The relationship between Workplace Experience and Employee Experience

In 2015, Airbnb first shook the industry when its then head of Human Resources, Mark Levy, changed his title to Chief Employee Experience Officer. This marked the beginning of crafting a dedicated “experience” for a company’s employees, and paved the way for people like me who are dedicated to enhancing the experience of people’s journeys in the workplace.

But what is the difference between Employee Experience and Workplace Experience?

As Jacob Morgan revealed in his Feb. 1, 2016 article for Forbes.com (Jacob himself being a leading authority on Employee Experience), Mark Levy saw the opportunity to regard employees as the company’s customers. He wrote, “When Mark joined Airbnb, the Human Resources functions were split into multiple groups, including talent, recruiting and a group called “ground control,” which was responsible for the workplace culture. There was talk of bringing the departments together and Mark questioned, “If Airbnb had a Customer Experience Group, why not create an Employee Experience Group?” The Employee Experience was then created with new specializations, such as compensation and benefits, facilities and a food and beverage program.”

The idea of focusing on an exceptional experience for employees throughout the entirety of their journey with the company was revolutionary at the time. For Airbnb, the driving force behind this idea was their corporate mission to “create a world where everyone feels like they belong.”

By advocating this mission internally, Airbnb created an experience for their employees which undeniably made them feel like they themselves belong. This authenticity of course emanated out to customers, and the results brought impressive successes for the company, both financially and culturally.

It is no easy undertaking to translate this mission-driven culture throughout an entire company, especially one with office locations around the world. At Airbnb, their “ground control” group is deployed to their worldwide locations, and dedicated to ensuring that the employee experience culture thrives in every site.

But of all of the aspects surrounding the Employee Experience, the one area which is able to provide a visible and physical translation of the company’s culture — anywhere they are in the world — is the workplace, and the specific experience this space offers.

At Airbnb for example, each of their conference rooms in their San Francisco office (as well as their offices around the world) is inspired by one of their actual listings in another part of the world, and the actual photo of the listing is hanging outside the door of the respective conference room. They also provide employees with 3 free healthy meals a day, the menu for which is also based on actual listings or a country where their listings are based. This workplace experience completes the narrative of the company’s specific culture for the employees.

Therefore, Workplace Experience is an aspect of Employee Experience, and an imperative one, as it is the only aspect that provides a physical representation or translation of the company’s culture.

As such, it carries the ability to affect employees through all senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell), thus conveying the corporate culture in an impactful way.

Workplace Experience and Employee Experience go hand in hand, where the former supports the latter, and with both acting as channels through which a company’s unique culture is championed.