Kevin Green: Don't overpromise on employee experience

Employers should differentiate between employee value proposition (EVP) and employee experience, according to Kevin Green, founder of What's Next Consultancy and author of Competitive People Strategy

Speaking at an HR Taskforce event, Green explained that EVP should be all about the promotion of the organisation.

“EVP will give your organisation a place on the market," he said. "It says: ‘this is my promise externally to the world about my organisation. I am giving you a promise – this is how you will grow, this is how we will develop you, this is the culture'. That’s the easy EVP.”

Employee experience means explaining the day-to-day realities of a job and should not be treated the same as EVP, he said. “What do your people experience on a day-to-day basis? You’ve got the promise and the articulation and then you’ve got the reality.

"The reality is not just about culture, and the soft stuff, it’s about physical environment, it’s about the tools you need to get the job done, it’s about the IT department. It’s no good trying to constantly change and be disruptive if the basic stuff doesn’t work. The experience people are working in is becoming more important every day,” he said.

“Think of us as consumers. I can shop at midnight and the next day everything will be delivered to my doorstep. It’s an amazing experience. What is my experience at work like? I can’t get anything to work properly, it’s clunky, it’s outdated.”

Green explained how overpromising on employee experience can lead to depleted morale and high turnover – a lesson he learned on joining Royal Mail as HR director.

“When I arrived at Royal Mail in 2008 we were going through an extremely difficult time. Our message was ‘come and join the Royal Mail; it’s a great place to work, there’s loads of advancement, a great pension scheme etc’,” he said.

“In reality we were in crisis. People would turn up and we’d say ‘I haven’t got time to talk about you, forget onboarding, this is your project, crack on'. We had a promise in the workplace market. People would come and bounce off because we overpromised, we couldn’t deliver.”

To reach the hands-on talent the organisation was looking for a more honest approach to branding was needed, said Green: “We completely changed tactic, our statement became ‘we’re in a crisis, we’re losing money, are you the kind of person that can roll up their sleeves and get on with the job?’

“So then we had the kind of people who would turn up and say ‘I’m ready to go, don’t worry about onboarding'. So what we decided to describe was meaningful and authentic. What I could say to people was 'come in and join us tomorrow, and make a real difference.'”

Ultimately, communicating the employee experience will not be possible without a strong quantifiable understanding of the workforce, Green explained.

“Then you have engagement. I spoke to an HR director who recently told me he had more information about the state of their toilets than their people. Once you leave the toilets at work you can press a button on a happy or an unhappy face. If they keep getting unhappy faces they’ll send someone to see what’s happening with the toilets and sort it out," he said.

“But, he told me, they have 100,000 people and do one engagement study a year. He told me that leaders are flying the business blind, they have no data and no value about how people are feeling. Where else in life do you do anything where you don’t measure it?”