One of the great things about working with my fellow XM Institute catalysts is how our exchange of ideas and experiences broadens our collective perspectives. And because so much of my work and research in XM focuses on the intersection of customers and employees, one of the topics that I’ve been exploring with my colleague Ben Granger is what’s happening in the world of employee experience (EX) management as those professionals seek to embrace a more consumer-like approach to designing and delivering experiences to employees. We’ve enjoyed the mutual learning so much that we’ve captured part of our conversations on adopting CX principles to propel EX management in a recent webinar and are going to share more of our thinking over a series of blog posts, starting with this one.

XM Institute research has found that while there is a clear desire among business executives to increase their focus on EX, it is also clear that there is very little formal alignment across HR and customer experience (CX) in most organizations. And quite frankly this needs to be addressed from both the CX and EX side. For EX leaders, in particular, coming together can provide an avenue for them to learn from their CX peers — who have been establishing CX management programs inside organizations — about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to experience management (XM). 

When I reflected on what lessons I typically emphasize with EX professionals, three fundamental principles came to mind. 


1) Understand Employees’ Perceptions of Experiences

Any XM effort begins with a foundational understanding of “an experience.” An experience is what actually happens to a person during an interaction with an organization – for employees, that could be applying for a job, requesting performance feedback, or enrolling for benefits. And while most organizations overly focus on the design of the process, workflow, or policy of how something gets done, what really matters is how a person goes through an experience. We call this the Human Experience Cycle and it’s a model of human behavior that helps to explain how experiences are evaluated and how they shape perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors.

Perhaps the most fundamental principle of CX management that applies equally to EX management is to recognize that employee perceptions of an experience are what really matter. An organization cannot know whether an experience is good or bad until it understands how employees perceive the experience. Typically, perceptions of experiences are formed across three dimensions: 

  • Success – Could I accomplish what I needed to accomplish? 
  • Effort – How easy or hard was it to accomplish? 
  • Emotion – How did the experience make me feel? 

Perceptions shape employees’ attitudes about their company and their work (such as employee engagement) and influence their future behaviors. Just as CX programs keep the human experience cycle in mind when designing interactions and guiding CX measurement, EX leaders should build in ways to understand how employees are perceiving discrete experiences at work. Many HR leaders leverage legacy HR measures of engagement or advocacy (e.g., eNPS) as blanket measures of the success of many experiences, policies, and procedures. While there is nothing wrong with engagement or advocacy, ‘success, effort, and emotion’ is a more actionable framework for evaluating discrete employee experiences. 


2) Recognize All Employees Aren’t the Same

Every organization is a blend of people with different backgrounds, experience levels, professional goals, and personal motivations (among other characteristics). What that means to XM efforts is that different people bring different sets of expectations and can perceive the same experience very differently. This is reflected in one of our favorite sayings: “An experience designed for everyone pleases no one.” The second CX principle I regularly reinforce with EX professionals is the importance of having a clear picture of who they are designing and delivering experiences to and how different groups of those individuals may require different things to have a positive experience.

To accomplish this, EX teams can use a popular CX design tool, personas, which helps in building a shared understanding of key employee segments’ profiles, needs, drivers, and pain points across the organization. While many HR and people analytics teams already leverage segmentation techniques, they often rely on external heuristics or broad generalizations such as “generations.” While these can provide useful direction, it is far more effective to build personas and segment employees based on internally-collected data.   


3) Focus on “the Journey,” Not the Touchpoint

Organizations become noticeably more customer-centric when their focus shifts from finding and fixing isolated interactions to understanding customer journeys. This pivot compels an organization to better understand its customers’ expectations and actions. For example, an online travel agency that shifts from focusing on how a customer “books a flight” to the journey of a customer with a goal of “planning a fun family vacation” will approach how it designs, delivers, and monitors experiences very differently.

EX leaders can apply this same thinking to their own strategy development. As an example, for an employee, it’s not about finding and completing a training program, it’s about developing new knowledge and skills to prepare for a desired promotion. EX leaders should take the opportunity to orient their efforts around employee goals and journeys, not just the HR-to-employee process touchpoints that organizations have traditionally focused on.

While there are many lessons EX professionals can learn from their CX colleagues to kick-start or evolve their XM programs, these three are foundational to becoming more customer- and employee-centric. Adopting these principles will influence not only how the organization thinks about EX, but the strategies and tactics it puts in place to measure and improve employee experiences.


This blog post is the second in a series of more in-depth pieces on this topic. The first installment is a webinar on Getting Started Adopting CX Principles to Propel EX Management, and the third is a blog post on Three CX Measurement Principles that Can Help Propel EX.

Aimee Lucas, CCXP, is an XM Catalyst with the Qualtrics XM Institute