Why Employee Experience Matters—And How Boards Can Take Meaningful Action

Board and CEO AdvisoryBoard of Directors
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Jack (Rusty) O’Kelley
April 04, 2023
3 min read
Board and CEO AdvisoryBoard of Directors
Boards can guide how employee voice is systematically captured, analyzed, and integrated to further improve organizational health.


State Street Global Advisors, Ford Foundation, and Russell Reynolds Associates conducted interviews with public board directors in the US and UK, who bring a wide range of boardroom perspectives on employee voice.

These conversations informed the development of a board-employee voice maturity model and guidance around how to integrate employee voice into board oversight. This research provides a view on how to strengthen boardroom discussions of human capital management, and offers insights into how companies can solicit greater insights from the workforce to improve organizational health.

Our interviews focused on three aspects:

  • The impact of employee voice and how board members use it as a strategic input for decision-making
  • Key mechanisms for capturing employee voice and the frequency with which it is leveraged at the board level
  • How board oversight of employee voice can be structured

We define “employee voice” as the perspectives, interests, and needs of the workforce, encompassing a wide range of employees, such as full-time, part-time, and contract.

Employees are among an organization’s most strategic assets. Monica Lozano, a current board member at Apple, Bank of America, and Target, voiced that “investing in human capital is a strategic decision, similar to investments in technology or infrastructure, and employee voice is key to maintaining the organization as a workplace of choice. Employee voice is a mechanism for innovation and customer intelligence.”

In order to incorporate employee voice into strategic oversight, boards need to deepen their understanding of the employee experience.

Although the majority of directors say they are frequently reviewing data on employee turnover and engagement, notably fewer say they have a strong understanding of the day-to-day experience of the employee base, and less than half have direct exposure to front-line and junior employees. When asked about which functions their board needs more exposure to, directors’ number one response was human resources.

Key Findings



of global executives identified employees as a top three stakeholder.
Source: Russell Reynolds Associates 2022 Q2 Global Leadership Monitor, n = 1,590 global executives.


of board directors have direct exposure to front-line and junior employees.
Source: Russell Reynolds Associates 2022 Q2 Global Leadership Monitor, n = 259 global board directors.


of board directors said they 
would benefit from increased exposure to HR.

Source: Russell Reynolds Associates 2022 Q2 Global Leadership Monitor, n = 259 global board directors.


Where does your organization sit on our board and employee engagement maturity model?

Based on insights from the directors interviewed, and supplemented by existing research, we have developed a board and employee engagement maturity model that demonstrates the varied sophistication with which boards engage with employee voice. It also provides key considerations for boards as they integrate employee voice into board oversight.

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Mindset: Employee voice is a sounding board for talent management hygiene.

  • Employee engagement discussed as needed
  • Ad-hoc metrics

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Mindset: Employee voice improves operations and mitigates risk

  • Regular employee engagement survey with pulse surveys
  • Annual board discussion on employee engagement and key metrics
  • Systematic frontline interactions
  • Focus on HR metrics

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Mindset: Employee voice elevates organizational health.

  • Organization appropriately pivots strategies based on employee insights
  • Employees understand the role of the board and leverages board interactions as needed
  • Integrates people metrics and business/financial metrics to inform decision-making





How can boards effectively oversee employee voice?

Read insights from the directors we interviewed on how boards can effectively oversee employee voice, and the key questions that boards should be considering.



How we help you make the right decisions for your employees

Employee experience matters. Every day, we help leadership teams gain an honest, accurate understanding of the employee experience, and work strategically with businesses to deliver actionable plans to make lasting changes in the most crucial areas.

Learn more about our board and CEO advisory services here.



Joy Tan and Tom Handcock of RRA’s Center for Leadership Insight conducted the research and authored this report.

Rusty O’Kelley III co-leads Russell Reynolds Associates’ Board and CEO Advisory Partners in the Americas. He is based in New York.

Learn more about the authors and the Center for Leadership Insight