Employee experience is critical to building inclusive growth within an organisation. In this article Miles Skelton of MVMNT shares how it's done.
To find about the importance of employee experience, I spoke with Miles Skelton, the founder of MVMNT. I started by asking about Miles’ journey to setting up the business and about the work they do with clients. Miles told me that his career had two paths. In the late 1990s, he worked with online recruitment pioneers. First, he was at Taps.com. He then moved to the CV matching company MatchWork, launching them in the UK.
‘I was working my way up into leadership roles to the point that I became managing director of a creative recruitment company. At the same time, I became fascinated with the people side of things. I was interested in how to build teams that interact well with each other. How you can get more creativity and productivity and how inclusive working cultures can lead to better things. I made lots of mistakes as I went along, which I still do today, but hopefully only the once!’
About 10 years ago, this experience and interest combined with his wife's return to work after maternity leave. She found herself excluded from her role in a major organisation. It was at this point the idea of MVMNT came together. Miles said, ‘We explain ourselves by saying, look after the people you've already got and be more attractive to those you want. We do that through inclusion, diversity strategies and employee value proposition. We look at the psychology behind culture and offer training on that.’
I asked Miles to talk more about what an employee value proposition or EVP is.
‘I think EVP in its simplest form is the reason why anyone should work for you as opposed to somebody else. It isn't a document. It's not a piece of paper that states this or that. EVP is a combination of things that build the employee experience, that makes a firm an employer of choice. Previously, it's been centred around benefits and rewards, the "What's in it for me?" part. But really it’s the employee experience that makes you different or unique as an employer. We think of it as your story as an employer as told by the beating heart of your organisation, your people.
There is a slight issue with the term EVP because it’s quite HR sounding. It means very little to the people that are working in an organisation. So the first thing we suggest to be more inclusive around EVP is that leadership teams refer to it as employee experience or EX. Then when you communicate with your people around it, they'll be able to better understand what you're trying to do. Let them know that you're trying to capture the real employee experience. That you want to attract the best people, but to also make it better for current employees.'
I told Miles I was glad he had spoken about the alternative term of EX. When I wrote my book Inclusive Growth, the central chapter is titled Colleague Experience in Design. This is about removing speed humps and roadblocks that prevent employees from completing a journey. We talked about the recruitment journey, as an example. Organisations might be using an inaccessible careers website meaning someone who's blind, using a screen reader is unable to submit their job application. Creating a more inclusive employee experience is not about fixing individuals, but about fixing the business structures that hold people back.
We continued discussing the challenge of the EVP term and how the words ‘value proposition’ lend themselves to thinking about rewards rather than things like the working environment, or the tools people need to do the job effectively. Other elements to EX are the opportunities that are available in an organisation. Whether that's learning and development, career progression, the support from leadership, or the vision and roadmap. Miles talked about ‘the crucial bit’ as the culture and the belonging part, which brings out the shared purpose. He reiterated, 'For the employee, it's always the experience that makes an organisation the employer of choice.'
I asked Miles to talk about his experience of crafting the employee experience with clients and especially which pieces organisations might be missing.
‘I think the first thing that leaders often think with employee experience is its use in recruitment. Yes, we can say great things about our organisation, which will encourage more applications, but a well-crafted employee experience should speak to the current people too and help your retention. There's nothing more frustrating than investing in hiring people only for them to leave because it's not what they expected.
Putting an EVP together is similar to putting together an inclusion strategy. It's led by the people that work there and has to capture the mood. It has to be authentic but it’s ok to have some aspiration in it so that people want to come along for the ride. If you advertise your organisation as somewhere totally different from the place that your current people are experiencing, the team won't believe what you're saying, which will affect your culture and inclusion.’
Miles went on to explain what features a good EVP might have, particularly in organisations that make sure their employee experience is inclusive. MVMNT makes sure that their clients understand the different community voices that exist in their organisation. Miles proposed a focus both on under-represented groups like gender or ethnicity, but not forgetting those with hidden traits.
‘An organisation could have tens of groups of communities. People who cycle to work, people who don't drink, people who like fitness. An inclusive EVP has to appeal and relate to everybody. It connects with being your true self and with belonging. If we look at the current situation with COVID it's gone a stage further, because we've got so many people attempting to work from home. I don't use the phrase work from home, because I think it's a case of just trying to function reasonably to get through an enforced situation. But loads of new hidden workforce communities are being formed. People who have to share the same room with a partner to be able to work or people who live alone. So, your employee experience has to appeal and be inclusive to all these different people. That shows you understand who they are, the extra pressures that they're under, and how it can maybe be made better. So, it goes back to authenticity, and as an employer, how empathetic you are to those groups.’
To create an inclusive EVP, Miles recommended setting clear objectives. These would cover what an organisation is trying to achieve, what the key issues are that need addressing, and what the outcome will look like. The business drivers might be things like improving retention or recruitment.
‘Then it's time to talk to your people. We do something that we call the three views to get a rounded view of what's going on in an organisation.
The first view would be the view from above, the senior leadership team. What are their aspirations, strategic vision and take on the culture of an organisation?
The second view is the people that shape it. How do your diverse communities feel about working at the organisation? This might be captured in an initial survey followed up through broader discovery in group workshops. Getting initial communication right will help to avoid that death by survey feeling. Sharing a bit of vulnerability from leadership helps. Framing it as we want your help in explaining your experience, so we can make it better for you. "Do you want to be involved in our employee experience project?" The data from this exercise is a goldmine. Specific points or issues, good bits and bad bits that arise can be discussed further in workshops. That's the core of the second view.
The third view is the external one. How an organisation is perceived by others and by the communication that they're putting out on social channels, on the website and in the language used. We put everything into a mixer and stir it up and have a look at what pops out the other side. The good, the bad, and the things that you can improve on. The key throughout is to involve your people, giving them that voice in something that they will feel part of. Then you can be sure that they'll be ambassadors for it when it gets rolled out.’
We finished up by talking about what inclusive growth means at MVMNT and for its clients. Miles explained that most clients want to be able to meet the business challenges that are coming up. To move forward in the best way, their people need to be on side.
'Ideally, everyone feels like they can be themselves. They belong, differences are encouraged and celebrated. People aren't getting left behind. They've got a voice. It's this shared purpose that helps an organisation achieve their goals through this inclusive growth.'
Miles also talked about the current challenges the world faces. ‘We've heard the "new normal" being spoken about quite a lot. At MVMNT, we’re not using the phrase. We prefer to talk about new beginnings. Companies that maybe haven't got everything right before, have got a wonderful opportunity to hit the reset button. They can craft new strategies that include all of their people, with all of their communities at the heart of these new strategies.
‘With so many people working remotely, it might be harder than ever to feel belonging. For us, inclusive growth is a chance to understand your different people’s lived experience; followed by coming together to create something special for them all. That might be rebuilding, or reimagining. With the help of your people and everyone coming together in a shared direction, new beginnings really does feel the best way to describe it.’
For further information and resources on diversity and inclusion head on over to the Mildon website.