Employee Experience, doing things with and for your employees, not to your employees

29 october 2018

2018 will be the year of Employee experience. No, let us rewind that. 2018 is the year of Employee experience.

So, how do you provide the best employee experience in any company, in any industry? That was the topic we wanted to tackle last week at TEC, talent enablement conference: From Reinventing Performance Management to Talent Enablement.

We distilled some highlights and mixed them in this mash-up. Enjoy and feel free to join the conversation by adding your comments below...

Scrum careers: people want directions, they don’t want to be directed

Today’s workforce wants options. There’s no need to overdefine the end, because we don’t want to have it all figured out beforehand as we used to. So out with the output focused careers. Enter the concept of scrum careers where focus is on the process.

Scrum? Say what?

Scrum is an agile way to manage a project: instead of providing complete, detailed descriptions of how everything is to be done in a project, most is left up to the scrum team because the team knows best how to solve the problem. In other words: scrum is a framework for project management that emphasizes teamwork, accountability and iterative progress toward a well-defined goal and it goes with a simple premise: start with what can be seen or what is already know and after that, track progress and tweak as necessary.

Arne Van Damme (COO Intuo) kicked off the #TECintuo18 event and talked about applying the scrum concept to how we can (must?) manage careers in the 21st century. See his take aways in this video. 


Out with fixed career ladders where the only way is up. In with alternative career paths using personas.
Out with function titles that only give status and tend to take away the opportunity for people to become career owners.
In with agility and career progress via a series of projects, timeboxed to shorter periods of time.


Little contagious pockets of excellence

Up to 70% of how employees feel about their experience of work is shaped by their relationship with their manager. Unfortunately, that experience is too often a negative one.

If you want to turn it into a positive one,
the manager is actually the secret sauce to create a positive climate.

Climate versus Culture.

Climate is what if feels like to work somewhere and culture is ‘how we do things’, it’s about the beliefs and assumptions. Culture cannot be changed by a person, but the climate can. So, if you want the climate to be energizing and unforgettable, you need ‘the secret sauce’.
Shawn Murphy, author of ‘the optimistic workplace’ shared with us 4 factors to improve the climate and that don’t acquire a CEO’s or HR’s approval.

And our absolute favorite factor is the concept of creating contagious pockets of excellence: despite what’s going on in the rest of the company e-ve-ry-body has the power to create an environment that doesn’t suffer from the overall negativity or toxic culture and Shawn calls those good practices contagious pockets of excellence: activities that require no extra money and that are so good (and contagious) that other people in the company want to start doing them too.

We especially remember his story of Canlis, a four-star dining experience in Seattle. Before the restaurant opens, the entire staff runs through every reservation and knows in detail who comes to dinner and why, creating an amazing experience for every guest. It’s about the details!

We all need a bit of beyonce in our life!

The most inspiring talk by far - in our opinion - was ‘ winning together’ from Kate Richardson Walsh. Kate is an English Hockey gold medallist. As captain, she has led her team to many victories and international prizes. She shared her journey on leading a group of very different individuals, all having one common goal. Leadership, hard work, and persistence were the driving forces behind the success of her and her team.

We really love her vision on leadership: it’s about bringing the best version of yourself and then helping others bring the best version of themselves (let them shine). It’s not about you, it’s about the team.
You don’t want the diva to outshine the steady eddy’s.

one team


We took away 3 major learnings from her talk:

  1. You can’t be all things to everybody all the time, so take care of yourself first.
  2. Little cracks can make grand canyons when under stress, so deal with them before they can become a canyon.
  3. And we all need a bit of Beyonce in our life :-)


Whatever you do, don’t fuck up the culture!

Those were the famous first words from Brian Chesky, who co-founded Airbnb, when he attracted Mark Levy to become Airbnb’s head of employee experience.

Mark Levy, who is currently working for Allbirds, talked about how he shifted Airbnb's traditional HR mindset to employee experience and how he was able to hire more than 3000 people in 4 years. According to Mark Levy a mindshift from the entire company is needed. It won’t work if it’s just an HR initiative.

It’s about doing things with and for your employees not to your employees and
about approaching them as if they are your customers.

Employee experience requires new ways of working, thinking and doing, you need to start with the problem, that is defined by the people who are the closest to the source and who will be impacted the most. And last but not least, it comes with organizational structure implications.


employee experience


Mark’s main challenge was to apply human centered design thinking to every part of the employee’s journey so it becomes seamless and the secret sauce was to gather a group of people creating experiences and telling stories that build deep emotional loyalty and a sense of belonging (=ground control).

He also shared how culture at Airbnb is defined:

  • champion the mission
  • be a hoste
  • embrace the adventure
  • be a cereal entrepreneur #ThisIsNOTaTypo (check out the video or read this article)

At Airbnb expertise and values are equally important: there are core values interviews for EVERY function (only focus on mission and values),no cv’s, and always done by 2 employees that have a completely different role than the role the candidate is applying for (to leave out bias). That way they created a funnel and made sure no one would fuck up the culture :-)

If you want to learn more about how Airbnb built its culture through belonging, this article we found online is a #goodread and be sure to read the part about elephants, dead fish and vomit :-) Or check out this video of the belo that Airbnb introduced to bring its culture alive: the belo is intended to be a symbol of belonging and it is a combination of four simple symbols:

  1. a head to represent people,
  2. a location icon to represent place,
  3. a heart for love
  4. and then an A for Airbnb.

Final note…

Not that long ago employee experience was a a buzzword linked to the ever-so-distant Future of Work. Nowadays, it is key in securing a successful and sustainable business, determining the engagement and commitment the people that are behind it.

No need to convince us that 2018 indeed is the year of employee experience. No need to convince us that managers are the secret sauce to create a positive climate for all employees. No need to convince me that the team is more important than the individual. And no need to convince me that the behavior of one employee can ruin the reputation of an entire company and everybody that works there.


It’s not just about the employees on your payroll!

It’s just as much about external talent: everybody that works for your company, is not necessarily on your payroll. We should take that into consideration, especially because the flexible workforce is growing in today’s and tomorrow’s World of Work…

What do you think?

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