Building psychological safety in teams and organisations is the cornerstone to progress.

We see this as a vital component in creating powerful cultures that enable teams to build their collaborative intelligence, fulfil their purpose and thrive.

For these reasons we welcome the recent corporate rush towards a focus on ‘Employee Experience’ EX.

But could it be that we’re in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

Recently Facebook has been pushing hard to get into the ‘connected business’ space. In their ‘Leadership Traits of Connected Companies’ report, they argue that EX needs to be at the heart of business strategy.

CEO’s, apparently need to transform into Chief Empathy Officers!

The most successful businesses in the world, they claim, see their most valuable asset not as their IP, their algorithm or their influence. It’s their people, ‘who show up every day because of what they do.’

(No shit Sherlock!)

They go on to say that businesses need to become ‘connected companies’ that cultivate purpose and belonging. Leaders need to demonstrate and embody honesty, authenticity, and transparency. They need to ‘embrace the vulnerability that’s inherent in connection’.

I’d like to argue that, welcome as the focus on EX is, there is a real risk in taking it too far.

The ‘people first’ orientation could easily morph into a belief that ‘organisations are here FOR our people.’

Hard decisions which are required in service of the deeper purpose of the organisation could get ducked because of concerns about the impact on people EX.

Decision making could become subservient to focus groups, polls and pulse checks.

A bit like a populist politician with no real backbone, an organisation could be subject to the whims of the herd instinct of employees, ultimately losing their trust and perhaps even their business!

So in an emerging ‘post Covid emergency’ world, if the ultimate purpose of a business isn’t simply to maximise shareholder value or to ‘serve’ the whims of EX, what is it for?

Surely it is to balance a few key elements:

Doing The Right Thing’ – ‘How we contribute to making the world a better place’

For example, waking up to the Climate Emergency we all face.
If we are not diving deep into our conscience and challenging every aspect of the business model and practice we aren’t really taking it seriously.
As Frederik Laloux asks, ‘what is the evolutionary purpose of the business’?

‘Being Fully Myself’ – ‘Enabling a culture where everyone can be and give the best of themselves’.

To show up in their full creative glory, this is EX in action. A culture with high trust and high levels of psychological safety – when people feel able to be themselves, innovation, agility and wellbeing builds naturally.

‘Getting Things Done’ – ‘Making real progress, not just a talking shop’

A culture where the focus is on the urgency and excitement required for radical change and transformation to occur. People deeply want to get on with stuff and see change happen – they want to make their working lives matter.

So, we welcome the concept and the practice of EX, but more than that we welcome the real impact of ‘Doing the Right Thing’, ‘Being Fully Ourselves’ and ‘Getting Things Done’.

How are you using EX to deliver your purpose?