Where passion for people goes to die

By Noelle Smit  |  2018-06-01T12:18:28
Like you, I'm passionate about employee experience (EX), and particularly helping large organisations improve their culture by empowering their people.

I recently attended an Employee Engagement conference. At these events, I love speaking to like-minded people whose careers are based on improving EX.  Yet, I've been a little flat of late because this industry, this space which owns people's experience in the workplace, appears to be facing the same challenges they were 12 months ago, 2 years ago, 3, 4 + years ago.

Still in talking and planning phase

Our people are not engaged. While the conversation has moved to "we need to proactively create the employee experience in order to increase engagement, which will ensure the customer experience improves", the industry is still in the talking and planning phase. At the conference, there was a lot of talk about how you can use data to improve EX, and it was almost unanimous among attendees that they collect a lot of data and don't know what to do with it. Even if they did have a plan to do something, they couldn't get leadership to give them budget for initiatives. The industry is still grappling with 'How do we make a business case for EX'!

I think one speaker nailed it when she said,

"When you get asked for the business case for treating employees better, ask them to show you the business case for treating them poorly".

I can't believe we are still here, right at the start of trying to justify why this is important. Meanwhile, employees have less than ideal experiences at work, their businesses are being disrupted into non-existence and I sit here wondering why?

What is going wrong?

Employee experience shouldn't be as hard as it is. Don't get me wrong: people and culture teams do have a tough job. A really tough job. You're probably presented with a disengaged workforce who may not have a good EX, aren't focused on the customer experience and expected with little budget, minimal leadership buy in to fix it all! You go and spend most of your budget on an employee engagement survey, get a heap of data back about the business, you can see the gaps, the problems, the opportunities but it is on your team to find solutions and roll them out across the business. With all the passion in the world, you try and inevitably intiatives run out of steam, or worse, never get off the ground. The business is busy. These employees have their own stressors and you advising them what they need to be doing better gets put low on their priority list.

Another year ticks by, your team has done their best, but not much has changed.

My challenge to you.

But I challenge you to think about this differently.
  • What if the people in your business owned their own improvement process?
  • What if HR was a team that supported the business where there were real challenges and led the business forward with best practice?
  • What if you didn't own all the data, but the people across the business did?
  • Employees and their teams had to look at what was working and what wasn't in their areas and come up with ideas and actions to improve it?

That would be a lot easier. It would be easy because everyone in the organisation would be having real conversations and creating actions from that data every day. People would address problems as they arise. Employees would have a voice that was actually heard. Leaders would be equipped to manage teams. HR could see what capabilities they needed to focus on building across the business. All the people in the business would be working together to continuously improve, and HR would be the facilitators of this.

Your passion for people would finally be put to good use.