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Employee Experience: The Newest HR Mandate

Treat your employees like customers

A man giving a presentation in front of a screen.
​HR industry veteran Josh Bersin speaking at IAMPHENOM 2019.

​PHILADELPHIA—Improving the employee experience—similar to the customer or candidate experience—is the next transformation in human resources and will "absolutely disrupt the HR technology market," said industry veteran Josh Bersin.

The well-known research analyst and founder of Bersin by Deloitte spoke at IAMPHENOM 2019, a conference held in April by talent experience management technology company Phenom People.

"It's an amazing concept," Bersin said. "All the programs we've invested in over the years—including employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, leadership development, and performance management—are all part of the employee experience. So in a sense, employee experience is not a program—it's a topic, or maybe a mindset."

And the concept was badly needed, he said. "We were doing engagement surveys and offering wellness programs, unlimited paid time off—just throwing things against the wall. There wasn't any methodology into understanding the employee experience."

One reason to look into employee experience is to reduce friction at work. When working with Coca-Cola on an employee experience project, Bersin discovered that it took 52 steps to order a company credit card. "I'm sure all those steps were well-intended when they were designed, but it ended up wasting hours and hours of employees' time. It turns out we are now in a stage where most companies have too much technology and not enough time. So a major part of the employee experience is simplifying the technology experience and designing HR programs [to be seamless with the way people work]."

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How to Improve the Employee Experience

Companies and thought leaders are just now starting to develop methods to understand employee experience. "It's complicated," Bersin said. "It's not just one thing. It includes the job, what the work is like, the team, the management, the culture, the environment, the diversity and inclusion, the ability to advance and learn, flexibility, performance management. Software vendors that say they sell employee experience is laughable."

To improve employee experience, Bersin suggested a few places to start:

  • Empathize with employees. Survey and interview them. Hold workshops. Listen to them about what makes work difficult.
  • Involve employees in solutions. "You can't design employee experience solutions in a conference room with a whiteboard," he said. "You have to work with the employees to fix old and broken processes, design new systems, and make work easier."
  • Simplify processes. There's a tendency in business to make things too complicated. "Much of this work comes down to work simplification, and it may include job redesign as well. Design the organization around the customer and employee, not around the hierarchy. This is the type of approach that gives you focus as you look at the top issues to address."
  • Use analytics. Bersin advised engaging data analysts and using an organizational network analysis tool, a good survey system and a good set of instrumentation on your workforce "because you'll need the data." Look into where people are wasting time. How much effort is going into doing something? Where are people clicking and who are they e-mailing?

"Every time we make employees' lives better, we better serve customers as well," he said. And while companies are experimenting with a widening range of perks—from pet insurance to free gym membership to life coaching—that's not the solution to making employees happier.

"What satisfies people the most is doing meaningful work, making progress, getting something done," Bersin said. "Most people don't come to work for the entertainment. We come to work because we like the job, or the company, or the manager, or the customers."


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