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EX isn’t a fair-weather friend: applying EX in tough times.

Community Series Volume Seven with Nell FitzJohn, Business Partner People & Culture, Ospri.

Samantha Gadd and Jenny Busing

As the importance of employee experience grows across the globe, there can be a tendency for organizations to move away from applying EX methodologies in tough times. In the HR world, we become accustomed to hiding behind legal jargon and lengthy processes when times get tough. I am here to tell you that EX isn't a fair-weather friend; you can apply EX methodologies in tough times too, and it is likely to help your organization succeed.

Top tip 1

Start with empathy. When you are having conversations at the top table about change or tough times ahead, bring empathy into conversations. It's a simple thing to do, but spend time considering how your people will feel? What will they think? How might they behave? How will they be impacted? What will be the moments that matter for them in this experience? This can be a sobering conversation but will likely shape how you go forward. Leadership has a strong element of balancing organizational and people's success; you can't talk about the people element without empathy.

Top tip 2

Don't avoid discovery. "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek" – Joseph Campbell. To be upfront, it is scary to ask people about their experience when you know that it is likely to include negative feedback. It is essential to employ the mindset that feedback is a gift when you begin discovery work. Invest time in discovery that will help you define the problems you need to solve for your organization and people. Only by fully understanding your problem will you know if your planned solutions will be effective.

Top tip 3

Share responsibility. Sharing responsibility does not mean giving up your role as a leader. It means let your people in rather than leave them out in the cold. Doing so shows your people that you place value on their experience as an employee at your organization. You can do this by sharing the responsibility for creating solutions with your people. Come up with a co-design plan that is well-scoped, shows people how they will be able to contribute, and articulates a shared goal for your design process that benefits the organization and your people.

Top tip 4

Don't lose sight of the need for trust and respect. Remember that in tough times, your people need to trust the organization more than ever. It isn't the time to start hiding behind the walls of meeting rooms (albeit physical or virtual). This is the time for leaders to be careful and considered in all their decision making, but to ensure they do so in a way that shows they value their people's experience. It is the time to walk the EX talk. Don't just stand back and watch your engagement metrics fall; take action to maintain the mutual trust and respect within your organization.

Benefits of applying EX in tough times

The solutions to your problems will likely be more effective in the long term if you have invested in a discovery phase that includes co-design with your people instead of jumping ahead to solutioning. You are more likely to retain your people if they trust you and know that you place value in the experience they have as an employee during tough times. It is widely known that change and turmoil create attrition within organizations, but you don't have to accept that as a reality. Using EX methodologies might make your people stick around for the rocky ride. It will be much easier to recover from tough times if the impact has not been so profound on your culture. Employee experience sits at the center of your organizational culture, so don't disregard it!

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