The “EX” Data You Don’t Have Is More Important Than the “O” Data You Do Have

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Aug 7, 2017

Over the past few years, successful companies have begun to place a great deal of attention on developing “experiences” for customers because they realize human beings are more likely to buy from a company that provides them with a great experience vs. one that doesn’t.

If a great experience keeps customers engaged and coming back, wouldn’t the same be true for employees? If an employee has great connections with the people they work with each day, feels treated well by the company, and is doing work they are good at and love, then they should be having a great employee experience.

But how do HR leaders know for sure if their employees are having a great experience?

For several decades now, this was determined through satisfaction or employee engagement surveys. The problem is, those methods are infrequent and are focused on the company versus learning about the employee experience.

HR leaders need to shift their mindset to thinking about employees the same way as customers—a new kind of employee data is needed: Employee experience or “EX” data.

What is EX data?

Most organizations are flush with or can easily obtain what can be considered “operational” or “O” data about their employees: tenure, position, number of new hires, etc. What organizations lack in many cases is real “EX” data. Unlike employee engagement survey data, which is typically obtained only once or twice per year, EX data is constantly evolving and changing just as people and situations change. EX data allows an organization to better understand more complex, dynamic constructs such as team cohesion, quality of leadership, and quality of the hiring process. The elements of day-to-day interactions between employees and all the elements that make up their environment are what employee experience and EX data is all about.

Dealing with all this information will be a challenge, but not a barrier. There are many means of obtaining, storing, and then analyzing this new type of data. The real barrier is in thinking about data in a whole new way.

Collecting EX data is not just a survey

Traditional ways of collecting feedback may work to some degree. However, in today’s ever evolving world with multiple available ways for anyone to provide feedback on anything (social media, blogging, feedback apps like Yelp and Glassdoor), it’s critical to start thinking of multiple means of collecting feedback about the employee experience.

Imagine how powerful it would be to create virtual “conversations” with employees by starting with a single smart question, using the responses to then formulate additional communication addressing the original response, and then asking new questions to dig deeper. It’s possible if you think beyond traditional survey approaches. Technology exists that can be deployed through mobile devices and online that would allow employees to provide feedback wherever they are and whenever they want to do so. HR leaders need to take this “omni-channel” approach with employees; reach out to them where they are and allow them to respond on their own terms. Surveys are still good, but are not the only means of obtaining insights from employees.

To manage all the EX data being collected, HR leaders need to hire a few smart data scientists, I/O psychologists, and business majors, then get them working together on the same team and make their mission to think big and from the employee’s perspective. (Editor’s note: Alternatively you could use one of the emerging analytics as a service platforms.) You’ll find quickly that combining data science, human science, and business discipline will yield benefits that will impact your organization. Similar approaches are being taken in the customer experience world to learn about customers and with great success. It’s time to think about doing the same with employees.

Maximizing EX data

HR leaders can take advantage of EX data in several ways. What if HR could inform business leaders how they can positively impact their employees’ experience before their most valuable people leave? If so, then business leaders may have a chance of keeping those people from leaving the company. When people leave, there are significant costs to the company; costs that may have been avoided if HR and business leaders had known what impacts the employee experience had on the employee leaving. A simple turnover percentage doesn’t provide that level of understanding.

If HR leaders know how employees are experiencing their day-to-day jobs, interactions with other employees, and if they are getting the support from leaders they need or want, then leaders can make better decisions and create better processes, thus creating a better employee experience.

HR leaders should use EX data to look at the entire employee lifecycle and pinpoint where, within that journey, employees feel pain and what changes will make the biggest impact on them. Employee engagement surveys and “O” data do not provide that level of understanding.

Thinking of employees just like customers

EX data provides the “why” behind the human impact on the company that HR leaders need to provide their business partners. Combining HR “O” data with EX data is the key to linking human behavior with business outcomes. If the employees responsible for executing on your customer strategy are not experiencing the company in a positive way, then what is the chance they will deliver a great experience for your customers, no matter what the customer strategy? Not great.

It’s time to think about employees the same as customers. Obtaining and then using “EX” data is the first step in that process.

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