What is the Employee Experience and How Does it Impact Your Business?

By Amanda Berry
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Best practices
Employee engagement
When we hear the phrase “Employee Experience,” several questions come to mind. First and foremost, what is it? Is it a top-of-a-mountain, mystical experience, where the employee discovers their value, worth, and employer appreciation? The simple answer is “Yes.” According to a Gallup report,” The employee experience is the journey an employee takes with your organization. It includes every interaction that happens along the employee life cycle, plus the incidents that involve an employee’s role, workspace, manager and wellbeing.”

As an employer, you can construct a work environment and employee experience that impacts everyone in your organization. You get the benefit of making them feel that their contributions are a vital part of the business’s overall success, which is true. They are respected and will want to reciprocate the acknowledgement of being valued with productivity. Most importantly, you foster a sense of mutual loyalty by helping them share in an inclusive community where employees want to belong. However, if you don’t supply those fundamental needs to your employees, in addition to what the current market is demanding, they will leave, impacting your company’s financial health. It is a harsh reality, but it is the new remote reality.

Right now, we are experiencing an unprecedented labor market, especially in tech. We have the most qualified employees and candidates, yet they are resigning and changing jobs in record numbers. According to a Harvard Business Review article titled “Who Is Driving the Great Resignation?”, Tech and healthcare are the highest fields leaving their jobs. This drain is mainly attributed to increased workloads and burnout. Employees realize that there are certain things they are not willing to compromise on, and one is the work environment they participate in. Many will choose an engaging, positive work environment that is supportive of their needs over financial compensation.

In a February 2022 report, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 4.3 million people voluntarily quit their jobs in December 2021 alone. Those are alarming statistics considering the time of year and that we are still in a pandemic. It leads us to ponder what are employees looking for? Is it salary compensation? Yes, in part. However, there is something more. A shift is taking place in the mind of the modern employee that they desire and need things beyond the basics of better salary compensation. 

In a recent article by Human Resource Executive, people are looking for a change in their work environment that shows fairness and equity in the job place. They also desire flexibility in work and geographic salary considerations. There is also the issue of compensation of new versus established employees and investments for different employee segments. 

What is truly interesting is that the new remote reality combined with the current labor market affects so many that they are willing to risk a change, especially as a mid-career worker. This surge in what is being termed the “Great resignation” has some companies expecting a 40% change in staff and looking for ways to stop the loss. One of the best tools for that is the employee experience, which is the main driver for employee engagement.

Defining Your Company’s Employee Experience

The pandemic mindshift has affected the way the employee thinks about work.  We have presented a definition of an Employee Experience, but it needs to be built and tailored to accommodate you and your employees. Contemplate this scenario: Professionals have no problem working an average 40 hour work week. The tech industry, however, has been a place where professionals were known to have a sizable work load and long work week. Back in 2015, a Networkworld article stated that IT and Tech pros had on average a 52 hour work week. Now in 2022,  many companies are moving to four eight-hour work days a week. In fact, in a recent article written by Abi Tyas Tunggal on Himalyas.com, 109 companies have moved to the four day work week model. That is not the end of expected changes.

In the The State of the Human Experience Survey 2021 by HR.com, they asked the question “In your opinion as an HR professional, employees in your organization feel…” The answers were ranked in order as:

  • A sense of belonging
  • Their contributions are valued
  • They have opportunities to express honest opinion
  • Engaged
  • They have good work-life balance
  • Inspired by their work
  • Recognized for their accomplishments
  • Empowered

Respondents were most likely to agree that employees in their organization have a “sense of belonging,” and they are least likely to say employees are “empowered” or “recognized for their accomplishments.” But all were ranked above 64 percent in agreement. That means that these aspects of the employee experience should be considered “moments of truth.” If employees are not feeling them, they are not having a positive experience.

To create the types of ‘moments of truth’ where employees recognize that they do feel these eight primary aspects of the employee experience, opportunities must exist in their employment journey and strategies should be developed to initiate them. Additionally, HR must identify separation trends and improvement ideas for future processes and initiatives.

Now that you have an idea of what an employee experience is defined as, and what you can offer, let’s look at how to design an experience model that builds a effective employee journey and benefits your staff and the company as a whole.

How to design an Employee Experience Strategy and Journey

Your Employee Experience Strategy influences the employee’s journey. And like any strategy, it needs to be documented. An Employee experience can not be defined as a singular moment. Instead, it should be described as a journey. Like customer journeys, employee journeys are similar, with life cycles, milestones, and moments of truth.

Each step on the employee’s journey can be planned as a roadmap to ensure that the employee reaches their milestones at the appropriate time. Metrics can be infused into the journey, letting you know if your employees are hitting the proper benchmarks to fulfill, exceed, or fall below their responsibility performance and company involvement. With a roadmap, the company can help the employee stay engaged through the six stages of their employment journey.

Six Stages of the Employment Journey

  • Attract: If you were selling a product, this is the stage where a company markets to attract the right customer. You want a customer who will be successful and find value with your product by reaching their outcomes and goals. There is little difference between attracting the ‘right’ customer and the ‘right’ employee. As an employer, you want someone who isn’t necessarily a company fit but rather complements its culture. You want someone who is attracted to your brand and resonates with your mission statement. That is why your HR should properly promote jobs through social media, job boards, and employment platforms. You want the best candidates for your company. In return, you must present them with an application process and messaging that is concise, uncomplicated, and quick. People may not want to wait for the fifth interview for an entry-level job in this job market.
  • Employ or Hire: As stated above, steady and slow may get the job done, but your applicants will disengage if you add complexity and repetition during the hiring process. Every step in the employment journey should be straightforward, including the application process. Business interviews are all about clear corporate communication between HR, hiring personnel, and candidates. Transparency about hiring policies and background checks is also an absolute necessity. Make sure that you close the process loop by contacting applicants that were not chosen and thank them for applying. They may prove to be a good candidate in the future. Some hiring managers have even given constructive feedback to help applicants in their employment journey. Also, consider exit questionnaires that ask for some input to level up your processes to stay competitive.
  • Onboarding: After an offer letter is given to an applicant and they accept the job, they begin an onboarding process. You want to make this as much of an inviting experience as you possibly can. First impressions can either win over the skeptic or be harmful to the candidate that was once a fan of your business and an admirer of its reputation. Have a process and playbook in place that outlines the steps to take. Include the knowledge and training an employee needs to know to make the process successful. Lastly, as before, gain feedback on the onboarding process that can improve procedures in the future. 
  • Retain: Now that the employee has successfully onboarded and is on the job, your employee experience operation needs to shine. It is highly known that the quickly adopted and engaged employee is one that has the ability to be retained. Consider assigning seasoned mentors and coaches that help new employees adapt to the environment. Good managers also contribute to the positive employment experience with patient lessons of responsibilities and reinforcing the company values. Once the employee understands how they are included in the organization, they will reflect those values and overall mission. Your employee is encouraged by presenting clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and achievable goals from the beginning. Now, reward them, not only with appropriate compensation but additional incentivization. Again, feedback helps improve your employee experience. Distribute employee surveys on a regular cadence. Once a quarter or bi-annually is good. This time tempo allows management and team leaders to know where there are gaps in the employment journey and can quickly solve them to prevent negative sentiment.
  • Develop: An educated employee is a valuable member of your company community. Motivate your staff to seek new skills through your internal offerings or provide your teams with a continuing education budget. Consider developing a peer tutoring system where team leaders share their talents by coaching team members. Also, discussing career objectives can contribute to their educational goals. Collaboration within departments or cross-organizationally can encourage teamwork cooperation, promoting knowledge sharing. Can you imagine being partnered with a product designer if you are a Salesperson? It would provide you with better understanding of the product that you can pass on to customers. Promoting collaboration can help company initiatives and projects meet their deadlines and prevent silos of information. Last, quarterly or biannual reviews should be conducted to evaluate the performance of individual employees and teams. Recognize employee achievements through call-outs, newsletters, or on your company intranet. Lastly, incentivize your employees to keep them encouraged in the employment journey by giving spiffs, bonuses, and raises.
  • Exit or Churn: When a customer churns, their exit interviews can provide valuable information on improving the product, processes, and even personnel. The same holds true for when employees choose to leave. An employee exit interview assists your company and business gaining insights into your organization. Often, if employees are exiting on good terms, and sometimes bad, they are willing to share constructive and detailed information on their view of the work environment and its leaders. The discussion should be planned out, with an accompanying script from a developed HR playbook. It should transpire in a timely manner and be attended by the appropriate administrators. 

You took the time to recruit, hire, and onboard this individual. Now you want to integrate them into your company’s culture, and hopefully, they will become an integral part of your business success. That is why employee engagement is now viewed holistically as an experience. There is more to the process than benchmarks and KPIs. You want to create an environment of work that draws the employee in, gives them support and encouragement, and incorporates them into your business culture. This happens with a properly planned employment journey.

There is a definite ROI factor to your strategy. However, it must be balanced with understanding that your employee is also a human being. So, let’s go step by step to develop a strategy that works for your employee and for you. 

What’s your plan?

Every good journey starts with a plan and a roadmap. Unless you are a fresh new start-up with less than five people in your office, you probably have an idea of what positions you need to create and what you want to accomplish with each one. 

  • Create the Role: First, begin with established job descriptions to fit the needs of the business. Each one should have attached responsibilities and priorities. The position should be described in detail to give the employee assurance of the type of activities they will be performing. Boundaries lead to a sense of autonomy to create within that space. Those duties should have well-placed interaction points, just like in a customer journey, to attain feedback and keep the employee engaged. Most of all, document what you want the employee to experience in the role.
  • Identify Objectives: Next, identify and document objectives for the employee. They deserve the ability to have input on objectives and their ability to attain them. Also, include personal goals they may want to accomplish and how long they have. These objectives do not have to be job-related alone. It can be personal. Perhaps a certification or to acquire a skill? Professional enablement helps both the worker and the business. Objectives can be organized, quarterly or yearly, but there must be transparency and clear communications. These objectives can be reviewed and amended depending on the employee’s ability or the needs of the company. 
  • Steps to Reach Objectives: Once objectives have been identified, what steps must the employee take to reach those objectives? Now that you have identified goals for the employee personally and in their role, lay out steps to attain those targets. If your management is wise, they will watch as well as listen. If you see that the employee is struggling, step in to help them feel confident in their place, position, and ability to do the job. Sometimes, the job may not come with complete clarity. Give them the ability to reiterate goals and objectives and voice their concerns. Consider a partner, mentor, or teammate that can help guide them until they are firmly entrenched in the role. 
  • Train to Succeed: No one enters a job wanting to fail. If a person has made it through a rigorous interview process and turns out not to be the employee expected or was not the right fit, that is one issue. However, if the individual has all the potential and skills and fails, this could be an issue of improper training. It is in your best interest as a business to give employees every tool possible to succeed, especially training. You wouldn’t expect someone to perform their duties without a laptop, phone, access to the internet, software, and communication platforms. Training and then continuing education are investments in your employee and your company. Also, your managers and team leaders should receive additional training to improve their coaching skills and help create a better work environment. Empowering all employees enriches their experience.  
  • Communicate: Begin with all the information they need to perform their job, including the policies, rules to follow required to be employed, expected behavior, and what is discouraged. If you have a hybrid work environment, how many days are they supposed to be in the office, and how many remotely? Everything related to employment should be clearly communicated. For as much information that you give, be open to receiving feedback. Often employees are not able to share how they feel about their progress and experience. Having an honest dialogue at the beginning of the relationship helps keep open communication in the future. Positive redirection and coaching is the best tactic for team leaders and managers. Also, utilize surveys as a source of feedback. They can give insight into areas employees may not be willing to disclose. When you receive feedback about the overall experience, be sure to quickly orient changes that can be instituted to help keep the workplace positive. The other vital factor in aiding in communication is an internal communication system or Intranet. Company Intranets help foster engagements by sharing critical business information to the employees, clarifying company news, priorities, and cultural norms. Employees can connect and share ideas with hierarchy, find subject matter experts, and, of course, connect socially with coworkers. To encourage engagement and create the best employee experience, communication and related technology must be part of your foundation.
  • Measure for Success: On trips to places you’ve never traveled before, don’t you want to know exactly where you are? Well, an employee wants to know where they are on their journey map. Just as there are keys on a map indicating distance and direction, there must be standards to guide the employee in their work, such as metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). When employees receive annual reviews, they should not be surprised that they did not hit their benchmarks. Qualitative measures also help the company know how they are doing as an employer. Absenteeism and turnover are indicators that something else is going on in your organization. Assessments are not meant to be oracles of impending doom. If goals are clearly given, with steps to obtain those objectives included, a performance review or surveys should blindside no one.
  • Incorporate technology into the Experience: Every company has a tech stack for business, from a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to Internal Communications or Intranets. Software is an integral part of the employee experience. A critical addition to your company’s tech stack is a Human Resource Management (HRM) system. These solutions incorporate analytic capabilities that help measure and track employee progress with metrics. This feature enables leaders to step in and guide employees when facing setbacks. It also creates a central source of truth to store and view feedback, helping HR and leaders analyze trends, recognize emerging issues, and mitigate situations with unhappy employees. All of these tools work together to improve the whole employee experience.

The Remote Employee Experience

A critical addition to your employee engagement strategy is a current remote work situation plan. According to Forbes, 74% of professionals believe that remote work is the new normal and the future of employment. Many companies are incorporating permanent remote work situations for their employees. As a result, policies and plans must be developed to engage the employee and create a similar experience to in-person workers. To develop a worthwhile employee experience for the disparate workforce, here are some critical elements.

  • Tech tools: Distance means the need to bridge that gap. That means applications that can provide high bandwidth. Without them, think of the potential disruptions and the delays in the delivery of work products. Cloud-based applications and technology are needed, but without connecting, they will cause a disconnect in your business and employee experience. Your IT needs to have a standardized plan to implement all the required technology for remote work.
  • Communication: When employees work remotely, communication is the core of the employee experience. Lines of communication must extend in all directions—laterally between colleagues and vertically to leadership, executives, and C-suite. Vital information concerning company business, goals, and initiatives helps the remote worker understand their role in the company. Consider virtual engagement activities too. Consistent communication instills a sense of inclusion, stability, and the belief that they are valued and heard. 
  • Connection: Empowering the remote employee’s relationship to your company’s purpose, mission, and values not only creates alignment but also increases productivity. An employee fulfilled by their work is an employee who wants to be retained, improve their engagement, and build up their success and the success of the company. 
  • Balance: In a remote workplace, the lines between work and personal life are often blurred, leading to an imbalance and undermining the work experience. It is hard for people to balance being caregivers and personal obligations with a full-time job. Companies that want to keep their remote workforce should encourage flexibility while creating boundaries. Many businesses incorporate plans to increase health initiatives paying attention to mental and physical health needs. 

The Return on Investing in the Employee Experience

While it may seem that these are not a big deal, employees—in person, hybrid, or remote, are saying that these are things that they want and need to become successful in their eyes.  When you can do that, there are beneficial impacts on your business.  And it is simple. Creating an employee experience that keeps the employee engaged will generate greater productivity, make the customer happier, increase business revenue, improve the company who should then reward the employee.  It is a golden circle making both the employee and the employer a success.

The overall goal of the employee experience is something Simpplr recognizes because they are the same goals as our platform.  As you build or improve your employee experience, they will become more engaged and productive.  The workplace will become valuable to them, and they will become valued by the company.  When they look out over their career, there will be milestones, memories, and achievements.  As an employer, you can positively or negatively contribute to that, and it all begins with the employee experience you create.

 

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