The role of IC in EX – it’s not all front of house

The role of IC in EX – it’s not all front of house

By Belinda Gannaway, Strategy Director at FathomXP

The rise of EX – Employee Experience

It’s 30 years since the experience economy started to gain attention. But it’s taken a while for the thinking around experience and employees to collide. EX only really arrived on the scene as a way of thinking about people in the business about five years ago.

But collided they have. Some 84% of HR and business leaders say EX is important or very important – but only 9% say they are ready to address this issue (Deloitte 2019 Human Capital Trends Report).

What is the role of internal comms in EX?

To answer that, I’m borrowing a framework from the world of service design.

Imagine a theatre: The stage is where the action is happening. Internal comms has a lot of front of stage action – channels, content, campaigns, events etc.

Backstage are the support processes that produce the front stage experience: the lights, the sets, the crew. For comms, those are the systems we maintain and the training and support we provide business leaders etc.

Then there’s behind the scenes, with all the intangible things the theatre must do to make the front and backstage possible: ­strategy, policies, processes etc. This is where I believe IC has a real power to influence EX.

Any comms team worth its salt is already thinking and influencing at the level of experience. If you’re not designing comms to improve the employee experience, what are you doing?

But there’s so much more you can do. And a lot of it is behind the scenes. Here are four ways to get started:

1. Be purposeful

Be clear what you care about in IC, what your employees care about, and how you’re delivering in that sweet spot between the two. If you’re genuinely employee-centric when it comes to what you do and how you do it, you’re in a much better place to help others do the same.

2. Be principled

Yes, you’ve got your strategy, and your organisational values, but if you’re to deliver as a purposeful IC team, you need to define your own principles or guardrails, to ensure you don’t get blown off course by stakeholders’ competing demands. Make them real and hold yourself to account.

3. Be empathic

Don’t just ask your people once in a while if they get the comms they want, if they understand, if they value them. Go and sit with them. Watch how they interact with your comms at critical points in their relationship with the organisation. Get them to keep diaries. Conduct empathy experiments. Anything to get under the skin of what they need and how you can meet that need.

4. Be a pain

No one department owns the employee experience. EX is made up of a multitude of interactions the employee has with the organisation, from before they join to after they leave (remember experience creates memories and memories endure). Some of these interactions are to do with the organisation (joining, leaving, getting promoted) and some are where worlds collide (having a baby, getting divorced, becoming a carer). Every department has a role to play in enabling and delivering great EX. So go and find your collaborators and start shouting about empathy and what it really looks like when you design and deliver with the employee at the centre.

And don’t give up.

Belinda Gannaway is Strategy Director of FathomXP, a culture activation agency helping to create more human, connected and authentic workplaces. She runs EX Design Workshops and is currently co-writing a book on practical approaches to employee experience. To find out more contact

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