I’d been trying to flesh out a collab story on employee experience (EX) with Laurie Ruettimann for weeks. This is as far as we got:
“I’m not sure if I buy into the whole concept of EX. Now, I’m an idiot. But if we keep asking employers to solve problems, we perpetuate a system that always lets employees down. When do we say that it’s up to employees to own their EX, and that the best companies will listen?”
For those who don’t know Laurie, she’s the original HR disruptor. When I first met her, I think she just wanted to poke any HR bear she could. Now it seems she’s progressed to killing the HR sacred deer.
Owning the employee experience
“But,” I argued, “Employee-owned EX is counter-intuitive. You don’t ask customers to own the Customer Experience”
Many great companies meticulously design their customer experience. They make very conscious decisions about all steps in a customer’s journey, on the customer’s behalf.
So shouldn’t great companies make EX decisions on behalf of the employees?
Well. Here’s the thing. Laurie says “No”. Because while companies are distinct from their customers, companies are their employees.
Laurie and I finished our conversation, but I’ve been riffing on this idea since.
Program development, whether it’s a new product or a new shared service, is always distributed down the organization. So why not distribute the employee experience design right down to the place where it’s understood most? To where the largest part of the worker population is: to the individual contributors.
This kind of empowerment goes right back to “The One Minute Manager.” 13 million copies sold since the 80s on the back of a singular concept – that the best leaders just let their staff get on with it. Lou Platt, a CEO from the start of my career, said it best: no-one comes to work to do a bad job. Trust the people you hired.
Will it work for EX design?
Leaders define the constraints, maybe help lay out a vision, then let self-organizing groups of workers design the programs.
- Here’s the budget, here’s the other constraints, you plan the holiday party.
- Here’s the budget, here’s the other constraints, you choose the tools.
- Here’s the budget, here’s the other constraints, you write the harassment policy.
The constraints balance the self interest. The self interest ensures a great outcome.
Ok Laurie, back to you.
This works in the type of grown-up, self-actualized, progressive company that trusts its employees…but let’s not forget that this would never work in an organisation whose culture is predominantly shaped (and lived every day) by a “Charles in Charge”-style management firmly stuck in the 1970s.
Maybe my view is skewed by the decade that I spent in the manufacturing side of things – it certainly feels like an overwhelming part of that sector still operates that way.