Ben Whitter or as the world knows him, “Mr. Employee Experience,” is a leading figure within the global HR community and a recognised voice on Employee Experience thinking.
His extensive expertise in the field includes chairing and co-designing Europe’s first Employee Experience event over 2016-17 and establishing new records in China with 2,300 HR Directors tuning into his 2016 employee experience webinar. As a testament to his achievements, in 2017 he was named alongside Mark Zuckerberg, Sir Richard Branson, Jeff Weiner and other international figures in the top #101 global influencers and employee experience experts within employee engagement list.
In this exclusive interview, Ben shares his insights on how the concept of employee experience is shaping businesses today.
How is traditional hr shifting? And how will this impact businesses?
This very much depends on the context as approaches vary. In one context, HR remains nothing more than a basic administration function. In other markets, we see a broadening of the HR role to encompass all the traditional HR functions being fused with functions that haven’t been within HR’s usual mandate such as estates, facilities, marketing and communication, and any other department that impacts on the employee experience to attract, retain and maximize the best talent. This is impacting strongly now, as businesses not only respond to advances in technology and shifts in employees’ expectations on the inside but also the increase in scrutiny of the quality of each workplace on the outside.
Which organisations are endorsing the new concept of, employee experience?
Clearly, organisations that would like to stay ahead of the curve are tapping into the potential of employee experience. Airbnb is the No1 workplace on Glassdoor, a site which allows staff to rate and comment on their existing employers. The best employers around or those who understand that talent is in high demand are the ones that move quickly on progressive developments and chart a path for other organisations to follow. We see from our research that Microsoft, Nike, Orange, Sky, L’Oreal, Adidas, Nationwide, Cisco, Ralph Lauren, Adobe, Cathay Pacific, GE, and Facebook have all formalized employee experience roles within their structures, which is a clear signal that this trend is taking off.
What is also interesting is the extent to which small to medium size employers are embracing the concept. Some of the best employers in that range are reforming their businesses with the employee experience in mind. With traction at the global MNC level and traction at small, medium and local levels means only one thing and this is simply that views within business are aligning and suggesting the employee experience is about to go big. Fast.
What will happen to those who don’t adopt this new business imperative?
Like most situations in which trends, disruption and changes significantly alter the business landscape, you either get to the party fast or prepare to be swept away on a sea of change by your competition and everyone else. Employee experience is certainly not for everyone; it’s not for poor or average employers, for example. It really exemplifies and broadcasts a signal of intent to build the best organisation possible, a connected and meaningful one in which staff and customers move forward together. It is a compelling proposition and a much needed one at this point in history. The reality becomes a bit harsher as workplaces are placed under the microscope not just by regulatory bodies, but also by existing and former staff. There have been some very high profile stories around the world of employers with poor working practices and conditions, and the costs on those employers become significant in business performance and reputation terms.
Where do most organisations sit on the employee experience maturity curve? And why is that?
This is an area we are actively researching now, but early data suggests that most organisations are trying it on for size and seeing how nice the fit is. A lot of internal discussions are taking place between management teams and HR to start the journey. As usual, some are way ahead of the curve and have already implemented a full model of this approach and restructured accordingly to align functions to the employee experience mandate. Businesses tend to replicate (or try to) the practices of the bigger market leaders and as usual, a lot of the big organisations I mentioned earlier and many more besides are way out in front with employee experience. Masterclasses like this will help bridge that gap, but as you would expect, business context is a real factor as is where people are starting from and where they want to get to.
For those attending your masterclass, what key strategies, tools or techniques will they learn?
First up, they will learn about where we are with employee experience globally and what exactly it means in Australia. That is a good starting point. From there we will go through employee experience journey and bring to life some of the methods of unlocking and making actionable progress within the context of this approach learning from some of the front-runners as well as examples in the room.
The 3D model is a tool that will be introduced and is immediately helpful in charting the employee experience journey alongside a great technique which really frames what is most important for HR and business leaders. We will also plot an end-to-end journey through the employee experience and highlight ‘moments of meaning’, which are the real fuel of solid and high performing employee experiences. The employee experience challenge, which is a very powerful exercise I use with organisations, will also help shape thinking and actions beyond the workshop.
What is your advice for those tasked with transforming the employee experience?
At the outset, be very, very clear on the mandate from the CEO, the current organisational climate and context, and the condition of the current employee experience. In effect, know where you’re starting from. Then it is a case of looking out at the vision, values and mission of the organisation where things align and where they don’t. Once this becomes clearer I would suggest that transformation begins with the team mandated to transform the organisation, inside and out. The team has to be ready and fully up for the employee experience approach that it takes to the business. Belief starts from within and then transcends our experience. Once people are in a strong position to move ahead it’s game time, and then working in partnership with staff, you can build an end-to-end journey that inspires, engages and connects the experience for staff and customers. The final thing I would say, and this true about work in general, is enjoy the experience, because if you don’t, no-one else will either.
Ben’s masterclasses take place over the following dates:
SYDNEY · 3 April 2017
MELBOURNE · 4 April 2017
BRISBANE · 5 April 2017
Each Masterclass is limited to 40 participants.
Book your place today to benefit from early bird offers and team discounts.