Employee experience goes far beyond journey mapping – it takes heart and courage

Key Takeaways from the X4 Experience Management Summit 2019 (Part II)

Émilie Gauthier

August 22nd, 2019

As I wrote in my previous article, creating an employee experience (EX) is both an art and a science. The science part (journey mapping, engagement measure, etc.) is easy to master if you are organized and properly supported. However, the foundation behind a rocking EX requires heart, commitment, and courage—three qualities that are hard to stay true to in the corporate world.

Here are three “propellers” to create a unique EX:

1. Give your employees a reason to come to work. 

“Meaningful experiences are created by emotional factors rather than rational ones.1” This means you need to capture your employees’ hearts. If you don’t provide them with a reason to come to work every morning and a mission to fulfill within your organization, then finalizing this urgent report or putting together that important presentation won’t be worth putting all their heart into it. Remember, the talent war is over; the employees (the good ones) won. They need to be seen as investors2 or voluntary employees3 who choose to invest their time with you. Give them a good reason to choose your organization.

“75% of employees who are fulfilled personally and professionally say that they work for a company with a strong sense of purpose; despite that, only 13% of organizations differentiate their EVP with a purpose-driven mission today.” – MERCER4

Call it purpose, intent, promise, mission, or whatever else resonates with your organization as long as you make sure that your employees have something to rely on when they wonder why they choose to invest their time with your organization versus another or with your organization versus their friends and families.

You don’t have to save the planet to unify your employees around a purpose—Disney does it with “We create happiness.5” Simply reflect on why your company exists and what you are trying to achieve; then, make it the centre of everything you do.

2. Truly care for your employees. Don’t talk about EX just because it’s the right thing to do.

A great EX is good for attracting talent, improving retention and productivity, etc. However, to generate a real positive impact on your employees’ lives, you need to truly care for them. Employee experience that isn’t done with care isn’t felt. Your program’s intent should be to improve your employees’ professional and personal lives; not to improve your numbers.

Sephora, for example, has built its entire engagement equation around caring. Its engagement equation is Love + Loyalty = Engagement6. There are six different stages in Sephora’s relationship with its employees, with employees at the centre of each step:

  • Appreciate me: recognition, include me in things
  • Respect me: let me be, appreciate me for who I am, treat me fairly, give me autonomy and choices, value my contribution
  • Be real with me: tell me the truth, be honest and transparent
  • Make it fun: don’t take yourselves too seriously
  • Grow me: invest in me, challenge me, give me stretch assignments
  • Give me something to believe in: connect with purpose

Another example of this is Patagonia (my favorite). Dean Carter, Head of HR, Finance and Legal, highlighted the importance of truly caring for employees because “employees are the experience.7” The way Patagonia puts its people first (with concrete actions) demonstrates that it truly cares. Here are my favourite examples7,8:

  • The reason why the company doesn’t have a health and wellness program: “It’s silly, you make them sick, then you are proud to have a program to help them. Just don’t make them sick in the first place.”- Dean Carter7
  • Daycare services provided on campus
  • The real support they offer women to promote equality (paying for babies and caretakers to travel with moms when business trips are required, letting moms breastfeed at work, etc.)
  • Lunchtime meetings aren’t permitted (employees need to have time go outside, see their kids, go surfing, etc.)

Karalyn Smith, Chief People Officer at Sephora, summarized it well: “We are human beings not human doings.6You won’t be able to create true relationships with and meaningful experiences for your employees if you focus on transactions and tasks. You need to do things for the right reasons.

3. Finally, dare to measure differently, dare to measure what matters

When we measure our customers’ satisfaction levels, we are comfortable asking them how valuable our products and services are to them, right? We should dare to ask our employees similar questions. That’s another lesson from Patagonia! When I look at literature on engagement surveys, I only see questions that boards and management committees are comfortable asking. It shouldn’t be this way.

We should dare to ask questions like:

  • To what extent does working here add or detract value from your life?
  • To what extent does working here make you feel happy or unhappy?
  • How does your work here affect your health, family life, etc.?
  • In terms of work conditions, learning, stimulation, and fun, do you feel compensated sufficiently for the time and energy that you give us?
  • To what extent does working here adversely affect your sleep?
  • Do you feel listened to and supported by your manager?

If you are afraid to ask these questions, it’s probably because you already know the answers and you aren’t working on the root causes. These elements matter if you really want to improve the life of your employees.

In conclusion…

For your EX program to have a positive impact on your employees’ lives, you’ll need to get out from your corporate comfort zone and admit that working with humans requires purpose, consideration and authenticity. Investing in humans needs to be done humanely and can’t be solved by journey mapping alone.


  1. The Magic that Makes Customer Experiences Stick – MIT Sloan Management Review – August 2019
  2. The People Strategy Is the Business Strategy Mercer – September 2017
  3. Trust Factor – Paul Zak – 2017
  4. People First: Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends Study – Mercer – May 2018
  5. Jeff James, VP & President Disney Institute – Qualtrics X4 Management Summit
  6. Karalyn Smith, Chief People Officer at Sephora – Qualtrics X4 Management Summit
  7. Dean Carter, Head of HR, Finance and Legal at Patagonia – Qualtrics X4 Management Summit
  8. Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman – Yvon Chouinard – 2005

Other Articles