Three Pillars of the Employee Experience

Susan Lovegren, SVP, Human Resources, Juniper Networks
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Susan Lovegren, SVP, Human Resources, Juniper Networks

Conversations for how to create the perfect “employee experience”are taking place across industries, driven by the increased competition for talent and attempts to respond to the changing expectations of the workforce. While reimaging the employee experience can be intellectually interesting, making traction is another matter. It requires consideration of the intersection between culture, technology, and space.

Culture

Culture is essentially a set of common assumptions, values and beliefs, which influence how people behave within a system. For a company, this includes the vision, norms and symbols. In other words, it’s the behaviors and actions that keep individuals from getting “voted off the island.” Organizational culture is foundational in making design decisions. While this may be stating the obvious, this cannot be emphasized enough.  Suppose you want an employee experience that empowers people to innovate. As a starting point, look closely at the management practices within your organization. How much control and choice does the employee have? Are they invited to participate in decisions that impact their work?  Are there formal or informal practices that drive or hinder creativity?  

Every touch point an employee has within an organization becomes the “experience,” good or bad. If the employee experience you are seeking involves seamless onboarding, then being intentional about what you want a new hire to do, feel and believe must go beyond the “welcome portal” consisting of, albeit important, direct deposit and 401K elections. But more importantly, the culture itself must be invested in the success of new talent and play an active role in integrating all people into the system.  How welcoming are people in your organization?  Do they easily share information to enable other’s success? In another case, let’s say you want an employee experience that values diversity in all its forms.  Then look at how “inclusive” your practices are. Do you invest in leadership development that makes leaders self-aware of unconscious biases?

  Relying on culture, aligned with a beautifully architected employee experience, is just not enough 

Technology 

Relying on culture, aligned with a beautifully architected employee experience, is just not enough. Combining technology decisions with culture is the second necessary pillar in achieving an employee experience that not only satisfies, if done well, but increases performance. Let’s go back to culture for a moment.  Say you want people to work on global teams and the only collaboration tool you have is email. The odds of your people believing in your commitment to teamwork has just been diminished.  The interaction between people and technology within organizations is such an integral part of the employee experience, yet HR and IT departments remain siloed in most organizations with not much interference in each other’s agendas. With an increase in Bring Your Own Devices, (BYOD) to work policies, each person is independently creating a system that works for him or her to get work done.  However, without wide adoption of common collaboration tools, achieving results at scale becomes plodding, further eroding the employee experience.  

In today’s social enterprise environments, effective collaboration tools have much more impact on the employee experience than ever before.  Whether it’s sharing information, getting real-time feedback, assembling a meeting, or checking in to say “hi,” it has significant impact on the engagement of employees.  Based on numerous employee surveys, “Effective Tools and Resources”, often scores at the bottom, highlighting the need to address this demand.

Not only does there need to be alignment and integration around technology decisions but the change management required to successfully implement new ways of working cannot be done in a vacuum.  Transforming the employee experience is truly the trifecta of HR, IT and Workplace Services.  

Space

We do know that much of the employee experience is enhanced by collaboration, control and choice. If the culture and technology supports these themes, then why do we need to consider the third pillar, physical space? The physical workspace impacts not only the employee experience but the customer’s as they are often intertwined. Let’s go back to the earlier comments on culture. If a culture of innovation is desired, oftentimes there is a good amount of co-creation and collaboration occurring. Technology can enhance that experience but physically coming together in a space that is conducive to creativity often pulls people together. Natural light, bright colors, multiple-height furniture, whimsical objects, standing and sitting options, acoustics management and tactile materials, are all part of the physical surroundings that enhance the employee experience. Creating pathways for serendipitous encounters reinforces the underlying goal of collaboration further. At the same time, innovation requires “quiet time” for deeper thinking and reflection. Focus rooms and outdoor space with natural elements such as fragrant trees, plants, community gardens, ponds, walking paths, and benches provide additional options  to enable a more holistic experience.  

The amalgamation of culture, technology and space is necessary in creating a great employee experience, yet is often overlooked. This is somewhat due to traditional business models that have existed for years and shaped the paradigms and organizational blueprints we have grown accustomed to. With the transformation of what work is and how it is done, it is essential to understand the interdependencies required to be effective in any endeavor, especially when it comes to people operating within one system. While every company is unique and there are many other elements to be considered in creating a fantastic employee experience, starting with the trio approach may reveal some new and exciting possibilities!

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