The once-foreign role of an employee experience (EX) manager is now one of the fastest-growing positions at US companies, ranking fifth in LinkedIn’s 2023 list of jobs rising in demand. With burnout and turnover rates on the rise since the start of the pandemic, organizations have shifted their focus toward employee engagement and experience. Investing in these areas plays a critical role in improving performance, productivity, satisfaction, and retention of employees, making the implementation of EX managers an attractive option for organizations.
While the concept of customer experience evolved in the 2000s, employee experience has lacked recognition until recently. Pandemic-induced mental health issues, burnout from hustle culture, and lack of purpose in the workplace make it increasingly clear that a role dedicated to the employee experience is necessary for many companies. The growth trajectory for employee experience is expected to surpass that of customer experience, particularly with the increasing prevalence of EX managers in the workplace.
What Is An Employee Experience Manager?
EX managers, also referred to as Chief Happiness Officers or Directors of Well-Being, are responsible for managing and tracking the processes associated with the employee experience. Their primary goal is to boost well-being and engagement throughout each stage of the employee lifecycle, from the day an employee is recruited to their last day at the organization.
An engaged employee is one who feels connected to the workplace, aligned with the company’s purpose, committed to their job, and invested in the organization’s growth. When employees are engaged, employers gain a motivated, productive, and efficient workforce who are more likely to stay at the organization.
So, while employee experience and employee engagement are two different concepts, they go hand-in-hand in determining the performance of individuals and the success of an organization. Despite the importance of engagement, 85% of employees do not feel engaged at work. What do EX managers do to combat this?
Impact Of Employee Experience Managers In The Employee Lifecycle
An EX manager must have a strong understanding of the processes associated with each stage of the employee lifecycle in order to provide the optimal working environment and support for employees.
- Recruitment: This stage includes the steps that result in hiring a new employee. It is the first impression a company has on a prospect, making it extremely important to create a presence that sticks. One job of an EX manager during this stage is to streamline job descriptions, ensuring the prospective employee has a clear understanding of the responsibilities of the role and how they impact the overarching goal of the organization.
- Onboarding: This stage includes getting a new hire up to speed with the organization’s systems, tools, processes, and company culture. Strong company culture increases company revenue by four times, so it is vital for EX managers to ensure employees are welcomed by team members, familiarized with the office (if the role is in-person), have a solid understanding of the company’s purpose, and can see the organization's efforts to create a positive, supportive and challenging work environment first-hand.
- Development: This is the ongoing stage in which employees are given opportunities for skill development and growth within the company. With only 29% of employees satisfied with career advancement opportunities, EX managers might provide roadmaps to employees who aim to work their way up the company’s ladder. They can also set up mentorship programs to give employees guidance in promoting professional growth. The goal is to ensure individuals do not feel stunted in their advancement within the company, which can lead to turnover.
- Retention: With employees fully integrated into the company at this stage, an EX manager’s primary responsibility is to focus on retaining them. US employers spend $2.9 million a day looking for replacement workers, so the emphasis on retention over talent acquisition is becoming increasingly prominent. EX managers must implement engagement strategies that ultimately result in higher retention rates.
- Exit: Employees can leave for a variety of reasons. Rather than viewing it as a failure, EX managers use it as an opportunity to schedule exit interviews, allowing them to gain insight into areas of improvement that will help them provide better experiences for future hires. It is also important for EX managers to maintain a positive relationship between employers and departing employees, as the final impression of a company is important to its reputation.
Roles & Responsibilities Of Employee Experience Managers
As outlined above, employee experience managers impact employees’ experience at every stage of their lifecycle within an organization. Let’s dive into more of EX managers’ responsibilities to optimize the employee experience.
- Foster A Positive Employer-Employee Relationship: EX managers mediate disputes between employees and employers. They diffuse such situations to get to the root of the problem and ensure individuals feel comfortable and safe. Additionally, small celebrations of special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries can build stronger connections within the workplace.
- Empower Employees: Employees are not just a number in an organization; they are unique individuals with differing goals, needs, and skills. EX managers empower employees by amplifying their opinions no matter their position and/or level within an organization. They also connect workers to their company’s purpose and express their value in achieving a greater mission.
- Enforce Work-Life Boundaries: To address exponentially increasing burnout rates, EX managers combat hustle culture by encouraging and enforcing work-life balance. This could include implementing flexible work arrangements, praising performance rather than hours, and allowing employees to take paid time off to tend to mental health and personal matters. As an EX manager, advocating for employees and their boundaries is key.
- Facilitate Feedback: Providing regular feedback and clear expectations are optimal for increasing employee engagement. Sixty-nine percent of employees report that they would work harder if they felt more appreciated at work, so EX managers institutionalize feedback to ensure employees get the recognition they deserve while opening lines of communication with upper management.
- Develop EX Improvement Strategies: EX managers collect and analyze measurable data, real-time observations, and feedback through multiple channels to devise strategies that improve the employee experience. They might introduce new incentives, better technology, physical workspaces, and tailored experiences for each employee.
Hiring Employee Experience Managers
When it comes to hiring an EX manager, there are certain qualities to look for.
- Hospitable Nature: Creating a warm and welcoming environment is a primary role of EX managers, so characteristics that reflect these qualities are necessary.
- Strong Planning & Time Management Abilities: Balancing all demands of the job, including tending to employees at different stages of the lifecycle with unique needs, is an essential skill.
- Excellent Communication Skills: Managing internal communication is a critical component of an EX manager’s role, so they should be able to execute verbal and written communication both efficiently and personably.
- Detail-Oriented: The details make a difference in employee experience, even if it’s as simple as having hot coffee available in the mornings. The little things matter to an EX manager.
- Tech-Savvy: While EX managers don’t need to have IT experience, they should have a solid understanding of workplace technologies in order to curate strategies to improve these tools for employees.
- Data-Driven: EX managers should collect data from surveys, interviews, open feedback platforms, and other avenues. They should be able to identify patterns and trends to make recommendations.
- Collaborative: As a cross-functional role, EX managers should be able to collaborate with people from different departments and levels while modeling this behavior to employees.
- Agile & Innovative: In an ever-changing workplace, EX managers must be flexible and ready to pivot at any point. They should also be creative in producing new ideas to optimize the employee experience.
Employee Experience Best Practices
It’s clear that the ways in which EX managers impact employee engagement and workplace satisfaction are endless, and there are a variety of qualities that embody the appropriate fit for the role. In order to simplify the implementation of an EX manager and improve employee experience as a whole, consider the following key takeaways.
- Be Curious: Discover the moments that matter to employees by collecting regular feedback at each stage of the employee lifecycle. Remember that no request is too small and approach feedback with curiosity.
- Welcome Change & Be Prepared For Investment: Maintain an open mind towards shifts in the workplace, from company culture and work arrangements to technology and the physical office. Investing in new ways to improve employee experience can mean implementing a flexible work model, revamping old technological processes, or replacing furniture and adding new decor.
- Measure: Replace annual or biannual surveys with regular pulse surveys to gather real-time insight into what employees are enjoying and what hurdles they are facing. Keep the focus on employee experience rather than business outcomes and measure the impact of improvements.
- Do It Again: The process of optimizing employee experience is an ongoing one. As the business landscape progresses and employees’ preferences evolve, embrace constant change and be eager to stay ahead. Growth does not have a finish line!