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Which Parts Of Employee Experience Really Matter Most?


I’ve been hearing about “employee experience” everywhere. Almost every software vendor, HR consulting firm, and HR executive is trying to figure it out.

Why? Because the concept is very broad and vague, and in some sense it encompasses everything at work.

The term “employee experience” (EX) came out of AirBnB around 2017 when the company started to apply design thinking to its employee services. They found out, as others now know, that actual employee “experiences” are far more complex than the traditional HR programs we build, so they started to co-design solutions for their people. Since then we’ve called them “moments that matter,” “employee journeys,” “employee interactions,” and lots of other things. And hundreds of books, articles, and tools are being developed.

The bottom line, however, is that all this is noise if we can’t figure out where to focus. Companies with “heads of employee experience” or EX programs have to decide where to start.

The Irresistible Organization Model

In my research over the years I came to understand that the drivers of employee happiness are complex and highly varied. As the model below points out, the issues range from the work itself, to management, to the environment, opportunity to grow, trust, leadership, and overall well-being. Each of these is important, and in every company some are more problematic than others.

My research shows that “growth” and “meaningful work” top them all. In my research last year with LinkedIn, respondents rated “ability to grow” almost four times as important as pay. When I asked 2,800 people what makes them “happy” at work, by far the number one answer was “a job I love.”

Well, some new research by Willis Towers Watson now clarifies this further, and I want to highlight it here.

Willis Towers Watson High Performance Research

Willis Towers Watson has one of the industry’s larger databases of employee engagement data. Each year, the company surveys more than 500 companies and nearly 10 million employees and has been doing this for more than 50 years. This means they can correlate employee feedback data against many long term business results (over a billion surveys).

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