During the sweltering Southern summer of 1986, the closest thing to EX we had were the fans set up to keep us cool in the small furniture shop where I worked. Experience was what we were getting, not an added perk. ‘The Employee Experience’ we received was an envelope with our week’s pay in cash, a bag of Doritos, and a six pack of our favorite cheap beer. It was 30 years later before I recall hearing the acronym EX in the context of the environment and associated benefits designed to attract and maintain new hires to an organization. In the design and media world where I existed, I was happy to be working. I knew there were at least ten people outside the proverbial door, just waiting for the opportunity to take my position should I fail.

The “fans” we have today provide a whole lot more comfort and engagement to the workspace. I wish I could say these basic comforts were universally accessible, but that would perpetuate the current myth we are building across multiple industries. The labor shortage in manufacturing and skill-based labor is forcing many companies to adopt new methods and technologies to upskill their employees. Virtual reality and augmented reality are finally reaching a maturity level and cost-effectiveness due to advancements in hardware and software, making production and delivery feasible for even smaller companies. EX now starts in the pre-hire stage, with many companies paying for education and trade skill training.

Virtual reality and augmented reality are finally reaching a maturity level and cost effectiveness due to advancements in hardware and software making production and delivery feasible for even smaller companies

This comes with a guarantee of hire at rates far higher than their college counterparts. This is not to say college is not vital for some specialized academic pursuits, and not all careers warrant the time and the cost of a college education. New Enterprise’ fan clubs’ have arisen to make sure both the college graduate and trade school par excellence are well cared for – stomachs full at lunch, bodies exercised throughout the day, and happiness delivered through social activities. For many, even the office is optional through the use of virtual collaboration tools and social applications. As costs come down and reliability improves, even assembly line workers and physical laborers may be able to use remote telepresence robots much as hazardous operations, and some surgical procedures can be performed today by specialists too far away to reach a patient at their time of need. The playing field is starting to level, and hopefully someday soon, the fans will be available to all.

Fans are important. The current and future market for talent demands them. We live in a global economy where some—and soon, most—work can be sourced from any place in the world. Social networks have made salaries and working conditions transparent to most of the population. We have technologies that enable us to instantaneously tap into the state of the business and the emotional side of the enterprise team members—design thinking and ideas from the ground up to have incredible value. EX is about the importance of each individual and their role in the organization. It is more than technology; however, it requires a cultural mindset. I have heard it saying that it is the role of the leader to provide an environment where each employee can perform at their best, and as a result, create the optimal customer experience. For me, I believe EX is ‘all that and a bag of chips.’ So please make my Doritos.