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Humankind | 26 January 2022

The relationship between EX and commercial outcomes.

15 Minutes with Kalyn Ponti

As part of our series on the case for employee experience, we’re joined by Kalyn Ponti, our Chief Executive Officer to find out more about the relationship between EX and commercial outcomes.

When you joined Humankind, what did you know about EX? Has your view changed on EX in your time here?

When I joined Humankind five years ago, I hadn't heard the term ‘employee experience’ but I’ve always believed that people are the most important aspect of business and represent the greatest source of potential. Prior to moving to New Zealand, I was a director at a publicly listed company in Canada. I was responsible for the business performance in Central Canada and learned very quickly that the only path to success was by building a world class team.

What I wish I understood back then was the importance of creating an environment where people are not only motivated to perform, but inspired to thrive holistically as human beings. Connecting to purpose, growing and evolving, and building deep connections. That’s where the magic happens.

Why do you think a leader should focus on EX in their organisation?

There are so many reasons! From a societal perspective, I believe that businesses and organisations have the ability to change the world. So if we can create an environment where people are inspired to make impact and truly understand their contribution to that, at a macro level, we’re all better off.

At an individual level, work has a direct impact on people's wellbeing, and as employers, we have a responsibility. They aren’t separate concepts.

From a business standpoint, EX is critical for delivering commercial outcomes. Environments that connect people to purpose, foster connection, and enable people to grow and perform will see stronger attraction and retention – direct contributors to both culture and returns.

Where did Humankind’s focus on employee experience come from? 

Our founder, Sam (Gadd)’s personal purpose has always been to help people to ‘love what they do’ knew. She knew that people’s experience at work is so much more than policies and processes. It's beyond the big moments like recruitment and on boarding. It's what happens in between which actually makes up 95% of those experiences. Sam travelled to the U.S. about six years and took inspiration from some of the early movers in the Silicon Valley.

So it started with Sam, and has grown with our incredible team; a group of like-minded people coming together who all have the same fundamental beliefs, that strong employee experience is not only important for employees, it’s critical for organisations and society as a whole.

How can an organisation measure employee experience? 

You can look at quantiative and qualitiatve data here. The easiest thing would be to do an Employee Net Promoter Score, so would employees recommend working at your organisation? Retention and unwanted turnover are the next metrics.

We’re talking about experience so we also recommend digging deeper to understand the nuance – understand the why. Purpose experiences - are people connected to purpose? Do they have strong relationships at work and feel like they have people they trust and a strong leader? Enabling experiences - do they have the workspace, the tools and the information they need to do great work? And performance experiences - do they receive meaningful feedback and are there opportunities to grow?

Do you think there is a clear and obvious link between businesses that focus on EX, and greater commercial outcomes?

I couldn’t feel more strongly about this! Experience can be hard to quantify but right now it’s staring us in the face. We’re experiencing heavy talent migration. Organisations who are truly focusing on employee experience are not only attracting the best people, they’re retaining their existing stars.

Carrots and sticks work for short term, repeatable tasks. The purpose, autonomy, flexibility, growth, and connection we spoke about earlier, supports sustained motivation and performance.

What about businesses that don’t focus on employee experience? What would the beginning of their journey to focusing on EX look like?

I think the biggest thing is to listen to your employees. We live in this hyper personalised world and these expectations extend into the workplace. Not understanding our employees' specific motivations, what they gravitate to or even what they might be running from, puts teams’ experience and businesses at risk. So the first place to start is listening. Surveys get breadth - even better are town halls, stay interviews, one-on-ones, or grabbing a coffee. That’s the human connection we’re all craving more than ever.

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