The thing about the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s at once a common, global experience and an entirely individual one. While the disease itself is the same no matter where you live (more or less), our unique personal circumstances mean that we all experience the challenges of 2020 differently.

The same goes in the workplace. Some employees may be energised by the crisis, some may find themselves with free time to fill. Others may be deeply stressed and overwhelmed by personal demands. And which category an individual falls into will likely change day to day. The pandemic has revealed how important it is to consider and adapt to each individual’s experience, particularly when it comes to how people feel about their personal situation .

Adopting a Human Experience Management (HXM) approach can help and is increasingly being recognised as critical at any time – an organisation’s competitive advantage and ability to maintain business performance remains very much dependent on its workforce. It means making zero assumptions about how people are experiencing the COVID crisis – or any aspect of work or life – and then listening and addressing the concerns and challenges faced by these employees.

How well you do this will determine your organisation’s success – pandemic or otherwise.

Putting the employee in employee experience

Employee experience (EX) is the core guiding principle behind HXM. At the same time, it is the means through which HXM is delivered, so understanding EX is fundamental to successful HXM.

The first and most important aspect of understanding EX, is that it’s not one-size-fits-all. Whether it's differences in generation (age), stage of life, job level, function, or other characteristics, Korn Ferry's research shows that different groups of people express different values and are motivated by different drivers.

Tailored EX is required: Korn Ferry's research shows that different groups of people express different values and are motivated by different drivers. Click To Tweet

This plays out in what we term ‘experience gaps’. For example, our research shows that while 63% of white-collar employees think feedback helps performance, only 49% of blue-collar workers agree. In another example, 90% of c-suite executives rate their company as a great place to work and 70% of employees feel the same.

The work then is to understand where experience gaps exist and to act on closing them to achieve impact. A great place to start is to identify key groups of employees that are vital to the business' performance and to understand what their needs are, including through manager-led dialogue, task force teams, focus group sessions and surveys.

Putting the experience in Human Experience Management

Understanding EX acknowledges diversity and communicates to employees how the organisation is responding to meet employees' needs. But traditional HR management practices (HCM) aren’t fit for purpose in actioning this understanding.

HCM typically isn’t optimised to meet employee expectations or fully unleash their potential. The reason for this lies in HCM’s very nature: a non-people-centric, top-down, series of HR processes and systems. In short, employees are seen as resources, not as dynamic, evolving individuals.

HCM is fundamentally transaction-focused, and neither its systems nor processes have been designed to capture, evaluate, or act on employee experiences or expectations, let alone empower people. These are the very things that can be a deciding factor in the extent to which employees choose to unleash their discretionary energy and drive organisational performance.

This is not to say all HCM practices should be thrown out. HXM truly is the evolution of HCM – it takes the insights that HCM data offers, mining them to create a more respectful and nuanced relationship between the organisation and its people. HXM makes the connections that HCM leaves on the table, bringing together human motivation, awareness, decision-making and leadership behaviours to accelerate performance.

Five steps to close the experience gap

Organisations need to strive to create experiences that energise employees to perform in a way that's needed (based on business priorities) while simultaneously supporting them in getting things done, connecting with others and finding fulfillment in what they do at work. These five steps will help your organisation design and implement an innovative EX program that drives alignment and change.

  1. Plan: Understand your organisation’s unique attributes, including your operating model, employee profile mix and culture. These are the critical inputs for your EX journey.
  2. Design: Build the key elements of your program, including governance, listening cadence, reporting, communications and manager enablement.
  3. Listen: Gather feedback through multiple touchpoints, including pulse surveys, exit interviews, and leaver analytics.
  4. Understand: Identify critical experience gaps and pinpoint root causes, as well as surfacing demographic variances using robust benchmarks. Critically, establish feedback loops to build trust and show listening is being converted to understanding.
  5. Act: Deploy solutions to address experience gaps while redeploying feedback loops to understand where shifts are happening and where further work is needed.

Want to learn more about creating better employee experiences?

Q&A: Our experts answer the top five HXM questions asked in our recent employee engagement webinar. 

1. In the current global recession where we are seeing massive lay-offs, is EXM still important to leaders? They may feel that EXM is not a priority if the business is in survival mode.

EXM is important especially in times of change and disruption. In many companies, your competitive advantage and ability to maintain business performance is very much dependent on your workforce. How you listen to your people and address the concerns and challenges of your employees will determine how successful you are during such times. EXM helps you to gather the insight that is required to effectively address those challenges and concerns. EXM is an enabler of business performance

2. What is the top challenge in creating good employee experience?

We find that this generally changes from organisation to organisation. In saying that, quite often the challenge is in ensuring a satisfactory employee experience for every employee. Given the nature of our workforces these days, with multiple generations that have varied expectations, it can be challenging to cater to all the differences. This is further complicated by the culture within each organisation - there isn’t usually one aligned way things are done within an organisation

3. Most companies have multi-generation workforce and they have different needs and experiences. In your view, how does a company manage that?

Managing a diverse employee population can be difficult. Whether it's differences in generation (age), stage of life, job level, function, or other characteristics - Korn Ferry's research shows that different groups of people differentiate in what they value and what is driving their motivation and discretionary efforts at work.

To respond to this reality, we recommend for organisations to identify groups of employees that are vital to the business' performance and understand what their needs are. Understanding can be gained for example through dialogues led by managers, through task force teams, focus group sessions or by conducting a survey that allows for quantitative analysis on drivers for a positive employee experience and comparison between groups.

With a proper understanding of what is driving behaviours of different groups in the organisation, one is able to design a people strategy that's covering needs in general, or to be flexible in offering elements of the people strategy to specific groups in the organisation. Either way, it's important for organisations to show that they acknowledge diversity and communicate to employees how the organisation is responding to meet employees' needs

4. HR strategy vs people strategy, could you explain more the differences?

A human resources strategy is linked to Human Capital Management (HCM): it's about having the right set of HR practices in place to best support the Business Strategy. It's about policies and processes on recruitment and selection, rewards and benefits, training and development, performance management, talent management, etc. HCM is not necessarily optimised to meet employee expectations or fully unleash their potential. The reason for this lies in HCM’s very nature: a non-people-centric, top-down, series of HR processes and systems that views people as assets. HCM is fundamentally transaction-focused, and neither its systems nor processes have ever been really designed to capture, evaluate, or act on employee experiences or expectations and empower people—the very things that can be a deciding factor in the extent to which employees choose to unleash their discretionary energy and drive organizational performance.

A people strategy is about building policies and processes that drive desired human behaviours and performance. Through Human Experience Management (HXM), it's taking into account the employees' perspective and needs while creating an environment that will align behaviours with organisational priorities and goals.

When the HR strategy, people strategy and business strategy are all aligned this will lead to superior business performance.

5. How to create experiences that encourage 'engagement every day'?

Organisations need to strive to create experiences that energise employees to perform (based on business priorities) while simultaneously supporting them in getting things done, connecting with others and finding fulfillment in what they do at work.  In an environment where employees  can see and understand the impact of their work, where they are empowered to make decisions and feel listened to, and where the right behaviours are encouraged and rewarded, engagement and discretionary effort from employees becomes a natural occurrence.

CONTRIBUTORS:

Nadhisha Piyasena, Client Director,
Korn Ferry
Judith van Delft, Associate Principal,
Korn Ferry
Francois Paugam, Delivery Team Leader,
Korn Ferry
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About Contributor

Nadhisha Piyasena is a Senior Client Director for Korn Ferry Advisory, Australia. He works with clients to solve people challenges that get in the way of business performance. He focuses on thinking broadly, commercially, and critically to provide evidence-based and practical solutions that add noticeable value to organisations in the areas of leadership development, employee engagement and talent management.

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