EX CX Personal growth


A renewed focus on employee experience as organisations grapple with engagement in a hybrid post-pandemic world has led to jobs in People gaining more exposure across the board. Avalyn Kasahara shares how just as the world of work is changing, so too should our approach to how we interact with our employees, and what People teams should be learning from the creative industries.

17 February 2023 • 4 min read

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I’ve never thought of myself as a creative. Sure, I’ve worked in creative agencies, but as a Employee Experience practitioner, I’ve always thought that creativity was for the Marketing or Design teams.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that this attitude is wrong. The longer I work in the creative industries, the more I realise that in many ways, ‘I’m not a creative’ is a pretty lame excuse.

But let’s rewind it a bit here and talk about what employee experience means these days. In my early career, I spent a lot of time in corporates, where employee experience was all about the tangible. What benefits do we offer, where are the policies kept, do people know their objectives? Decision making on our values (plastered all over the walls), and how they translated to our employee experience was led from C Suite. We never challenged, we just accepted that these leaders, often in their glass boxes, knew what was right for our employees.

You can imagine how well that worked out. We’d often stand at the end of a national or global change programme in horror as the leadership scratched their heads and asked ‘why hasn’t anything changed? Why are our employees still using the old tech/process/behaviours (delete as appropriate but they usually all are)?’

And so, our frustratingly slow toe-dipping started into researching what our employees actually wanted. We kicked off with the company wide survey (insert some eye rolling here). It was a start of course, but we could never work out how to get the completion rates higher, to get more detailed responses, to really get down to the crux of what was causing the issue.

Now, I’m being a bit harsh here. There were great organisations out there, like Towards Maturity, who were doing a lot more in this area. But internally, we were dragging our heels. I think subconsciously, we didn’t want to open Pandora’s box, and find out that actually, the workforce had changed so drastically from when HR reigned supreme, and we had a tonne of work to do.

And it was about this time I jacked it all in corporate world and moved into creative agencies. And worked with Creatives. I worked with Service Designers, CX Researchers and Strategists. It was enlightening, and exciting, and incredibly frustrating.

Because here I found proven, developed methodologies for understanding customers’ behaviours. Tools and processes so advanced that they were reinventing 100-year-old businesses. But every time, I felt that the employee experience was an afterthought. They were in the process because they had a direct result on the customer experience, but they weren’t treated as customers’ themselves. And this for me is the key point. My entire career has been about employees – their needs, their wellbeing, their values. I’ve just lacked the proper tools to get the data required to improve that experience. And yet, here were the tools and the experts to deliver them, but the focus was solely on the customer.

Now, this has changed pretty significantly in the last few years. I’m sure I’m not the only People person forehead slapping as LinkedIn becomes awash with ‘it’s all about our PEOPLE’, ‘We understand what makes YOU YOU’ and ‘We know it’s all about BALANCE’ messages, like People/HR/L&D/Employee Engagement teams haven’t been trying to get businesses on side with this for decades. But that’s OK, because now, there is a real appreciation for people within a business. Whatever the drivers (changing employee needs and behaviours, wars for talent, hybrid working practices, a global pandemic which messed with our wellbeing on a massive scale), there are more People folk on Leadership teams than ever before. Finally, we have a proper seat at the table. Let’s make sure we use it wisely.

Because consultancies are. Every day I hear of another consultancy that focuses on company culture and employee experience, and they rely on the tools of the Service Designers, the CX Researchers, just like we do at FSC to conduct our Culture programmes for our clients. We conduct interviews, we observe, we immerse in the business and run journey mapping workshops. We speak to Leadership and we speak to the new starter 2 months into their role. We speak to the talent market before they’re even aware of the businesses we are working with. We map needs and pain points and then we innovate with the employees themselves to create unique cultures and experiences that employees can be proud of.

This is the future of Employee Experience. Taking the tools of the Creative industries and applying them to internal culture and experience. Learning from other specialisms and applying methodologies that are tried and tested to better understand our people. Looking at our employees as our customers, our chief stakeholders, those that can make or break our business. Conducting research to truly understand their unique values and drivers, and working backwards to find ways to align this to our business values. And ultimately, being creative in our solutions. Not creative by throwing some more Deliveroo vouchers at our people at the end of the month, nor by partnering with another sleep app, but by listening to our people, finding out what they truly need in their job, and innovating together to get it done.

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