Consumerism, Employee Experience, and HR

Organizations spend billions each year to expand their understanding of the preferences and loyalties of consumers; constantly segmenting and targeting unique needs in a effort to generate higher net promoter scores or lure new business.

Based on recent headlines and several notable pieces of research, employees feel overwhelmed, unable to disconnect from work, and are often actively disengaged. By purposefully crafting and employee experience that is in alignment with the customer experience organizations can improve engagement, efficiency, and profitability.
Forward thinking organizations are focusing attention on not only the customer experience, but the employee experience. For organizations seeking to improve the employee experience the lessons learned from marketing, brand, and sales are key starting points.

Organizations such as Zappos, General Electric, and Nestle, have invested in carefully crafting the employee experience. Jacob Morgan (The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, 2014) and others continue to highlight the necessity of recasting the way we approach work, the employee, the enterprise, and the intersections of consumerism and the employee experience. Some of the drivers frequently noted include-

The Talent Acquisition Challenge (better known as the “war for talent”)- differentiating yourself as an employer in order to attract in-demand talent is a key driver. No matter the rate of applications or current ability to attract- organizations must be vigilant in their efforts to differentiate themselves as employers.

Consumerism and Global Connectivity- employees seeks the same experiences in the workplace that they experience as consumers. They want simple, ease of use technology, exemplary service, minimal complexity, and direct access to decision makers. For example, your employee can go to Fiverr, People Per Hour, or any other similar service and get a visually striking infographic produced for less than $100 in an hour. If that employee has to complete several forms, go through a level of approval and wait 5 business days to achieve the same end as an employee there is a disconnect between their experience as a consumer and their experience as an employee.

HR is the key strategic lead in creating the employee experience. However, an integrated approach that includes marketing, facilities, and executive sponsorship is required. As an aside, there is mounting evidence concluding that the physical domain (your work space) is a key driver for productivity and engagement. The employee experience must be integral to the physical design of work space. For this reason, I am an advocate for the real estate function being integrated into HR.

There are numerous strategies successful organizations use to improve the employee experience. This article will focus on four- personalization, simplification, transparency, and responsiveness.


In the consumer space there is rarely a “one-size fits all” proposition. Many HR functions historically exist to limit risk and create procedures, policies, and guidelines designed to manage risk and maximize efficiency. A consumerism approach that includes the employee experience can seem contradictory. Some simple ways to begin the personalization journey incude

Leveraging internal platforms that allow customization of employee on line profiles where applicable
Empowering employees to reconfigure their work space to suit their individual work styles
Allowing for a broader range of technology tools and platforms
Customizing learning and employee development to enhance current jobs skills and provide s focus on personal career objectives


Many employees struggle with the bombardment of data (not necessarily information), change, ineffective and overly frequent meetings, and ineffective technology. According to a 2014 article, The Overwhelmed Employee (van Berkle and Schwartz) over 60% of companies believe complexity is an obstacle to success and a significant barrier to productivity.

General Electric has made simplicity a core business strategy.

“Simplification reinforces the outcomes matter”
“Simplification is making GE safer”
“Through simplification GE is more unified”
“A simple company is faster”
“A simpler company is more empathetic”
“A simpler company is better for our customers”
“A simpler company is good for our investors”

All of these statements appear in the GE strategy. Clearly the GE leadership have embraced the idea that simplicity can lead to improved results.


Consumers demand to know what is in their food, the safety rating of their vehicles, the qualifications of their childcare or pet care providers. Employees want to understand how their organizations work, how their leaders think, and how their efforts contribute to the strategy. By authentically declaring “simplicity” as a core business strategy GE enhances the ability of its global workforce to understand what is important and why. Employees at Zappos were informed of the move to holocracy. They were given the opportunity to opt out by leaving the organization under favorable terms if they didn’t believe in the idea of holocracy. Transparency is challenging, but critical to enhancing the employee experience. Transparency is related to authenticity. For example, if you work in a financial services organization that promotes investing and your employer does not offer you the same or better access to services than it does its customers, the employee can view this as not “walking the talk”.


Feedback is the life blood of marketing. Creating a listening environment  and leveraging technology to create real time feedback and generate ideas is critical to being seen as responsive. Employees can easily go on Yelp or other platforms and leave reviews, employees can go on Twitter, state an opinion, make a suggestion, or lodge a concern with ALL of the consumer products they frequently use, and get feedback in real time. Integrating transparency (others see my Twitter feed) and responsiveness create a powerful tool that can enhance the employee experience.

Creating a cohesive and thoughtful employee experience requires an integrated approach. With CEO and Board support, creating an employee experience coalition that includes HR, marketing, branding, facilities, IT and other representation is critical to success.

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