EX leadership.screenshot

Employee experience (EX) management provides a better experience at ‘moments of truth’ and it has a direct link to business value. This insight made a client of ours think. He asked me in an email if the leadership and culture of a company was such a moment of truth and gave some context. At times, he said, you are reflecting on your work: Am I doing the right work? Is this company, is this job the right one for me? Am I spending my time with the right people, and am I creating the right personal brand? These questions would directly link to the overall leadership and culture of the company. Something that’s there and it’s good or bad, in the sense of the cliché that ‘the fish rots from the head down’ (if culture is bad) or ‘the sun shines from the top down’ (if not). So ultimately, can leadership and culture be a ‘product’ that can be ‘managed’ by EX?  

I. Make it a moment! 

Yes, the very foundational considerations our client had on mind are indeed moments of truth. A Moment of truth is defined as a ‘highly emotionally loaded moment with disproportionate impact on engagement’. That definition clearly holds for our client’s reflection on work. Yet, our definition does not hold for the overall leadership and culture of a company. That is not a moment of truth. Simply because it is not a moment. And therefore, it’s hard to manage. Very frustrating, at first sight: Leadership and culture are not moments and therefore we can’t manage them. But let’s reverse the thought: If we can influence single moments like the examples above that are linked to leadership and culture, we still have a lever to manage it. A very powerful idea. Let’s see how! 

II. It’s hard to change culture – let’s change behavior! 

In our work with CHROs of global companies, we often hear from HR teams: Managers are responsible for a large portion of the employees’ experience. Our research confirms that gut feeling: 42% of all employee touchpoints are not owned by HR, and many of them are tied to managers. That’s why we need a change in managers’ mindsets before we can successfully manage EX. And as that mindset change is far beyond reach for HR (at least in the short term), employee experience management may fail. Yet that’s not true. In fact, it’s the opposite: 

We are following one of the lines of thought of Herminia Ibarra’s work: Yes, it’s indeed hard to change culture or mindset. So let’s start to change behaviors, which over time will change mindset and culture. Herminia’s ‘outsight principle’ proves the traditional model wrong, by which one would need to think differently (‘mindset change’) to act differently. The way it really works is that acting differently (‘change what you do’) really changes our thinking (‘change the way you think’).  

Source: The Outsight Principle, Herminia Ibarra 

This is an important aspect for our work: It is possible to change the behavior of managers, the way they act – if you can prove with data that managers are creating a bad experience at a specific touchpoint. That proof will make managers change how they act. It is in that sense that managers become touchpoint owners and take on a responsibility for improving EX. Through the behavior change comes mindset and, ultimately, culture change. So the opposite of the HR teams’ initial objection is true: A mindset change is not a pre-requisite for managing employee experience successfully. It is a results of it. 

III. Thirty-two is the answer! 

Let’s connect the two thoughts laid out above: We want to make leadership and culture ‘moments’, so we can manage them. And we want to change the behavior of managers, so over time we change mindsets and culture. 

With our co-creation group of 60 companies we have identified a methodology to manage employee experience in large organizations: Design/share/measure/act. And we have defined a scope of what to manage: Thirty-two ‘moments of truth’. These are the moments that we want to provide a thoughtful experience at. They in total define most of what makes the leadership and culture, but not holistically (i.e., unmanageable) but as single moments, which we can design, share, measure – and on which we act to improve them. The declared mission of our co-creation group is to provide EX insights and solutions that change (1) the design of EX journeys and touchpoints, (2) the behavior of people owning these touchpoints, and (3) the way systems support them. Under this mission, CHROs want to measure and manage EX at the defined set of 32 moments of truth, and that way change the leadership behavior towards an improved employee experience, engagement, and ultimately, business value. Under this nomenclature, our client’s situation is part of the ‘I plan my next step’ journey. The moment of truth is called ‘I explore career opportunities’, with various optional touchpoints for employees. Of those, for our client’s purpose the ‘manager discussion’ is the one to focus on.  

In summary: Know your moments and embed them in a repetitive EX model, and you can manage them! 

Is it Utopia? 

Sounds too good to be true? Yes, it may be too early to claim that we have found the shortcut to changing culture. What we can prove with data by now is two things: One, sustainable EX management like our ‘design / share / measure / act’ methodology does lead to better employee experience scores at moments of truth. And two, if measured in the moment, a bad EX score does trigger a change in behavior of managers owning the moment. It’s a promising start, not Utopia.  

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