Early results from 200+ Companies in our global EX survey

At KennedyFitch, we are pleased to announce our global Employee Experience (EX) Study, with the objective to create a comprehensive Employee Experience playbook. By collecting insights from over 200 companies worldwide, we’ve explored how companies are building and measuring EX, the challenges they face, the leadership roles they’ve created, supporting technologies, and more, to help all leaders develop employee-centric organizations. Read on to sample some of our initial findings, and be sure to watch for our final report that will feature interviews with EX leaders at GE, AirBnB and others.

Why is Employee Experience important?

Employee Experience is capturing the attention of organizations around the globe.

We found that 68% of surveyed HR leaders believe that EX is important or very important to their organization, and 88% believe that EX will become more important in the next 1-2 years. Early findings show this trend is independent of company size—whether they have 500 or 50,000+ employees.

One reason why EX is so important is that the financial impact is clear. Harvard Business Review reports: “…companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share.”[1] Therefore, a thoughtfully designed Employee Experience directly affects the bottom-line.

Our 200+ responding companies say their top 3 reasons for building EX are:

1-    Business Growth & Engagement (tied)

2-    Creating Competitive Advantage

3-    Productivity

EX also has the potential to revolutionize the way people work. A study published by IBM reports that employees with EX Index scores in the top quartile are “more likely to report high levels of work performance than those whose scores are in the bottom quartile.”[2] The same study also found that employees are almost twice as likely to report having performed duties outside of their job requirements, known as discretionary effort, when they have positive experiences at work. Turnover rates decrease when employees have great work experiences. Indeed, many companies we spoke to measure turnover rates as a KPI of EX.

These studies illustrate that developing an Employee Experience increases revenue, improves performance, decreases turnover rates, and merits further research. The purpose of our EX study therefore is to help companies develop an EX Playbook to impact business growth and performance.

What is Employee Experience?

Employee Experience is often confused with Engagement. Employee Engagement Survey companies are chief promoters of this idea. But in the companies we interviewed, Employee Experience is much more. GE defines Employee Experience as ‘Enabling our people to do the best work of their lives through moments that matter’. Cisco, Deloitte, LinkedIn, Pixar, and AirBnB use similar definitions for Employee Experience.

The best, most advanced EX companies talk about using Design Thinking and how they’ve transformed their culture to bring ideas from the outside in and bottom up – from employees themselves. We’ve gotten used to HR coming up with all the answers and ‘cascading’ new programs top down to the rest of the organization. HR has become quite regimented and formulaic, driven at least in part by large consultancies who want to introduce large scale projects with one-size-fits all thinking and processes for Talent. This shift to outside in and Design Thinking is perhaps the most significant change and characteristic of building EX.

Leading EX companies we’ve talked to, say they customize the experience by constantly listening to and observing employees. They create ‘Journey Maps’ and analyze where there are opportunities to prototype and redesign the way people work. GE’s Head of Employee Experience, Paul Davies, says they’ve designed for 4 Critical Experiences. They’ve used Personas, Design Thinking, and Story Boards to create Employee Journeys. Paul says, ‘We don’t’ go an hour without using one of these. We went back and asked our candidates what mattered to them, listened to their stories, and listened especially for emotions.’

In this sense, EX is much like its sister CX – the Customer Experience. Some companies such as Adobe, combine the EX and CX in a single lead role and team. CX has also been linked to companies performing well above market levels[3].

What are the roadblocks?

Although many HR leaders understand the importance of EX, only 6% of respondents feel that their organizations have made significant progress in building EX at their organizations. That startlingly low number shows how disparate the intent and the reality are for many companies.

When asked about the biggest challenges respondents face while building up EX initiatives, the largest number – 37% – reported a lack of support from leadership, closely followed by a need to transform the culture at 31%. Limited budget and lack of internal expertise were consistently ranked as less important than challenges presented by leadership and culture. Contrary to assumption, companies aren’t lacking the resources but the mindset.

What do organizations need to do?

More experienced EX companies listen on all channels. They use Hackathons, Surveys, Focus Groups, Candidate Interviews, Feedback Apps, etc. to create holistic EX Journeys. One startup we spoke to integrates EX insights (e.g. pain points) right into their project workflow maps so they can leverage insights to speed up and improve results.

Technology has driven and enabled the move towards EX. Many companies are using new Digital feedback tools to create ongoing communication. GE developed a productivity app that pushes notifications to managers that makes them aware of Moments That Matter and gives them advice on how to act. ‘Digitalization’ for these companies means using technology to understand and improve the Employee Experience.

Successful EX companies recognized they needed a complete Transformation in the way they think and work to enact EX changes. The aforementioned roadblocks of Culture and Leadership Mindset underscore that need. They focus on how to reset the thinking of their managers. They make the use of Analytics and constant feedback the norm, and base all design decisions from data.

It is significant that more than half of respondents have developed new roles to support EX efforts. Leading EX companies ensure that EX responsibilities are held by senior leaders. 21% of all companies surveyed have already created new EX roles in the Talent Center of Excellence in a position that reports directly to the CHRO. We expect this number will grow rapidly in the next few years. Many companies, such as EX Pioneer AirBnB, Adobe and many startups, have a ‘Head of Employee Experience’ in place of the traditional ‘CHRO’.

HR is undergoing a revolution as organizations are supporting EX responsibilities by creating teams with new capabilities and learn how to use technology. These teams are interdisciplinary, involving roles such as Data Analytics, and have shifted from thinking in terms of ‘Programs’ such as classic L&D to Journeys e.g. Head of ‘Development Experience’, which integrates several disciplines.


Successful EX implementation requires that HR think more like Marketing, and that organizations listen to employees in the same way they listen to customers. We are dealing with holistic journeys more than engagement and need a robust transformation to address culture and mindset. The way to build EX is to customize to your organizational context through use of design thinking and from the outside in.

This blog is a sampling of our results – we have many more insights to share and invite you to participate in our survey where you will have access to our EX and CX Resources Page and can sign up for the full EX Report and Playbook – to come out in Mid September.

To participate in our survey, please go to: https://qpartnerdev.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9yFFJYmIDTcNPb7

[1] https://hbr.org/2016/12/design-your-employee-experience-as-thoughtfully-as-you-design-your-customer-experience

[2] http://www.globoforce.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/The_Employee_Experience_Index.pdf

[3] http://www.netpromotersystem.com/about/how-is-nps-related-to-growth.aspx