Talking Heads – 2019 HR in Hospitality Conference

By Steve Williams


The Future of HR: Employee Experience

Jane Sunley – CEO and Founder, Purple Cubed

Throughout 2018, the continued changes and challenges experienced by business continued to put pressure on employee engagement and retention. And this was only exacerbated by a lowering of unemployment rates and much job-quitting in the face of company mergers, takeovers and those who ceased trading.

Employers realise that their potential to deliver high quality customer experiences (leading to loyalty and advocacy) is limited by their ability to engage and retain the right people, doing the right things, aiming to exceed expectations with enthusiasm. However, in the fight to keep heads above water this has, in some cases, meant delivering an exceptional employee experience has slipped down the priority list.

If companies are serious about staying in the game, paying more attention to the employee experience is a business essential in 2019 and beyond.

Personalisation is also going to become more of a focus in the future. Consumers demand a personalised experience based on our needs, desires and personalities, looking to organisations to offer unique experiences; be it shopping or socialising. The same is already becoming true of the employee experience. Employees come from all walks of life. They have different experiences, backgrounds and aspirations. They are individuals and definitely not a blanket group of ‘staff’. So why commit them to static career paths, universal benefits and one style of learning?

Recruitment, development, performance and the employer brand will all need to shift to offer as much of a bespoke approach as possible and appropriate. Managers and leaders will need to become nurturers and mentors; able to have coaching style conversations which get to the heart of what the employee needs to improve, learn, progress and deliver. Employee journeys will be individualised to help them reach their goals. The benefit to the business? If you work together, to build and achieve their goals, then you’re more likely to engage and retain, boosting productivity, creativity and the bottom line,

The first step is working out how to improve the employee experience.

All too often, organisations assume their owners and managers know best when it comes to improvement. Wrong. To truly achieve a great experience, you need to find out what your people think. This can be done quickly, through pulse or more in-depth surveys or just by talking with them and using focus groups. Take the time to ask; you’ll be surprised by what people say.

Once you have a clear picture, work out what is doable. In my experience, this is rarely about money and perks. It’s about the purpose and culture; the heart and the soul of the business. Start simple and build. Identify the quick wins and put a clear plan in place to deliver. It’s better to improve one thing significantly than to over-promise on stuff which never materialises. Communicating back to the business is vital – be transparent though manage expectations. Explain what is being done and why and be honest on what cannot be changed.

And then you need to review it. Not just once a year but regularly, throughout, with your people involved throughout. The employee experience must evolve as the company grows and the world changes. By being nimble and reflective of what going on means you’re more likely to future-proof your organisation; attracting the right people and turning them from short-term hires into longer-term achievers. You know it make sense…

Jane Sunley is CEO and founder of Purple Cubed, award-winning people experts who provide smart, practical, creative solutions to reduce labour turnover, increase employee engagement and add to the bottom-line. She is also President of HR in Hospitality and a best-selling business author. Her latest book, The People Formula: 12 steps to productive, profitable, performing business, is available to buy now (