HR Management & Compliance, Talent

The Growing Importance of the Employee Experience

In a recent survey conducted by Expedia, it was found that 74% of Americans prioritize experiences over products. Some say this social shift stems from our desire to be unique and live a personal story only we know to be true. Another school of thought is that humans are built to crave interpersonal connections.


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Regardless of the reason, the same consumers who are looking to participate in experiences socially are looking to employers to create a similar environment in the workplace. As a result, employers are asking themselves how this can be done and at what point technology needs to be introduced. Welcome to the age of employee experience.

Experience as a Success Metric

I first encountered the growing importance of employee experience once I became an entrepreneur. I started first with creating a great experience for the customer. As a teenager, I worked with my mother in a local coffee shop in Culpeper, Virginia, sharing thoughts with regulars on my favorite brew methods and educating novices on what made a great cup of coffee.

After a while, I found that I was having these conversations about the company and coffee with the same customers, who then brought their friends, who then turned into regulars themselves. These customers would interact with our employees and chat about coffee and the company and then branch off into other unrelated topics.

Next thing you know, the customer has been there for 20 minutes having a pleasant conversation and enjoying his or her experience, looking forward to the next visit. I took notice of this trend and began to understand its importance. Offering a product or service is how you start a business; providing an exceptional experience is how you grow one.

Throughout the different phases of my life—first as a college kid at the University of Virginia, later as a business consultant, and now as an entrepreneur—I’ve strived to create amazing experiences for others. None have been more amazing or effective in growing our business than the daily experiences of our employees.

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The employee experience has almost become a sort of movement as the workplace continues to transform through technology and innovation. Businesses that hold their employees in a customer-equivalent regard will position themselves to be the winners of today’s digital economy.

Brewing a Culture of Shared Experiences

After witnessing the effects an engaging and stimulating work environment had on our own employees, we quickly implemented the practice into our service offering. Amidst Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roaster’s (CWJ) early days, we became increasingly known for our six varieties of Nitro Cold Brew coffee sold out of our Northern Virginia flagship café. Over time, we saw an opportunity to meet the growing demand for our cold brew in café customers’ offices. The opportunity to provide a solution to the stale office coffee experience I myself had to endure as a former business consultant and apply the same experiential practices that we did with our own employees was an eye-opening moment that led to a new chapter at CWJ.

Employees wanted great coffee as an experience to look forward to at work. Such a simple perk not only made employees more productive by keeping them from waiting in line at a coffee shop outside of the office but also provided a unique opportunity outside of just a buzz of energy. Employees were interacting with one another in the kitchen and were discussing the coffee and their favorite ways to enjoy it. The on-tap Nitro Cold Brew became the “new” water cooler and is just another way technology is raising the employee experience to a level never before seen.

We’ve used this employee experience mind-set to frame several of our company values, including “People You Can Count On,” “Together,” and “Authentic Relationships,” which emphasize our focus on taking care of our employees and nurturing their growth. Along with providing many of the standard employee benefits you’d see at any company, we take things further by creating engaging employee experiences internally.

We’ve found that creating opportunities for team members to connect with each other on a level deeper than their day-to-day job functions leads to more seamless collaboration across departments—all fostered by coffee.

Creating Experiences for Your Employees

Though these employee experiences are effective, they are not necessarily scalable. That’s where technology comes in. Creating an office environment where technology and automation do the heavy lifting can be a game-changer for a company’s HR team.

Opting for beverage technology by which employees are provided with the experience of self-serve craft beverages on tap does more for facilitating conversation among employees than reaching into the office fridge for a can of sparkling water. At the same time, the craft beverage inventory is remotely monitored and managed by the vendor, keeping you from having to manually audit inventory repeatedly.

Regardless of your company’s size, employees are looking to the C-suite, management, and HR teams to provide one-of-a-kind experiences that are going to make them feel valued and invested in. With the competitive nature of the current job market, retaining top talent is often key to a company’s success.

Consider integrating more employee experiences into your perks program to create a well-rounded and competitive package that will motivate your employees to create shared experiences with each other and better experiences for your customers.

Robert Peck is the Cofounder and CEO of Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters (CWJ), a leading tech-enabled specialty coffee company offering full-service, kegged beverage programs, with Nitro Cold Brew and other craft beverages on tap.

In 2012, Peck was working as a Management Consultant at Accenture, specializing in customer experience and looking for a way to help his mom, who had been roasting coffee since 2004, tap into a wider market. Shortly thereafter, with one coffee roasting machine; three friends from college; and his mother, Julia Peck, the company’s current Master Roaster, CWJ was born.

Today, Peck is recognized nationally as an innovative leader in the fields of coffee, customer and employee experience, beverage technology, business leadership, and entrepreneurship. He was recently named Washington Business Journal’s Minority Business Leader of the Year 2019 and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia.

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