Lucy Adams
September 1, 2017
Reading time: 10 minutes
Share this post:

HR 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 touchpoints once they join

– misaligned people processes emanating from siloed centres 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.

In our life outside work, we now expect and enjoy a level of personalisation. 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 feelings that personalisation 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 personalisation ends. Employment contracts, induction programmes, performance and talent management, leadership competency models, training programmes, reward frameworks – standardised, universally applied, one-size-fits-all. While this approach suits the organisation 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.

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 use 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 personalised 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.

About Lucy Adams

Lucy Adams is the CEO of Disruptive HR ( and the Ex-HR Director of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Lucy created Disruptive HR after having held senior level HR roles in a variety of sectors, most recently at the BBC. She grew frustrated with the lack of innovation and fresh thinking in the profession and wanted to find new ways of tackling old problems. She now runs the agency to help HR Directors and business leaders to do things differently.

Lucy is the author of the bestseller “HR Disrupted”, a book packed with practical ways to innovate your approach to leading people in a disrupted world. “HR Disrupted” is available on Amazon

HRDisrupted-3D web small


Get even more Disruptive HR content and join our Club – the go-to place for people who want to change HR!

Recent Posts


What are you disrupting in 2024?

February 19, 2024

Nearly a 1000 of you responded to our poll on what you're disrupting in 2024. The results are in!


Time to drop succession plans?

February 12, 2024

Succession plans are increasingly outdated and don't reflect the pace of business today. This blog looks at the alternatives.


Should we bother with 360 feedback?

January 29, 2024

360 was traditionally seen as the best form of feedback, but isn't it just a waste of time? This blog discusses why we shouldn't bother with it.