19 Takeaways from the Sorwe Employee Experience Summit 2022: Transforming the Employee Experience Inside Out

02 November 2022 | 6 Minute
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19 Takeaways from the Sorwe Employee Experience Summit 2022: Transforming the Employee Experience Inside Out

On 14 October 2022, we held our first in-person event and our second Employee Experience Summit. The Sorwe Employee Experience Summit 2022 featured four amazing speakers, people leaders and human resource professionals in person and online. The day featured endless words of wisdom about the theme of Transforming the Employee experience Inside Out. From our London headquarters, our inspirational speakers covered areas about the employee experience.

So, in case you missed it, here are our 19 takeaways from the Sorwe Employee Experience Summit 2022.


Our Speakers

Firstly, we’d like to thank all our speakers for being an essential part of the Summit.

Our keynote speaker, Ben Whitter, Founder of HEX Organization and author, kicked off the day with his expert views on where the employee experience is heading and the six high-priority elements for employee experience success. 


Anastasia Kuzmina, VP, HR at Baker Hughes, focused on how we can optimise people processes and use analytics to improve the employee experience.  


Tom Probert, Director at BeenThereDoneThat (BTDT), discussed how to spread the culture inside out in a fast-growing business. Tom shared BTDT’s unique model and gave fascinating insights into how to create a strategy to overcome these challenges.


Our final speaker, Ciprian Arhire, Head of People Experience at Entain, shared his views on the employee experience map, how to approach employee experience research and design and how to future-proof the design.


What Important Takeaways Did the Summit Provide?

Here are the key takeaways from the Summit about the employee experience in 2022:

1. Employee experience is gaining recognition - as Whitter said, “It’s started to break into the mainstream thinking now which is a good thing. We couldn’t have imagined the scale and depth of the recognition that is being focused on the employee experience. It’s been accelerated by the pandemic and all the different challenges that we faced over the last two years have literally reshaped our organisations.”


2. What was normal before the pandemic and the employee experience is not normal now - challenges have been accelerated by the pandemic. Whitter said that due to the pandemic, “One in four people have identified an intention to quit their jobs, and one in four are moving away from cities apparently. So, there’s a great level of change within that human experience which is affecting the employee experience.”


3. Every organisation has employee experience – whether it’s accidental, organic or planned and intentional, Arhire said that every organisation has it. And he added that the right people experience strategy is five times more likely to create a sense of belonging and means you retain the right people.


4. Consider what it’s like to be an employee - according to Arhire, we must consider how employees access HR systems and what it’s like to be an employee within the organisation. And surveys just don’t provide this information. He said we have to step into the shoes of employees as end users and “Improve their experience bottom up.”


5. Keeping up with expectations – we need to be constantly looking at new employee expectations and meet the expectations not only today but also tomorrow. Whitter said, “Change is happening at a pace that is hard to keep up with; we’re already behind the expectations of tomorrow.”

He adds that forcing people to commute or do nine-to-five jobs they don’t like doesn’t help productivity, and we need to question that as employers. We must move to new ways of working and focus on new pressures and expectations.


6. Assess where you’re at – you need to understand your current employee experience before you can plan or initiate change. Arhire said that you should assess what might be happening in the organisation that may not be landing right. You need to explore different areas and then prototype and interrogate.

He added that you also need to look at the type of organisation you currently are, rather than the organisation you want to be in the future.


7. Consider social justice issues – Whitter said that as individuals are changing the way they live, employers need to understand environmental and social justice concerns as, “If there’s an issue in society, then does it affect your employees? Absolutely.” He added that three pillars (people, planet and performance) will be essential to help us accelerate and connect with our people in ways we haven’t done in the past.


8. Change is the only constant – according to Kuzmina change is guaranteed wherever you work, so you have to adapt to change and give your people and leaders what they need. She said that you may need to change your organisational or HR model to adjust to change and you must design your processes and systems based on the outcome of your persona groups.


9. Consider what you expect from people – it can be easy to go on with roles or job titles that have always existed in your organisation. However, you may need to step back and assess these. For example, Kuzmina said that at Baker Hughes, they moved away from the concept of manager and now call such individuals People Leaders as “We’re not there to manage someone’s performance, but we are there to lead them.”


10. Purpose, values and mission are vital - Whitter said that we know from a huge Harvard survey that purpose is essential in an organisation as it uplifts everything; the meaning of work, performance, and productivity. But it doesn’t stand alone; you need a great mission and set of values to stand beside the purpose. If the organisation doesn’t buy into their purpose or values or they’re not lived by the organisation, then it doesn’t matter.

Kuzmina also agreed with the importance of values in the employee experience, “Values are so key to what any organisation does.” If you say care is one of your values, you need to show it.


11. Consider other issues individuals have – it’s not just because of the pandemic that employees have other issues to deal with outside work. For example, parental responsibilities or being a carer are all real concerns that individuals face while employed. But it’s how employers manage these situations.

According to Arhire we should be “Stepping in the shoes of our people and walking through what’s happening in day-to-day lives.”

Whitter said, “Imagine if your employer was not supportive of personal situations. Would you check out or quietly quit?” He added that you would probably start by checking out and believing that your employer did not care about you, so why should you care about them?

Whitter used the example of Ford as a caring employer who put in the effort during the pandemic to support it’s people. He said that for manufacturing employees, they designed and created a welcome back to work experience for employees returning to the workplace to reduce and manage anxiety and ease them back. And that’s what makes a huge difference to engagement and the employee experience because sometimes you just need support and trust from your employer and help for a long-term commitment.


12. Involve stakeholders – Arhire said that you should involve stakeholders in the employee experience approach to discuss and define what the problems are and what you are trying to solve.


13. Ensure differentiation – you can’t expect to blend in with your competitors or other organisations and still provide the best employee experience for your people. According to Whitter, you need to stand out, and he believes you need to differentiate yourself “As opposed to doing a vanilla employee experience.” Instead, you need to decipher what resonates with people about your brand and why people choose you.

Kuzmina echoed this sentiment as she said that it is essential to differentiate, “It is so important to think about the multiple different employee groups that you have in your organisation and what is the employee experience for them?” She added that you have to consider what the employee experience really is and she said she has looked at different persona groups and how you align processes to what you are trying to deliver.


14. You need great leaders – you have the best facilities for your people or great perks, but none of this is important without a great leader. As Whitter said, “If you have a poor leader, it makes no sense. We have to take care of leadership. We have to look at the structure around HR and support services if we’re going to design an end-to-end experience that delivers tangible results.”

Kuzmina also discussed the concept of leaders as she said, “We can design the most amazing experience, but if the leader doesn’t talk to their people or discuss their career development, or if they don’t coach or mentor them or engage with them, then the employee experience is not there.”


15. HR does not own the employee experience – it’s easy (and common) to assume that HR owns the employee experience. However, this is shortsighted and such an ideal will ensure that the employee experience in your organisation fails, As Whitter told us, the business owns the employee experience. The business must take full accountability for it and ensure that HR is not blamed if it is not successful.

Kuzmina also said that the employee experience “Is not just an HR piece, it’s a holistic approach as a business. The more your CEO can talk about the employee experience, the better it is.”

And Arhire also discussed the ownership of the employee experience. He said it sometimes feels like it’s HR’s role and they should roll it out as an HR initiative, but, “It needs to be initiated by the CEO, supported the people team, technology and workplace team, driven by line managers and championed by everyone.”


16. There are many different aspects of the employee experience – Arhire said that a definition he liked was the employee experience is “The totality of perceptions that people are having around their workplace.” He added that this could be how people interact with each other or the relationship they have with technology, but essentially, it’s about how they reflect the culture in their day-to-day lives. It’s different to engagement as the employee experience is the everyday interactions.


17. Employee engagement is not limited to the organisation – Arhire told us that the employee experience lives with us inside and outside of work as we take a lot of the organisation and the experience there into our daily lives.  


18. Think about employees as customers – Kuzmina said that while it would be great to be able to combine everything from your first day in the organisation to help employees onboard, there is no single HR solution. So, at Baker Hughes, they have an HR portal to solve as many of the new starter queries as easily as possible to try to avoid overwhelm. It’s about treating employees like the customer and improving the customer experience.

Therefore, the employee experience is also about making life easier for employees (just like we use Amazon or Uber to make life easier for us).


19. Overcome cultural challenges - Probert said that culture is a crucial part of making sure that everyone is heading in the right direction and there’s a risk in a network-based business model like BTDT that it becomes highly transactional without the space for people to talk to each other. He discussed the idea of creating a community, not a network and said, “The risk is that people feel a sense of place and not a sense of desire and passion for interacting.” 

He believes there are specific ways to overcome culture challenges, spread the culture inside out and build a sense of community to improve the employee experience:

  • Ideal Conditions – you must create the ideal conditions for colleagues, community and customers to thrive and to encourage psychological safety. Probert said, “How do we achieve psychological safety in an environment where people are working anywhere in the world? Psychological safety is the crucial focal point for our culture.”
  • He added that they focus on products and processes to create a sense of community. They codify everything to help to achieve this and the customer experience that a community member has if they interact with the platform will be the same. He said that this helps to create psychological safety and a sense of belonging.
  • Cognitive Diversity – employers should harness the power of diversity to create a growth mindset and culture of innovation. Probert suggested the book Rebel Ideas, by Matthew Syed. He added that “People in organisations can feel on their own as a result of displaced working and this is a really powerful to unite people and bring them together.”
  • Common Language – organisations need to be consistent in their approach, with a business point of view; consider what you believe in and what is unique to your business. In reality, this means having one viewpoint, start point, mission and focal point.
  • Finger on the pulse - when you’re operating at high speed and people are displaced, you need to look out for your people as it’s easy to focus solely on delivery. AT BTDT they carried out a survey to gather data to empower cultural decision-making.
  • Sense of belonging - when there is no home, you need to create one. Probert said they have used the Sorwe platform to create a place specifically to focus on people, reward and recognition. He said about Sorwe, “It’s made a big difference to our company to have a space where people can come together and communicate on the things that get lost in the traffic of everything else coming in.” He added that the interaction rates on giving other kudos have been really high.
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