Workplace experience: The drivers of employee sentiment

This summer, Leesman undertook a comprehensive cluster analysis of its workplace experience data. The primary objective was to gain a better understanding of the complex web of factors that impact, shape and ultimately determine the employee experience.

Leesman recently hosted a series of events based on workplace experience to explore the findings that unearth the real drivers of employee sentiment. Jo Sutherland reports from the think-tank’s Manchester Insights briefing.

workplace experience

Leesman, ‘the radiographers of workplace’, take pictures of what’s going on inside an organisation to arm business leaders with the data they need to understand what is and what is not working from an employee perspective. This data helps leaders align their business and employee needs with their organisation’s physical, virtual and social infrastructures.

Having surveyed 401,362 employees across 3,100 workplaces in 90 countries, the think-tank side of Leesman commissions external, independent statisticians to play with the data, to mine it for patterns and correlations, in order to identify the characteristics of a high performing workplace. Leesman’s latest research report, ‘The Workplace Experience Revolution’, is based on these findings, and the firm’s latest worldwide event series revealed a sequence of business-critical factors on which employee sentiment hinges.

But why is employee sentiment important? Tim Oldman, Leesman CEO, suggests it is important because expectations have changed. If businesses fail to meet these expectations, they will not attract or retain talent, nor will they be able to unleash the potential of the workforce.

We are in a period of unprecedented change. But it is the pace of change that’s truly transforming our world, argues Oldman. It is changing the way we think, feel and behave. Successful brands like Apple, Strava, Uber, Sonos and WeWork are tapping into the fact we are living in an ‘experience economy. These hyper-growth brands all offer an immersive experience, and there is a participatory element attached to how they are bringing their business to the market. What is more, these brands are constantly reinventing themselves. These organisations are watching how people use their products, and they are using that insight to fine-tune their offerings.

As consumers, we are getting used to this special treatment. We embark on immersive, participatory and experiential journeys with the brands we interact with every day, from our morning barista Fairtrade coffee experience to our evening interactions with our personalised home assistants. We expect products and services that wrap around our needs, that adapt according to the way we go about our daily lives, that address and fix our pain points, and that make us feel good. Our patience with the mundane and meaningless is lessening.

In our private lives, we have access to the best and the latest tech. In our work lives, we do not. Most of us can have a better conversation via FaceTime than we can over our organisation’s second-rate teleconferencing system. Employees are starting to judge internal service levels based on what they can get externally. Leesman’s report examines the business-to-consumer societal shift that has reset the employer-to-employee relationship. The study uncovers what this means for organisations trying to get the best out of their employees at a time when many global economies are flat-lining.

Leesman’s independent statisticians have uncovered a series of patterns and correlations in the data that reveal the areas that can make or break the employee experience. Get one of these elements right and there is a strong likelihood that an employee’s experience of their workplace will be positive. Get one of these elements wrong and an employee’s experience of their workplace will be negative – regardless of which other areas are done well.

The study focuses on three clusters: ‘seeing’, ‘feeling’ and ‘doing’. The latter relates to whether the workplace supports getting stuff done. ‘Seeing’ relates to how employees view their workplace. Does it embody a strong corporate image? Does it reflect well on the company those employees are part of? And ‘feeling’ comes down to whether the workplace evokes any sense of pride.

Leesman analysis reveals that the strongest driver of employee experience in the ‘doing’ cluster are the things that aid ‘individual focused work’ – so quiet areas where people can get their head down and concentrate. While our sense of personal productivity is principally governed by our ability to concentrate, employees also rate ‘learning from others and therefore ‘accessibility of colleagues’ as being particularly important. From this, we can deduce that organisations must provide both concentrative and collaborative areas if they are to enable and empower workers that have more complex activity profiles.

Interestingly, the findings also show that ‘personalisation of space’ impacts employees’ ability to work, too. This gives evidence to the notion that people work more productively in spaces in which they feel comfortable and at home.

The ‘seeing’ and ‘feeling’ data clusters reveal what is important when it comes to promoting a positive corporate image and instilling a sense of pride. The top of the list in this category is ‘general décor’, which suggests an employee’s perception of their company will be influenced by the physical manifestation of that image.

A workplace’s ability to comfortably ‘host visitors, clients or customers’ is rated as being particularly important in this regard, too, as is the provision of ‘tea, coffee and other refreshments’. This points to the importance employees attach to being able to offer co-workers and visitors a high-quality experience. It also reiterates Oldman’s key observation that employees see themselves as being part of an ‘experience society’, after those participatory, personalised moments, at work and at home.

To download the full report, visit

Jo Sutherland, associate director of Magenta Associates, an award-winning B2B PR agency, and communications director of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) UK Chapter.