Employee centricity – Creating the conditions for growth


Michael Esau

Global HR Advisory

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In the last 5 to 10 years, we have started to move beyond simply focusing and measuring employee engagement. As we firmly enter into the age of digital, social and consumerisation, the emphasis has broadened to looking at the overall experience – so what does that entail and really mean?

Let’s start at the beginning and ask a pivotal question – do we believe every employee when they come to work wants to do a great job and succeed? I think most would say yes without hesitation. Therefore, if that is our starting point then why is there is so much debate about putting employees firmly and squarely in the centre?


When we all wake up in the morning and head to our place of work (physical or virtual) we bring a number of things with us. They include among other things our skills, traits, values, social motives, and they shape our thoughts and behaviour. They also act as a compass in relation to how we wish to work, be treated, be recognised and can significantly influence our preferences in relation to how things get done.

With all of that in mind, perhaps we can understand why it is such a challenge to be truly employee centric, because every employee is inherently different and requires different things to be their best. In the last few years, we have certainly seen many organisations take a step back and evaluate what their employee value proposition is – for me, that is a critical piece of work. A mutual contract that describes what a potential candidate can expect from the organisation, but what they need to bring in return. The challenge of course is then delivering on that proposition and that is the real challenge.


If we look at the role of HR in this challenge, as the custodian for people, they have a huge role. HR organisations understand the nuances of a human being and this is where their design skills need to come to the fore. How can they build a proposition and experience that considers the differences that exist in all of us? I’m a firm believer in simplification, standardisation, apples for apples, so I’m not suggesting having different processes and a variety of experiences, but more recognising how they are applied to each individual and how the individual can apply it themselves. This for me is executing the basic fundamentals brilliantly taking into account the differences of our people. Outside of work, we live an autonomous micro experience where we dictate how things get done, when they get done and we consume capability to help with that execution. Therefore, how can we have more of an autonomous experience in the workplace?

This has to be the real challenge for HR and the wider organisation. The investment in our people is going to be number 1 or 2 on the P&L of every organisation. We know that all of our employees when they come to work want to do a great job, so how do we create the climate and conditions for all employees to be their best every day? How can we create greater autonomy in the execution of tasks, autonomy in how people take ownership of their performance and development, autonomy in terms of how individuals navigate their career leveraging support networks established by the organisation?

I often mention the term “creating the climate and conditions” and this is where the leadership levels of the organisation essentially make or break everything I have written in this article. What I mean by climate and conditions, is making it safe for people to be themselves, building an environment of trust, mutual respect, empowering team members, providing appropriate levels of exposure – this is where the role of the leader is beyond critical – help to break ceilings, remove obstacles and fixate on creating the best experience possible for your team members.


Very simply when we do this and we do the basics brilliantly – people will achieve, they will feel valued, recognised and crucially engaged. When that happens, organisations unearth unconditional discretional effort in their employees, and this will result in superior performance. In the next 10 years, the generational construct of the working population will change significantly. Recognised as being a very value driven generation, the manifestation of the experience and employee value proposition will come under real scrutiny. It will influence if people join, people leave or whether they are truly engaged or not in the execution of the business strategy. Being employee centric really does matter.

Close the employee experience gap

Forrester’s Employee Experience (EX) Index shows that an engaged workforce is an important driver of business success. This report provides the data and insights organisations need to change the conversation in their organisation and gain wider acceptance for improving EX.

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