If employee experience is the answer, what is the question?
It’s a great place to start for most organisations and I believe that if your question as a business is, “How can we encourage long-term sustainable growth and profitability, heighten customer satisfaction and become a more human-centred and engaging brand?”, employee experience is a big part of all of that.
Employee experience is the sum of all employee interactions with an organisation – everything from pre-hire to retire. It is the intentional design of a compelling experience for employees in work while employee engagement is an outcome of this workplace experience.
Today, what we are seeing more and more around the world is that HR practitioners are leveraging the employee experience to get to those engagement outcomes through intentional, high-value, integrated design of an employee’s journey throughout the organisation. Employee experience is about co-creation with staff as opposed to creating engagement programmes and initiatives from corporate ivory towers – the game has fundamentally changed in this regard.
All to Gain
If you look at the more compelling workplaces today, you will see that they’re not focusing on engagement – they’re focusing on creating a real sense of belonging and making sure the vision, mission and values run through all of that. When that happens you see highly recommended, productive and ultimately highly profitable businesses.
For some businesses the starting point is a failure to move the needle on engagement, but a more powerful place to come from is to work back from your strategy and towards the desired business outcomes – whether that’s being the number one brand in the market or delivering the best customer experience, differentiating yourself, delivering more customer loyalty, more advocacy from customers and employees, right through to being a more productive organisation.
Many of the big players losing market share have pivoted towards improving employee experience because they realise this focus is critical in attracting the right talent. If you can’t attract the right talent, you can’t compete in your sector, and there has been some eye-watering investment from some of the brands we all know and love. This is not just in Silicon Valley or among tech firms. Manufacturing companies and the consulting firms are investing heavily because all of a sudden they are losing talent to competitors or more boutique firms that are doing interesting things or creating a more compelling mission. The next step after creating a really great employee experience is to showcase it and encourage advocacy through platforms like Glassdoor [which gathers anonymous reviews of employers], because if it isn’t visible, it isn’t happening.
What has changed to make employee experience so important? One of the biggest things is our experience on the outside of organisations. The pace of change has been phenomenal and technology has been driving different choices, habits and behaviours. If you can access an app and have key information or data to make a decision about what product you are going to buy, and then you have to go back to work and use Excel spreadsheets, it doesn’t make sense. Our expectations have changed and if you are investing in great tools and physical infrastructure, that will help create a greater pool of talent for you to access.
Define, Design and Deliver
The first step in the journey is to define what the employee experience is and needs to be within the context of the business strategy. What must be achieved over the short, medium and long term. Then it’s about designing the experience to really integrate into this strategy, bringing together something authentic. Then it’s about moving to delivery – considering the big things you can deliver immediately that will eliminate some pain or frustration.
Making sure things are connected across the employee experience and that the values of the organisation are deeply embedded within each individual product or service is crucial. You can do that very practically, for instance, by introducing new technology to create a more seamless and speedier employee on-boarding process, or by looking at the way you develop your leaders. Or it could be investment in infrastructure or a change to office design and how people work together. There are a lot of great apps providing support for HR services, and a lot of larger organisations like McDonald’s are now developing their own in-house apps to deal with things like talent management. Of course, for smaller businesses there doesn’t have to be a massive investment. They need to find what works for them rather than what works for Google or LinkedIn.
There are a massive range of approaches but one of the big ones that’s sticking is getting real accountability at board level. That could be someone sitting on the board with clear accountability for the quality of employee experience, which gives a massive signal of intent. We have seen the role of Chief Employee Experience Officer come in across different sectors and that sends a similar signal to having someone completely accountable for the customer experience. We do need to make these visible, symbolic gestures to show we are really serious about this because there have been too many broken promises.
We have seen some disasters with more progressive policies, which haven’t stuck because employees haven’t been involved in the design. Co-creation and seeking continuous feedback can save you from this. You wouldn’t wait a year to talk to your customers about how your product is doing. But for years that has been the case with the annual engagement survey.
To succeed, HR practitioners will need to develop a whole range of skills from design thinking, people analytics, human-centred leadership and the ability to market and communicate to employees. But get it right and employee experience can deliver not just on productivity and engagement outcomes but on human success outcomes too. For the individual it is fantastic because they are experiencing life and work in a more meaningful way. Organisations are getting strong results from their employees who believe in the mission and the values and take that into their daily performance, which, from some of the cases we have seen, is massively impactful.
This article was first published in Reflect Magazine by Equatex.