How do we overcome the vicious circle of Employee Experience?

Historically, progressive CEO’s have tasked the marketing, sales and services teams to manage the customer experience (CX) of their organisations, to which, it is fair to say, they have successfully risen to the challenge. They are now looking to replicate that same success internally with their employee experience (EX), tasking their HR function to do just that. However, the problem arises with the sheer scope of EX. Employee experience is defined as the ‘sum of all experiences of managers, employees, candidates, alumni and freelancers with a company’ and goes far beyond the responsibility of HR alone.

The real challenge HR faces is overcoming the stigma attached to them of not being a function that adds value to the business. It’s the perfect vicious circle; EX is a viable opportunity for HR to add business value. Yet to seize this opportunity, HR needs to involve the business and other support functions. But, because it has failed to deliver business value in the past, HR has a hard time attracting the business to jump onto the EX bandwagon.

The conventional approach: It’s either too small or too big

To overcome this problem, HR has often focused its EX efforts internally, on the HR function or worse on the experience of new HR information systems. They either evaluate EX by applying HR measurement methods like on-boarding pulse checks and exit surveys, or by applying design thinking methods, at best involving customers in a hackathon or some similar interactive format. However, this approach is falling short.

Another conventional reaction of HR, is a bold claim to own the entire EX space from workplace to job and culture. This reaction may seem impressive for the moment, but ultimately it won’t deliver results. Instead it will continue to add to the legacy burden and EX becomes the next HR initiative without business outcomes.

The key data point: 42% and 78%

What is the best data to prove conventional approaches wrong? It is the number of HR customers’ touch-points and who owns them. We know that experience forms in ‘journeys’ (not processes) and occurs at ‘touch-points’, defined as interactions at a point in time, in a context, with a goal, visible to customer and company. Some of these encounters are emotionally loaded, with disproportionate impact on engagement, we define them as ‘Moments of Truth’.  

Co-creating with 30 companies, we were able to define 17 HR journeys within the HR space, with 285 touch-points, 62 of them being Moments of Truth. Here is the trick: 42% of all touch-points and 78% of all Moments of Truth are not owned by HR but by business managers. Hence, successful EX will remain an illusion for HR, if the business is not involved.

The better approach: Staggered, iterative and sustainable

The solution to this vicious circle is a staggered approach to EX:

  1. HR has a model in place to explain the business value of EX.

  2. HR defines its own journeys, personas, and moments of truth.

  3. HR defines an EX operating model for all touch-points, including the 42% non-HR ones.

  4. HR initiates consistent and rapid iteration of journey and touchpoint design, based on KPIs.

  5. EX goes beyond HR journeys to cover job, leadership and workplace experience.

Of this procedural task, we have resolved stages 1 to 4 with CxHR, our co-created DESIGN / SHARE / MEASURE / ACT methodology and with our CxHR Platform to support it.

With that, HR is ready to escape the vicious circle of EX.


Volker Jacobs is the CEO and founder of TI People and an Executive Director and co-founder of Insight222 Limited. Volker holds degrees in economics and information sciences, has worked for U.S. and European consulting companies and started his own HR management consulting business that he sold to CEB. At CEB, Volker held a senior management position with a global responsibility for HR consulting and HR technology before co-founding TI People.