The world has experienced a fundamental change where employees are looking for more from their workplaces than before. Working styles have changed, and people now want their jobs to provide a better work/life balance and better wellbeing.
So what does this mean for employees, and the companies they work for? Let's start with how to define employee experience.
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What does employee experience mean?
Employee experience (EX) is simply the reality of what it’s like to work in a company – the positives, negatives and everything in between. It runs through all stages of the employment life-cycle, from initial recruitment to the exit interview and affects the extent ex-employees will advocate your organization in their wider networks.
EX can be influenced by anything from how you display your values and culture to the public to how you respond to someone’s initial application. Potential new hires make a series of subconscious judgments about your organization from the beginning of their journey with you.
In the past, those touchpoints or ‘moments’ happened within a physical workplace. But now people are working in a variety of hybrid ways, EX includes the virtual environment too.
So how do you know if your company is providing a positive employee experience? Here are nine initial questions to ask yourself:
- Are your people happy at work with a good sense of wellbeing?
- Do they feel inspired by your company, its leaders, and its vision?
- Do they trust you?
- Do they feel they have a voice and that they are listened to?
- Are they engaged with your organization’s approach to inclusion, equity, and diversity?
- Is the work meaningful to employees of all ages and backgrounds?
- Does your company and its people have a growth – rather than fixed – mindset?
- Do people feel they are making a difference in the lives of colleagues or customers?
- Do they have access to the right tools and systems to be able to do their job effectively?
What’s the difference between employee experience and employee engagement?
The terms employee experience and employee engagement (EE) are often used interchangeably, but the two concepts are different. A simple way to think about it is that employee engagement is the result of good employee experience. So, if EE is one of your key deliverables as a manager, EX is going to be an important element that feeds into that.
It’s also useful to think of EX as being about an employee’s perception of work, rather than any initiatives intended to keep them engaged. If as an organization you’re able to achieve outstanding EX, then great levels of engagement should naturally follow.
This has been shown by employee experience research from the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, who found that happy employees are 13% more productive, making EX a vital ingredient not just for individual engagement but for business performance as a whole.
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Why is employee experience important?
Good EX can impact many areas of your business, from how hard someone works and collaborates to how invested they are in overall company performance. A few important areas where your company can provide a positive employee experience include:
Authenticity and integrity are important elements of employee experience – and it starts at the top. Leaders need to be honest and fair and demonstrate the correct values for positive workplace culture.
Employers face the challenge of recruiting new talent in an increasingly competitive market space. Organizations need to focus on new ways to attract and retain the right talent, understanding what their employees want and need, and taking action to improve the experiences they offer.
EX is a key component when it comes to staff absence. If your people feel connected and committed to your company and its goals and values, they’re less likely to take unnecessary time off. This, in turn, will help prevent a dip in productivity and overall team morale.
Along with its cousin, customer experience, excellent employee experience can have a profound impact on the bottom line. Research published in Harvard Business Review found that improving employee experience could increase revenue by more than 50%.
Innovative companies have a competitive advantage, and companies with good EX can be twice as innovative as those with low EX scores.
Retaining staff isn’t an easy task, but you can make it easier by having a positive employee experience. If companies like where they work, it makes sense that they will stay there.
Don’t forget that creating positive employee experiences doesn’t stop once you’ve hired and onboarded a new employee - it’s an ongoing process that should be constantly reviewed to meet employee needs.
How to manage employee experience
Job titles like “employee experience manager” and “head of employee experience” show just how important EX has become. So much so, it's now a recognised discipline. So what do these people do?
An employee experience manager, for example, will work alongside traditional HR, IT and marketing teams to deliver the employee experience strategy. In a nutshell, they're responsible for positively and deliberately influencing every touchpoint or “moment” in the employee lifecycle.
That said, it’s important to remember that positive EX can’t be achieved by one person. Everyone in your organization is responsible for supporting a positive culture and maintaining the systems and values that help give employees the best possible workplace experience.
How to improve employee experience in the workplace
If you want to improve employee experience, there are several essential stages in the employee lifecycle you can look at. Here are four of them:
EX starts from the moment a potential employee sees one of your job ads or hears about your company from a friend or contact. It runs right through the application and interview process, even down to how and when you respond after first meeting a candidate. Do you email immediately to thank them for coming in, or do you leave them hanging for weeks while you're interviewing other people?
By now, most companies know the importance of a great onboarding experience, so it's one area where leaders usually give EX a fair amount of consideration. Mentor and buddy schemes are well-established tools for keeping newbies' enthusiasm up and helping them feel confident, capable and part of the team.
Companies that take EX seriously invest in excellent internal communication. They tend to be moving away from traditional annual performance review structures in favor of more frequent employee experience or 'pulse' surveys that give managers immediate feedback.
They're also more progressive regarding recognition and rewards, making them more frequent and a lot more bespoke. Some companies give people social recognition on their platforms which can boost happiness and motivation.
There are so many amazing things happening every day in an organization. Taking the time to shout out and celebrate hard-working colleagues goes a long way in making them feel valued.
In short, it helps to think of employee experience as human experience. Can your people find purpose and meaning in their roles? Are they able to enjoy an enduring connection with your organization or brand? And do you see them and treat them as individuals? Give your people the gift of a memorable and meaningful time with your organization and watch employee engagement grow.
Measuring employee experience
There are many ways you can measure employee experience, including:
Pulse surveys – gather immediate feedback from employees to find out how they’re feeling
Exit surveys – when an employee leaves, ask them for their honest feedback so you know what to improve on
Employee net promoter scores – finding out how likely employees are to recommend the business as a place to work is a good indicator of employee experience
Retention rates – the lower the number of employees leaving, the happier the workforce
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