With employee experience and workplace culture moving up the agenda for businesses all over the world, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we sit down with Holistic EX and CX practitioner and judge at the UK Employee Experience Awards, Robert Pender.
Robert has dedicated over two decades to developing successful people-first strategies and we talk to him about the importance of employee experience and how businesses can improve their commitment to mental health and well-being. He has worked for international technology-driven organisations for over 20 years, across Europe and the Middle East, and has a broad business background, with over 10 years directorship experience, where he helped launch a start-up that became a multibillion-dollar concern.
Today, Robert is a business advisor, and founder of Experience Activists, helping organisations reach their true potential by prioritising employee experiences and well-being. He is also a Director of Mind in Harrow, an independent charity, affiliated with National Mind Mental Health Charity.
"Hi, Robert. You’re a certified Holistic Employee Experience Practitioner with over 20 years’ experience. Can you tell us a bit about your professional background and what led you to the launch of Experience Activists?"
"Thanks, Jessie. My career has been spent working for international technology-led organisations in the gaming sector. I’ve been lucky in that my work has taken me to a number of countries, and I’ve got to see how very different organisations operate; be they small family concerns or large PLC’s.
My experience journey really came to life working for an offshore start-up. We launched a business that grew into a multi-billion-dollar operation, built on the foundations of prioritising customers and innovative products, that the sector hadn’t previously seen.
I launched Experience Activists from a belief that organisations only reach their true potential when the communities they serve become their principal focus. To excel at experiences takes a business-wide holistic focus. There is a fantastic opportunity here for the taking when businesses commit to change.
Let’s face it, most firms won’t invent the next big new thing. What they can do is make experiences their priority, which is potentially the best differentiator they can ever have.
My work disrupts outdated thinking, challenges convention and helps people achieve just that."
"Employee Experience has been on the agenda for most businesses for several years, often without gaining any real traction. The return phase of the COVID-19 crisis is presenting organisations with a rare opportunity to re-evaluate their focus on EX. What would you say is the value to businesses who ‘seize the moment’ and do this now?"
"Every year we see trend reports stating employee experience will be the major focus for the forthcoming 12 months. That hasn’t been the reality. 2020 forced organisations to react quickly and work differently. It was especially challenging for businesses that didn’t have a remote mindset or the tech to support this.
What this demonstrated is that we can do things differently. There are other ways. Now, this has been established, employees are becoming increasingly more vocal about their vision of the future of work.
It’s a difficult one for many to get their head around, but businesses exist to serve people.
They’re not in the driving seat. People are. If you put people over profit, you will find you exceed all your financial aspirations. This is where experiences come in.
So, the value is, metrics improve across the board and you create an incredible environment that allows humans to flourish. There are no downsides, barriers to entry and the costs are negligible.
"Prior to 2020 many businesses put a focus on workplace ‘perks’ to help shape their EX. With remote working here to stay, what do you think should be the key considerations for employers focusing on their EX strategy moving forward?"
Ah yes, perks, not something I subscribe to. They don’t represent anything truly meaningful, despite their best intentions.
Cohesion is paramount. A great and impactful employee experience strategy is underpinned by the truth of what an organisation stands for. People have to believe in your values, mission and purpose. They must be consistently played out by everyone.
These foundations determine how we behave, think and treat others. Everything naturally then cascades downwards.
Now is the perfect time to revisit and refresh “organisational truth” and unite everyone behind a purpose and the reason for your existence.
To do this there are really only two things organisations must do. Listen to people and co-create solutions with them."
"Thankfully, awareness of mental health and wellbeing is on the rise. As a Mental Health First Aider and Board Member Trustee of Mind Charity, how can employers help to relieve workplace pressures and improve their commitment to mental health and wellbeing? How can employers make these changes sustainable?"
"Organisations need to acknowledge that their role in society is changing. Employees need support in ways that are way beyond historical remits. This is understandably a challenge.
Firstly, reach out to relevant charities, specialists and professionals. Leaders need guidance and to build an empathetic appreciation of how serious many of the mental health and well-being issues are. Secondly, they need a starting point to understand what contributes to negative mental health or well-being.
Many employees are fearful of speaking out. They require psychologically safe environments where they are listened to without judgement. This is why human centred leadership is essential. Leaders should consider taking the first steps and sharing their own stories and feelings. Employees will then start to trust you in ways they’ve not previously.
All of the above requires an ongoing commitment. Not only do organisations need continuous visibility, but they also need to determine ways to measure the impact of their initiatives. This is where most struggle. It’s actually quite easy and costs very little when you have an overarching strategy in place and understand experience creation.
Mental health and well-being represent the biggest organisational priorities of our time. Nothing is of greater importance."
Experience Activists provide bespoke services to SME's, start-ups, and charities, helping them to unlock their true potential by focusing on employee experience improvements.