Over the last 100 years we have seen technology, transport, health, real estate, and other human-interest areas get better. The evolution and improvement of HR and people management has seen us enter the age of Employee Experience. McKinsey describes Employee Experience (EX) as companies and their people working together to create personalized, authentic experiences that ignite passion and tap into purpose to strengthen individual, team, and company performance. Is Employee Experience a new buzz term or a quickly passing fad? To determine the significance of EX we define the various shifts in organizational and HR strategy in the last one hundred years. 

1. The Utility Era 

The evolution of people management started with the Utility Era. Employees were given the bare minimum and essential tools to get the job done. Today the bare minimum is access to the internet a computer and a phone. In the past it was a desk, chair, and shared access to a phone. A carpenter would be given a hammer. A bike repair man oil and probably a few spanners. In the utility era, employees were viewed as a component, or piece of machinery involved in a large chain of events. Performance was demanded because the bare minimum resources had been provided. If you had a source of income and work that helped provide a sense of purpose, your work did not need to give you anything else. 

2. The Productivity Era 

In the early 1900’s Frederick Winslow Taylor – came up with new management techniques on rewarding employees who did their job better and increasing performance of employees. Competition around the world had increased, and companies realized they need to provide a few more incentives to get a little more production from their employees. Which would result in a competitive edge. 

Just like athletes, managers used stopwatches to time how long employees took to finish tasks. They did everything to try and shave off a few seconds or hours and increase productivity. However, workers used to work as slowly as possible so that no one would get into trouble. Taylor came up with the idea that the primary task of managers was to select the best possible person, put them in the job and then leave them alone – the great man theory. 

Beyond sourcing for “the great man”, the productivity era was defined by a strong emphasis on productivity and creating repeatable processes. Just as with the Utility Era the focus was on how the organization could extract value and benefit more from the employee than a win-win relationship. 

3. The Engagement Era 

Companies realized that the utility and productivity models might have worked for past generations and economic landscapes but not for the new generations coming into the workplace. Over the last thirty years companies around the world have begun to give more attention to the employee, their thoughts, and feelings about work and on their happiness. The engagement era saw organizations open to the idea of investing money into annual employee surveys and focusing on culture. The result was employees staying at the company longer, being more productive and generally happier. But only for some time. 

4. The Employee Experience Era 

The consensus now is that engagement is the result of experience. Whether you are focusing on internal customers (employee’s) or external customers, engagement is driven by the experience you are offering. 2021 finds us right in the middle of the experience (X) era. Employee Experience (EX) involves designing for engagement, not just measuring engagement. And designing the experience with employees and not for them. Jacob Morgan defines EX as “the intersection of employee expectations, needs, and wants and the organizational design of those expectations, needs, and wants.” 

Every organization has an already existing Employee Experience. Question is – does it serve as a competitive advantage or roadblock to helping you win? Regardless of the country you live in, your will find that the largest companies in your country and around the world were not the biggest companies twenty to thirty years ago. In this vicious business environment companies are looking for every possible competitive advantage and the winners realize that their best asset is people. Your competitors can replicate your business model, knowledge, goods, or services offered. But the greatest competitive advantage that cannot be replicated is your people. 

Focusing on your people’s experience is a sure way to win. It affects your customer experience, which has a positive effect on your sales. Improves the overall health and culture of your company. Reduces turnover, allowing you to keep your best talent. An ultimately improves your employer brand, helping you attract the best talent. By focusing on the three pillars of culture, technology, and physical space you create a space where people want to show up and give their best.