EX journey is going to be an iterative and continuous endeavor. However, a guiding framework is what the organizational leaders should identify and build a strategy around it, which might need to be re-examined and re-imagined every quarter, as we get surprised by new shocks! 

A guiding EX framework for Industry 4.0, in the backdrop of the three big global disruptive factors, is articulated here. Every organization can tweak it to their context, priorities, and strategies, however, each organization will have to understand the inherent ‘multi-layered human experiences’ in the EX framework. To intuitively help understand, these multi-layered human experiences are reflected against the ‘iceberg analogy’ as depicted above:

 The iceberg analogy helps us understand the following:

  1. Above the Surface: The most visible part of EX ‘Moments that Matter’, are most obvious to implement with plenty of solutions, tools, and consultants being available but its impact is limited, sometimes its value does not even last a few minutes! Nevertheless, they are important as ‘it has instant gratification needs and effects’ and often the ‘first signs of a great EX’ in the organization.
  2. Right below the surface: Typically the operating models give genesis to EX ‘Moments that Matter’ (randomly or by design), which one ‘touches and feels’ on a longer time frame or critical employee lifecycle events. These are not easy to change or reimagine, as many successes of the past can hold back the design changes and there are tradeoffs, which leaders need to collectively agree. 
  3. Deep below the surface: The deeply entrenched beliefs and factors give rise to EX ‘Moments that Matter’ in the form of sub-conscious behaviors & instincts, structural flexibilities, and culture-defining ‘psychological experiences’. Few design principles which can help elevate EX in this ‘deep impact zone’ are depicted in the framework, and there are many more! This is a really difficult part, but organizations that can really go deep in EX design, are going to have the best chance to create exponential value irrespective of the ambiguity and unpredictability in the new world.

The organizations of Industry 4.0, depend on the ‘human capital and its potential’ more than ever with the ‘creativity now underpinning the technology waves’. The best bet for such organizations is to ‘super charge’ the top talent’ and help them to leverage their potential and creativity. EX, is the most powerful lever, which can turbo-charge employees’ emotions and brains or highly discharge them, all at scale and at personal levels!! The organizations which will be able to re-imagine the EX in a balanced approach on paradigm-shifting ‘global factors’ along with the ‘iceberg of multi-layered human experiences’, are going to be the ‘organizations of the future for Industry 4.0. 


Know more about what’s new in employee experience at the People Matters Employee Experience India Conference on 10th June, 2021. Register Now!

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Topics: Employee Relations, #EXChecklist, #PMEXConf, #EmployeeExperience

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