Northwestern Mutual
Recruit and Retain Top Talent by Creating an Authentic Employee Experience Recruit and Retain Top Talent by Creating an Authentic Employee Experience
< Back to Insights & Ideas

Recruit and Retain Top Talent by Creating an Authentic Employee Experience

Jo Eisenhart •  February 22, 2017 | Business and Careers

MI24084-JeffTo recruit and retain top talent these days, it takes more than a great salary, competitive benefits and a commitment to work/life balance. There must also be a focus on creating a more fulfilling, enriching and engaging experience for employees while they’re working.

It’s a concept that’s high on the agenda for many organizations, and with good reason. Employee expectations and values are changing. In a recent article published on Human Resource Executive Online, Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace LLC, put it this way: “Look at what Millennials are spending their money on—they’re spending their money on experiences. Making the workplace more about the experience than about the rewards is a logical step.”

I agree, although I’m not so sure it’s only Millennials who are making the push for a more fulfilling workplace experience. We’ve all become more thoughtful about how we live our lives these days. And since we seem to spend just as much time at work as we do with our families, it should be a place where we feel energized and that brings out our best.

But what exactly does it take to create a great employee experience? More than installing a foosball table in the break room or declaring Fridays “take-your-pet-to-work” day. Any organization can do those things. To be memorable, an employee experience must be authentic.

What does your organization stand for? What are the beliefs, morals, ideals and values that combine to create your company’s culture? And do those convictions come to life in the everyday experiences for employees? When the employee experience stays true to the core of who you are as a company, the workplace becomes dynamic, engaging and productive—making it easier to recruit and retain top talent.

One of the most notable examples of an authentic workplace experience comes from Airbnb, the San Francisco-based online marketplace where people list and book accommodations around the world. Under the hash tag #belonganywhere, Airbnb “stands for something much bigger than travel. We imagine a world where you can belong anywhere.”

So, how is that mission reflected in the everyday employee experience? Airbnb employees participate in the design of workspaces that reflect the very rooms you might find in an Airbnb accommodation—a kitchen, den, library and a place to practice yoga. The in-house food staff prepares meals based on various Airbnb locales. And from each of its 19 global offices, Airbnb gives employees the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of the communities in which they live and work by volunteering under an initiative called “Global Citizenship.” Efforts like these are led by company’s chief human resource officer, who has recently been renamed chief employee experience officer. In 2016, Airbnb was rated #1 in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work.

Of course, what works for one company likely won’t be as successful in another, because the experience has to be authentic to the organization’s culture. In my own company, for example, we value collaboration and innovation. We’re working to create an employee experience that reflects those values. We provide lunch to employees every day to encourage our workers to network, collaborate and discuss ideas. We have started to transform our physical workspaces to provide more open collaboration areas. This summer we will open a new office tower at our headquarters that will take all this to a new level. The building has been designed to spark creativity, offer choices and promote collaboration. It features flexible spaces, so people can choose to work in whatever way works best for them—whether that’s meeting at the couches for a quick project update, brainstorming ideas in a collaboration zone or getting “heads-down work” done in designated quiet spaces.

Any organization can create a great employee experience by doing two things: understanding your workforce (What do employees want?) and staying true to the core of who you are as a company (What do you value as an organization?). When you can bring those two fundamentals into alignment, you can create an employee experience that will give your company a competitive advantage; people will be happier at work, better able to meet the needs of your customers and more likely to become champions for your brand. 

Rate This Article