EX – Employee Experience – A new paradigm for HR and Mobility

By Chris Debner – Strategic Global Mobility Advisory

CX – What we all experience

Think of Starbucks and the friendly messages that are written on your cups, or how easy it has become to return an unwanted Amazon purchase.

If you’ve not heard of CX yet, you have certainly experienced it. CX stands for customer experience and is defined as the sum of perceptions that customers of goods and services experience during the interaction between with an organization over the duration of the relationship. We are all customers, almost constantly…

It is how we become aware, discover, cultivate, purchase and advocate for a good or service. Companies are designing the customer experience carefully to create a pleasant and meaningful experience for their customers, so that they will return and maybe even recommend the goods or services to others.

Imagine if your company could leverage this experience and apply to your employees, to become more successful.

From CX to EX – More for us to experience

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”Stephen R. Covey

EX – employee experience is translating this concept to the workplace to create higher attraction, better employer image, engagement and resulting performance and retention.

Talent Management starts to take the responsibility to create engaging and meaningful employee experiences and employees’ perceptions during the course of the entire employee life cycle.

A survey conducted by IBM of 23,000 employees in 45 countries revealed that more positive employee experiences are linked to better performance, extra effort at work, and lower turnover intentions. The key organizational practices that drove more positive employee experiences are described in the survey as organizational trust; co-worker relationships; meaningful work; recognition, feedback and growth; empowerment and voice; and work-life balance.

Think of Google or Facebook offices and how they create employee experience, the Volkswagen policy that bans e-mails after office hours or IBM offering remote working.

“The battle for the hearts and minds of employees is played out daily through their workplace experiences.” IBM Smarter Workforce Institute

As customers we are used to be offered ever increasing levels of customisation in the goods and services that we buy. The logical evolution of this is that this approach evolves into other areas, and before long, if employers cannot enable their employees to customise their employee experience, whether in career path or in benefit packages, they will lose out to those that can.

It is a shift of the perception from the traditional way of seeing the employee as a resource to seeing the employee as a customer that needs to be attracted, engaged and retained. EX is therefore not just Talent Management, or workplace design, but rather a new paradigm that should permeate all interactions that an employee experiences during the employee life cycle.

Think of onboarding processes, technology user-experiences, self-directed learning, performance management processes and company purpose among many others.

EX drives culture and performance of an organisation. An increasing amount of companies are committing to it and the number of positions offered for Employee Experience Managers are on the rise. It will be a key success factor for companies to attract, engage and retain the future workforce.

EX in Mobility – one of most significant experiences

“It is beyond a doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience.” Immanuel Kant

International assignments are undisputed to be one the most significant experiences an employee can have during his or her career. It involves their families and creates great learning and developmental opportunities when living and working in other cultural contexts, but also creates risks of life stress, family separation, and reintegration risk on repatriation.

Imagine that you were in a position to create an employee experience where the vast majority of your assignees would be engaged performers who can be retained after their assignments.

The EX focus needs to be brought into mobility management. Many Mobility functions are still stuck in the paradigm that is all about administration and compliance. Compliance should be perceived for what it really is, a hygiene factor that has absolutely no power to create a positive experience for the employee. Only the absence of compliance has the potential to make employees unhappy. Learn more about it in my article Compliance – A hygiene factor.

Think of a filed tax return, a granted work permit or a kidnapping training.

Mobility management is slowly realizing their real purpose: To create a meaningful and engaging, stress free experience for employees and their families when they are being sent on an assignment.

The focus in Mobility also needs to shift to the paradigm of EX – employee experience.

EX in Mobility – how to

A good start would be to take a close look at all the interactions that an employee (and even their families) experience before, during and after an assignment. Look at how positive experiences look like and how negative perceptions are created. Besides your assignees and their families, you will realize that many of your stakeholders (business, talent management) are also employees that experience the way you conduct your business. And do not forget about the many external providers that you use, who interact with your employees and create EX.

If you are not able to come up with negative and positive experiences ask your stakeholders, they will be happy to tell you all about it.

The next step of this exercise is to consider what you can do to minimize or eliminate the identified negative employee experiences and to look for ways to create more of the positive ones, so that they can more effectively deliver on their new professional responsibilities when abroad.

A nice example comes from a large e-commerce company who lists all former assignees in a database as possible mentors for future assignees. This gives the former assignees a meaningful experience when sharing what they learned on their assignments and the future assignees a great way to prepare for the challenges lying ahead, benefiting from the support of employees who mastered the challenges.

Another example I came across, is a European material science company which focusses on the enhancement of the interaction between the business and mobility. The process was re-designed to create a meaningful communication between the two sides, where expectations from both sides were openly shared and a better understanding achieved.

There are many more examples out there and you can likely think of some that you witnessed yourself, when a change effort results in a better employee experience.

EX – the new paradigm for HR

To conclude, EX is the new paradigm that HR has to adapt for it is one of the most meaningful contributions to their companies success, when the right workforce can be attracted, engaged and retained. The leading companies are adopting the new paradigm, and those that don’t will fall behind. Mobility departments, being in charge of one of the most meaningful experiences in an employee’s career, need to shift their perception from compliance to their real purpose – the creation of meaningful and positive experiences for their assignees.