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Rethinking employee experience: the link between EX and CX

Steve Boese, HR Tech Conference chair
Steve Boese
Steve Boese is HRE's Inside HR Tech columnist and chair of HRE’s HR Technology Conference®. He also writes a blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast.

The history of established technology companies successfully moving into the HR domain is decidedly mixed: There are very few examples of adjacent technology providers managing to expand their offerings into HR categories, if they were founded in different functional domains or as “pure” IT providers. That is what makes what Qualtrics has managed and aspires to do so interesting.

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For those who may not be familiar with Qualtrics, the organization describes itself as a technology platform for “experience management” and delivers tools for companies to understand and improve customer and employee experience, and to conduct research and surveys. That latter component might be the one that most of us have encountered, as Qualtrics supplies customer survey technology for scores of the largest and most well-known companies in the world, like Delta, American Express, Adidas, Porsche, Hilton and many more.

Qualtrics approaches employee experience management by leaning on its history of providing customer experience tools. For HR leaders seeking ways to augment and deliver capabilities, insights and value to their organizations—that go beyond the “traditional” HR technology stack and the standard HR processes they support—a deeper understanding of what Qualtrics offers could be beneficial. 

The employee experience management challenge for HR

In the last several years, the concept of employee experience and HR’s role in driving it have become mainstream. Employee experience generally refers to the start-to-finish journey an employee has within an organization, and it encompasses every employee interaction and touchpoint with the organization—colleagues, managers, technology, everything.

For HR and business leaders, taking care of employees includes creating a positive work environment, providing necessary and timely support, recognizing and valuing employee contributions, and ensuring employee growth and development opportunities. Effectively managing that experience can lead to improved employee satisfaction, engagement, productivity and retention.

But one of the main challenges for HR leaders in the pursuit of understanding and improving employee experience is that EX can be a vague, abstract concept that has been difficult to quantify and measure—and thus, to set targets and goals around. Plenty of solutions for measuring EX have been developed, but many of the traditional HR technology providers’ efforts at capturing a true picture of employee experience have been incomplete.

Related: Shortchanging individual contributors could jeopardize employee engagement

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While significant progress has been made to improve the HR technology user experience—design, accessibility, intuitive workflow, etc.—that has not always translated into tools that help HR better understand and improve EX, and to know what specific activities in the lifecycle matter to EX. Given how Qualtrics approaches EX from its heritage of providing companies with technology to understand and improve customer experience (CX), I think the company is certainly a provider to watch. Let’s briefly explore how Qualtrics’ technology solutions can play a role in improving EX, and what HR can learn from this.

Looking at employee experience through a customer experience lens

Qualtrics has deep roots in delivering technology for CX. These are tools that help organizations understand how every customer interaction impacts the brand to help an organization realize the best buying experiences and superior business outcomes. Qualtrics’ HR- and EX-focused solutions apply the concepts and learnings from customer experience work to an organization’s employees—particularly in the areas of soliciting feedback, ideas, concerns and pain points.

Leveraging the same type of listening and feedback-generating tools that marketers use for the customer journey for the “moments that matter” along the employee journey can generate important insights. These can be provide a particularly meaningful look at the effectiveness and impact of HR processes and programs in recruiting, onboarding, training, during major company change programs, employee life events and much more. The Qualtrics tools are designed to obtain feedback in the moment and in the flow of these processes, making them more responsive and flexible to changes and able to capture more real-time sentiment quicker than the traditional annual employee survey.

For example, the Qualtrics tools enable the capture of feedback on an organization’s interview scheduling, benefits enrollment or latest training initiatives during or soon after completion of these processes by employees, providing HR leaders rich insights into how the processes are serving employees and how they impact employees’ perceptions of HR and the organization. In addition, the results of these surveys can be used to analyze the impact of HR programs on business outcomes.

A major benefit of collecting employee lifecycle feedback is tying improvements in the employee experience back to KPIs that show the impact on the business results. An approach like Qualtrics’ allows for data to be collected at each stage in the lifecycle and compared to important business metrics like sales, profits, market share, customer satisfaction, net promoter scores—whatever is most relevant for the organization. Much like marketing and sales rely upon data to measure the impact of customer-facing programs on business results, feedback on the key stages of the employees lifecycle can clearly show how HR improvements directly impact critical business KPIs. And certainly, the data can also be used to track progress on other HR measures like retention, performance reviews, promotions and so on.

Employee experience of the future

Improving employee experience and connecting it to business results is among the top priorities for HR and business leaders. By leveraging technology to obtain powerful insights at every stage of the employee lifecycle, HR can make important strides in aligning HR initiatives to important business drivers, understand more fully the business value of HR investments and increase HR’s strategic position. Looking at HR challenges through a marketing and sales lens allows HR leaders to begin to turn employee experience management from a somewhat vague, intangible concept into an important tool to effect positive change and improved results.