Over the last few years, it’s been great to see a rising number of HR professionals focusing on Employee Experience (EX) and driving more engaged, high-performing workforces. This has only enhanced my belief that EX represents a critical opportunity for the entire HR profession to increase its value.

By definition, EX is the collection of experiences and interactions that employees have with their employers. But despite the increased focus on EX, many of the HR leaders that I’ve worked with over the past few years find this effort daunting and many still leverage decades-old approaches.

That’s why I decided to write this post about an organizational capability that will equip HR professionals to manage and master EX. This capability, called Experience Management (XM), is defined as:

The discipline of using both experience data (X-data) and operational data (O-data) to measure and improve the core experiences of a business.

And one of the most foundational of those core experiences is the employee experience (EX).

Now, most organizations do measure and improve certain components of their employees’ experiences. And many have even built formal people analytics functions and teams to produce insights and implement changes. This ad-hoc approach to EX, however, represents only the most basic level of XM.


The Role of XM in HR

While many organizations focus on isolated approaches to managing EX, very few have built XM into a discipline. As a discipline, XM requires a sustained focus; it’s not a project or two that an organization implements and then suddenly “achieves.” In fact, among the hundreds of HR departments I’ve worked with, the ones with the highest levels of XM maturity are the ones that constantly feel like they are behind and look for ways to improve.

Another hallmark of XM is that it involves the combination of X-data and O-data. While most organizations have multi-instrumented O-data systems in place to collect and manage employee operational data, like course completion rates, employee productivity, turnover, etc, their X-data systems are lacking. That is, organizations know a lot about what is going on with their employees, but not nearly enough about why it’s happening.

XM combines the power of what and why with a set of operational processes for putting those insights into action. Specifically, XM helps HR teams to:

  • Continuously Learn. XM helps organizations more effectively sense and interpret what’s happening to employees, how they are behaving, and why. For example, employees’ needs, wants and expectations are always changing, as are organizational priorities, and HR teams need formal, flexible mechanisms to keep up with these changes.
  • Propagate Insights. XM helps organizations put actionable intelligence in the hands of people across their ecosystem who can use it, creating seamless access to the right information, in the right form, at the right time. As the organization collects insights from its workforce, it must act on them. And in order to act on them, those insights must be available and consumable to senior leaders, frontline managers and individual contributors alike.
  • Rapidly Adapt. XM helps organizations act on the insights they’ve uncovered at an increasingly faster pace, finding ways to create new experiences and renovate existing ones. Senior business leaders, HR teams and people managers need to make changes faster than ever, especially during times of major disruption and crisis.


Operationalizing XM Across HR

How can you weave the XM discipline across HR and across your EX practices? By focusing on three areas that we call the XM Operating Framework:

  • Competency. To gain value from XM, HR teams need to expand their skill sets and develop new approaches for gaining and using insights. Competencies are the skills and actions that ultimately establish XM as a discipline. We’ve identified six XM Competencies: LEAD, REALIZE, ACTIVATE, RESPOND, ENLIGHTEN, and DISRUPT.
  • Technology. To master the competencies at scale, organizations need a flexible, scalable platform that is capable of collecting, analyzing, and distributing insights to the relevant people and processes. This technology empowers everyone to understand and – more importantly – take action on the insights generated from both X-data and O-data. Technology also helps core EX teams create modern X-data systems that operate more like O-data systems, collecting employees’ attitudes, thoughts, and feelings in seamless, automated ways.
  • Culture. For XM competencies to thrive, companies need to foster an environment that instills XM-centric mindsets and behaviors in their leaders and employees. Most organizations have established ideal cultural values which are represented by artifacts and underpinned by underlying beliefs. When these artifacts, values, and underlying beliefs are aligned with XM, not only do XM mindsets and practices grow but so do business outcomes.


Starting Your Journey Towards Employee XM

So how can you move from ad-hoc employee surveying or disjointed EX efforts to true employee experience? Here are 4 simple steps to get started.

  1. Learn more about the XM Operating Framework. Specifically, start by focusing on the six XM Competencies. While culture and technology are critical enablers of XM, the competencies are the most foundational and directly actionable for HR leaders.
  1. Assess your current EX Maturity. Once you’re familiar with the competencies within the XM Operating Framework, it’s time to assess your organization’s current maturity. We’ve developed a short assessment designed for HR leaders and practitioners. As you take the assessment, be honest; there is absolutely no benefit to inflating your scores.
  1. Learn about the State of EX Management. We conducted a study of large, North American organizations of their EX maturity. Within the same report as the maturity assessment is a summary of our findings. This report will help your benchmark your organization against others who’ve taken the same maturity assessment.
  1. Join the XM Professional Network (XMPN). At the XM Institute, we have created the XMPN which connects XM professionals across all experiences (employee, customer, product and brand) and facilitates greater learning and education. Click here to learn more.

A final benefit of XM is that it is a singular capability that organizations can leverage across the core experiences of business: customer (CX), employee (EX), brand (BX) and product (PX). Personally, one of the most rewarding aspects of XM is that it has introduced new and innovative ideas from the other pillars to greatly enhance its application to EX!


Benjamin Granger, Ph.D., is an XM Catalyst with the Qualtrics XM Institute