People & Leadership

Employee experiences: Who should be responsible?

Who exactly is responsible for employee experience within companies? To build positive workplace experiences, everyone has a responsibility. Here’s why.


It’s a question that has been asked for what seems like forever.

Who is responsible for employee experiences within a company?

The wide consensus is that it should be everyone but, as a result, that often means no one in particular. Here lies the problem.

We asked more than 400 employees from US and UK mid-sized companies who they thought was responsible for creating great workplace experiences.

More than 50% said everyone, but just 22% recognized that meant they were personally responsible, and 23% thought it was HR’s responsibility.

So, I’m going to say it straight from the start. It is not and should not solely be the responsibility of HR and People teams to create great employee experiences.

It’s the responsibility of absolutely everyone.

But to ensure the responsibility doesn’t fall through the cracks, each department has a role to play.

I’ll tell you why.

Experiences are the outcome of every interaction an employee encounters with anyone at any time, from the recruitment process to the day they walk out the door.

As Jon Thurmond, Regional HR Manager with Team Fishel and host of the #HRSocialHour podcast, explains: “We’re in challenging times where there are more jobs than people looking.

“Employees that have a negative experience can voice frustration on social media and look for another job in the blink of an eye.”

Employee experiences: What is HR’s responsibility?

HR’s role is to listen to employees, monitor their sentiments and feed this back into the leadership to create better workplace experiences.

If you are fortunate enough to work in a progressive People Company, an organization that puts its people first, then you may have ditched the HR title to be part of an ‘experience team’, dedicated to creating positive experiences for everyone.

Yet, our survey showed that only 20% of respondents had even heard of an experience team.

But this isn’t just a naming exercise. Having an experience team is a commitment to all employees to act in their genuine interest.

Ben Eubanks, Principal Analyst at Lighthouse Research & Advisory, explains: “It’s a reminder that each member of the team has some responsibility for creating an experience that attracts and engages talent.

“Those companies that haven’t made that leap are often focusing on more tactical or compliance-oriented tasks as opposed to more strategic elements.”

HR and People teams have an important role to play in engaging the leadership and other departments to play their part in creating amazing workplace experiences, though.

First and foremost, they should ask employees what a good experience means to them, bearing in mind that everyone’s needs and priorities will be different.

They should then map steps towards creating those great experiences, always listening to employees and tweaking those experiences as the individual and the company grows.

And, that’s just the bigger picture.

There are so many ways HR and People teams can lead the way when it comes to building better experiences for their people that goes even further than listening and acting on regular feedback.

HR and People teams can use data to make more informed people decisions, beyond what employees are asking for.

They can use marketing techniques to position themselves as an employer of choice – to both potential and existing employees.

They can work with leadership teams and others across the business to build a culture that employees will love, in myriad ways.

Employee experiences: What is the leadership’s responsibility?

What about the leadership team – what’s their responsibility when it comes to creating great employee experiences?

Ultimately, the leadership’s role is to set the tone for the business, creating a set of values that they hold themselves accountable to, all whilst having employees’ interests at heart.

Jon Thurmond agrees: “It’s important to have executive agreement on workplace experiences, and a well-defined culture that the employee experience matches.”

Ben Eubanks explains, however, that the perfect experience doesn’t exist – so don’t chase it.

“There are peaks and pits in the employment relationship,” he explains. “The better the leadership strategically creates and orients around the peak moments, the more likely the overall experience will be a good one.”

HR and People teams do, however, have a role in supporting leadership teams, to continually encourage them to drive the People-agenda.

Take people analytics and for example. If HR and People leaders can demonstrate the impact – and potential opportunity – of changes they are making on growth, then it makes certain People decisions no-brainers for the leadership team.

Employee experiences: What are managers’ responsibilities?

Ever heard the expression “employees don’t leave jobs, they leave managers’? A bad manager can result in a bad experience for an employee, low morale and even be the reason they leave.

“Research shows that managers make up at least 70% of an employee’s satisfaction and engagement on the job,” explains Ben Eubanks.

“That means that regardless of what HR does, there’s a limited amount of impact we can have if the direct manager is not aligned with our goals of creating, delivering, and supporting great experiences for workers on the job.”

But most importantly, Perry Timms points out that the real reason employees leave “is because they cannot change what’s around them for the better, so they go elsewhere for it”.

It’s important that managers give employees the autonomy to work on projects that matter to them and, ultimately, to the business.

HR and People teams can support this by finding champions across the business that share the mission and work with them to create great employee experiences throughout their work.

They also have a pivotal role in helping managers to remove domineering work practices and provide people with more autonomy over their work.

Managers have a responsibility to listen to their teams, feedback to them, be their cheerleaders as well as their mentors and confidantes at work. This is something that HR and People teams can support them with.

What is everyone’s responsibility when it comes to employee experiences?

“It’s all of our responsibility to engage in improving workplace experiences,” explains Timms. “Even tiny gestures like gratitude, compassion and supportive words can make a huge difference.”

Consider an average working day in your own role.

What’s the impact of someone saying a simple ‘thank you’ or going above and beyond? It can sometimes be the small things that can make a person’s day, so employees enjoy coming to work.

Yet, it also goes beyond that.

If HR and People teams are asking for feedback and input on what makes a good experience for their workforce – then is it also employees’ responsibility to volunteer this and their ideas? Provided they obviously feel safe to do so.

HR and People teams play a starring role but need the buy-in of others

It’s natural to think that experiences just happen to us, but they don’t.

As we’ve explored, everyone has a role to play. Where HR and People teams can help is to drive the People agenda, and ensure these issues are front and center for everyone across the business.

Ultimately, people create experiences – whether those people are the chief human resources officer, the CEO, a hiring manager, or an employee with no direct reports.

Everyone across the business plays a role.