Australian HR experts agree: EX is here to stay

by HRD07 Jun 2018

Employee experience (EX) is a rapidly emerging HR theme that is set to become a popular feature of Australian corporate strategies. That’s the consensus view of Australian HR professionals who recently shared their opinions on the topic at two panel discussions that took place in Sydney and Melbourne this month.

Hosted by Maxxia, the events brought together leading HR practitioners from corporate Australia to have a conversation about whether employee experience – or EX as it is often referred to – has a future in Australia or whether it is just a passing fad.

The arrival of employee experience follows in the footsteps of “customer experience” – a concept that has become crucial for how companies compete in a globalised, digitised market.

Australian companies are turning their attention to EX for a range of different reasons. For some, it’s the natural next step from their work on improving customer experience. They’ve seen the positive impact on engagement and loyalty from customers, so employee experience makes sense when it comes to attracting and keeping the best people.

For others, it’s seen as a key tool in their recruitment and retention strategy. This is the case for the Australian arm of Uber, which is using differentiated recruitment processes and in-depth listening strategies to find the best talent for their rapidly growing operations.

Meanwhile, other companies, such as LinkedIn, simply feel that it is the right thing to do. On reflecting about LinkedIn’s EX strategy, Laura Kendall, Snr HR Generalist said EX found its way onto the company’s agenda in response to a strategic question about who they wanted to be as a company. In a market where culture and values are increasingly important, employee experience is a good fit.

It’s evident that Australian organisations are at different stages of development when it comes to EX. Whilst some are far down the EX path, others are still in the early stages of exploring what it means for them. Overall, we think it’s fair to say that EX is still in its infancy.

But this shouldn’t detract from its huge future potential. For Kim Seeling Smith, CEO at Ignite Global, employee experience is key to addressing the shortage of people with the right skills for the jobs of the future – a trend that’s driven by an ageing population, globalisation and technological disruption. This new people paradigm will be here sooner than we think – with Australia likely to have 1.4 million unfillable jobs by 2025. Teams who have started implementing EX initiatives are already starting to report positive outcomes such as a reduction in employee turnover as well as an increase in employee engagement and productivity.

Adam Fitzhenry, Manager EX & Communication at Sunsuper said that EX has resulted in a complete shift in thinking and talking within the people team at SunSuper. In particular, he noted that they no longer simply discuss policy and procedures, but instead focus on how policy and procedures are affecting employee and their experience with the organisation.

Not without its challenges
Implementing a new philosophy as significant as EX naturally comes with challenges. Some of the common hurdles identified by the HR practitioners at the panel event were getting leadership teams on board and securing appropriate budget and resources. It’s clear from MYOB’s approach that a commitment to employee experience makes a big difference. Helen Lea, Chief Employee Experience Officer at MYOB discussed how creating a specific leadership role for EX enabled her to implement employee experience over multiple portfolios in a cost effective way. Nearly all of the panelists expressed the importance of securing management buy-in and, where possible, having the initiative driven from the top down.

Many teams are also struggling to define what EX means to their workplace and where to begin. Whilst some EX initiatives are large-scale projects that require enterprise-wide buy-in and involvement, others are far easier to implement.

At KPMG, contractors are incorporated into EX which is why it’s called People Experience instead of Employee Experience. Associate Director for People, Performance & Culture at KPMG, Emma Bradshaw explained how People Experience is now on of the 7 key capabilities for leaders. The focus on EX has led to a huge increase in innovation scores and has fundamentally changed the team’s approach to how they communicate with employees.

Some interesting initiatives were shared by the panelists and attendees at the event. Staying engaged with employees through regular contact, including frequent performance discussions, was flagged as a key driver of happy staff. Connected to this was the need to train managers about how to have constructive conversations and be good managers to their direct reports.

Measurement was also a key area of discussion. Jane Betts, Group Executive HR at Australian Unity said they use a net promoter score for employees (ENPS). An approach also used at MYOB. Jane explained that they see a dramatic increase in ENPS when the employee feels Australian Unity has the customer’s best interests at heart – potentially and indicator that a focus on people is a motivator for many employees.

Wise advice was shared by Adam Fitzhenry from Sunsuper who talked about the benefits they experienced by getting employees themselves to design what the ideal experience looked like. This included identifying those key moments in an employee’s journey that would have a major impact on their overall experience. In fact creating employee moments was an approach that all the panelists agreed created real impact and was a great way to get started on the employee experience journey.

Finally, I think Joel Corrigan, Senior Recruiting Lead from Uber shared some important advice that all HR teams can take onboard – don’t try to boil the ocean. The key to bringing employee experience to your organisation is to start small. Have a go, be collaborative and learn as you go. HR professionals have the opportunity now, to shape what EX will look like in Australia for the forseeable future – these are exciting times.

About Maxxia

Maxxia is Australia’s leading provider of employee benefits. For more than 30 years, we’ve helped companies gain an edge with tailored programs including salary packaging, novated leasing and employee rewards.

We help strengthen the employee value proposition, so that organisations can attract and retain the right talent.

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