Employee Experience or the Customer Experience of HR?

How well we take on the perspective of our colleagues in our design of EX determines its ultimate impact.

One of the key threats or challenges to Employee Experience (EX) is the tendency to see the way people experience our organizations through a narrow HR lens. The danger exists in the sense that framing EX as the ‘Customer Experience of HR’ and using HR jargon and frameworks will limit what we create and offer our employees and will keep EX as an ‘HR initiative’.

It is quite natural to hang on to old perspectives and the words we use to describe them. When we think of the word ‘dashboard’ we think of something we see in an automobile. But the word dashboard originally described a barrier of wood or leather fixed at the front of a horse-drawn carriage or sleigh to protect the driver from mud or other debris “dashed up” (thrown up) by the horses’ hooves. A misplaced word from another time and perspective.

How we describe something really does matter. One of the most critical things we need to do in EX and Design Thinking is to empathize and take the perspective of our colleagues and not of our own way of seeing things. We see EX perpetuating an HR point-of-view in a number of ways:

  • Many companies have Employee Journeys that correspond with and even use the same language as their Employee Lifecycle e.g. ‘Recruiting’, ‘Onboarding’, ‘Performance Management’, ‘Career Development’, ‘Succession Management’, etc. In reality, employees don’t follow a predictable lifecycle pattern and the whole idea of lifecycles has been disrupted.
  • Within these journeys the touchpoints or ‘Moments that Matter’ also include language that is about HR Services. This may be how HR (or HRIT) would describe things, but not really how the employee sees their experience.
  • Some organizations have used HR people as stand-ins for non HR employees in Design Thinking and Journey Mapping exercises, which distorts the real perspective
  • EX is driven primarily by HR and HR teams without involving other functions e.g. Marketing, Communications, Facilities, IT, etc.
  • EX reports into HR, sometimes into a Talent or Engagement CoE without connections to other parts of the business.

The reality is that people really don’t interact with HR all that much in their day-to-day work. We care far more about our daily interaction with bosses, teams and travel policy. Work is part of life which has much greater Moments e.g. becoming a parent, losing a parent or partner, chronic illness, acquiring new skills or education. Even specific HR-run processes like ‘Performance Management’ happen as people need guidance or information about how to do a specific task, and the interaction with their manager setting or updating goals in a system is only one part of that.

In our new study, we found that while companies initially focused on journeys in Employee Lifecycle and HR services, EX leaders feel strongly that EX extends far beyond the sightlines of HR. They recognize the touchpoints with HR solutions is a fraction of the daily interaction with the organization.

Olivier Dubuisson, Head of EX at BP says, “As we started the transformation program within HR, we were struggling with what to call these employee journeys – the old nomenclature is centered around the employee lifecycle. But we realized this was using HR jargon. It’s not the way employees talk about their experience.”

The biggest change we see this year compared to last year is the growing number of non Employee-Lifecycle, non HR-related journeys. This is an important development as one of the biggest challenges with EX is seeing the organization through the eyes of the worker and not through the eyes of HR. It simply doesn’t work to try to have HR people represent how the end-user thinks or feels. In Design Thinking sessions, HR people frequently categorize employee needs with HR solutions, rather than simply listening.

To paraphrase Jake Sorofman, speaking about the same problem on the CX side: “What we often are really doing is documenting HR processes and calling them an ‘Employee Journey Map’. When HR people put themselves in their colleague’s shoes and try to imagine their experiences, it typically results in an imaginary journey that fails to reflect the variety of real-world paths their colleagues actually take.”

Marketing can be a catalyst and organizer of CX, but it doesn’t ‘own’ the Customer Experience any more than any other function. In the same way, HR can be the catalyst and instigator or caretaker for EX, but it has no exclusive ownership. That needs to be shared across the organization.

I often ask line and HR people to think about the percent of their day or week that they interact with HR. Most often them will say less than 10%. Why then do we describe so many Employee Journeys in terms of HR interactions e.g. Recruiting, Performance Management, Career Development, Learning, etc.? We spend far more time interacting with our project teams, our bosses, and customers.

  • BP lists 16 different ‘Moments That Matter’ including several that center on important life events e.g.‘Becoming a Parent’ and ‘Personal Difficulties’. These are significant because they require the support of the workplace and have a high emotional link.
  • Vodafone developed 16 different EX journeys – working across functions to deliver across the entire spectrum of EX, with end to end thinking, moving beyond HR Services and Employee Life Cycle and looking at the holistic User Experience. ‘Remote Working’ is a journey, which is quite relevant, with over 10,000 of their employees working remote.
  • Enel, a multinational energy company and one of the world’s leading integrated electricity and gas operators working in 35 countries across 5 continents, has identified 17 employee journeys, including several that go beyond HR-related areas to service oriented Employee Journeys as Work Travel, Expat Life and IT Support.
  • Other non-HR Journeys we’ve noted in our studies include Project Work, Work-Life Balance, Customer Engagement, Typical Workday, Team Work, etc.

We encourage EX Leaders working on Journeys to do the following to ensure they accurately capture the User Experience and more importantly, that they are solving the right problem and not just a symptom:

  • Before you capture as-is Journeys, spend time observing and interviewing employees in their natural work setting (not a workshop). Matt Willden, former Head of EX at Amazon Shared Services, brought in global HR execs every month to see firsthand what the EX is like in their HR Service Centers. They listened to calls, ticketing, and saw how mindbogglingly unique the needs are (Call Centers are ‘Target Rich’ for creating positive EX, and jointly addressing CX and EX).
  • Let employees talk naturally about their experiences. Acknowledge and reflect what you hear without using HR jargon – use their words.
  • Observe and analyze where people spend their time and note when they have greatest emotional impact – both positive and negative. Olivier DuBuisson at BP created a Voice of the Customer group, with 300 people across BP, who shared their insights. They conducted shadowing, interviews and one-on-one meetings with this group. From that information, BP created personas and journeys.
  • Don’t introduce traditional Employee Lifecycle stages as ‘Journeys’ but rather let the broader Journeys include Lifecycle elements in their context e.g. Performance Management and Career Development aren’t themselves ‘journey’s but rather a part of moments where workers seek various kinds of support to solve particular problems
  • In workshop settings, avoid talking about programs, processes or other solutions in response to when people describe problems to be solved. You want to first acknowledge pain points and understand problems to be solved. It is most helpful to frame problems in terms of questions.
  • Many companies doing EX have created a coalition of all the functions that touch EX – extending beyond HR to include Marketing/Branding, IT, Communications, Facilities, Events, etc. Involving these people on your EX team will help you broaden your perspective on Journeys beyond HR and HRIT.

Remember that EX is not about HR Process Improvement or the CX of HR – it’s much bigger than HR or any one function, and more about the holistic interaction people have with the organization. How well we mirror and take on the perspective and emotions of our colleagues, will determine the impact of our EX design.

Share This

Copy Link to Clipboard