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Building the role of IC through employee experience

The latest in the IoIC’s series of roundtables for Fellows (our most senior grade of membership)

focused on the subject of ‘employee experience’. Co-hosted by IoIC Board Member Oli Howard and

leadership consultant Dominic Walters, the session was a rich conversation about the value of the ‘employee experience’ (or ‘EX’) concept and the role internal communicators can play in its delivery.

Moments that matter

The conversation began with a recognition that while the label ‘EX’ may be new, much of the thinking behind it is long-established. Both the idea of creating positive experiences for employees at work, and the notion that this can only be done consistently when there is strong collaboration between the various internal actors (IC, IT, marketing, HR etc.) are well understood within our profession. Some of the Fellows at the roundtable had been practising on this basis for decades, building on the work of thought-leaders like Simon Barrow (The Employer Brand) and John Smythe (The CEO – Chief Engagement Officer).

What feels more modern though is the porting of practices used for the management of customer experience (or ‘CX’) into the internal world. Methodologies like journey mapping, artefacts like service blueprints, and concepts like ‘moments of truth’ (or ‘moments that matter’ as one Fellow put it) are relatively new. Models and methods are appearing all the time (a number of reports and books were referenced) and these provide us with new ways of organising our thinking about what happens to employees at work.

Be wary of over-engineering

There was an observation that the employee experience is something that can be managed. If that feels obvious to say, it is simply a recognition of the fact it is often not managed in any coherent way. And it is perhaps through the tools detailed above that those with an interest in designing and delivering a consistent experience stand the best chance of doing so.

In executing this though, we should be wary not to overprocess or over-engineer the experience. People’s lives at work are inherently individual, and work is a place (virtual or otherwise) where they come to contribute – not to passively ‘be done to’. Management of experience should also be management of people’s involvement in decision-making, and their inclusion within the organisation and its activities. Employees should also be supported to ‘bring their whole selves to work’ and to sustain their wellbeing when things become more challenging. These are all fundamental aspects of the experience and must not be overlooked.

A key role

So what does the growing popularity of EX as a concept mean for communicators? According to our Fellows, it is a positive opportunity for a couple of key reasons. Firstly, IC professionals have tended to be advocates for joined-up thinking between leadership, management, HR, marketing, IT and other business functions. Many would argue that effective IC is impossible without such a coordinated approach, and the idea of EX creates pressure for exactly that kind of alignment. IC teams and advisors can make use of the concept to press for exactly the type of collaborative working they have long been calling for. Secondly, IC people – with their connectedness to other teams, relationship-led approach, and deep understanding of their organisations – are ideally positioned to be brokers for this kind of collaboration.

There was one cautionary note though. In taking on this responsibility, IC professionals must be sure they are not allowing senior leaders to abdicate it. Providing an experience where trust, information and ideas flow in both directions is dependent on the actions of senior leaders. Communicators can be their trusted advisors and facilitators, but not their substitutes. The desire to create and manage a winning employee experience must come from them, and the intent behind doing so must be genuine.

Find out more abut IoIC Fellowship.

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