Article · 5 minute read

Employee Experience (EX) Moments That Matter

Part 3: How Leaders Can Inspire Exceptional EX

By Isabella Heath 31st August 2022

In Parts 1 and 2 of our EX Moments that Matter series we looked at how organizations can maximize Employee Experience with better hiring and development activity.

In part 3, we look at the role of leaders in inspiring exceptional EX in their organizations.

How do we categorize what makes an exceptional Employee Experience? To help answer this question, our colleagues at wtw have used their research involving over 500 organizations to create a ‘High Performance Employee Experience’ (HPEX) model.

Ex Diagram

To learn about the model and specific drivers of retention in more detail, please see our earlier article here.

When we look at the HPEX model and these retention drivers in combination, we have identified four EX moments that matter to employees which leaders should consider when they are looking to create an exceptional employee experience.

Leadership EX Diagram

KEY REFLECTION: What are the leadership EX moments that matter in our organization?

I want to have confidence & trust in my leaders & organization
I want to be invested in and supported

To effectively support others and inspire confidence from their employees, leaders must first understand themselves.

Increasing self-awareness amongst the leadership population is a key focus for many of the clients we work with, and incorporating assessment tools with one-to-one feedbacks is often the first step for successful leadership development.

Common Pitfalls

1. Failing to ‘let go’ in early leadership

Leaders need to be able to have the confidence and the trust in others to let people work autonomously, giving them the opportunity to be safe and self-directed. Empathy is also starting to make the headlines in leadership development.  Our research has shown that, combined with core leadership behaviors, empathy is a differentiating factor between who is likely to be a good leader and a great leader.

Top Tip: Make sure leaders understand empathy.


2. Telling instead of coaching

Often when people are moving into leadership roles, particularly for the first time, needing to coach rather than tell can be an incredibly difficult thing to remember to do and create time for. When ‘telling’ is the experience leaders have had instead of coaching, this can be a particularly difficult cycle to break.

Top Tip: Help leaders understand others’ motivations. 


3. Diving into difficult data too soon and using 360 assessments as proxy for dealing with performance issues

Where they are the right fit, 360s can be extremely powerful for increasing leaders’ self-awareness and highlighting any potential blind spots. However, timing is always almost everything in terms of getting that maximum benefit. You also need to consider your current feedback culture; how much experience do people have of receiving feedback and therefore how might it be received?

Top Tip: Lead by example and cascade from the top. Consider if a self-assessment and using a leadership risk report would fit this need instead – while still being careful not to overload someone.


For an example of where we have used our Leadership Impact model and reports, alongside feedback sessions, to provide tailored development and help participants challenge their own status quo, see here.

I want to be part of a purposeful & successful organization
I want leaders to feel my development is important

Who your leaders are matters. If people don’t see themselves at the top, they’re unlikely to feel that their development is important. However, it is not only important that people see leaders they can identify with. Without having diversity of thought, background and experience, you also risk coming up with limited solutions, falling into groupthink and reducing opportunities to create innovation.


Common pitfalls:

1. Sponsorship often favors the dominant group

Sponsorship is a very important part of progression, especially in large organizations. However, the challenge is that this often favors the dominant group, affecting the diversity of future talent. There have also been a number of emerging headlines highlighting the potential risk of minority groups having even less visibility in a hybrid working environment.

Top Tip: Use robust assessments for hiring and development to reduce the likelihood of adverse impact.



2. Progression is only seen as vertical

We see more progressive organizations starting to highlight the importance of horizontal progression. They are thinking broader than the scope of traditional leadership potential, to consider;  what do they have potential for? What career track might they be well suited towards and how can we help them on that journey?

Top Tip: Help under-the-radar people raise their profile.



3. Talent assessment programs rarely provide development for all

There is often a fear of disengaging people by opening up development programs and therefore having to reject more people from them. While this is a valid concern, if you are able to assess people in a way that sees everyone as having potential for development and their own a career path, you can help to solve this problem and improve DE&I outcomes in the process.

Top Tip: Use tools that help everyone explore their career path.



4. Leadership pipelines often don’t have enough diversity (most common gap is Pioneering)

Our Leadership Impact model consists of the 3 Ps – Professional leadership, People leadership and Pioneering leadership. For an individual to be part of a purposeful and successful organization, it’s important that leadership are able to objectively assess their future pipelines. While most leadership roles focus on a combination of two of the Ps, across the leadership team you should aim to have all three of these ticked off to help drive success through diversity of style.

Top Tip: Audit leadership teams and leadership pipelines for your 3 Ps (and Risk areas)



5. Managers will usually fail to spot the potential of real pioneers

Manager identification of potential leaders often fails to spot pioneers in particular and this is a gap we are seeing in early leadership pipelines especially. Data suggests that by relying solely on managers organizations risk allowing pioneers to fall by the wayside.

Top Tip: Don’t rely on managers alone to identify potential.


To help avoid some of these pitfalls, we have recently developed and launched our brand new tool Wave-i. An end-to-end solution, Wave-i allows organizations to identify potential and audit current pipelines, revealing the types of career and leadership roles individuals will thrive in. To keep up to date with our new projects using this dashboarding, keep an eye on our articles and events here.

Final Reflections

Which areas should we be prioritizing?

What are the short-term wins and long-term goals?

Find Out More

Our team will be happy to tell you more about how our assessmentment tools can help you identify and develop exceptional leaders.