How to attract and retain talent – Employee experience

An interview with Jacob Morgan

Jacob Morgan is a 3x best-selling author, keynote speaker, and futurist. His latest book is “The Employee Experience Advantage: How to Win the War on Talent by Giving Employees the Workspaces they want, the Tools they Need and a Culture They Can Celebrate”

(Wiley, March 2017) which is based on an analysis of over 250 global organizations.

In this interview Jacob goes through the concept of employee experience and its potential impact on a company’s ability to retain talent. Based on his on-field extensive research he claims employee experience appears as the next level of employee engagement and the organizations that are already investing in it will obtain a competitive advantage in the XXI century. Find out what is beyond this super power to retain talent.

1. How did your journey on subject such as the future of work and employee experience started?

Sure, basically it started with me having bad jobs working for other people . So after I graduated college I went to work for a company in Los Angeles. I was told that I was going to be doing a lot of fun and wonderful projects and instead I was doing data entry and cold calling.

Then, one day the C.E.O. asked me to go get him a cup of coffee and that was one of the last jobs I’ve ever had working for somebody else.

Ever since then I have become very interested in and passionate about this theme of the future of work and employee experience. So bad jobs working for other people was the main reason why.

2. Can you explain what does “Employee experience” mean? What are the advantages for companies of investing in it? Does it help to retain talent?

So employee engagement has been very valuable for us but unfortunately, the big problem with employee engagement is that, it has always acted as kind of an adrenaline shot inside of our organizations .

Typically what happens is that an organization does an annual employee engagement survey to see that employees are relatively unhappy and because of that they try to introduce some kind of a perk, like free food, maybe work from home on Friday you know some kind of a perk. The problem with that is that it does very little to motivate employees.

So instead what we’re starting to see is this shift from engagement to employee experiencewhich is actually changing the core workplace practices around how employees work. This concept involves not just adding perks, not just focusing on the short term change but focusing on long term change, you know, evolving and modifying the core workplace practices instead of just focusing on the short term perks .

The big shift that we’re seeing is moving away from working within the system to actually changing what that system.

3. Within companies which department/position should assume employee experience as a responsibility ?

Well we’re starting to see a little bit of a mix here, in most organizations the department that typically drive these initiatives are in H.R. We typically see those people being more responsible for driving this kind of a change.

It’s something that everyone should be responsible , from the C.E.O of the organization, to themanagers that help drive employee experience, to the employees that are responsible for speaking up and sharing their own ideas around what they want their experiences to be.

So everybody has some accountability when it comes to employee experience but as far as the team that’s going to be rolling this out across the company that’s typically in H.R. or some people related function.

4. What’s the major aspect that distinguishes the high ranking companies from the ones ranking lower, in terms of the employee experience index you developed?

Well there are a few things actually. So employee experience is pretty much a combination of three things culture, technology and physical space. So the highest ranking organizations, first of all they do the best job of investing in culture, technology and physical space .

They create great offices, great physical environments where employees want to show up, they give employees access to the best, latest and greatest technology so that the workforce can get their jobs done and they i nvest in helping their employees feel good about the work that they’re doing in the organization they work for.

So these organizations have managers and people in positions of power who genuinely care about others , these are organizations that do a very good job of understanding their people both through 1-on-1 conversations and also through data in people analytics, these are also organizations that do a very good job of thinking more like a laboratory and less like a factory . They embrace failure they test ideas they experiment with different concepts and that’s really what allows them to go above and beyond everyone else

5. From all the companies that you researched about what was the one strategy that surprised you the most ?

I think one of the most important things is for organizations to realize that they have to create things with their people not for their people . So it’s not about coming up with an idea and just building something and showing it to the people who work there, it’s about incorporating people into the process design, in the creation process for employee experience. You have to really understand what your people care about what they value and then you build experiences based on that.

It’s sort of like going out on a date or being in a relationship where you really have to know your spouse, you really have to try to get to know the person you’re going out on a date with. The same is true inside of our companies we really need to get to know our people as best as we can. In the end it’s not about doing something specifically it’s about a way of thinking and getting what the employees feel.

6. Why currently, more than ever before it’s fundamental to attract the best talent?

This is a huge issue for corporations around the world and it continues to be a huge issue especially as we talk about this world of automation, especially as we talk about this rapidly changing world where there’s conversations around a skills gap.

I believe every organization in the world can exist without technology but no organization in the world can exist without people. We need to remember that even in this rapidly changing world it’s still people that are the number one asset that we need to think about and so that’s why it’s never been more important and crucial to invest in employee experience.

7. Still about talent, I have a question that may be tricky or even utopical, based on your research what company do you think would be more successful? A:One that provides the best employee experience of the market B: Other that has the most talented people on their staff?

Well, both because you’re not going to have the best talent unless invest in employee experienceso it’s kind of hard to say if it is more valuable to have a company that has great employee experiences or talented people because the talented people are going to go to where the best employee experiences are . So if you want to be able to attract and retain the best people then you have to invest in culture, technology and physical space.

8. Many business owners say they don’t focus on employee experience because they don’t have the budget to. Is it something that requires a big spending ?

I don’t think it is. So, not having a budget isn’t a good excuse for why you shouldn’t be investing in employee experience. First of all i t doesn’t cost a lot of money to treat people well . Investing inemployee experience is something every organization is doing in one way or the other so if you choose to ignore culture, technology and physical space these things will still happen, you can’t control it.

We see this inside of social media all the time, it’s sort of like saying: if you don’t have a social media profile and your customers are talking about you online, should you be listening?

The experience is going to be created one way or the other, either it will be created based on what your organization designs or it will be created from you ignoring doing any type of purposeful design. So if it’s going to be there one way or the other you might as well take some accountability of trying to shape what it’s like to work at your company instead of just kind letting it happen on its own.

It is true that some money is required obviously, when you think about technology, when you think about physical space, when you think about education and training, but these are investments that organizations are already making anyway so it’s just a matter of making these investments the right way.

9. Imagine a situation where a CEO approached you looking for an advice.
Even though he never heard about employee experience he feels there has to be some way to improve workforce commitment and engagement. What would you tell him to do first ?

The very first thing that I would tell anybody to do first is to put people in positions of power who care about others. You have to genuinely have managers and leaders at the organization who care about the other people who work there. That’s step one, if you don’t have that then nothing nothing else is going to matter.

The second thing and I touched on this earlier is you have to truly know your people I mean you really need to get to know the people who work at your company.

So look those are the two places I’d start:
1. Put people in positions of power who genuinely care about others
2. Invest in genuinely getting to know and understand your people and what they care about a lot

Jacob’s work has been endorsed by the CEOs of: Cisco, Whirlpool, T-Mobile, Best Buy, SAP, Nestle, KPMG, Schneider Electric and many others.

Jacob is also the founder of “The Future If”, a global community of business leaders, authors, and futurists who explore what our future can look like. Visit or The Future Organization .


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