Flipping the Rules on Employee Experience

How a global business partnered with &us to unlock the power of their people 

This year has been a major wake-up call for all organisations to rethink the real needs of their people if they want to thrive. 

Smart companies know that top-down People “Management” won’t cut it. Instead, a bold commitment to truly looking afresh at the employee experience is what is called for. 

For leaders, increasingly, that means getting clear about what the humans powering up their businesses really need to be on their A-Game and designing with their needs and experiences, truly at heart.

One thing’s clear –  it’s those companies who refuse to be constrained by traditional top-down policy and HR conventions that are looking most resilient a year in. Savvy organisations know future-proofing the business is about looking afresh at the need of their most essential resource – the teams on the ground driving the work. And, In this new world – it’s the employees themselves, not a board of trustees or a People strategy on a page that are driving the agenda.

As a prime example of this, last year we partnered with one of the businesses at a client that’s at the cutting edge of development within their industry – an  organisation that knows recruiting and retaining the right people is critical to remaining competitive and market-leading.

Fuelling the project was one big question – how do we make the employee experience we design genuinely serve the people and not the other way around?

The journey generated a bunch of powerful learnings for any organisation taking on the aspirational, if daunting task of reimagining their own employee experience.

So what did we learn? A year on we can look back and see some big drivers that fuelled the team, and the experimentation and transformation it spurred within the organisation. 5 stand-out principles fuelled the action:

1. Forming a diverse and highly invested team made up of real employees driven to make things happen: 

The project was driven by a small passionate internal team with a breadth of professional experience spanning HR and non HR roles; each recruited for their growth mindset and capacity to think big on the brief. Having a passionate nimble crack team, each with real histories, frustrations and ambitions to improve the experience for their teams and colleagues created high investment in solving the brief and was crucial to the momentum of the work that followed. As a collaborative team of innovators, their dynamic made every virtual team and project meeting an opportunity to harness their energy and challenge the status quo.

2. Asking the right questions & being prepared to have candid conversations:

Starting with a broad question “How Might We Imagine a Talent strategy?” the team quickly discovered what was needed was not to be tied to any existing talent/employee model, but to have a bolder conversation about the employee values and behaviours needed to drive the ideal experience of the future. That included ditching the corporate name ‘talent strategy’ to explore the brief humanly and empathetically. Candid conversations challenged where the existing models fell short creating clarity and direction in their purpose.

3. Breaking the unspoken “rules” of the traditional HR model:

Being prepared to take a brutally objective look at existing HR hiring processes and strategies afresh, meant the team got to new opportunities quicker than if they had tweaked existing methods  A turning point was an exercise flipping each conventional  HR “rule” and imagining the possibilities of each current rule without constraints. It resulted in the team landing on an exciting focus area to redesign a more ambitious and fit-for-purpose hiring experience for hiring managers and candidates.

4. Getting momentum through robust partnerships with the right leaders and teams in the business:  

Getting traction depended on testing new hiring approaches for real and partnering with actual hiring managers in the company to try out new approaches. Strong relationships with warm networks internally meant the team started to be approached by hiring managers as more people got involved, widening their reach across the organisation and creating positive word-of-mouth stories about the value of the experiments in practice. 

5. Creating a compelling employee DNA that could cut through the noise: 

One of the major achievements of the team was creating a DNA for the values and behaviours of the employees needed to drive the right culture within the organisation. An imaginative set of assets and story was built to communicate the DNA and allow the team to signal the change in experience in a visual form. The playfulness of the assets brilliantly showcased the spirit of the employee experience the team are bringing to life…

Seeing the outcomes organically grow

The spirit of innovation and ambition fuelled every step of the team’s journey, with each employee experiment infectiously creating a snowball effect of engagement internally.  As the team tried new things, word quickly spread and requests were fast made by other people and teams to try these experiments for themselves, amplifying their efforts and impact.


Looking back on the team’s year of bold experimentation, it’s clear that the journey to creating a transformative employee experience lived and breathed in their intentional and ambitious spirit and the ways in which they collaborated actively, always keeping the people they were serving at the heart of every decision they made.