By Martin Berman-Gorvine
The position of “chief employee experience officer” is slowly emerging as a new HR leadership role that’s designed to help the profession take a more strategic role in the organizations they serve.
It’s a job title that first emerged at Airbnb, the online short-term lodging exchange. A Feb. 1 search of LinkedIn turned up nine individual profiles with the title of CEEO, five of them outside the U.S. Among the companies that have added the post are veteran advertising agency J. Walter Thompson and Texas’s Baylor Scott & White Health.
The role was designed by many companies to tap in to the needs of employees and keep them engaged.
For their part, today’s workers are more like consumers and are “more demanding,” Monika Fahlbusch, who is senior vice president as well as CEEO of Houston-based software company BMC, told Bloomberg Law Jan. 24. “They will reject bureaucracy if it doesn’t serve their needs.” So her job involves breaking down boundaries within the company, she said. Along with HR, the chief information officer, real estate, security, employee communications, and philanthropy functions all report to her.
Like Fahlbusch, Tania King, chief legal and employee experience officer of Irvine, Calif.-based customer support provider Alorica, says employees “our internal customer base.” The company has grown from 25,000 employees four years ago to more than 100,000 today, she told Bloomberg Law. And satisfying the exploding number of internal customers helps “deliver more value” to the external clients that Alorica provides customer service support for, she said.
Recruiting top employees is a challenge for a tech company like BMC that isn’t a household name like Facebook or Google, Fahlbusch said. And the company’s workforce is “incredibly diverse,” including young Silicon Valley types, employees in their sixties who work in the mainframe business, and more employees outside than within the U.S. Employees want their technological devices working on the first day, their seating to be just right, and remote work arrangements, she said.
Technology helps the CEEO because retention efforts can be run “like a sales and marketing campaign,” Fahlbusch said, with close monitoring of clicks and feedback so the CEEO knows if something is going wrong for employees.
Moves like these help HR think and act strategically. “HR has a bit of a stigma of not being a strategic partner to the business,” Ephraim Freed, principal consultant with Freed Employee Experience Consulting, told Bloomberg Law. “HR needs to see its role as not just filling job requisitions and compliance.”
A person serving as CEEO, he said, promotes company values and helps the organization live up to them, and can therefore take on a more strategic role. When looking for new hires, the CEEO’s goal is to “get the right people for the company, not just the right person for the job,” leading to employees who stay longer and are more engaged with their work.
The CEEO’s job starts with creating an “employment brand,” Freed said. And that doesn’t just mean reciting platitudes, but making sure the company lives out values like honesty and transparency, beginning with the job application, interviewing, and performance management processes, and including things like a “digital channel” where employees can speak out. “When you do that, you attract people who want to be a part of that experience as opposed to just job hoppers,” Freed said. “The trouble is, then you make big promises, and if you don’t fulfill them, you lose people’s trust.”