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As the Human Resources profession continues to grow, evolve and become more solution-focused, we are transitioning the way that we have historically delivered employee engagement into something more meaningful. Recently Josh Bersin called our next transition, “Employee Engagement 3.0 – from Feedback to Action.”

But as we move to be better at delivering true employee engagement, we can’t just build on the “three” phases we’ve been in to be successful as we move forward. It’s not just about benchmarking, feedback and action. Yes, those three phases are critical – and a solid roadmap if you’re trying to deliver basic employee engagement.

If you stay on these three tracks, you’re missing true and meaningful engagement. Because you aren’t considering the heart of the matter – the employee experience. Creating a cohesive an effective employee experience is a longer journey – but the results are more impactful and longer lasting.

In order to do that though, you have to change a significant belief that HR has held and operated under for years.

Your employees are your customers.

Human Resources, ahem, Personnel, was started with the premise of being the company’s buffer and protector – serving the company first, employees second (or third or…). We came to be, to do the company’s bidding and policing.

When we fought for a seat at the table, then we wanted to evaluate employee engagement – it was so we could have a great influence… at the company’s behest. It sounds smarmy, it’s not. The core idea was that if we could sit elbow to elbow with other departments and ask questions to employees, we can deliver something better to the company’s bottom line.

At the direction of the company. With the company being our critical partner. Employees were a means to an end in some regards.

As we move forward though, companies are quickly finding out – especially in today’s talent climate of there being more supply than top-tier demand – that it’s really difficult for employees to give a hoot about an entity that has consistently shown over time, that they – as the employee – has not been the main priority.

That is why there is so much hype around the employee experience now. Because engagement is fickle. And inherently, it doesn’t create the type of ongoing conversation that effectively connects your high performers with the company’s mission, vision, leaders, etc.

To do that, we have to change who we work for, how we can overcome our HR biases and how we communicate our work.

HR works for the employees at the company… not for the company.

Let me explain – as this is a BIG change.
That is why there is so much hype around the #employeeexperience now. Because engagement is fickle. #HR works for the employees at the company… not for the company. Click To Tweet
Yes, we’re still employed by the company and need to ensure that our policies are adhered to appropriately, but what if we thought about our employees as our customers FIRST, then ran our items/projects/actions/advice, etc. through the company filter?

Put on a Customer Lens

One of the biggest aha moments I’ve seen when it comes to employee experience, is when I shared a different approach to one seasoned HR director. Instead of talking about HR, I asked her what her company’s CUSTOMER philosophy and approach was. What was their customer-mantra? When trying to make a customer happy or have what they needed or was contracted to, what steps were taken?

Her response, “Ohhhh… Wow. We expect our marketing and sales teams to bend over backwards at all times to ensure our external clients are happy – they want to work with us, stay with us and share their positive experience with their friends.”

Her external client culture was focused on delivering a great experience time and time again. And they did that through extensive training, process, procedures, document requirements, and so on.

After a beat, I asked her, “And what’s your HR mantra? What’s the approach and philosophy that you take when it comes to your employees? Their programs, interactions, touch points, etc.?”



In HR, for most of us, we don’t approach our employees as we would our external customers. We don’t have a mantra or general expectation that our employees – as the heartbeat of our company – is who we are supporting. Instead, we learn that HR supports the company or the individual leaders that we provide guidance too.

When put a customer lens on our employees – by definition, change the way in which we view them, we are able to better serve them as we do our paying customers.
When put a customer lens on our #employees – by definition, change the way in which we view them, we are able to better serve them as we do our paying customers. #HR #employeeengagement #employeeexperience Click To Tweet
We know that our sales teams will not continue to close deals if they aren’t selling a consistent product in a somewhat consistent manner (not in approach mind you, but in features and benefits).

We know that our client support teams will not have clients to support if they aren’t able to say “yes” more than say “no.” If they aren’t able to deliver on their promises, meet their deadlines and meet or exceed the client’s expectations.

We know that our marketing teams will not have budgets to keep marketing afloat, if they can’t show an ROI on their spend.

The important question that we ask ourselves, is why do HR teams continue to exist, if we aren’t creating and shaping meaningful employee experiences?

Here’s some questions to get you started.

1. Who are you currently serving in HR – as a department and as an HR professional?

A better way to get a truthful answer to this, is to ask who you report up to. Who is responsible for HR – and what is the focus of that person? When you report out, what kinds of information, updates and data are you sharing? What questions are you asked about to elaborate on?

2. What are your company, department and personal goals focused on?

This isn’t something that you’re likely able to change at this point – but your goals are a great indicator as to who sits front and center for your department (and company). Usually, you’ll find company goals that are largely focused on the external market – gain more clients, make more money, introduce a new product, innovate, etc. Your department goals may be the key here. What are you expected to deliver upon – and then ask, so what?

3. Do your current benefits and total rewards program, match the needs of your current employee population?

A big mistake I see made over and over again, is throwing more (or less) money at perks, benefits and total rewards. How many times have you heard that in order to be a competitive employer, you need to have better benefits than company X? We won’t go down that rabbit hole now – but the better question to ask is, “Do our current benefits match the needs of our employees?”

Not are they the absolute best benefits out there. Not that you provide the most. But can your employees actually benefit from the ones you already offer?

4. What is your employee mantra?

Think about the customer mantra from above. What is your consistent framework, starting position, interaction expectation levels – you want your employees to experience from HR?

Do you want your employees to be delighted? Wowed? Feel part of the team? Feel valued as an individual? Create experiences that make them want to scream positivity on Glassdoor?

5. Once you’ve put your customer lens on, what does the future look like?

Eek! It’s hard to envision what our employee’s lives will look and feel like through a different lens.

Now you’re going to say, “but I’m an employee too – it’s not that hard.” You’re not a normal employee. You know too much. You’re basically the OPPOSITE of the audience you’re trying to serve as your customer. You, more than any other person at your company, will need to change the lens to see your new customer fully.

Map out, at a high level, what your “internal experience” needs to look like to create a new and engaging outcome.

Think: repeat business… but with your employees.