Community//

Talking Employee Experience with Ben Whitter and Conny Kunert

I think the greatest takeaway from this Hacking HR 2020 Summit chat is that companies who invest in having really happy and fulfilled employees, will ultimately be the most successful. Is there hugging involved? Read on to find out!

Below are some excerpts from the amazing experience I had talking about Employee Experience with two of the world’s top experts on the subject. Now that I’m reviewing all the content, it’s easy to see why they are such rockstars in this field:

Conny Kunert of Zurich — Accomplished People and Organizational Development executive with over 25 years’ experience in diverse workplace environments, cultures and geographies, including Fortune 500.

Ben Whitter of UK — get Ben’s book on Amazon >> Employee Experience: Develop a Happy, Productive and Supported Workforce for Exceptional Individual and Business Performance


Ben — Employee Experience is not something new. It’s been around with humans for a real long time. What’s happened in the last five years is that the corporate world and organizations in general are starting to move away from management-centric practices, to bring more of the human into the mix. The Employee Experience is the catalyst, or the best way to move forward with that work.

“Especially the management starts realizing the importance of bringing everything together, is key at the moment. Because people at work, they have changed and they will constantly change.” Conny

Conny — And especially the management starts realizing the importance of bringing everything together, is key at the moment. Because people at work, they have changed and they will constantly change. Don’t forget that we currently have five different generations working at the same time, and everybody has different needs and different expectations. So things have to change, and we need to do something about it.

Josia — So if a company is watching now and they think, oh my god these people really know what they’re talking about … what’s the ROI, what do they get out of it? Say you started working with a company — what can they expect the actual benefit to be?

“The evidence is really becoming quite compelling. So in my 15–16 years in the HR world, I’ve never seen outcomes like this, coming through from organizations. Irrespective of sector, size or resources — how much cash you have to invest in Employee Experience, we see some beautiful results in terms of engagement, but also in the business results.” Ben

Ben — The evidence is really becoming quite compelling. So in my 15–16 years in the HR world, I’ve never seen outcomes like this, coming through from organizations. Irrespective of sector, size or resources — how much cash you have to invest in Employee Experience, we see some beautiful results in terms of engagement, but also in the business results. So organizations are getting much smarter about how they connect not just to the HR metrics and indicators, but also the way they connect to the outcomes.The most important thing for business — is that we need to allow the Employee Experience to drive the value through for the organization and our teams. So that’s become a big thing for organizations as well. There is a big thing around alignment — getting people aligned, and overcoming the generational gaps is getting trickier to do. And again Employee Experience — if you’re enabling your purpose, your mission, your values, then we need to do it through every experience in the organization.

Josia — It’s funny because on the one hand you’re talking about something like generational gaps, and it’s a very human thing you’re dealing with. And on the other hand a few minutes ago Connie was talking about analyzing the data. So what does it actually look like when you do this? Do you go in and do workshop, kind of feel good, hugging kind of stuff? What does it actually look like?

Conny — We all sit on the floor and hold hands and dance around … that’s Employee Experience. No, it’s actually … it’s extremely important that there is buy-in from the top management. So if there is a mind-shift happening on the CEO level, then we can start.

Josia — Do you make the mind-shift happen? Or is it that the CEO has reached a point where their challenges are so serious that they reach out to you?

Conny — Well hopefully, the mind-shift has already happened. And if not, something must have happened because otherwise they wouldn’t have started thinking about it and realizing — “we need to do something”. But if they are not open to making necessary changes, then the whole concept wouldn’t work. It’s just a waste of time for both sides. It’s important to understand what the company values are, what they want, the business goals, strategies. Start analyzing what is happening there, and start with workshops to understand the company. For me, it’s not holding hands, and preparing everything for them, it’s the combination — working together. Because they’re the experts in the company. They know the company. I don’t know the company. They know the insights, they know what is happening there. And together, we develop a strategy how to go forward on an Employee Experience journey.

Josia — So what does a strategy like that look like for people who know nothing about this?

Ben — For me, it entirely depends on the context: so what the business is doing, where they are doing it, how they are doing it, why they are doing it. So I think a big part of the employee experience strategy is discovering all that stuff and seeing the organization with fresh eyes. Because if all of a sudden you’re looking at the experience, then that changes everything. Processes, bureaucracy , structure … the whole system is up for grabs in terms of where you start the work. I think for me I like starting with things that are really annoying for employees — I always like to start there.

Josia — Employees are actually like customers now. They have a journey, they have an experience,

Ben — I would definitely agree with that. They are more like customers. But I would say that the relationship we have with employees is so much deeper and involved. With customers, if you put out a bad product or do something wrong — they will leave you and go somewhere else. Employees will always stay. They will always tend to stay, in a lot of circumstances. So I think the relationship, and the way we design our Employee Experience Strategy really needs to reflect that. So it’s very much about co-creation. I want to be utilizing the views, insights and expertise, not just as a practitioner, but employees within context. So this is why the data is so important.

Conny — I agree they are a bit more than just customers — it’s a customer + because we have to treat them with respect, and we have to treat them differently. Not hierarchical anymore. We don’t just go out and say — “Hey, you need to do this and that.” It’s teamwork there. To the point — if we do not meet their needs, and do not engage our employees, at the end of the day, the good ones leave very quickly, and we keep the bad ones. And we don’t want to keep the bad ones, we want to keep the good ones. Those who are disengaged, those who are not going the extra mile, who are not part of the values and culture of the company. They just sit there for eight and half hours, go home, and receive a salary. Those who are advocates for the company — this is what we really want, because we can’t underestimate how employees are perceived outside in social media; how they develop the brand as well, how they communicate about the brand, this is a critical point. Those that are not that enthusiastic about the company and talk about that outside in the world, I think those are the ones you don’t keep.

“Those who are advocates for the company — this is what we really want, because we can’t underestimate how employees are perceived outside in social media; how they develop the brand as well, how they communicate about the brand, this is a critical point.” Connie

Ben — Employee Experience will enable you to create the conditions to create brand advocates. From my experience, the problem that companies have is that they start complaining about the employees that they don’t want — that maybe they want to exit them — but that it won’t be advocacy. So I see this as shared responsibility. An employer has the responsibility to create a positive employee experience for working with employees, and employees have a role to play also making sure the Employee Experience is the best it possibly can be — it shouldn’t go too much to the side of the employee — that’s not a good organization. The Employee Experience is about being more human-centric as well.

Josia — So on the one hand you’re talking about creating this environment for people to thrive in, and on the other hand you’re talking about what happens outside the environment, and how these different environment influence each other. And I think people are also kind of afraid, to not do the wrong thing, so they might not be so open to influencing outside the company … They’re sort of in their own circle, in their own thing. Do you know what I mean?

Connie — As long as you’re happy, and an advocate for the company … it doesn’t mean that you have to go out to Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin and share all sorts of details — not necessarily. But not negative news is good news in this case as well, because if you are unhappy, you start communicating in a negative way. This is something we don’t want as an employer. You don’t need to be a huge advocate by being outspoken or whatever — that’s not necessary. Some are and that’s ok — but not everybody has to be like that.

“There are some that have never interacted with anyone on social media — they don’t do that kind of thing. What they do do, is more powerful. One to one, or speaking directly with people that care about experience, you will see everything about them change when they relay that narrative, that story, and share that experience. To me, that can be more powerful than social media. Because they could be talking to a key person of influence, or talking to someone who has some real … you know, it could be a customer, or potential customer. You want that to be positive. You want them to be saying positive things about your brand. They will take that everywhere they go.” Ben

Ben — There are some that have never interacted with anyone on social media — they don’t do that kind of thing. What they do do, is more powerful. One to one, or speaking directly with people that care about experience, you will see everything about them change when they relay that narrative, that story, and share that experience. To me, that can be more powerful than social media. Because they could be talking to a key person of influence, or talking to someone who has some real … you know, it could be a customer, or potential customer. You want that to be positive. You want them to be saying positive things about your brand. They will take that everywhere they go. So introvert or extrovert, it doesn’t really matter. They’re all going to be doing the same thing in relating experiences that they’ve had. Whether you like it or not.

Connie — Don’t underestimate the value of those introverts who have a huge network. They are your internal influencers. If you want to change anything in your company, these are the go-to points, and they can be anywhere. And they are not necessarily CEO’s, it could be a manager, or an employee in one area here or there, and they are your greatest influencers because they believe in what you do. They talk to their network. That’s the best that they can do. And that’s the best that can actually happen to you as a company.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Hacking HR 2020 Summit: Employee Experience and The Human Workplace

by Josia Nakash
Yuri Kruman Human Resources
Community//

Yuri Kruman Shares How To Identify And Retain Top Talent with Kage Spatz

by Kage Spatz
Thrive News//

The Thrive XM Index: Closing the People Experience Gap

by Arianna Huffington, Jennifer Morgan, Ryan Smith

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.