As part of the lead up to Exchange, we’re really excited to be able to share our latest interview with one of our confirmed speakers, Ben Whitter
Ben Whitter is one of the World’s leading figures within HR & Employee Experience (EX). Ben is the Founder of the World Employee Experience Institute (WEEI) and Chairman of the UK EX Awards 2018.
Tell us a little bit about yourself? What was the journey that took you to founding the WEEI?
Experience is everything. This has been a life philosophy for me and it has enabled me to have a varied, diverse, and exciting set of experiences in work around the World. What became obvious very early on was my fascination with people and the organisations and experiences they build. This propelled me into the HR profession at speed, and my career-long focus and obsession with the ‘experience’ of work and its connection to business strategy unlocked some early national level success as a practitioner and a clean sweep of awards. Personally, I proved the point in practice that creating a great environment, connecting people to purpose, and aligning experiences to business objectives accelerates progress and positive outcomes. From there, I needed to develop myself internationally and deliver EX across cultures.
At this point, I was retained by the University of Nottingham as Director of OD to develop the campus experience internationally in China and Asia, which was an incredible role and the first of its kind in UK Higher Education. This was completely new territory, and we did some compelling work over 3 years. At the same time, I was writing, researching, speaking, coaching, and advocating for EX as THE approach to develop not just great HR, but great businesses. My first ever article in which I put down my thoughts about my profession, Bye, Bye HR?, was read by more than 1 million people and picked up by major publications. I followed this up with more work and research on developing successful, international, and cross-cultural EX practices and a major international project we delivered featured in China Business Review with a circulation of 13 million people.
It was a bit of a whirlwind after that as the EX movement took over; colleagues and companies were requesting more of my time to support them in developing EX within their context, usually medium to large MNC’s. As a result, we founded WEEI in Shanghai, and since 2018, we now operate from the UK. I have enjoyed a World tour since leaving China, which has taken me to 12+ countries to open conferences, keynote, deliver masterclasses, coaching, and HR/EX Breakathons! A lot of fun, and a lot of great experiences along the way. Our EX mission has attracted some wonderful colleagues and partners across all continents, and we are thrilled with the progress that has been made in such a short period of time. This is certainly a shared movement and the EX community is growing strongly. I am personally very proud to have been able to play my role in supporting people and organisations to elevate the ‘experience’ of work globally.
What excites you most about the employee experience movement?
The results and the fact that we are only just getting started. In 2015, there were not many people at all talking about EX. I travelled the World speaking at conferences and it was usually the first-time EX had been top of the agenda. Now we are really seeing its emergence across the economy as providers, suppliers, and organisations transition their operating models into experience-led and employee-centric systems. This is great news at all levels of the economy and the results of EX approaches are simply stunning. Truly transformative. In this sense, what is genuinely exciting is that the best is yet to come, and finally, we are putting the human at the centre of our thinking and organisations.
You’ve made such a huge impact on the employee experience space – what’s next for you?
It has been a great honour and privilege to be at the forefront of this fantastic movement. In a way, I have grown with the movement and transformed within it so I will continue to do that through leading WEEI and our primary methodology, 3D Employee Experience™. I am also looking forward to developing many more partnerships with some of the World’s most inspiring people and companies to help put EX at the centre of business strategies worldwide.
What do you think will be different about the workplace of the future?
I am an optimistic realist about the future. In general, I can see only great things for the experience economy and those who invest in it. How they invest in it is a different story so I think we will see some tension emerge in society when human jobs are being replaced with advanced technology and AI. Some companies will invest to upskill workforces into better jobs and better work environments. Others simply won’t, which will open up a potential chasm between those creating and maintaining human-centric workplaces and those whose drive for profit will move them in a less human-friendly direction. Building organisations where humans actually work, interact, and deliver services directly to consumers may well be a differentiating factor and USP in the future. In fact, this has already begun as companies market their personalized services and high touch customer experiences as factors that enable them to stand-out in crowded markets. I also think the very concept of what work is and means will continue to be challenged as more people enjoy the major benefits of stepping outside of organisations to utilize their skills, talent, and knowledge in flexible and innovative ways across the economy.
Which three people from the world of employee experience, HR and beyond would be your ideal dinner guests?
I would sit down with Ma Yun (Jack Ma), Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos.
What are you reading/watching at the moment?
I am focused much more on articles than books these days. Back in the day, I bought and read hundreds of books to inform and develop myself, but now with a lot of travel involved with my role and a heavy schedule, I favour short and sharp content to get me thinking or inspired. Although I always have time for a Jack Reacher, Kurt Wallander, or Hercule Poirot adventure.
What’s your most used app?
I have some core apps I rotate around. #1 is WeChat, which is the Rolls-Royce of social media and is pretty much an integrated version of the most popular apps in the Western world. It is one stop social media and has over 1 billion users, mainly in Asia. I was the first person to deliver a WeChat webinar for 2,300 HRD’s on EX, which was very cool. Great experience and a fantastic platform. Travels apps, given my world tour, are always up there in usage as are LinkedIn, Whatsapp, and much further behind is Twitter. I also have several productivity apps, which make my ‘experience’ of work better!
This one day event in London on May 24th is the bringing together of thought leaders focusing on the future of work and what that means for the employee experience. We know that great experiences, thoughtfully designed, drive higher levels of employee engagement, retain talent and are the basis of your employer brand.
Brought to you by us together with The Employee Engagement Awards & Benefex we’re bringing the biggest names in employee experience to equip attendees with practical takeaways for changing the experience their employees receive for the better.
**All members of The EEA are entitled to discounted tickets, email [email protected] for more information.**