Human Resources surveys tell us the creation of a great employee experience ranks as a major trend again this year. They also acknowledge that only a minority of companies have found a way of doing it well.

There are plenty of reasons why companies struggle to differentiate their employee experience, such as:

  • A failure to align that experience to their external brand promise
  • A disproportionate focus on recruitment and a neglect of the numerous touch points once they join
  • Misaligned people processes emanating from siloed centers of HR expertise

But I believe there is one obvious flaw in our thinking – we fail to see our employees as we do our customers. We try and design an employee experience – one employee experience – that can be run at scale. Whereas what we want as employees is our own experience. Designed around me, my needs, my wants, my aspirations, not a “one-size-fits-all” experience.

When we enter the workplace, personalization ends.

In our life outside work, we now expect and enjoy a level of personalization. We can edit our news apps to only get the stories we’re interested in, we produce our own radio stations through our Spotify playlists, we can pre-set our car seat to our preferred driving position. Psychology Today reports that we like the feeling that personalization gives us and a recent study at the University of Texas shows that we are more likely to engage with content tailored to our needs. And it seems to work. Some 35% of Amazon sales and 75% of Netflix views come from customised recommendations.

Yet when we enter the workplace, that personalization ends.

Employment contracts, induction programs, performance and talent management, leadership competency models, training programs, reward frameworks - standardized, universally applied, one-size-fits-all. While this approach suits the organization because it’s cheaper to implement and easier to monitor, we are kidding ourselves that it creates a great employee experience. A truly positive employee experience is one where I feel special and appreciated for my individual contribution and talents, not simply a cog in a machine.

Lucy Adams, CEO at Disruptive HR & Ex-HR Director at the BBC

At Disruptive HR we asked over 450 HR professionals about how they deliver induction, performance, reward etc. to see whether they provide a customised or one-size-fits-all approach. (You can check out how you fare here). Over 70% of the responses stated the latter, suggesting that the vast majority of us have a long way to go if we are to offer an enhanced employee experience.

So what could a consumer approach look like for employees?

Here are some examples of how companies are trying to create, not just AN employee experience – but MY employee experience.

Using Consumer Marketing techniques at Virgin Trains (UK)

Virgin Trains asked their market research department how they would go about assessing and segmenting their 3,500 employees. Instead of taking the traditional approach, they looked at aspects such as social media preferences, traditional media consumption, learning biases, and so on. Called the “Amazing Colleague Experience”, and it went far deeper than any employee engagement survey. All of the rich data was then used to inform the creation of meaningful, employee-driven initiatives.

Onboarding Individuals at Wipro

Many companies still see the induction or onboarding period as a process to put people through. It typically involves a vanilla offering of a week of PowerPoint slides crammed with bullet points from all the departments who have managed to crowbar their way onto it. It’s about conformity, it’s about telling them what we want them to know. The smarter companies see it differently and use it as a time to learn about the new hires and find out how they can best be welcomed and deployed. Wipro uses the onboarding process to find out more about the new employee’s unique perspectives and strengths leading to 33% greater retention in the first six months.

Personalised Rewards

The annual, bureaucratic, net-after-tax bonus never inspires as much joy as that hand-written card or the thoughtful and personalized gift. Lots of companies are beginning to stretch their imaginations when it comes to the role of reward in creating the employee experience. Whether it’s having employees reward their peers for being supportive and fostering collaboration like at NextJump. Or it could be giving thoughtful gifts to employees on their birthdays like at German social gaming firm Wooga. Or, perhaps, rewarding the team through off-site activities that they share like at GoDaddy. The future of rewards is all about the personal, the timely, the unexpected.

Tailoring talent management at Starbucks

The HR analytics team at Starbucks decided to take a marketing approach to uncover what attracted, retained and motivated employees. They found three clusters: “skiers,” who work mainly to support other passions; “artists,” who desire a community-oriented and socially responsible employer; and “careerists,” who want long-term career advancement. The clusters helped managers’ better tailor programs to multiple sets of employee needs.

Creating a great employee experience starts with seeing your employees as consumers, not applying uniform processes, no matter how “best in class” they are.