You might call Kim Rohrer a pioneer.
While it has become one of the hottest jobs around these days, Rohrer started her role as head of employee experience at the global employment platform Oyster nearly two years ago.
Rohrer is used to being asked what exactly an employee experience chief does, and as she explains it, it’s as much about what the job does not entail as what it does. “It’s not HR, it’s not people operations, it’s not talent acquisition, it’s not workplace design — it is purely focused on what is the tip-to-tail experience that people are having when they become an employee of our company, from the time they start moving through our hiring process … to the exiting experience, whether that’s voluntary or involuntary.”
The bottom line is, the head of employee experience works to ensure that the company culture is adhered to no matter who the employee is or where and how they work — no easy task for Rohrer, as Oyster, which is fully remote and whose clients include Roku and Sutherland, employs around 650 people in 70 countries.
Making sure there’s alignment in company culture can be quite the undertaking considering the sometimes-vast cultural differences across borders. “Balancing the cultural differences between people all over the world is really, for us, about saying that regardless of where you come from, regardless of what’s ‘normal’ where you’re from, here’s how we want this company to operate,” she said. “We know that might be challenging, we know that might be different, we know that it might feel weird or strange, but here’s why we’re doing it this way, here’s what we’re aiming for.”
(As of this month, Rohrer has a new job title at Oyster, one that’s every bit as unique as her last one — principal people partner — which is kind of like an employee experience manager on overdrive. “Cultivating the [employee experience] role as a strategic function within the organization,” is how she put it.)
At a time when corporate financial pressure and layoffs dominate headlines, employee experience manager is in high demand. In fact, it is one of the fastest growing jobs in the U.S., just behind truck driver and diversity and inclusion manager, according to LinkedIn, which describes the role as overseeing processes that “support employee engagement, well-being and development within an organization,” including training and mentorship initiatives.
Top spots for such jobs are New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to LinkedIn. The positions are mostly held by women (83%) and typically transition from HR or office manager roles. About one-quarter allow for remote work setups.
“Employee experience managers come in to fundamentally look at the intersection between the employer and the employee and make sure we’re really creating more of a nuanced approach to [employees’] needs,” said Jennifer Moss, a workplace strategist based in the Toronto area and author of the book “The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It.”
Echoing Rohrer, Moss sees the position as a sort of mediator who ensures a company’s unique culture is being maintained across every function of the organization.
Moss also sees employee workload — how different groups approach it, the management of processes around it — at the core of the role. “Less burnout means job satisfaction improves, so the role plays a very important part in retaining [talent],” she said. That is the case irrespective of an individual’s personal and work situation — be it a remote or in-office team member, a working mother or a member of Gen Z just entering the workforce.
Even though the focus of the employee experience manager is people, Moss sees it as more a strategy role than an HR one. As such, she does not believe the role should live within the HR department — which has come to be perceived by many as a function of management more than an employee advocate.
“When we’ve kind of forced them into an HR function, it doesn’t actually end up being as successful,” she said. “There needs to be a place where there’s protection around them to be able to have the autonomy to speak up and to speak for employees.”
Like Rohrer, Luke Fitzpatrick, CEO of the medical devices maker Dr.Sono, is no stranger to the employee experience role, having established it at his company six years ago to “ensure that each employee is able to work and thrive in a positive and engaging environment.”
Fitzpatrick sees the position as a bridge between management and frontline workers, “to be certain that everyone’s voice is heard and valued within our organization.”
He said the employee experience officer has made a significant impact on his company’s culture in a number of ways, including by creating a sense of community among employees, regardless of job title or responsibilities; providing opportunities for professional growth through creative outlets like art classes or training seminars; and offering mental health support, like meditation groups during the lunch hour.
“Overall, these cumulative initiatives have opened up dialogues among coworkers, helped build loyal relationships amongst staff members, and contributed significantly towards overall morale and productivity,” added Fitzpatrick.