Key takeaways from the Employee Experience conference 2018

Author - Anders Filtenborg. Director

In November, we held the 14th annual Employee Experience conference in the heart of Copenhagen. The conference, which Ennova arranges in collaboration with Confederation of Danish Industry, spotlights trends within employee experience, employee engagement, and leadership.

Read on to get my key takeaways.

Purpose is a part of the employee experience at Carlsberg

I have seen both very wide and equally narrow definitions on employee experience. Mads Junget Madsen, Vice President HR at Carlsberg Denmark told how purpose is a driver of engagement. He was refreshingly specific in this matter: In the moment, when the employee enters the gate to her workplace, does she feel proud of her company, its name and the history it represents? Or is it just a random job? What is the employee experience in that specific moment?

The emotional aspect is in the center. Mads Junget Madsen did not give in to seeing purpose as an exercise just for consultants and slide decks. No, purpose must be experienced to induce meaning and motivation and for the employee engagement to rise.

A practical example, which proofed to be effective, was to bring the employees on excursions to the historical buildings of Carlsberg, so they understood the story they are a part of. Another example is the pride that rose among the employees, when Carlsberg announced their great reduction in plastic usage, due to an innovative new packaging of six packs.

Mads Junget Madsen showed how purpose can raise the employee engagement and create an emotional experience to the act of walking through the Carlsberg front door every morning. This requires a very practical approach to working with purpose, and your job is not done with a powerpoint presentation alone. It is necessary to operationalize the purpose for it to become a continuous part of the everyday employee experience.

Convenience and UX Design strengthen the employee experience

The great employee experience also lies in the benefits that organizations offer the employees on a daily basis. A common denominator for the speaks of Anne Marie Ravn, HR director of IBM Denmark, and Michael Stubbe, Vice President HR of Kamstrup, was the ambition to put themselves in the place of the employees, when they design the internal HR processes.

IBM has implemented a learning platform, which resembles the streaming services that the employees are already familiar with from their private life. This means that education and learning communities can be joined on demand, and Artificial Intelligence shows relevant recommendations based on the employee’s individual behavior and profile.

One of the more successful companies in the Nordics in terms of employer branding, Kamstrup, emphasizes convenience – a concept well-known from the customer experience field. Among other things, the company offers on-site hairdressing and dental care, and the employees can bring dinner from the canteen home. Kamstrup sees the employees as customers, and aims to give them great experiences in order to keep them in the company and make them recommend Kamstrup to others. The great experiences pay itself by the reduced turnover and a powerful employer brand. Michael Stubbe’s story from Kamstrup shows, that if you treat the employee as a customer that you must nurture with special customer experiences, you get an edge in maintaining and attracting the desirable employees.

Learnings from employee experience first movers

Søren Smit, Business Development Director at Ennova, has studied data from and interviewed a number of Ennova clients, who are at the forefront of working with employee surveys.

The main point in his talk was that many companies are missing opportunities to understand and optimize the processes involving the employee journey. In the future, it will become essential to have fixed and automated concepts for monitoring employee touch points during their time at the company. Some of the most important touch points are the talent’s journey, the onboarding and the recruiting process. You get far better insights into your company’s performance, when you work equally as methodically, as you probably do with your employee engagement survey. I.e. use a questionnaire framework based on proven theory and with an action-oriented output.

The employees can get fed up with surveys

Another central learning point from the forefront of employee experience is that more frequent surveying is not necessarily better in itself, merely because it is possible with new technology. Some companies have uncritically begun high-frequent surveying every two weeks. They do this without considering the culture and without estimating how quickly and effective employees are able to react on the feedback that keeps on coming.

The employees loses confidence in responses actually making a difference, and they get frustrated spending too much time on surveys. The result is survey fatigue, which is similar to what companies already has to deal with in customer surveys.

Experience has shown that the most successful frequent feedback processes follow a survey cycle that consists of one in depth survey and complementary lighter surveys, which are adjusted to the action plans of the specific teams. Either HR or the managers themselves, depending on the culture and the need for local initiative, can initiate these surveys. The frequency of these central surveys must be tailored to the specific company’s culture and ability to take action, and at the same time let the manager follow-up on current issues when needed.

Cultural adaption is especially important in organizations characterized by numerous changes, according to Søren Smit. In these cases, four annual pulse surveys instead of one large baseline survey have proven to be a successful model.

The field is rapidly developing

I – along with more than 200 attendees on the 2018 conference – got inputs on a wide range of the many themes that fall under the broad definition of employee experience.

It was clear that there is plenty of value to get from understanding and optimizing all the processes around the employee experience. This has been common sense for a long time within the field of Customer Experience, and now HR is getting serious about looking at the employee journey from an outside-in perspective.

Anders Filtenborg. Director

Anders Filtenborg. Director

Anders has many years’ experience in management and as a executive consultant. His core competence is communication and he advises global companies on the results of their employee engagement surveys and related strategies. Anders is also head of Ennova’s sales and marketing.