Looking at the Employee Experience in a New Way

By: | January 10, 2019 • 3 min read
Josh Bersin writes HRE’s HR in the Flow of Work column. Bersin is an analyst, author, educator and thought leader focusing on the global talent market and the challenges and trends impacting business workforces around the world. He can be emailed at hreletters@lrp.com.

The employee experience—what employees encounter, observe and feel throughout their employment journey—is an important but very complex topic. One might think that with a decade of economic growth and an explosion of technology at work, most employees would be having positive experiences. However, employees are feeling overloaded by their digital tools, they want to spend more time with their families and friends, and they want to focus on health, career and meaning at work. So, there’s still much to work on.

Yet, before you and your team create yet another program to enhance your employees’ experiences, I think it’s important to take a step back and ask, “What do we really want to accomplish for our employees and why are we employing them in the first place?”

Until recently, most companies hired people to get specific types of work done. Companies had customers to serve, products to build and services to provide, so they hired people to fill very defined jobs. HR tailored work experiences around these jobs—which meant providing tools, job aids, training and incentives to make sure employees got their specific tasks done.


In recent years, however, the role of employees has begun to change. Now, most executives are realizing that their workforces are intrinsically linked to business growth, agility and innovation. More and more companies are empowering employees to make decisions related to their jobs and letting them design their own way of working. In a highly empowered organization, employees may have multiple work locations; they may be very mobile and manage their own work hours; and in some cases, they can set their own pay, either by doing more work or asking for more jobs to do.

Today, if you look at the fastest growing jobs with highest salaries in most industries, you’ll find they are all positions that require empowerment—such as designers, engineers, scientists and healthcare workers. These are employees who create things, serve others and are very highly motivated by their end-to-end experience at work. To attract and retain such employees, HR teams have started to lavish more benefits, adopt flexible-work options and create new programs for health, wellbeing and career development. I’ve talked with HR leaders whose companies have added a long list of benefits and wellbeing programs with the aim of further improving the employee experience, and they’re still finding ways to add more.

Let me encourage you to think about the employee experience differently—in a way that’s not related to various benefit offerings. While we all want work to be productive, enjoyable, and positive for our careers and finances—we also want something more. People come to work to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to spend their time doing something meaningful, contribute to progress and help others.

Research shows that feelings of belonging, purpose and progress are what really matter most to employees. Certainly, they want to be paid fairly and well. But beyond that, employees want to know they are accomplishing something of value.