The company couldn’t figure it out. Turnover among women, particularly highly skilled, high-potential women in the middle ranks, was higher than for any other group in the organization. Leaders, keen to increase gender diversity at the senior and executive levels, were desperate for a solution. They conducted exit interviews, management assessments, and pulse surveys to find an answer. What they didn’t do, however, was look at the way they designed jobs.
It wasn’t the organization or management or even the culture that was an issue for the women. It was their experience. These mid-career women—who had children—wanted to work. They just didn’t want to commute every day. They valued being at home when their kids got out of school. But that wasn’t possible because the organization insisted employees be on-site, full-time.
“The organization designed jobs for its needs, not those of employees, and that unfairly impacted a certain population of employees and its diversity goals,” says Steve Hunt, chief expert of technology and work at the enterprise software company SAP. "By listening to what women with young children wanted from work, the company was able to change the experience.” By allowing for remote work and more flexible scheduling, not only did the retention of female employees increase but so too did their recruitment into the organization. It turned out many other women and men, including those without children, also appreciated the flexibility of remote work. But they never asked the company because they never thought it was possible—and the company never asked them.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, this kind of insight seems obvious. But in terms of how organizations manage talent, it is nothing short of revolutionary. It represents a fundamental shift in how leaders view the experience of employees—elevating it in importance to the same level as that of the customer experience. This approach doesn’t view employees as interchangeable assets who value only financial rewards and benefits. Rather, it prioritizes their feelings, beliefs, attitudes, and values—and their influence on engagement and productivity—in a way that organizations never have before. And it promises stronger performance for the organization. From a return-on-investment perspective, for example, improving the employee experience increases engagement and motivation, potentially doubling an organization’s revenue and profits.
“Talent management is undergoing a mindset shift from focusing on what employees need to do to make the company successful to what organizations need to do to empower people to be successful,” says Jean-Marc Laouchez, president of the Korn Ferry Institute. Put another way, organizations are moving from Human Capital Management (HCM) to Human Experience Management (HXM), leveraging data and analytics to understand the psychological, sociological, microeconomic, and other factors that empower people to fully realize and exercise their talent at work.
But a lot of work still needs to be done. While 84% of leaders point to employee experience as a top priority, only 9% believe they are ready to address the issue. Moreover, while 69% of CEOs believe they are delivering a superior employee experience, Korn Ferry research shows that 30% of employees feel disengaged.
“There’s a huge gap in the experience organizations believe they are delivering and the one employees are receiving,” says Hunt of SAP, which has partnered with Korn Ferry to create a fully integrated suite of talent solutions to drive organizational performance.