VXWT #7 Optimizing employee experience requires a holistic perspective on the organization

VXWT #7 Optimizing employee experience requires a holistic perspective on the organization

During what was already the seventh excursion of the Virtual 9+ Experience World Tour, the floor was taken by Elliott Nelson, founder and Chief HX Officer of HXTransforma. This renowned international advisor in the field of Employee Experience has already served as a consultant to dozens of leading multinational companies for the optimization of their Employee Journeys – from onboarding to offboarding and everything in between. “We want to fall in love with the problem.”

After briefly introducing himself and his company, Nelson started by explaining why, in his opinion, the term “Human Experience” (HX) is more suitable than “Employee Experience” (EX). “We want to emphasize that we are Human Beings – each one amazing and unique. To me, the word ‘employee’ sounds a bit ‘old school’ and is reminiscent of the time when ‘Human Resources’ meant that the company ‘owned’ us. Apart from that, many valuable workers in a today’s organizations are contract workers. The term EX does not adequately cover the meaning for a professional field where human emotions are so decisive. That’s why I prefer HX.”

Nelson’s explanation was followed by a sketch of the enormous scope of today’s EX Journeys. Although these terms are still primarily in use for “classic” themes such as onboarding, performance management, and the physical and digital working environment, more progressive organizations tend to use them more frequently for optimizing the experience of more “emotionally charged” aspects, such as personal growth, retirement, and finding a better work/home balance in a hybrid working environment. Nelson pointed out that training your gaze beyond the horizon of your own organization can certainly be worth your while.

General Electric, for example, commissioned a study into the journeys of rejected job applicants (of which there are hundreds of thousands every year), based on the idea that these people could all be either potential employees and/or current customers of GE. And, following a large-scale reorganization, ABN Amro allocated a chunk of its budget to optimizing the journeys of employees who were being laid off with a view to retaining them as “ambassadors” of the bank.

Nelson proceeded by speaking extensively about the HX Playbook & Toolkit used by HXTransforma for mapping Journeys. The process is founded on three pillars: Design Thinking & Service Design, Analytics, and Agile. The first pillar serves to identify the right problem (or problems) and the context in which this problem (or these problems) needs to be resolved. Nelson: “We want to ‘fall in love with the problem’.” The purpose of Analytics is to gain deeper insights into the “why” and the “what” in order to get a better grasp on everything going on in relation to the problem and understand the impact it has on the people concerned. Agile focuses mainly on our working methods, which according to Nelson ideally resemble the approach taken by a Product Team or an IT start-up: integral cooperation, from the conception of an idea and the development of prototypes to Design Sprints and pitches presented at companies and end users.

In-depth insights

Nelson then continued with a rapidly given explanation of which research tools HXTransforma uses to gather and organize the right information for a Journey. The most important aspect in this is what he referred to as the “Research Wall”, on which not only personas and their specific user stories can be projected, but also insights derived from advanced data and big data analyses. According to Nelson, particularly the latter can provide additional in-depth insights that would otherwise not come to light. “If, as part of an offboarding journey, you ask someone why they are leaving the organization, the answer will most likely be: ‘because I found a new job’. But that is never the real reason. If anything, it is the ‘last reason’ for quitting your job. There were always moments in the period prior to actually leaving an organization that contributed to that decision. What you want is to identify and understand those moments that occur earlier in the proverbial pipeline and what was happening then. An analysis of experience data can help you with this,” explained Nelson.

As Lindsay Zaltman also argued in an earlier excursion of the Virtual 9+ Experience World Tour, Nelson is also of the opinion that qualitative user research can certainly be used to bring the results of quantitative market research to a higher level. Nelson: “If you were to ask ten people what they consider important in a Journey, you will obtain a hundred insights. If you make smart use of these for a quantitative survey among a hundred other people, you can be pretty sure that your outcome will reveal ten truths.”

Lasting emotional impression

In conclusion, Nelson explained how HXTransforma helps organizations create personas based on specific user stories in the “Embody phase” of a Journey, and how the entire Journey is ultimately mapped, including the “moments that matter” or “moments of truth” on the emotional curve (i.e. a transformative moment in time when an organization does something that creates a lasting emotional impression on the customer and determines how this person feels about the organization and his or her relationship with it). In doing so, he specifically addressed the role played by human emotion, quoting Don Norman, the founder of Human-Centered Design: “You cannot separate cognition from emotion. Cognition tries to understand the world; emotion assigns value to it. It is the emotional system that determines whether a situation s safe or threatening, if something that is happening is good or bad, desirable or undesirable.”

After having provided an overview of the high-impact Journeys that he was able to map with HXTransforma in the past few years, Nelson answered a number of questions from the floor. This revealed, among other things, that he considers the state of the CX and EX field to be in some ways more advanced in Europe than in the US. In addition, he concluded that strongly process-driven organizations often appear to have more difficulty optimizing employee experience, precisely because this requires a more holistic perspective on the organization. Another common mistake is that organizations are liable to think they know what is beneficial for employee experience, instead of starting by taking a step back and conducting research. By way of a finale, Nelson advised EX professionals to look, above all, to CX and UX professionals for inspiration. “I always say: an HX professional can learn much more about HX from CX and UX people. Watch how they do things, and learn from this.”

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