Global EX Study: Creating a New Kind of DNA for Organizations

Creating a New Kind of DNA for Organizations – New EX Roles and Capabilities

We are one week into our 3rd Annual Global Employee Experience (EX) Survey and want to share some early results with you about the kinds of new capabilities companies are building. One of the features of leading EX companies is that they really change the DNA of the way they work and they don’t merely use the term ‘Employee Experience’ to re-label what they’ve been doing all along to build Engagement, or people programs. They go beyond HR and HR processes, recognizing that the CX of HR is less relevant to their people.

There has been an explosion in EX roles – with thousands of new people starting EX-related jobs since mid 2017. We would estimate 90% of people now in EX roles began after that date.

To understand how EX is being done, We split our Global Study in 2 parts:

  • We are surveying HR professionals worldwide to get a clear picture of the importance of EX, where people are in the spectrum of building EX, what kinds of roles they are building, who they are working with, how they measure EX impact, key insights, etc. We invite you to take the survey here.
  • We are also interviewing leading companies to go much deeper into how they are creating EX and changing the DNA of their organizations. In this latter group are organizations e.g. LinkedIn, Walmart, ING, ABN Amro, Facebook and others. In previous years, we did case studies on Airbnb, GE, IBM, Virgin, Vodafone, ABN Amro and others.

Companies participating in our survey mentioned they are creating most often the following 5 main areas of new capabilities within HR (with sub-roles also cited):

Human Centered Design and Design Thinking

  • Designers
  • Design Thinking process and planning
  • Service Design
  • Planning and design of Personas, Journey Maps

People Analytics

  • Journey Analytics
  • Emotion Analysts
  • EX Survey Design


  • Product Owner
  • Marketing Systems
  • Branding and EX skills for BP’s

Digital Strategy

  • App Developers
  • EX Service Portal
  • Continuous Feedback tools

Agile Teams

  • Scrum Masters
  • Agile Coaches
  • EX Innovation Lab

Organizations who report these new capabilities also talk about how they often move or borrow these capabilities from existing roles elsewhere in their organization e.g. from Customer Marketing, Analytics, CX, etc. KBC Bank borrowed whole concepts from their consumer digital apps to create employee apps that help colleagues navigate the organization, set up meetings, etc.

Companies are also bringing in outside talent in these capability areas and dealing with the challenge of hiring tech talent into cultures not known for ‘cool tech’. One of these was Frank van den Brink, of ABN Amro, who talks about the difficulty of attracting tech talent to work in banking. They overcame this by inviting tech talent to play in an Escape Room they created, as part the recruiting process.

There is also the challenge of getting these new roles to be accepted by and work successfully with existing HR and CoE’s, who often have no clue about how these roles work, what they can offer and who may feel threatened.


What this means overall:

Real EX brings disruption. Companies who implement EX radically change the traditional CoE model of the past 25 years. Most CoE’s work as silo’s, with CoE leaders and team members that work top-down, often bringing expertise from outside the organization – from consultants or another company where they worked. It is far more relevant today to discover ‘What works here’. This is the purpose of creating Personas, Journey Maps and working in Agile teams with End Users to quickly prototype pinpoint solutions for everything from Rewards to Learning.

Impactful/Sustainable EX = DNA Change. You need to build and/or buy new talent and completely change the way of working, not only in HR but also across the organization. Your HR organization should look and act like a great Consumer Marketing division. The new ‘power bloc’ in HR is in Human-Centered Design, Marketing, Analytics, and Digital – all working together. Agile is using Agile frameworks that involve the End User in the ideation and prototyping of Wow Moments that Matter – Wow! MTM’s.

Focus on creating Organizational Empathy. The whole point of listening, creating personas, mapping current journeys and involving the End User in prototyping and testing is to understand ‘What it feels like to work here’. Only when we do that, can we know what and how to improve. That focus should drive our prioritization of projects, our budget process and where we put resources.

Go Beyond HR. People don’t join a company because they have great HR and they don’t leave for bad HR. Let’s move beyond mapping Lifecycle and HR process touchpoints to seeing EX from the worker perspective. Our study of MTM’s (coming in a later post) shows that interaction with the boss and team, and support for critical Life Moments matter far more.

This is an exciting and pivotal time for HR and for organizations who commit to building new roles and completely new ways of working. Our goal in the end is to bring business impact and results by focusing on the Human Experience.

Where you can learn more – we invite you to check out our EX Leader Network for live events, connections and more ‘EX Stories’. 

Elliott Nelson leads the EX practice at KennedyFitch. He researches, writes and coaches on EX-Centric Transformations and building new Agile ways of working. He founded the EX Leaders Network and is a former head of Talent and Transformation at Pfizer, AzkzoNobel, Novartis, Fujitsu-Siemens Computers and Compaq.

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