Should You Hire a VP of Employee Experience like Airbnb?
Samantha McLaren

By: Samantha McLaren on September 10th, 2019

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Should You Hire a VP of Employee Experience like Airbnb?

Employee Experience

Est. Read Time: 3 min.

The concept of employee experience, or EX, is on the radar of many companies today, and for good reason. Improving the way employees think and feel about your organization at every touchpoint throughout their journey with you can have a dramatic impact on retention, engagement, and more. Whether it’s dedicating five minutes of attention to the topic in a weekly meeting or creating a full-fledged program, many organizations are channeling a lot of time and resources into improving EX.


But as we’ve seen with previous trends, these efforts can easily fall to the wayside after the initial hype has died down—unless someone takes charge and runs with it. 


Regardless of an organization’s age, size, or reach, the first step to developing a sustainable EX approach is simply determining who owns it. Luckily, it’s not that difficult. In the majority of cases, the owner of EX is going to be HR—but it’s not up to HR alone to create and maintain this function. 


Understanding the ROI of EX

Jacob Morgan, an expert on the future of work, studied nearly 300 companies around the globe to determine whether an investment in EX led to significant returns. He found that only 6% of these organizations were doing a great job of investing in EX. And compared to those that weren’t making the investment, “experiential” companies enjoyed 2.1x average revenue, 4.1x average profit, and superior stock performance. 


Why is that? Well, Morgan views EX as a cause, with employee engagement being the effect, and business impact—which encompasses things like productivity, profitability, and general performance—being the end result. That makes EX a vital investment that every person in an organization needs to be thinking about, because it impacts how successful the organization as a whole can be. 


While HR can certainly take the lead on driving EX, it ultimately needs to be a collaborative process. In order for them to be truly successful, everyone from the C-suite down to individual managers and employees must own responsibility for reinforcing HR’s efforts.


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Carving out a dedicated EX function

To give EX the attention it deserves, many forward-thinking HR teams are creating dedicated EX roles and functions. In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of roles like Chief Employee Experience Officer (CEEO) and Chief Happiness Officer (CHO) for this very reason. 


Airbnb is one company that’s at the forefront of the EX trend. The brand’s mission is “to help create a world where you can belong anywhere,” and Airbnb is conscious that this needs to ring true for employees as well as customers. That’s where the focus on EX began. 


Until recently, Airbnb was operating with a traditional HR team. Separate departments were responsible for various experience-related roles, like workspace environment, company culture, recognition programs, and more. But today, HR has joined forces with those disparate initiatives to create one unified EX group—ensuring every team member is aligned. 


This kind of bridge-building is essential if HR wants other departments to be involved in EX and actively working toward the same goals. 


Bridging the gap between HR and IT

One significant step that HR must take is bridging the gap with IT. By creating a true partnership with IT, HR can bolster its EX efforts and deliver on its promises much faster. 


According to Gartner research, by 2022, 75% of organizations will include EX improvement as a performance objective for HR and IT groups. Opening lines of communication between these two departments is integral to their ability to make employees’ daily interactions with tech as seamless as possible. In turn, these efforts will ease daily frustrations and drive up employee satisfaction.


Bringing it all together

Every department has its own subculture that contributes to the overall employee experience at an organization. Bringing these departments together is the only way to establish a full picture of where your organization stands, and where it needs to go. But it’s still up to HR to steer the ship. 


Looking to make employee experience a bigger focus of your HR organization this year? Sign up for our free video course and become an expert in owning all things EX.

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access free digital employee experience online course

About Samantha McLaren

Scottish-born Samantha McLaren is a copywriter and editor with a specialty for the recruiting and HR space. She has written dozens of articles on topics ranging from employee retention and engagement to employer branding, company culture, and management strategies.