Employee Experience for the WIN! #eXsummit

logo-lrgAnyone who is, or has ever been, an employee understands the importance of employee experience. Where it rates on the importance meter may not be the same for everyone but I think we can all agree that when it comes to the place you’ll most likely spend at least 1/3 of your life, the better you feel about being there, the better you’ll feel all around.  An article in Forbes even called 2018 ‘The Year of Employee Experience.’ Well, it’s about time more employers started paying attention to it!

Employee experience (EX) refers to the totality of every interaction an employee has with their employer including how the employee feels about working there. Whether the experience is positive or negative impacts productivity, happiness, tenure and whether the employee would recommend the employer as a good, or great, place to work – among other things.

IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER:

  • Employee experience is NOT employee engagement. Engagement contributes to experience but they are not the same thing.
  • Employee experience is not just about having fun. Don’t confuse simply providing some fun things to do with designing a complete employee experience.

As an HR professional, an employee, and an individual, I’m very interested in EX, what it looks like in different organizations and how organizations can create the best positive experience for their employees, realizing that it won’t look exactly the same for each organization. It’s also important to remember that individuals experience experience differently. When crafting an employee experience that will make people want to join and stay at your organization, remember that one size rarely fits all. 

In August, I have the honor of participating in the eX Summit in Philadelphia. The eX Summit “brings a different lens to the employee experience: a brand and CX angle, rather than a traditional HR angle.”  The creators of the Summit pose the following questions:

Why are companies focusing more on user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) than employee experience (EX?) And what can we do about it?

Excellent questions! Employees are the ones who determine and implement what it takes to make the UX and CX experiences positive for others, why would it not be deemed equally as important, if not more so, to make the work experience positive for your employees? Let’s talk about it. Join me in Philly on August 15 to discuss key components of designing an employee experience. Use code TAMARA5 for $5 off the registration fee.

bonusBONUS ALERT: I will be part of a panel discussion on Diversity in the Workplace. Diversity is but one ingredient in the employee experience recipe but it’s an important one. Among other things, diverse teams inspire creativity, promote innovation, are more productive and perform better. Employers must value different dimensions of diversity along every step of the employee experience – from pre-hire to post-employment termination. Interested in how to do this? Let’s talk about it.

To be successful in creating a positive employee experience, employers must change the traditional mindset and adopt more of a consumer approach to engaging with employees. At the eX Summit, we will address the following key topics:

  • Why is it critical for employers to change the their mindset and adopt more of a consumer approach to engaging with employees? (Think of employees as internal customers. Instead of selling a product, you are selling working at your organization.)
  • What organizations should do to create personalized employee experiences. (One size does not fit all.)
  • What part technology, the human element and storytelling play in designing these experiences. (A multi-faceted approach is key.)
  • Why “culture fit” is no longer relevant and why we need to focus more than ever on diversity, inclusion and “culture add.” (This is my favorite part!)

Employee experience is and will continue to be critical not only to business success but to individual success. Let’s make sure we treat our internal stakeholders (employees) as well as we treat our external stakeholders (clients/customers/users/members.) Not only is it good business, it’s the right, and smart, thing to do.

Interested in learning how to design the right employee experience for your organization? Check out the eX Summit in a city near you. Preferably, Philadelphia on August 15. 🙂

PERKS OF ATTENDING THE PHILLY eX SUMMIT:

  • Philadelphia – We’ll turn the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ into the ‘City of Employee Love’ for a day.
  • Discount – Get $5 off registration with the code TAMARA5
  • mj

 

*The IBM Institute for Business Value has developed some easily digestible graphics regarding employee experience. The images below are property of IBM.

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Designing the Inclusive Employee Experience: Q & A with Joe Gerstandt #SHRM18

happy dance

My “I get to interview Joe Gerstandt” happy dance.

Full disclosure: I’ve been internet fan-girling over Joe Gerstandt for a while now. Why, you may ask. Well, his Twitter bio says, in part, “I speak, write, advise on issues related to Authenticity, Diversity, Inclusion…and I do it well.”  If you’ve been following me on any social media channel, you’ll know those are the top HR/workplace issues I’m interested in. Finding someone who always has something insightful to say on them, and actually interacts with people, was a treat. Thus, a Joe Gerstandt fangirl I became.

As you know, I was lucky enough to be asked to be a member of the 2018 SHRM Blogger Team. As such, I have been given the opportunity to interview some of the speakers. Imagine my delight when I saw Joe (we’ve never met but I feel I can call him Joe 🙂 ) was on the list and available. 

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Joe Gerstandt is a speaker and consultant helping leaders and organizations to better understand what diversity and inclusion mean to our organizations and communities today. He is an advocate for resetting the diversity and inclusion conversation, and believes strongly that we can ill afford to continue applying a 20th century approach to an increasingly critical set of 21st century business issues. He will be presenting a concurrent session as well as being on the Smart Stage this year. He was kind enough to answer a few questions from me on his session, Designing the Inclusive Employee Experience – something we should all be working diligently to achieve. Inclusion is Joe’s jam (his word) so some of his responses are a little long but I couldn’t bear to cut out anything. It’s all so good. Statements I found particularly poignant are in BOLD.  Don’t be surprised if I BOLD entire paragraphs.

TR: What is inclusion and why is it important to employee experience?

JG: This is a fantastic question and I would suggest that one of the largest reasons companies talking about inclusion are not making more progress is that they still have not answered the first part of this question. In 2018, inclusion is a terribly popular word relative to the workplace, yet in most workplaces it remains a vague, abstract idea. Vague, abstract targets are hard to hit. Most leaders today are quick to let you know that, yes; they are indeed inclusive, but most of them cannot explain what that means in a logical and concise way.

Inclusion is a complex idea and it can mean different things to different people, but for your organization you definitely need your definition. Your definition will be incomplete and imperfect as we are trying to capture something that is intangible and experiential, but you desperately need it. A clear, concise, logical definition of inclusion is quite possibly the single most valuable component in a successful inclusion effort, and it is the most commonly missing component. While organizational definitions can and should vary, I believe there are some fundamental components to this idea of being fully included and I generally spend some time on these components to help organizations, leaders, and teams start finding some really clarity regarding inclusion.

1) Belonging & Authenticity. Belonging is nothing short of an existential need for human beings, and when you feel that you belong in a place or space, you also derive sustenance from being there, regardless of how hard the work is. I am a straight, white, middle-class, middle-aged dude who lives in the middle of the country and I have never experienced discrimination toward myself. I have consistently received the benefit of the doubt (even when I did not deserve it!), but I have had the experience of not feeling that I belonged in an organization and I know that feeling to be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting. When simply going to work on Monday morning is an act of courage, you are not likely to be your best self at work, you are not likely to be your authentic, creative, collaborative self…you are much more likely to be in survival mode all day long and that invites a drastically different kind of contribution. Can I show up for work on Monday morning, be largely true to who I am and feel like I belong? How much do I have to compromise to fit in at an organization that has chosen me? These are questions that have real consequences in performance.

2) Psychological Safety. Psychological safety is a little bit buzzwordy right now due to the Project Aristotle insights that came out of Google recently, but research on the topic goes back to the 1960s, and in fact there was a really rich meta-analysis on Psychological Safety released in 2017 that pulled from over a hundred different individual studies. I think an incredibly valuable marker of inclusion is whether or not people are willing and able to tell the truth to each other – spoiler alert, they’re not! – and telling the truth to each other (sharing your big crazy ideas, your uncomfortable questions, disagreeing with people, even people who have more formal power than you do) requires a certain amount of psychological safety. If we are going to deliver a more inclusive employee experience (and if we are going to do better around decision-making, problem-solving, and innovation) we have got to make it safer (and in fact, rewarded) to have respectful conflict with each other. Today, that is very hard to find. If we are truly going to aggregate (or include) the human potential we have access to, we have got to make sure that it is safe to be different, to think different, to be (at least temporarily) unpopular, to disagree with people (including your boss and their boss) as long as we do so respectfully, and I see a lot of room for improvement in this area.

3.) Access & Agency. Who has access to what, how is that decided, and is it explicit? Who has access to information? Who has access to decision-making? Who can initiate change and how? These are all really important aspects of an organization and they are almost always unwritten (which makes it hard to evaluate them, learn them, improve them, etc.) and they are almost always informed more by power, privilege, and personality than they are by actual performance related evidence. I am not opposed to different levels of access for different employees, just make sure there is a legitimate justification, that it is reevaluated from time to time and that it is explicit. Unwritten rules make inclusion (and a bunch of other stuff) much harder to achieve, and most organizations are swimming in unwritten rules about some of the most important things. 

TR: How do we know if an organization is inclusive? Does inclusion look the same across teams/organizations?

JG: On a very fundamental level, inclusion is about creating spaces and places where people who are naturally different from each other can be true (belonging & authenticity), tell the truth (psychological safety), and make a uniquely valuable contribution (access & agency). It is likely going to be mean something different to be fully included at The Federal Reserve than it means at Facebook, they have wildly different cultures, but I think that these are three of the more universal components to consider in getting specific about what inclusion means for your organization. One of the beautiful things about having a clear, concise definition in place is that it allows you to take that definition to your employees and ask them whether or not it reflects their experience, and their answers are one of your most valuable metrics relative to this work. I hear people complaining that this stuff is all so hard to measure, and it is, because we are dealing with intangibles, but if you get some real clarity on what you are trying to actually accomplish there are some solid metrics we can use.

TR: Whose responsibility is it to ensure an organization is inclusive? Does the responsibility like solely with HR?

JG: This is about leadership, full stop. HR (and some other functional areas) have a unique role to play in supporting these efforts and may own specific aspects of it (compliance, for example), but this is about leadership. HR has their own work to do regarding diversity and inclusion, and often gets an undeserved free pass on this work, but it should not be their responsibility and I am not in favor of housing D&I efforts inside of HR. HR does not necessarily have the expertise, and they certainly do not have any financial, political, or social capital to spare right now. Inclusion, properly understood, should be the first priority, the first practice, and the first product of leadership. If you do not have an inclusive organization, it is because you have an absence of real leadership. The fact that we are still trying to convince people in management positions that inclusion matters tells me that our approach to leadership is and has been deeply flawed.

TR: What should we do if our organization is not inclusive? How can we change that?

JG:  That depends on a whole bunch of stuff. The nature of the organization, support from others, your own gifts and tolerance for risk-taking, etc., these are all important contextual factors on the individual level. Maybe you should start talking to people about it, maybe you should leave, without knowing more of the context I am not sure what is best to do on an individual level.

On the organizational level, there are a few basic steps that I think scale up or down and are nearly universally applicable. I generally start by injecting new information and new ideas into the organization to prime decision-making and planning. Diversity and inclusion are likely the most poorly understood, most often misunderstood issues relative to the workplace today. Everyone says they “get it,” (as there is that expectation today), but most people do not get it. This is not their area of expertise, they have not explored issues relative to identity, social dynamics, bias, ingroup/outgroup, etc., they are not familiar with the science and scholarship relative to this set of issues. They tend to view “getting it” as simply wanting to be a decent person, which is awesome, but something different than actually getting it. So, we start by pushing on their thinking. You can use speakers, videos, articles, books, discussions…expose them to a mix of information related to diversity and inclusion and get them to really start thinking about what diversity and inclusion mean within the context of this organization and how this organization creates value. Then we start drafting our language and logic. What specifically does inclusion mean here? Why is it valuable to us? How might we capture that value?

While most organizations have poetic and rambling statements of commitment to diversity and inclusion, they are missing this clear and concise foundational language and logic, so they are trying to deliver a product without actually defining it. Good luck with that project. Get informed, get clear on what diversity and inclusion mean for your organization (especially the experience of being included, how do we know when it is happening, what does it look like, feel like, sound like, and smell like…the more specific we can get on this, the easier it is to figure out how we get there and what to measure along the way), and then develop your plan for getting there. Once you have defined what an inclusive experience is in your organization it becomes much easier to identify the behaviors, the practices, the processes that go into it. Most organizations skip ahead and start hanging posters up and launching programs, without the underlying language and logic in place.

This work really is still in its infancy, and as such it remains conceptually and linguistically underdeveloped…tackle that first in your organization. Champion clarity, put a common language in place – that makes everything else easier and more likely to succeed.

TR: What is the most important takeaway you want attendees to get from your session?

JG: Clarity is one of your very best friends. Language is your first intervention. Clear, concise definitions are your first evidence of real commitment. Inclusive spaces, places, and experiences are not the natural by-product of people having good intentions, they happen because we intentionally design them and build them and I have some tools and tips to share toward that effort.

TR: Is there anything else you want readers/conference attendees to know?

JG: I think this is the 7th SHRM Annual that I have presented at and this conference is one of my absolute favorites. There is something uniquely inspiring about sharing space with so many people that are committed to the craft of HR, I always get a buzz from this show. In addition to my concurrent session, Designing the Inclusive Employee Experience (Tuesday, June 19th 10:45-12:00), I am also going to be rocking the mic on the Smart Stage on Monday afternoon (3:20), talking about the importance of conflict done well. See you in Chicago!

So there you have it, folks. Words of wisdom on designing the inclusive employee experience from someone who knows a thing or a thousand about the subject, Mr. Joe Gerstandt. We definitely have a long way to go but with the right guidance, we can do it. It was my absolute pleasure to have him answer the questions I posed. He even asked if we could meet for coffee (tea, for me) in Chicago. Of course! I will try to keep my fan-girling to a minimum in public.

Contact Joe Gerstandt:

Website / Twitter / LinkedIn / Facebook

Joe is also half of the dynamic duo, Talent Anarchy.

Everything You Need to Know About Managing People: Q & A with Karlyn Borysenko #SHRM18

SHRM18 is right around the corner! Of course by around the corner I mean three months away. But it’s never to soon to start checking out the agenda and trying to plan at least half of the sessions you want to attend. I recommend planning but also allowing room for flexibility because stuff happens.

karlynI have the honor of being a member of the SHRM18 Blogger Team. Yay, me! As such I have the opportunity to select a few speakers to interview and give you a “behind the scenes” take on their sessions. First up is Karlyn Borysenko, PhD, Principal at Zen Workplace. I chose to interview Karlyn because she is an organizational psychologist which I find to be super interesting. I’m intrigued by all things dealing with the mind. Karlyn works with individuals and organizations to create better work experiences that lead to bottom line results and greater career success. Karlyn will be a busy bee at SHRM18. She’s conducting a Preconference Workshop, a Mega Session and appearing on the Smart Stage! I interviewed Karlyn about her Preconference Workshop, Everything You Need to Know about Managing People. (Statements I find particularly poignant are in bold.)

TR: Why is it said that people leave managers, not organizations?

KB: Managers dictate that daily experience that any employee has with their organization. If you have a great boss, you’ll have a great experience. If you don’t, then the organization might be an amazing place to work for people who have different reporting lines, but your experience won’t be so great. No amount of cultural or employee engagement investments can make up for when a person has a boss that doesn’t empower or support them.

On the flip side of this, however, is that you can have organizations that are pretty toxic from the leadership level…but if you have a great boss who makes their team the priority regardless of the example they are getting from above, you will have a better experience than others and probably be less likely to leave, all other things being equal. So, it works both ways.

This is why it’s so critical for managers at all levels to take responsibility for the experiences of their team members. Being promoted into a manager role is not just a more powerful version of being an individual contributor. You are, in a very real way, responsible for people’s lives. Unfortunately, very few organizations ever teach people how to be a great boss on a psychological level. They may teach you how to administer an annual performance review, the process for hiring and firing, but that’s just process. To be a great manager, you need to know how to engage and motivate a team based on how their brain works. That’s why a workshop like this is so important – we’ll look at the topic from the inside out to help you get the most out of your team members while creating an experience that will drive engagement and productivity.

TR: What skills are most needed to be an effective people manager and why?

KB: I believe the most important skill to develop is a service mindset. You may be in a position of technical power over the people who report to you (for example, you can make the case to fire them if you want to), but authoritarian power just gets people to be compliant. It doesn’t help them to embrace being empowered, go the extra mile when it comes to communication, or bring creativity and innovation to the table. To get there, you have to serve your team members, and that involves putting the ego aside and individually giving them what they need to achieve their best work. When they are successful, you will be successful.

TR: What is employee engagement and what role does it play in the success (or lack thereof) of a team/organization?

KB: There are about 1,000 definitions of employee engagement. Last year when I visited the SHRM exhibit hall, I couldn’t go more than a few booths without a company selling a tool proportion to solve your employee engagement problems. I asked many of them what they mean by “employee engagement” and almost every one of them gave me a different answer!

Now, that’s not to say they don’t have some great tools that could help, but fundamentally I don’t see employee engagement as a technological question. I see it as a human problem. That’s why my definition of employee engagement is all about intrinsic motivation: Employee engagement is when your team comes in primed to give it their all, no matter what their role is. They are intrinsically motivated to do their best work. 

It’s the intrinsic motivation piece that trips a lot of people up. Engagement is not about a paycheck or a raise or a promotion…no one is going to turn those things down, but it’s not the psychological driver of long-term high performance (it gives a nice short-term boost but that only lasts about two weeks). People need to feel listened to, they need to feel valued, they need to know that their manager sees the effort they are putting in and positively responds to it. And when they’re trying to improve areas of their performance, they need to hear from their manager that they see the effort and the improvement to keep up their momentum.

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Don’t Be Like THIS Manager.

Now, here’s the thing: A piece of technology like all those vendors sell seems like a quick solution to say that you’re “working on” or “fixing” employee engagement. Connecting on a human level is much harder, and much more uncomfortable for many managers, but it is truly the best way to drive the long-term results you’re looking for.

TR: What does it mean to manage “from a human perspective?” Why is this important?

KB: There’s not a single person that goes to work and leaves their humanity at the door, yet most people try to deny that aspect of themselves when they enter the office. We build up these walls and tell ourselves “it’s not personal…it’s just business.” You’re talking about people’s livelihoods here – their mortgages, their car payments, putting their kids through school. It couldn’t be more personal!

No matter how you try to frame it, you can’t get around how our brain is hardwired to work. Most of our decisions are driven from the subconscious emotional part of our brain, and then we use logic and reason to justify what we’ve already decided to do emotionally. What that means for managers is that you have to appeal to people on an emotional level to get them to do their best work. There’s no getting around it…it’s science.

kumbayaNow, I’m not suggesting that you all need to be sitting around the fireplace singing kumbaya, but you do need to be very mindful of how your employees perceive their experience. Do they think you really listen to them, or do you just wait to talk in meetings (or, worse yet, take notes on your laptop)? Do you give them significantly more positive recognition than critical feedback? Do you take the time to coach and professionally develop them? Do you allow for failure as a natural part of progress, or do you make them believe that any misstep will have consequences on their career? These are all issues we’ll address in the workshop, and how to do them really well to appeal to that human element.

TR: What is the biggest takeaway you want attendees to get from your session?

KB: This workshop will be a crash course in the top four things I think managers need to do to drive productivity and engagement on a psychological level – adapt, communicate, empower, and support. We’ll go high level, and dig down to some very specific, actionable tactics. However, the takeaways that I want people to leave the room with is the responsibility that comes with being in a manager position and developing that service mindset I mentioned earlier. Management is not about process. It’s about people.

TR: Any additional comments?

KB: For those managers thinking about attending, understand that you have a responsibility to provide a great working experience for your team, even if your boss is not doing it for you. So often, I hear from managers, especially at the mid-management level, “my boss isn’t doing this stuff so why do I have to?” I’ll be blunt: You do it because it’s the right thing to do, not only from a work perspective but as a human being. Is it fair that your boss might not put the effort in for you but I’m asking you to do it for you team? No. But change has to start somewhere. You can choose to be the person that opts out and uses your boss as an excuse….or you could be the person that says “I’m doing this regardless, because I know it’s what’s best for my team.”

Connect with Dr. Karlyn Borysenko.
If you’ve ever seen my posts on Twitter or LinkedIn, or had a conversation with me, you can see from Karlyn’s responses why this session is right up my alley. Everything she’s saying is everything I stand for. Humanity in the workplace. Positive employee experience. Managers taking responsibility for their people. The tagline on my site is “Life. Human Resources. It’s All About the People.” Because it is. Full stop.

#NowPlaying: Employee Experience Webinar

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Currently listening to a webinar presented by  Globoforce titled Changing the Conversation in 2016: Moving From Engagement to Experience. Looking forward to hearing real-world examples of how companies are enhancing the employee experience.