The Employee Experience Advantage – Jacob Morgan

Sometimes you can judge a book based on the person who wrote the foreword. In this case, the foreword is written by Marshall Goldsmith, a man whose books have been translated into 28 languages and whose books have been at the top of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal bestseller lists.

In this book, bestselling author Jacob Morgan follows up from his previous books, The Future of Work and The Collaborative Organization, and shares his advice on “how to win the war for talent by giving employees the workplaces they want, the tools they need, and a culture they can celebrate.”

In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the book and sharing the most important lessons from it so you can get started with them straight away. Let’s go.

Part I: The Evolution of Employee Experience

“Life is short, very short,” Morgan begins. “We might as well make the most of it while we have it. This is why many of us focus on creating experiences instead of simply owning material things.”

This change in attitude, so different to the materialism of the 1980s, is reflected in a change in the way that we work. The evolution of employee experience has progressed through four key stages:

·       Utility: Employees are given just the bare essentials that they need to do their job.

·       Productivity: Employees are given tools and processes to help them to work better and faster.

·       Engagement: Companies go out of their way to make employees happy so that they perform better.

·       Experience: Companies successfully create a culture in which people want to show up and don’t just work for a paycheque.

Morgan’s book as a whole deal with how to move away from utility to experience and uses the results of some extensive research that was carried out by the author and his sponsors. The result of all this is that “To design great employee experiences and to create a place where employees truly want to show up, organizations must focus on a reason for being followed by 17 attributes that are abbreviated as ACE technology, COOL physical spaces, and a CELEBRATED culture.”

Engagement acts as an adrenaline shot, and Morgan notes that when people join an organization, they’re usually already engaged. Nobody starts a new job expecting to hate it from the first day; it’s just that we lose engagement over time. Providing people with perks and bonuses for the work they do can have a short-term effect on employee happiness, but that’s a short-term fix and won’t help the experience in the long run.

Part II: The Reason for Being and the Three Employee Experience Environments

Every company has a reason for being, which is why you’ll need to identify yours. Morgan says that the best reasons for being:

·       Focus on the impact on the world and people

·       Are not centered on financial gain

·       Are attainable

·       Rally employees

As well as having a reason for being, every company also has three employee experience environments. These are the three main battlegrounds that determine your employee experience.

The Physical Environment:

The physical environment is the one in which employees work, and it comprises 30% of the employee experience. According to Morgan, if they want to create a great physical environment for their employees, organizations need to focus on the following “COOL” characteristics:

·       C: Chooses to bring in friends or visitors

·       O: Offers flexibility

·       O: Organisation’s values are reflected

·       L: Leverages multiple workspace options

The Technological Environment:

“Although we view technology as something that lives in a separate nonhuman bucket,” Morgan explains, “technology has a palpable impact on the organization. It’s what we use to communicate, collaborate, and get our jobs done. If the tools break down, then everything else around them, including the human relationships, also breaks down.”

For companies to be great, Morgan says they need ACE technology:

·       A: Available to everyone

·       C: Consumer grade technology

·       E: Employee needs versus business requirements

The Cultural Environment:

“Out of all the employees and business leaders whom I have interviewed over the years,” Morgan says, “the vast majority of them have always told me that culture is what they care about most. Unlike the previous two environments, the cultural environment isn’t the one that you can see, touch, taste or breathe in. This is the only environment that you feel.”

This is where having a CELEBRATED culture comes in:

·       C: Company is viewed positively

·       E: Everyone feels valued

·       L: Legitimate sense of purpose

·       E: Employees feel like they’re part of a team

·       B: Believes in diversity and inclusion

·       R: Referrals come from employees

·       A: Ability to learn new things and given resources to do so and advance

·       T: Treats employees fairly

·       E: Executives and managers are coaches and mentors

·       D: Dedicated to employee health and wellness

Part III: Why Invest in Employee Experience?

If you’ve read this far then you probably already have a pretty good idea of why investing in employee experience is a good idea. Still, Morgan explains, “Is there really any value investing in employee experience and becoming an experiential organization? As it turns out, there is – a lot of it.”

According to Morgan, here are the nine different types of organization and where they stand when it comes to employee experience:

1. Inexperienced: Poor at culture, technology, and physical space

2. Technology Emergent: God at technology, poor at culture and physical space

3. Physically Emergent: Good at physical space, poor at culture and technology

4. Culturally Emergent: Good at culture, poor at physical space and technology

5. Enabled: Good at culture and physical space, poor at technology

6. Empowered: Good at culture and technology, poor at physical space

7. Engaged: Good at culture and physical space, poor at technology

8. PreExperiential: Good at culture, technology, and physical space

9. Experiential: Amazing at culture, technology, and physical space

He goes on to explain how getting all three areas right and creating a genuinely experiential workplace can help a company as a whole, improving areas including:

– Customer service

– Innovation

– Employer attractiveness

– Admiration and respect

– Brand value

– More

“One of the things that organizations always get concerned about is cost,” Morgan explains. “This usually happens because of an overemphasis on things such as free gourmet food, designer office spaces and crazy perks like free dry cleaning, massages and on-site dog walking. It’s true; these things do cost money, but the majority of things that shape the employee experience are free.”

He uses the example of Google to show how our approach to employee experienceOpens in a new tab. is often backward, explaining that many of Google’s perks are free. For example, when Google offers laundry services to its employees, it simply allows a local company to come in and do it at a cost to the employee. The employees still have to pay for it, but they appreciate it anyway because it makes their lives easier.

Part IV: Building the Experiential Organisation

Morgan kicks off this part of the book with a nod to Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow by explaining that there are two different types of thinking, System 1 and System 2. System 1 comes into play when you’re asked a relatively simple, straightforward question such as, “What is 1+1?” System 2 is for more advanced thinking, such as when you’re asked a riddle or presented with some other complex question.

By now, if you’ve been following along at every step of the way, you should have your reason for being and a thorough understanding of the three environments (physical, technological and cultural) and the COOL characteristics, ACE technology and the CELEBRATED culture that you need to make the most of them.

“[Organisations typically] have to ask employees for feedback,” Morgan says. “But why not make it so that employees can share information any time they want?” As enablers, he suggests the following:

·       Technologies must be in place to allow real-time communication and dialogue

·       Managers must be comfortable receiving and asking for feedback

·       Transparency must be the default culture mode

·       The organization must be prepared to take action

Moments That Matter

Morgan argues that to design employee experiences, we first have to think differently about employees and the journey that they take with your organization. Instead of the traditional life cycle, he argues that managers need to think of moments that matter or have an impact. He says that there are three different types of moments that matter:

Specific moments that matter: Includes things like your first day on the job, buying your first house, having a child and getting promoted.

Ongoing moments that matter: The things that happen, such as when someone takes you aside, and thanks to you for your help or you get a shout out at an all-hands meeting.

Created moments that matter: Corporate away days, Christmas parties and other specific events that leave an impact.

Morgan says that the most common moments that matter includes:

– First impression

– My development

– My leader

– My personal experiences

– My innovation

– My rewards

– My technology

– My workplace

– My lasting impression

– My team

– My making a difference

The Employee Experience Pyramid

By now, you’re probably wondering how all of this fits together, and Morgan explains it all with the employee experience pyramid. “At the base of the pyramid,” he says, “we have the reason for being, which provides the foundation. On top of that, we have the three employee experience environments, which are culture, technology, and the physical environment. Then we have the 17 variables that make up those environments, which are COOL spaces, ACE technology, and a CELEBRATED culture. At the very top of the pyramid, we have the moments that matter.”

Morgan thinks that it’s easy to say that the employee experience is owned by everyone, but that when companies say that, it inevitably ends up being owned by no one. He says that the employee experience is a ripple effect that starts with the most senior leaders at the organization and extends to every employee regardless of role and seniority. It should be:

·       Initiated by the CEO and executive team

·       Owned by the people team

·       Driven by managers

·       Championed by everyone

Getting Started

When you’re ready to get started, Morgan even has a short checklist of reminders to help you out:

–  You have to care, really care

–  Define a reason for being

–  Build a people analytics function

–  Identify the required skills

–  Have executive support (i.e., a chief people officer)

–  Train the organization

–  Tell stories

–  Build or improve the experienced team

–  Deploy feedback tools/mechanisms

–  In-person feedback

– Feedback via technology

–  Implement COOL spaces, ACE technology, and CELEBRATED culture

–  Identify and create moments that matter (or moments of impact)

–  Think of your organization like a lab instead of a factory


The rest of Morgan’s book focuses on individual companies such as Airbnb and Adobe, explaining what those companies did to improve their employee experience and relating it to the lessons that are taught in the book. It makes for good reading, but you’ll learn nothing new, and so we’ve focused on sharing the lessons themselves.

Still, it is interesting to see how big companies fit into the framework that Morgan has outlined, and he’s quick to point out that size, industry, and location don’t matter. If anything, smaller companies and newer companies have a slight advantage because they’re not being held back by archaic legacy systems.

Remember, Morgan also offers readers a way to identify their Employee Experience Score (ExS) by heading to https://TheFutureOrganization.comOpens in a new tab. to take the test online. He also has more data available based on the research that was carried out. Many of the diagrams and the additional resources that Morgan provides are super useful, and we can’t include them all here, so they’re worth checking out.

Steve Todd

Steve Todd, founder of Open Sourced Workplace and is a recognized thought leader in workplace strategy and the future of work. With a passion for work from anywhere, Steve has successfully implemented transformative strategies that enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. Through Open Sourced Workplace, he fosters collaboration among HR, facilities management, technology, and real estate professionals, providing valuable insights and resources. As a speaker and contributor to various publications, Steve remains dedicated to staying at the forefront of workplace innovation, helping organizations thrive in today's dynamic work environment.

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