The Rise of the Workplace Experience Manager

Katie Cavanaugh
Katie Cavanaugh
Published on 

office space

There are plenty of studies on how a messy, unorganized room causes stress. Clutter can overstimulate our minds making it difficult to focus and feel inspired. From this research, it’s clear there’s a link between environmental variables and a person’s mental state.

Now, think about this connection in terms of the workplace. An office is a place where no matter what a person’s specific responsibilities are, they’re expected to be productive. Specific deliverables aside, humans are meant to create and collaborate when they come to work, day in and day out.

In fact, with a single disengaged employee costing an organization approximately $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary, it’s in every organization's interest to focus on workplace experience. And yet, oftentimes office settings are established with little intent to promote cognitive productivity.

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Who’s responsible for workplace environment?

In a typical office, there are a ton of variables besides clutter that contribute to the workplace environment and consequently, an employee’s ability to be productive, including:

  • The physical layout, including the workspaces and resources within it
  • The technology set up to support those spaces and resources 
  • The ease of comfortable interpersonal relations
  • The general ambiance (natural light, texture, and materials of furniture, noise level, etc)

Facilities is in charge of the physical office space, IT handles the tech, HR supports interpersonal needs, and office management curates the ambiance. One would think with each variable designated to a separate team, each of these puzzle pieces would click together to make up a harmonious environment. 

Not typically the case. Often times, each department has its own biases, priorities, and timelines that make it difficult to align harmoniously with one another.  It’s not enough to assume each of these departments will create a workplace best suited for the people who work in it.

Instead, “to achieve the best employee engagement, you have to go beyond merely providing a safe and efficient infrastructure and provide an ecosystem that is pleasurable and experiential” according to Leesman’s “The Workplace Experience Revolution”.

Enter, the rise of the workplace experience role.

Workplace experience managers focus on a positive employee experience
The ‘Workplace Experience” category is on the rise as the focus on employee satisfaction increases. Gather Coworking space via OfficeSnapshots

The workplace experience manager

Organizations have recognized that while in most offices there is a specific team dedicated to each variable of an office environment, there isn’t a dedicated persona in charge of ensuring they overlap in a meaningful and intentional way, despite employee satisfaction and engagement being critical to organizational success.

According to a Gallup report, “How Employee Engagement Drives Growth” organizations performing in the top quartile of employee engagement compared to the bottom quartile outperformed in the following ways:

  • 10% on customer ratings 
  • 22% in profitability
  • 21% in productivity 
  • Significantly lower rates of employee turnover and absenteeism

With impactful data around employee experience and organizational success, it’s no wonder roles focused on employee engagement in the workplace have been popping up on job posting sites like LinkedIn and Indeed.

Typical responsibilities under postings for workplace experience manager roles include:

1. Workplace Experience Specialist, Iterable

"Create a unique culture and workplace at Iterable – one that supports our collaborative and diverse culture of innovation as we oversee the daily operations of our offices.”

2. Workplace and Property Manager, Google

“Provide a pivotal role in facility service operations, including new office builds and fast-paced expansions, capacity and space planning and implementation of new processes and procedures.” 
“Act as a trusted partner. Build relationships with business leaders to enhance the employee experience.”

3. IT Architect, Colleague Experience, VMware

“You are a creative problem solver – with a focus not only on technology but equal focus on people and process - building people-centric technology solutions and services.”

There are clear areas of overlap like culture, space, and technology among each of these descriptions. These areas are the pillars the workplace experience role needs to sit on top of to address all areas of employee experience. However, diving further into these descriptions, it seems as though these workplace experience roles are akin to more traditional facilities and office management roles but with the buzzword “workplace experience” rolled into them.

This goes to show “workplace experience” as an internal department, while recognized as important, isn’t well-established across companies. As of right now, it’s evident organizations see the need for someone to sit at the crossroads of workplace environment and employee engagement, but this position and its responsibilities vary based on specific organizational needs.

Taking workplace experience seriously

Some think that every organization should pull open up a seat at the C-Suite table for a new CxO: the Chief Employee Experience Officer. This executive is supposed to mimic the responsibilities of a consumer-focused Chief Experience Officer in their efforts to incite engagement and instill loyalty in customers. The Chief Employee Experience Officer, however, is focused internally on how every aspect of the workplace environment contributes to employee engagement and success.

For example, according to Drew Suszko in Work Design Magazine, the key responsibilities of the CEEO are as follows: 

Responsibilities of a typical chief employee experience officer
Typical responsibilities of a Chief Employee Experience Officer. Via Work Design Magazine

The “typical” CEEO needs to wear various hats and communicate with departments ranging from HR to IT to Facilities to Real Estate. At a high-level, this person needs to make considerations around how brand and culture are wrapped into an employee’s daily experience or what type of office plan layout best supports employee preference workstyles. On a more detailed level, they would need to consider what technology an office uses to host video conferences or book meeting rooms and oversee the preferred policies for office etiquette, to name just a few examples.

Workplace sits at the crossroads of interior design, technology, and human experience. Without the right focus, it’s difficult to know which direction is best for a specific organization. One thing is certain, there is definite value in investing in the direction leading to stellar workplace experience.

Whether it’s expanding the responsibilities of a space, culture, or technology-focused department, or establishing a CEEO position, plopping an employee in a cubicle and assuming they’ll be productive isn’t enough anymore.

As the work of employees becomes more portable, more dynamic, and more complex, the workplace -- be that a remote solution, coworking space, or traditional office space -- designed to support that work needs to follow suit. The future of work is continually changing and having a dedicated workplace experience role will make sure the office is melding to the needs of the people within it.

Sources: Office Snapshots, Officelovin', Work Design Magazine, VMware, Google, Linkedin/Iterable, Gallup, Leesman, Psychology Today, DecisionWise