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6 things I learned about EX from X4 2023

Whenever the HR industry comes together at X4, it’s an opportunity to hear first hand from people leaders at some of the world’s biggest brands how they’re moving forward with employee experience. 2023 was no different, with speakers covering everything from DEI and Return to Office to engagement and employee feedback. 

It’s hard to distill over 20 hours of content into a few key points, but here are my top learnings from 3 days with the world’s top experience leaders at X4 2023 in Salt Lake City.

  1. Personalizing the employee experience is here to stay
    This was well articulated by Cheryl Grise, Ernst & Young Americas Solutions Leader, who spoke about the 4 generations in the workplace, each with their own, unique needs. While I prefer thinking about generations as “life stages” rather than age categories, the point is clear - one size doesn’t fit all, and  organizations need to build a foundation that enables everyone within them to thrive.
  2. The Employee Experience Economy is very real.
    From Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines – “People prioritize experiences more than things.” Obviously money is important (as reinforced by Johnny Taylor on the mainstage), but, increasingly, people will care about where they work and who they work for.  In the words of Ed: “We don’t hire happy employees, we create them.”
  3. DEI programs may be missing the opportunity to build emotional connections with employees.
    From Johnny Taylor, CEO of SHRM — “DEI programs are in danger of being ‘over programmed’,” and workforces are “as diverse and divided as we’ve ever been.” He called for a focus on building true connections between employees, rather than focussing on ‘tick box exercises’.
  4. Tapping into emotions is a powerful influencing tool.
    From Mark Rober - “Stories matter more than just the raw numbers”. You can share a spreadsheet with the facts, but the story is what people will connect with. That doesn’t mean that substance doesn’t matter, but backing it up with a story will increase influence.
  5. Employee Experience isn’t just for HR, it’s for all managers.
    Qualtrics’ President of Products and Services, Brad Anderson shared how if EX toolsets can only be accessed by a small percentage of employees (i.e. HR teams), they will struggle to have the right impact. He stressed the need for organizations to empower managers, as well as HR teams, to own their teams’ engagement and take action to improve their experiences.
  6. Unsolicited & unstructured employee feedback is coming, but we are early into the change curve.
    Antonio Pangallo & Matt Evans from Qualtrics took us through the unsolicited/unstructured quadrant for employee feedback. From the audience participation it became clear that while many HR leaders acknowledge this type of feedback is increasingly valuable, there are few early adopters willing to take the initial plunge. This will likely be the next phase for HR leaders as they look for new ways to understand what really matters to their employees.

Sarah Marrs // Director, Employee Experience Strategy Execution at Qualtrics

Sarah is responsible for Employee Experience Strategy Execution at Qualtrics. To help some of the world’s largest organizations manage and evolve their employee feedback programs, Sarah’s work involves designing and implementing good practices into the Qualtrics product as well as go-to-market and delivery services, both for current and future innovations.

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