Employee Experience in Energy (Part 3): Putting Employees First

A growing body of research points toward the primacy of people – more specifically, employees – in organizational innovation, sustainability, resiliency, and many other business success factors. We understand from previous blogs in this series[1],[2] that employee experience is vitally important, particularly at commodities-based energy organizations where the typical customer service and brand evolution concerns of B2C companies (like those in retail) may not always apply. While it’s easy to understand the concept of Putting Employees First in service-oriented companies, where the trickle-down effect of a fulfilled worker is a satisfied customer and, consequently, a happy shareholder, it may be more difficult to understand – and even trickier to apply – across the spectrum of workers in Energy.

Putting Employees First is a principle of prioritizing and investing in an organization’s employees above all else; it’s a cultural imperative for energy companies that truly wish to differentiate. Indeed, it may be one of the few relatively unexplored frontiers in a sector looking for ways to better recruit and retain employees as they face retirements, a shrinking US labor pool of engineers and other technical skills demanded by energy companies, increased competition for talent, and challenges associated with engaging and retaining employees. Energy companies are also challenged by the dispersion of their work forces across multiple field sites (often differing in type of work, commodity, and/or geography), and office locations.

Considering these obstacles, how can energy organizations successfully put employees first in order to recruit and retain the best talent? Employee experience in the context of putting employees first goes beyond the design of employee-friendly processes, systems, and frameworks that put the employee as the primary consideration. Employee experience represents a fundamental shift in mindset, one that, in order to truly succeed, should begin with the Board or the C-Suite, and should be woven clearly into an organization’s long-term business strategy, vision and mission.

Employee Experience, Applied

Consider, for example, safety. Safety is a primary consideration and cultural keystone in most, if not all, Energy firms. Countless processes, tools, training modules, regulations, and reporting structures exist with the aim of promoting, improving and embedding workplace safety.  This collection of materials in turn informs each employee’s relationship to safety, their experience and feelings about it, and their employee experience more broadly.

Experience design - and Putting Employees First, in particular – asks us to fundamentally turn this approach on its head. Instead of superimposing employees onto organizational constructs in the name of safety, companies would first evaluate how segments of its employee population experience safety requirements, their work environment(s), and various touch points that could impact that experience. By mapping a comprehensive experience of safety within the workplace (e.g. arrival, parking, badging in, working in the field or in the office, interacting with co-workers, etc.), and how those employees, individually or via persona, feel about each touch point, organizations could much more effectively design learning, physical facilities, and more to encourage safety and its associated behaviors, all while boosting employee satisfaction and, by extension, retention[3].

Energy firms that embrace, or attempt to consider and apply, specific employee experience considerations and dimensions, are poised to attract and retain a productive, dynamic workforce, with resulting top and bottom line benefits.

This post is the third in a three-part series about Employee Experience in the energy industry. The first blog post explored building a case for employee experience investments, the second post in the series focused on how to design and implement successful employee experience initiatives, and this last post in the series focuses on the principle of Putting Employees First. We recommend you start from the beginning of the series to gain a more holistic perspective of EX challenges and opportunities in the energy industry. 

[1] The Case for EX in Energy, Part One, Amisha Patel, North Highland

[2] The Case for EX in Energy, Part Two – Embracing the Whole Human, Nicolette Moore, North Highland

[3] Design Your Employee Experience as Thoughtfully as You Design Your Customer Experience, Denise Lee Yohn, Harvard Business Review, December 8, 2016