The Employee Experience: It’s Time To Put People First In Management

We are moving from an employer-driven job market to a candidate-drivenone, since digital tools and social media provide increased transparency and support mobility of talent like never before. Hiring the best talent and keeping them on board is one of the main challenges not only for HR, but for leadership in general.


Success begins and ends with people. That’s why it becomes even more important to create an environment in which people can excel and that’s in the first place an environment in which they want to work. This is more than the physical environment or the different financial benefits. The company culture defines how people feel and behave. This has to do with the flexibility you offer, the rewards, the technology provided, flexible offices, transparent communication, development opportunities, a clear vision, clear goals, food and fun, meaningful work, coaching & feedback, job crafting, great teams... one maybe more important than the other. The mix will be different for every employee; if you want to attract and keep talent and shape great teams, you’ll need to understand the different wants and needs. Seeing the world through the eyes of your employees is therefor a first prerequisite to improving or designing a great employee experience.

The employee experience is the employee’s perception of everything that happens when he or she interacts with your company, from recruiting to onboarding, to career path development and offboarding. It’s the impression you leave as an organization on your people -before, during and after their journey at your company- that defines if people come to you, stay or leave. It’s about winning the hearts and minds of employees. It’s about moving from efficiency driven processes to designing great employee experiences.

A candidate driven job market requires moving from efficiency driven processes to the design of compelling employee experiences.

Design Thinking helps to create employee centered processes

HR can lead the intentional redesign of human-centered processes by applying Design Thinking methods. According to a survey from Deloitte, the organizations where HR is of the highest value are those that intensively apply Design Thinking in their change approach. So HR will need to develop Design Thinking skills, to deal with the candidate-driven job market and lead the digital transformation in HR.

This might give the impression that creating a great Employee Experience is an HR responsibility alone, which of course it isn’t. It’s the responsibility of every manager and leader within an organization. Every manager will need to learn to stand in the shoes of their employees and understand the impact of their behavior and of how the team collaborates on the employee experience. HR helps to create the right circumstances in collaboration with different employees, managers, functions and levels, but if the way managers behave and build their teams is not in sync, all the efforts are in vain. Trust in management and leadership will be key in this transformation and understanding the elements of a great employee experience and knowing how you can create it, is a very helpful start. So we need more Design Driven Managers, as described in a previous post.

Learning the methods and tools of Design Thinking is important, but not sufficient. The mindset is more important: the Design Driven Manager puts the employee at the center, is genuinly curious about them and wants to understand their behavior, he or she asks questions and facilitates teams and individuals towards solutions and gives the permission to employees to try things, knowing it will not always work out...

These are traits that you see more often in HR people, probably one of the reasons they’re attracted to HR roles. Creating a great employee experience is nonetheless not something to be left to HR alone. The existence of an HR department is often a good excuse for managers not to deal too much with human related issues. On the other hand, many good willing managers are not allowed to spend too much time on people management or simply can’t find the time, it’s business first. Since the manager plays such an important role in how an employee experiences his or her job, it’s time to put people first in management.

By Sara Coene


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