Employee experience is all about providing employees with an environment where they want, not need to come to work--a place where they can feel energized and free to be themselves to get their best work done. But what does that actually look like? Based on interviews with hundreds of executives and leaders at companies around the world ranging from the Chairman of the Board at Yahoo to the CHRO of Marriott to the CEO of Jamba Juice for my new book, I put together a framework that allows companies to design great employee experiences. Employee experience may seem complicated, but it really boils down to three environments: technological, physical, and cultural.

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• Technological Environment. This includes giving employees the right tools to do their jobs--the internal social network, mobile devices, laptops, desktops, and video conferencing solutions, apps, and more. Employees can easily get frustrated if they are forced to use outdated programs or the wrong tools.

• Physical Environment. The physical space is exactly that--what you see, touch, taste, and smell in the workplace. It involves everything from how the office is laid out to the demographics of the people who work there. It should make employees excited to come to work.

• Cultural Environment. This is all about how an office and company feels. It's the vibe you get when you walk in the door and the tone the workplace sets, which comes from the leadership style, sense of purpose, organizational structure, people, and more.

From there, there are 17 key things that employees care most about at work. These attributes fall under the three environments and can provide a more detailed framework for building the employee experience.

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To design great employee experiences and to create a place where employees truly want to show up, organizations must focus on a Reason for Being (to be explored in another article) followed by 17 attributes that are abbreviated as ACE technology, COOL physical spaces, and a CELEBRATED culture.

ACE Technology

  • Available to everyone
  • Consumer grade technology (tools that are so beautiful, useful, and valuable that employees would consider using something similar in their personal lives if it existed).
  • Employee needs vs business requirements (tools that take into account how and why employees actually work).

Employees want the right tools to get the job done, and they want to be able to get those tools easily without having to fight through red tape. Companies need to balance the hottest gadgets with what is best for the company and do it in a way that makes employees happy. This means making sure employees have input in the technology they use and that everyone is using cohesive systems that help the company reach its goals.

COOL Physical Spaces

  • Chooses to bring in friends or visitors (a great way to tell if employees are proud of their physical space)
  • Offers flexibility
  • Organization's values are reflected in the physical space
  • Leverages multiple workspace options (open, closed, modern cubicles, lounge areas, cafe environments, quiet areas, etc).

Not every employee loves the open office design that is so popular these days, but most people don't want to work in cubicles, either. The best physical spaces offer something for everyone and provide employees the option of flexible spaces to work. Physical space is a chance for the company to walk the walk and showcase their values like transparency, teamwork, and collaboration. If an organization prides itself on its inclusion, for example, the physical office space should reflect that.


  • Company is viewed positively (by employees and the public)
  • Everyone feels valued
  • Legitimate sense of purpose
  • Employees feel like they're part of a team
  • Believes in diversity and inclusion
  • Referrals come from employees
  • Ability to learn new things and given resources to do so and advance
  • Treats employees fairly
  • Executives and managers are coaches and mentors
  • Dedicated to employee health and wellness

Employees want to work for an organization that is respected and where they can feel good about their contributions. The culture comes down to how employees feel at work and the chances they have to collaborate, work in teams, learn, and advance. A positive culture treats everyone fairly and provides opportunities for employees to be themselves and thrive.

What I found especially fascinating is that every one of these 17 attributes positively affects the employees and the organization as a whole. This isn't one sided, so even by investing in the overall success of the company, the employee experience is also hugely affected positively. Everyone wins.