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The secret of growth? Reimagining employee experience


July 13, 2021

A lot has been said and written about Employee Experience (EX) over the years. So much, in fact, you may wonder what remains to be said. Indeed, when it comes to HR systems and processes the topic has been well covered. However, HR systems and processes are only the very tip of the EX iceberg.

The far larger proportion lies below the water and comprises people’s day-to-day lived experiences. The technology they use and their ability to use it is a big factor. Recent research undertaken for our report, Honing your digital edge, found that 54% of a person’s ability to be agile comes down to their fluency with digital tools.

But there are other factors too. The support people receive from peers and managers is important, as is whether they identify with the corporate purpose. In fact, there are a broad range of factors that impact the holistic working experience. Yet these broader experiences have all too often been overlooked.

Thanks to COVID-19, this situation is beginning to change. Employers realize that the nature of work is shifting. Big questions are being asked about where work should take place, how safety can be addressed and how a distributed workforce can feel connected and purposeful. These questions all affect the employee experience. But more than that, they demand an expansive definition of EX to help enterprises rebuild and grow. 

At Accenture, we’ve been working closely with clients to develop just such a definition, and here it is:

We define employee experience as the design and delivery of a personalized work environment that inspires people to be their best, amplifies human potential and helps companies to flourish.

There are several key words within this definition that require closer scrutiny:

  • Design and delivery. Let’s face facts, until now EX has largely consisted of designing journeys and personas that then get stuck in delivery. This is not the fault of HR or the wider business. The blockage simply stems from the fact that enterprises have not been designed for the end-to-end delivery of employee services. We want businesses to rethink how they structure their services to employees, using a considered approach to creating and sustaining the conditions for individuals and teams to excel. Key to this work is removing silos around EX and giving responsibility for its design and delivery to a clearly identified cross-function team. And even go outside of the organisations and bring partners across the ecosystem to enable better experiences.
  • Personalized work environment. Over the past 10-15 years there has been a big push for standardization to drive cost efficiencies. But if enterprises are to deliver on EX they need to personalize, and that means adopting the sort of audience segmentation used in marketing. Having segmented the workforce, employers can then apply advanced intelligent tools, systems and processes to anticipate the needs of the individual in real-time, providing a personalized and adaptive ‘context aware’ experience. When it comes to the work environment, we need to remember we are talking about holistic EX. That means considering how we can bring data and intelligent personalisation to bear no matter where the worker is – whether entering the office, logging-in at home, sitting on a train, or meeting their line manager for coffee.
  • Inspires to be their best. If organizations are to get the best out of their people, they need to ensure they are arming them with the right set of tools to relate to the company and that it is easy for them to navigate their way through the enterprise. For their part, line managers and leaders need to focus on ways of unlocking the potential of everyone in the team. This will not be easy. It requires everyone leaning in every day with the goal of making their company the very best place to work. It also involves giving people a strong sense of purpose. As we discovered in our recent Care to Do Better research report, feeling that one makes a positive difference to the world and that life has meaning is a key dimension of unlocking human potential at work. If people feel connected to the brand purpose, inspiration will follow.
  • Amplifies human potential and helps companies to flourish. Again, drawing on the findings of Care to do Better, the key to effective EX is making people net better off across all dimensions of their working lives, including the financial, emotional & mental, relational, physical, purposeful and employable. Designing the work environment to enable an inspired workforce and help them collaborate and co-operate across locations unlocks the full potential of workers. The company then benefits from teams of inspired and purpose-driven people who are prepared to innovate and generate sustainable growth.

Our new definition of EX elevates the concept beyond HR processes into an expansive approach to driving business performance by unleashing the full potential of workers. How can this definition be put into practice?

In the second blog in this series, I will outline a suggested framework for EX excellence. It’s my firm belief that by applying the principles of this framework, businesses will be able to drive breakthrough growth. Indeed, as I shall show, some are already doing just that.


Gastón Carrión

Managing Director – Global Natural Resources Talent & Organization/Human Potential Lead