Invest in employee experience

How do you get your employees to go in the same direction, when they’re around 10,000 spread all over the world? Katarina Berg, Chief Human Resources Officer at Spotify and Susanne Engdahl, Director People & Organization at Husqvarna Group, explain how they work with employee experience.

Few concepts have been discussed as much lately as employee experience. From productivity and retention to innovation and customer satisfaction, the way in which your employees experience their workplace has been shown to have a direct impact on organisational performance. By prioritising and investing in employee experience, businesses can create a working environment that ultimately helps to ensure their long-term success. We spoke to two big names in HR, Katarina Berg from Spotify and Susanne Engdahl from Husqvarna, about how they view the concept.

There’s an age difference of over 300 years between tech giant Spotify and outdoor power product manufacturer Husqvarna. The two companies are similar in their status as national treasures, with both having around 10,000 employees and offices all over the world. And also that they work with employee experience at a global level. 

What does the term employee experience mean to you?

Katarina Berg: “We call it ‘people experience’ and it can be summarised in three words: before, during and after. Everything that our employees experience from joining, onboarding, taking on challenges and trying new roles to hopefully enjoying a rewarding time with us.”

Susanne Engdahl: “Everything that managers, supervisors and HR do in some way or another leads to that concept, from onboarding to offboarding. I would sum it up in the word ‘inclusion’.” 

Can you give examples of how you work with employee experience?

KB: “One thing that everyone appreciates is the ‘listening lounge’, where artists come and play live in the office. Another is our ‘intro days’. We also have an internal marketplace for talent, where AI is used to match you with relevant services. Whether you’re in Sydney, São Paulo or New York, you won't be forgotten.” 

SE: “We’ve recently renewed our culture programme, which all of our 14,000 employees have been involved in via focus groups. This is a huge project that we’re proud of, especially since our employees have been involved all the way.”

How do you evaluate employee experiences?

KB: “We conduct employee surveys twice a year. When we launched ‘work from anywhere’ in 2020, we started working with external researchers to look at the effects – parameters such as creativity, innovation, intrapersonal energy. To follow up, we also launched a quarterly survey.”

SE: “We do this continuously – through our annual employee surveys, one-to-one meetings or focus groups. We usually work in networks, where we come together around a topic.” 

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Katarina Berg

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Susanne Engdahl

“Everything that managers, supervisors and HR do for an employee leads to the concept of employee experience – from their first to their last day at the company.”

Susanne Engdahl

So, what works and what doesn't?

KB: “In our surveys, there were two things that everyone came back to: flexibility and freedom. The message was clear – don't take it away. That’s why we introduced ‘work from anywhere’. Many people loved working from home, others hated it. We may not be able to offer complete freedom, but we can make life easier for our employees by offering a choice.” 

SE: “During the pandemic, we realised the importance of culture – and of being an attractive workplace. That’s something we may have taken for granted previously. Since then, we’ve had a completely different focus on that aspect of ‘employee experience’. At Husqvarna, we have many different spaces to take into consideration, but we still need to work to make them attractive.”

Are employees able to have an influence?

KB: “They have enormous opportunities for this, especially when we’re rebuilding. We have architects and behavioural scientists who specialise in health and the environment, and employees get a say in every relocation or expansion.” 

SE: “When we implement major change projects, we set up working groups with representatives from each department. It doesn't have to be the manager or supervisor, it can just as well be an employee. Decisions are made jointly.”

What role does the physical office play for you?

KB: “We’ve been a digital business since birth and have a toolbox that allows you to work wherever you are. About 50 per cent currently have a ‘home mix’ and 50 per cent have an ‘office mix’.” 

SE: “We offer hybrid working to employees who have tasks that can be performed remotely, but decisions are taken in the team. Some departments work from home from time to time, while others work full-time on site or remotely. The important thing that’s happened is that time in the office has become more focused. As an employer, we need to think about how we create a space that invites collaboration.” 

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