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The employee experience - more than an HR makeover

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How can you effectively place employee experience at the heart of your HR function? Former HR director of the BBC and founder of Disruptive HR, Lucy Adams, shares her views.

Making the employee experience the beating heart of our HR function takes more than a simple makeover. It can mean real change. Change that can encompass other areas of an organisation. For instance, borrowing from an organisation’s approach to its customer experience, and applying that to our employees, can make for really exciting results.

For me, there are four clear steps to consider if we want to redesign our HR function and put the employee experience at its heart.

  1. Articulate your brand in terms of human emotions.
  2. Describe the desired feeling you want from employees in key interactions with the organisation.
  3. Segment the experience to reflect employees’ differing needs.
  4. Design the experience.

Step 1: Articulate your brand in terms of human emotions

Defining or reaffirming what you stand for as a brand is integral to the development of your employee experience. It’s what makes the AirBnB’s rebrand of HR to employee experience so powerful. Their mission and brand is built around creating a world where you can belong anywhere. And it’s this idea of “belonging” that sits at the heart of their employee experience.

Step 2: Describe the desired feeling you want from employees in key interactions with the organisation

For the retail customer experience, the ‘moment of truth’ about an organisation may be when they enter a store, the numerous service interactions during their visit, or how their complaints are handled. Within HR, we have many more of these moments, lasting far longer. So lots more opportunity to get them right – and of course, get them badly wrong.

Time and again, we inadvertently undermine our brand by creating moments of truth for our employees that contradict our brand promise. From the fast moving tech company that sends out wads of employment policies before they join, to the insurance company who promises peace of mind but lets redundancies drag on for months. We need to focus on the promise we make to customers and ask ourselves: Is this reflected in our employees’ experience?

Step 3: Segment the experience to reflect your employees’ differing needs and types

Effective brand alignment does not necessarily mean we have to provide exactly the same experience for every employee. In the same way as consumer organisations work hard to align the expressions of their brand to their different consumer segments, we can strive to create employee experiences that vary depending on their different needs and desires. Based on different types of employees, we can offer different approaches to recruitment, performance management, development and careers – whilst remaining true to our brand promise.

Step 4: Design the experience

While many of the ‘moments of truth’ are within our gift – equally, many of them sit outside the traditional HR boundaries. Jacob Morgan states that creating a great employee experience is about getting three environments right: the cultural, the technological and the physical. With only two out of the three being within HR’s control, how can we feel confident that we have the ability to create the best possible employee experience? The response at AirBnB was to give HR responsibility for the physical environment as well as the cultural. But whilst ownership of these areas may not always be possible – or even desirable – there should at least be a stronger collaboration around the employee experience.  

By re-focusing on the actual experience at each stage of the employee life cycle, organisations can be confident about creating a more joined up and holistic employee experience. One that is greater than the sum of its HR parts. That’s driven by improved and genuine employee insight and delivered in ways that are relevant to each segment of their employee ‘market’. Now that’s an employee experience that truly represents the beating heart of the HR function.

Buy HR Disrupted

Lucy is the author of the bestseller HR Disrupted, a book packed with practical ways to innovate your approach to leading people in a disrupted world.

HR Disrupted is available on Amazon at

Lucy Adams

By Lucy Adams

Lucy is the founder of Disruptive HR and ex HR director at the BBC.

Since leaving the BBC, Lucy has been speaking, writing and helping business leaders on the issue of remaining resilient in the face of increasing scrutiny.

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