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Ditching HR: Why One Thought Leader Is Pushing an Employee Experience Approach

ex-human resources-hr-employee experience approach
ex-human resources-hr-employee experience approach

When public speaker Mark Levy worked at Airbnb, he and his team pioneered a system called an employee experience approach, or EX, billing it as an alternative to human resources.


Mark Levy

Employee Experience (EX) Adviser

Levy, who now advises other companies on EX, says the center of this concept is creating a two-way dialogue between leaders and employees. It’s about “doing things with and for your employees, not to them.” 

A more responsive model

He rattles off the benefits of EX, which arguably are all the things employers want: more engaged, productive, sustainable, focused, fulfilled, solution-oriented employees who naturally, by way of being satisfied, become brand ambassadors. 

“There are limited costs to making this shift, and in fact, you could say it saves you money,” Levy says, “as you are no longer making the mistakes of choosing the wrong priorities or implementing programs, processes, systems, or tools that are not going to effectively address the real challenges or resonate with employees.” 

With EX, companies can better meet potentially less obvious needs of employees, such as those of prospective parents who are looking for resources to confidently grow their families then return to work, Levy says. Separately, tending to mental health has been a top priority of many employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, and employers who choose to take an employee-first approach can help destigmatize this issue by talking about it and providing resources such as telehealth to address problems like depression, loneliness, and substance abuse. 

“The expectations for a company are much higher than they have ever been as the fight for talent gets more difficult,” Levy says.

Focused on employee experience

In taking an EX approach, Levy explains, employers in remote workspaces can meet their employees’ needs by keeping their company culture alive, whether through maintaining company traditions, holding all-hands meetings and conducting surveys, or continuing to advocate for the company’s values, such as fighting climate change, addressing systemic racial injustice, or the like. 

In the case of hybrid workplaces, it’s about being mindful when choosing to meet in person. “We need to have offices as a place to bring people together to build strong cross collaboration, to learn from each other, and to build community and culture. We need to be intentional and deliberate about when people have to be at the office so that they want to come, they see the benefit in the commute, and they are more productive and engaged as a result of it.  No longer is it about face time, about commuting to sit at a desk with your nose down, grinding out work so others can see how diligent you are,” Levy says.

A kinder workplace

Making employees content also means treating them like people, not workhorses. “Best in class is to start with treating your employees like humans, recognizing that they have a life, and spending time getting to know them and their individual situations,” Levy notes. “Balance is important — focusing on trust and support in order to have employees then be willing to make sacrifices.”

Many companies, and employees themselves, have experienced dramatic changes since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but Levy suggests the future workplace may be better off for it.

“I hope we learned a lot from these past few years,” Levy says. “That life and work can be more meaningful, and that people become more engaged in their work because their employers trust them, support them being their best selves, and take a stand on making the country, the work, and the planet a better place for all of us.”

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