What We Learned About Engagement, Inclusion, & Innovation at the Twin Cities Employee Experience (eX) Summit

For the more than 140 HR leaders, people advocates, and senior executives in attendance, Tuesday’s eX Summit was a place to discuss topics from successful employee retention strategies to failed team building attempts and everything in between. Speakers from Salo LLC, to BI WORLDWIDE, to Surly Brewing and more covered how to lead, inspire, engage, and motivate employees in an increasingly competitive and diverse talent landscape. Attendees learned how the employee experience plays a role in productivity, growth, innovation, and building a world-class culture. The summit provided an opportunity to exchange ideas, reflect on past performance, and think about new ways to create better places to work by improving employee experience. 

The day was packed with useful insight and actionable advice, but these takeaways stood out:

1) Don’t overlook the importance of your internal brand.

From Arctic Cat to ExactTarget, presenters shared stories of how creating internal identity shaped culture within organizations. While many companies spend time and resources crafting and curating their external brand, creating a distinct internal identity can make a difference when it comes employee engagement. Whether it’s creating a mobile-first intranet, or identifying internal brand ambassadors and starting affinity groups, presenters shared the power of uniting employees behind a shared internal identity. "Employee programs mean more when they have a name and an identity," said Scott Dorsey, former ExtactTarget CEO and current Managing Partner at High Alpha Venture Studios. "Branded internal programs come to life and become more meaningful to your team. They increase participation and create engagement organically."

2) Diversity and inclusion do not mean quotas or token employees.

Diversity and inclusion panelists stressed that D&I programs were more about creating the space for difficult conversations and an open dialogue between employees than they were about meeting arbitrary race, ethnicity, or gender quotas. “We often talk about diversity and inclusion often as ancillary part of what we do, when often it’s is what really makes employees more creative and flexible,” said Clare Jacky, People & Culture Partner at Leadpages. By creating environments where employees could speak to each other respectfully, connect on a human level, and call out problems they see at work, organization will create environments where all current and future employees feel safe and can be successful. “D&I is not the tenth thing on your list, it’s how you do the other nine. It’s how you build teams, it’s how those teams become more successful,” said John Hardy, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at Best Buy.

3) Align the reasons that people are working for your organization with the value you’re providing.

Employees are no longer satisfied with simply working to collect a paycheck. They want the work that they do to align with their values, and they need to have positive experiences at work. By creating an organization with strong values, and aligning your culture with the reasons that people want to work for your organization, you can build a team that wants to do better work and outperform the competition. “Give people a chance to take the lead and make decisions on culture within your organization,” said Rodd Wagner, Vice President of Strategy at BI WORLDWIDE. “If you want intensity in people’s work, focus on making them happy.” By aligning culture with what a team values, organizations can improve engagement, fix retention issues, and become places where employees are motivated to work hard and and become advocates for your brand.

4) Don’t underestimate the role of technology in employee experience.

It’s hard to understand your employees’ experience if you’re only doing a single annual survey or hear about issues in passing in the halls of the workplace. “94% of employers rely on word-of-mouth to uncover skills and learn about issues within an organization. Unfortunately, your water cooler does not scale,” said Scott Burns, CEO and Co-founder of Structural. “At this point, Amazon knows more about your employees than you do, and that’s a problem that employers need to start addressing.” As organizations expand, leaders lose the ability to develop connections with people in geographically diverse locations and disparate teams. New technologies aim to bridge the gap and make building connections and uncovering untapped talent easier than ever. It’s time for HR leaders to start rethinking the way they’re using technology to create better employee experiences.

“It was great to see so many faces from across the twin cities having similar conversations, with different approaches,” said Erin Hargrove, Senior Consultant of Human Resources Solutions at Salo LLC. “HR leaders care about creating great places to work. I’m glad that we’re having these conversations, because this is how real progress is made.”

Regardless of industry, employee experience will become increasingly important as the competition for talent intensifies. Employers who create better employee experiences will have a competitive advantage in their market, and their people will be more engaged and productive at work.   We’re just scratching the surface when it comes to learning how to improve the employee experience, and we hope you’ll join us at future through leadership events as we tackle the challenge. Subscribe to hear about upcoming events from Structural.


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