Delivering a positive customer experience is considered essential in business today. Let’s talk about why so many successful businesses are also turning their attention to building an exceptional employee experience.
In an era when “customer experience” is considered more important than ever, the concept of “employee experience” can sometimes get overshadowed. However, there are powerful incentives and tangible benefits for making an organisation-wide commitment to improving the employee experience throughout your business.
Often abbreviated EX, employee experience is typically defined as the sum total of a worker’s perceptions and feelings throughout his or her journey with a company, from job search to exit.
Employee experience definition
“Employee experience is a worker’s perceptions about his or her journey through all the touch points at a particular company, starting with job candidacy through to the exit from the company. The company’s physical workspace, culture and technology are all important components of the employee experience.” (TechTarget)
Key components of the employee experience
The majority of company owners, HR managers and executive leaders understand that creating an outstanding employee experience requires an organisation-wide commitment that goes well beyond checking important boxes such as:
- Positive company culture;
- Comfortable physical work environment;
- Effective workplace technology;
- Robust and effective internal communications;
- Strong, competitive compensation programs;
- Meaningful emphasis on employee wellness;
- Employee retention strategies, and;
- Ongoing efforts to measure and improve employee experience.
Each of these components is considered vital to the work of building a healthy employee experience. The goal is to create an optimal workplace environment in which skilled employees are happy, motivated and well-equipped to excel at their jobs.
The importance of the employee experience
The importance of creating unique, meaningful and often personalised experiences for current and future customers is obvious. So it is not surprising that many businesses tend to devote more attention to creating an overwhelmingly positive customer experience than they do putting in place all the pieces necessary to build an exceptional employee experience.
Among the many reasons why focusing the employee experience is now more important than ever, here are perhaps the two most critical:
- Positive employee experience is essential when it comes to competing for, hiring and retaining top talent, and;
- Workers who are happier and more satisfied in their jobs tend to be more productive and positive.
That’s why more than 80% of business leaders surveyed by Deloitte characterised employee experience as either important or very important. However, the 2017 survey also noted that 59% said they were not ready or only somewhat ready to address the employee experience challenge.
So, what are some of the key actions an organisation can take to improve its employee experience?
21 ways to improve employee experience
Create a positive impression through your external communication channels
Your website and your social media channels should be optimised to communicate the idea that your company is not only a great organisation with which to do business; it is also a great place to work.
Improve your internal communications
This may sound like a no-brainer, and it is — however, it is not always a priority. The takeaway: Practically all companies could do a much better job providing robust, clear internal communication that helps build company culture and employee engagement.
Make it easy to apply
Be sure your application forms and processes are working for you, rather than against you. This also means having a system in place for responding to incoming applications, so applicants know their package has been received and what they can expect from the process.
Offer appealing employment perks and incentives
Gym memberships, employee retirement account and health savings account contributions, flexible schedules, flexible (or “unlimited”) vacation policies, vacation stipends and bonuses are just a few examples.
Deliver an exceptional employee onboarding experience
This is a one-time chance to wow newcomers in ways that make them feel both welcome and well-informed, while also positioning them to excel in their roles.
Involve current employees in onboarding, not just new hires
Vantage Circle suggests involving current employees in onboarding to assist and connect with newly hired employees. “Assign mentors and buddies to new hires,” the company advises. “Mentors will help new hires understand their work and adapt better. It will lead to better communication and the free exchange of ideas. It can help them connect and create new bonds.”
Provide a comfortable physical environment
Providing a clean, safe and healthy physical work environment is essential, but that’s just the beginning. Workplaces that are designed with employee experience in mind tend to incorporate such features as natural light, plant life, artwork, colour, standing desks, comfortable common spaces, favourable acoustics, easy access to refreshments and more.
Offer flexibility for virtual and/or remote work
Do your key competitors offer employees the opportunity to do some of their work from outside the office? If so, you may be wise to consider doing so as well.
Offer incentives related to employee wellness
On one end of the spectrum, you hear about progressive tech companies offering free massages to ease employee stress and other extravagant-sounding wellness initiatives. However, employee wellness can also take the form of offering healthy food options in the workplace, robust employee assistance programs, wellness coaching, health savings account contributions, etc.
Provide clear information about potential career pathways
Diligent, hardworking employees are much more likely to stay connected with your organisation if they have a clear understanding of how their ongoing efforts may connect to possible promotion or opportunity for professional growth.
Utilise employee journey mapping
This is a big one. The concept of “employee experience” is closely connected to the idea that each worker has an “employee journey”— one that starts when they apply to the organisation and concludes when they leave the company.
Employee journey mapping represents a valuable opportunity for organisations that are interested in improving their employee experience to proactively shape that experience or that journey.
Also described as the “employee lifecycle,” the employee journey has a number of distinct stages:
Creating a framework, or map, that encompasses the various stages of the employee journey helps organisations set expectations, identify possible issues at different stages and align the employee experience with the organisation’s shared values and mission.
An employee journey map is a graphical representation of the specific stages that any employee moves through during their time with the organisation. It can be helpful for identifying key pain points and touch points where engagement and/or action may be needed.
Conduct regular employee surveys
There are many compelling reasons to conduct regular employee satisfaction surveys. For example, doing so:
- Helps management understand how employees are feeling;
- Give employees a voice;
- Helps reduce and predict turnover;
- Uncovers big-picture issues;
- Identifies opportunities for positive change;
- Increases employee engagement, and;
- Encourages individual reflection.
As you might imagine, today there is a variety of employee survey technological tools to assist with gathering feedback, some of which are designed to make the employee survey process as simple — and as valuable — as possible.
Conduct regular one-on-one employee check-ins
In addition to regular performance reviews, conducting periodic check-ins is beneficial for employees and managers alike. Such one-on-one sessions give employees a chance to address questions or concerns and offers managers an opportunity to offer guidance on workplace performance.
Act on employee feedback
Simply collecting the survey data and conducting annual employment reviews is not sufficient. The information provided in employee surveys and reviews is extremely valuable. Failure to act on it can lead to a lack of trust or a feeling that management isn’t really listening.
Share customer feedback with employees
Customers also have valuable insights to offer. Sometimes such insights may have strategic value; other times they may just be great for morale (for example, celebrating a rave review or sharing word of individual, departmental and company-wide “wins” can help boost employee confidence and feelings of worth).
Nurture your talent with career development programs
This often takes the form of in-house training provided by HR or by individual departments. For example, training for managers is considered particularly important because promotions to leadership roles sometimes occur without specific training that equips a new manager to most effectively motivate and support the rank and file.
Provide training opportunities for employees to gain new skills
Many companies focused on improving the employee experience also find it valuable to partner with a third-party training firm to develop advanced communication skills that add value both in their work with customers and with fellow team members.
When tailored to the unique roles and workplace goals of the employees receiving the training, such training programs are proven to boost morale. Not only do tailored external training programs help improve employee effectiveness on the job, they also send a strong message to employees that the organisation is truly invested in their success.
Improve your technology
Investing in the most effective technology to support your business is not just a wise operational move, it’s also an employee experience strategy. Talented employees do not want to be working on inefficient legacy systems that make it harder for them to do their jobs.
Information silos are a common cause of workplace inefficiency, as well as employee frustration, so aim to provide employees with technology tools and systems that facilitate seamless connectivity and communication between all departments.
Strengthen bonds through team-building activities
Social gatherings, shared community service initiatives, GSD (get stuff done) retreats, “lunch and learns,” team game nights and celebrating shared milestones are all examples of team-building activities where employees can interact, get to know each other better and have a little fun outside the day-to-day demands of work.
Spread the word about “jobs well done”
Offering acknowledgement and appreciation for outstanding work is another component of a healthy, employee-focused communication strategy, one that can make employees feel great about their contributions.
Company newsletters and social media accounts are the most commonly used channels to share such “good news,” and offering incentives can also be part of the fun.
Conduct exit interviews
Exit interviews are often bypassed because the connection between the employee and the organisation is concluding. However, they represent invaluable opportunities to receive unvarnished observations, insights and constructive criticism from employees whose impending separation from the company frees them to speak their mind more openly.
That’s why some human resources specialists also recommend conducting “stay interviews” — conversations aimed at helping managers understand why employees (specific individuals as well as groups) think about leaving and what actions might encourage them to stay.
The recurring theme here is to take actions that make employees feel heard, supported, valued and appreciated.
How to measure the impact of employee experience
When organisations invest time, energy and resources in improvement initiatives, it is helpful to have meaningful ways to measure the impact of such efforts.
One of the most effective ways to do this is by implementing methods to gather information that helps you measure employee engagement, user experience, opinions and attitudes. Quick surveys can deliver immediate insight into how employees feel about specific topics.
Today, more companies are also using advanced “people analytics” to distill valuable insights from employee surveys and other sources of employee data.
Prioritising an improved employee experience offers numerous dividends for organisations willing to make the effort. Benefits include enhanced employee engagement, positive company culture, improved morale and teamwork, reduced turnover and, ultimately, improved productivity.
About the Author
Paul Hesselschwerdt is a partner in Global Partners Training, an innovative corporate training provider that helps B2B companies empower their employees with advanced business communication skills that add value across the organisation.