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Focus on Employee Experience...or Business Results?


You know the answer. It's YES! Because of course. It's a trick question.


I recently gave a talk on this very topic. How to unlock true workplace success – which I define as the point at which business results and impactful employee experiences meet up. One without the other doesn’t cut the mustard (thanks, dad).


My philosophy on this was born out of my first experience doing Tae Bo in my tiny NYC apartment.


I shared this story in the talk. It’s kitschy, but its point is this: I used to run miles to stay fit. And also I was a miserable human person. I believed this was an “or” situation – results or joy but not both.


Tae Bo taught me there was an “and” option. I could achieve – and even exceed those results – joyfully, through means that were pleasurable. No pain required.


I’m talking to so many organizations struggling in this false space of choice.


You can see some snippets from the talk here:


It comes down to understanding the performance drivers of an organization – like those of a car. When you want to enhance a car’s performance – its speed, its power - you don’t change performance. Because performance isn’t a thing you can touch. Where does performance live – under the hood? In the fuel tank? No – performance is the outcome of changes you make to a car’s engine, to its tires, its fuel. You change a series of conditions in the car, and when you get them all so, great performance is the knock-on effect. This is how I think about workplace success. You can’t touch its performance directly. But you can enhance its fuel, its tires, its engine. And you do it via tweaks – small, incremental changes and shifts – experiments – to see what works so you can do more of that. When I touch on drivers of a car’s performance, I don’t mention the seatbelt or brakes. These aren’t performance enhancers – they are baseline utility safety features. They don’t enhance performance. But their absence will hinder it. And we have their equivalent in the workplace – which we call hygiene factors. Things like base compensation providing a living wage, or offering access to basic healthcare, having equitable policies – these are all must-haves in an organization. If they’re absent, then employees will suffer. But having them in place does not deliver a success And on the flip side, I don’t mention the sound system or tinted windows. These can be cool – they can light you up, even delight you for a hot minute. But they’re the sexy extras. In workplace parlance I call these the sparkle factors – they’re the foozball tables, bagels on Tuesdays, spot recognition bonuses, fancy holiday parties. If you can swing them, have at them. They bring short-term delight. But they also don’t deliver workplace success. We want to focus between hygiene and sparkle - on the performance features. So how do we tweak an organization’s performance? We focus on creating the conditions that enable everyone to (this will be familiar to some of you):

  1. Deliver – their best work, best ideas, best energy

  2. Develop – new skills, new capabilities, experience feeling stretched and challenged

  3. Connect – to team, to leader, to purpose, to customer

  4. Thrive – to be well, whole, balanced, and recognized

Equipping and enabling everyone to experience these will drive both results and the human experience up, together in a virtuous cycle. So where are the opportunities in your team or organization to turn these four dials up? Answering this question – in increments and through experiments – will make moot the question of whether to prioritize business results or human experience. Because now they both win.

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