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Book Review: The Employee Experience Advantage by Jacob Morgan

In today’s business world, experiential organizations are far and away the most successful when measured by almost every metric. The key to their success is that they provide their employees with optimal physical, technological and cultural workplace environments. These environments, in turn, are fine-tuned by infinite design loops, fueled by a focus on teamwork and driven by a strong sense of purpose, which provides an experiential organization with its reason for being.

This in a nutshell the summary of the book by Jacob Morgan. His focus on Experience descends from one of the key ideas of the book: the recent business focus on employee engagement has not exactly led anywhere. He maintains that relevant statistics, for example engagement as measured by the Gallup Institute is stalling. Instead he proposes that organisations focusing on employee experience rather than employee engagement have an actual competitive advantage. Experience, in his view, requires a more holistic, all encompassing view of work than ‘mere’ engagement.

Fig 1.: The Employee Experience Equation

Through a number of interviews with HR leaders, he has established a scorecard of 17 factors, grouped into three different domains of influence:

  • Physical Space: When designing their workplaces, organizations often forget that their physical environments have to reflect their core values. A failure to remember this fact can spell disaster when you’re trying to create an optimal employee experience. 
  • Technology: Too often, internal technologies are geared towards IT professionals, resulting in clunky and confusing interfaces. You should avoid these by investing in consumer-grade technology: tools that are so well designed that ordinary people would be happy to use them in their personal lives.
  • Culture: The physical and technological environments are simple enough to understand. After all, you can touch them and see them. But the cultural environment is more intangible. You feel it on an emotional level. It leaves you with that pit-in-your-stomach feeling when you don’t want to go to work –  or that thrill you feel on Monday mornings when you do! Either way, your organization already has a cultural environment, and it has a huge impact on how your employees feel about their jobs. 

He has then ranked more than 250 organisations on these factors, developing the Employee Experience Index available online.

The criteria used to evaluate the three dimensions are very interesting. Let’s start with culture: the author identifies Teamwork as the key way to ensure a strong culture. Strive to make all of your employees feel like they’re part of a valuable team, and results will follow. A second identified element is Purpose: if you try to actively show to your employees the direct impact of all the hard work they do, and are then able to connect this work back to your organization’s core values, the results can be astounding.

The second element is around Technology. here the idea is simple: as people are more and more acquainted with consumer technology at home, they will use that to measure all applications that the company offers. Anything that increases complexity at work is judged negatively. The answer is to involve users in the choice of technology, avoiding the continuing dropping of new tools, and investing instead time on adoption.

The third element is Physical Space, which often is overlooked in many experience analysis. However the time spent in the workplace means that a big part of our experience is linked to the way the space is designed and “fits” our lives. The author fails to really address the design of spaces, but allows some good insights on work flexibility and workplace attributes.

I believe that this book has had the important virtue of being the first to frame a logical concept of experience grounded in physical and not just cultural terms. And has also built a strong link with the way individuals perceive their working experience and the results of a company.

The challenge we have to overcome today is hot to shift our relationship with work from feeling like a physical purchase, where satisfaction starts to decline over time, to an investment in an experience, where our satisfaction increases over time.

Jacob Morgan, The Employee Experience Advantage, pag. XIX

In the remainder of the book Morgan identifies a number of important elements required to intentionally design good employees experiences. I have already covered most of these elements in the recent post on Design Thinking. The main concept is the identification of Moments that Matter, which in the author intention is the change of perspective from Lifecycles (which employees don’t really understand) to identify what really matters for the individuals. The second vital concept is that Employee Experience is not just an HR problem. HR can be a strong contributor in the design process, but it is everyones responsibility to champion the concept within the organisation. Managers need to create a culture of open feedback, and employees need to be open and honest about what works and what doesn’t, to create positive circles of influence.

A really good start for any HR and manager that wants to understand Employee Experience in the best possible way.

Ask yourself, “If I could bottle up what it’s like to work at my organization and turn it into pill-form right now, would I swallow it?” If the answer is no, then ask your colleagues the same question. If they feel the same as you, speak up and instigate the requisite change. 

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I am an experienced and innovative HR professional dedicated in improving the way organizations achieve results through their people. Over the years I have worked on many projects in different HR domains, gaining a deep understanding of all key HR processes, from Talent Management to Recruiting, from Organizational Design to Leadership Development, from HR Transformation to HR & Payroll Systems implementation at International level. Working with Fashion Brands, leading retailer as well as, through consulting, international brands in industries like Banking, Manufacturing, Professional Services at both Headquarter and local level. Last but not least I consider myself an eclectic and creative personality, with many interests ranging from technology to arts and poetry.

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