Workplace Experience: The New Employee Value Proposition

Published on : 4/4/19
  • The employee experience is evolving. It’s a complex, winding network of moments, emotions, and interactions.

    From the way people perceive the purpose of their job and its connection to broader life, to how they interact with their environment and communicate with colleagues and managers, the forces at play have shifted.

    The traditional workplace blueprint is losing ground to more dynamic demands. In fact, nearly all employers (97%) surveyed in Aon’s 2019 Benefits and Trends Survey agree that employees’ expectations of their experience in the workplace are changing. What’s clear is the employee experience is no longer linear. It’s a complex, winding network of moments, emotions, and interactions that extends beyond the physical workplace, and outside of typical working hours.

    And it’s the environment organizations create for employees that shapes this experience.

    Creating design-driven moments

    Experience design creates a coherent and immersive workplace with the purpose of making people’s lives easier and more enjoyable. It examines every aspect, exchange and encounter in the working day and uses data insights to optimize and personalize these moments. Design-driven focus tethers the needs of the workforce to the anatomy of the business, ensuring every decision is made with the employee experience in mind.

    Organizations are adapting their approach to all facets of the workplace: food, technology, and program requirements; the physical environment; benefits and rewards; and health and wellness. “Progressive organizations are capturing employee demands and creating new offers and environments that support today’s agile and personalized work dynamic,” says Nicolas Petitjean, Group Vice President of Experience Design at Sodexo. “Each touchpoint should be designed to power that experience and create the emotional connections that drive engagement and memories”.

    In fact, emotions are at the heart of experience design. How people feel so often dictates how they perform. And when Gallup’s 2018 State of the Global Workplace Report reveals that only 15% of the workforce are engaged, this factor cannot be overlooked.

    What’s changed?

    Women in open officeFor a long time, business leaders have been focused on employee engagement metrics, with the responsibility resting on the shoulders of HR departments to deliver strategies and initiatives that bolster numbers and fuel productivity. It seems to make sense. However, research has revealed an eye-watering 87% of employees worldwide aren’t engaged in the workplace, showing many organizations are still struggling from a human management perspective.

    This narrow vision has hampered the corporate understanding of what makes employees tick. Business leaders know their people expect more—nearly 80% of executives rate employee experience as important—yet only 22% say their companies are excellent at building a differentiated experience. Standardized processes and outdated hierarchical structures have dragged on into the new millennium, slowing—or even preventing—this experience evolution from taking hold.

    Rethinking the employment model

    Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends Report illustrates a “profound shift facing business leaders worldwide” that has forced them to rethink the orthodox employment model.

    The research uncovers a growing freelance and gig economy as employees reject the confines of the 9 to 5 routine. In fact, about a third of employers say they expect a rise in contractors, freelancers and gig workers (38%, 33% and 28%, respectively). Clearly, there is no longer a standard definition of work. This variation in working arrangements asks leaders to reconsider how to create an experience—one that supports both an increasingly flexible ecosystem and the personal interests of temporary employees.

    “Globally, there are approximately 77 million formally identified freelancers in Europe, India, and the United States.” Freetrain

    Broadening expectations for career development

    Deloitte’s report also explores the new career paradigm and demand for consistent and accessible skill development. “Careers are no longer narrowly defined by jobs and skills but through experiences and learning agility. The ongoing transformation of work, the need for people and organizations to constantly upgrade capabilities, and shifts in employee preferences, demand new approaches to learning, job design, performance management, and career development.”

    These broadening expectations are core to the changing workplace. Organizations must look to design an experience that empowers employees, no matter how or where they choose to work, and provide them with the tools and the training they need to progress.

    Digital natives think like consumers

    Man with smartphoneTechnology has also played its part in the evolution of workplace experience, as it so often does. Today’s employees are digital natives. When they’re at work, they want to feel that same seamless experience they’ve come to expect as a consumer.

    This means technology that not only functions effectively, but also provides a memorable and positive experience. From performance evaluations to workplace apps that support employees’ health and wellness goals, there are abundant opportunities where the organization’s approach to digital can make or break the user experience. Forward-thinking companies are taking a hard look at how their workplace technologies are affecting employees and driving business performance.

    Leaders in experience design

    Sodexo’s Workplace Trend Human Capital Management 3.0: Transforming the Employee Experience highlights a number of inevitable barriers as organizations look to operationalize employee engagement and enhance the workplace experience. Programs and touchpoints that comprise the employee experience—like recognition, learning or wellness—are often spread across disparate technology solutions and departmental responsibilities. That’s problematic not only from a management and administrative perspective, but also for the employee.

    There simply isn’t a magic ‘one size fits all’ formula that delivers an outstanding experience in the modern workplace. However, many companies are already transforming the employee experience through innovative design thinking, and business leaders can learn from their success.


    The tech and travel market disruptors aimed to create a memorable workplace experience, driven by their vision of ‘belonging anywhere’. The design strategy reimagined all aspects, including the care with which they recruit and train new employees, the working environment, volunteer experiences, internal communications, events and recognition. The result? 90% of employees would recommend Airbnb to a friend or colleague as a great place to work.


    International courier DHL Express employs around 100,000 people in more than 220 countries. The nature of the organization means its workforce is either out on the road, or spread across offices and warehouses all over the world. The company—which was included on Great Place to Work’s ‘World’s Best Workplaces’ list in 2018—developed a training program focused on reshaping workplace culture. Coaching Apps for tablets and mobile devices were launched to make this learning experience more accessible, as well as self-navigated modules which allow remote workers to take their training into their own hands.


    Salesforce is a global leader in customer relationship management. The company is championed for designing a supportive environment through initiatives including the New Hire Success Chatter Group. This online platform was created to help new hires get up to speed fast. They can post questions and receive answers from experts within the company. If a question goes unanswered a helpdesk ticket is generated prompting a quick follow-up.

    The new workplace contract

    “A productive, positive employee experience has emerged as the new contract between employer and employee,” writes Josh Bersin, Founder of Bersin & Associates, and leading expert in talent management. “Just as marketing and product teams have moved beyond customer satisfaction to look at total customer experience, so is HR refocusing its efforts on building programs, strategies, and teams that understand and continuously improve the entire employee experience.”

    This is the new workplace contract.

    Experience design asks leaders to build agile and adaptive strategies that can be tweaked and tested over time, blending data and analytics with user-centered approaches to simplify lives. In achieving this, competitive organizations create an ecosystem in which people are ready, willing, and capable of doing their best work.

    Rachel Permuth, Global Vice President of Research, Corporate Services at Sodexo, speaks on the importance of workplace experience design to drive employee engagement: