We know what the customer experience is and expect to be treated a certain way when we walk into stores. So what exactly is the employee experience? Much like walking into a store with expectations of service, employees walk into work with expectations about how they'll be treated and what their role will be. The employee experience takes into account the whole journey an employee travels through the company from the time they are hired to the time they leave. Sometimes this term is lumped in with employee engagement as the same thing when in fact engagement is a piece of the overall experience.
A strong employee experience should lead to a boost in engagement, retention, and company culture which makes sense. People like working somewhere that has a plan for them and values their time and contributions. They want to work for companies who ask questions like: What’s it like to come to work every day? How are your co-workers? How are managers? What do you experience during the 8 hours you're there, good and bad? The answers to these questions help drive employee experience and with it, productivity. Think about it this way. You care about customer satisfaction, right? Employee satisfaction is just as important for success. So when it comes to working at your company, how often (and how formally) do you stop and think about the employee experience?
Why is employee experience important?
Simply put, a bad employee experience can lead to a shortening of the employee life cycle. Basically, negative work experiences will make employees eventually want to look elsewhere, and that drives turnover, which is a bottom-line hit. And, in fact, organizations that are among the top 25% in delivering employee experience have 3x the return on assets as the bottom 75%.
In less revenue-centric terms, many people spend 8-12 hours per day, five days a week (if not more!) at work. Managerial approaches such as “command and control” have been shown to shorten the lifespan of employees that experience them. If someone is going to dedicate that much time to work for and with you, wouldn’t it naturally behoove you to try and design an experience for them that’s functional and supportive? Business leaders across every industry are starting to see the power of a workforce who doesn't just show up, but actively wants to be there. And the key to reaching that point all comes down to the employee experience.
How do you design such an experience?
There are thousands of pieces of advice on this topic. Distilled to a few, it looks like this:
- Make sure managers are trained and consistently re-trained: This is the big one. You know the old adage that people leave jobs and not managers? That’s largely accurate. There have even been studies that show 65% of employees would prefer a new boss over a pay raise. And while a lot of managers are legitimately not great at their jobs, the issue is bigger than that. Many managers are just not trained on how to be a manager. As David Novak, retired CEO of Yum Brands, has noted: 82% of employees feel they’re never recognized by their manager. Start there. Start by teaching managers simple ways to acknowledge good work. Small gestures like that can go a long way towards better employee experience. Successful managers also use touchpoints to keep track of their people, analytics to drive their decisions, and employee surveys to keep on top of any changes in employee satisfaction. And don't forget, employee feedback, both giving and receiving, is incredibly important in order to better understand what's truly happening on a team.
- Be fair about compensation: For better or worse, how much money a person makes relative to responsibility and tasks assigned is important. When people feel they’re having things heaped on them beyond their scope or “above their pay grade,” they won’t have a good employee experience. You don’t need to compete with the biggest organizations in the world or anything; you just need to be fair locally. Someone working in rural Alberta doesn’t need the same compensation as someone in Vancouver, just relative to cost of living.
- Offer perks and incentives: Free food periodically. Jeans on Fridays. Team outings. Employee of the month/week programs. Offer things that go beyond simply the tasks and deliverables help build interpersonal connections and boost your culture. Not to mention, employees are often grateful which makes them stick around longer.
- Focus on inclusion: This often gets lumped in with diversity as a change mandate, and that’s definitely one way to think about it. But inclusion is beyond that too: It’s just the idea that your employees belong there. This means having managers talk to them, having executives ask what they think (surveys), having people say hi to each other in the hallways, etc. Google has long found that the No. 1 predictor of successful teams -- which then rolls up to successful organizations -- is “psychological safety.” That comes from team members feeling like everyone has their back, which is the cornerstone of inclusion and builds a great employee experience.
- Appoint an employee experience officer: Sometimes when everyone thinks something is happening, it turns out no one is doing it. Creating a role for an experienced officer provides visibility into what is being done, what doesn't work, and what does.
- Pay special attention to new employees: About 20% of new employees leave in their first 45 days. One way to keep them around longer is to ensure they have a positive candidate experience that transitions into a positive employee experience and the best place to start is during their onboarding.
- Think about the physical workspace: One factor that is often ignored is where do employees work? Are they cramped into desks in rows or do they have space to move around? How you design the physical workspace of a company can impact how people work, communicate, and interact.
Don’t get caught up in the terms; get caught up in the actions
It doesn’t matter whether you call it “an employee experience program,” “an employee journey campaign,” or simply “respecting the people who work for you.” What matters are the actions: make people feel safe, feel like they belong, and feel excited to come to work and be productive. When you’re doing that, you’re building a great employee experience. And don't leave everything to Human Resources. A great employee experience is the responsibility of everyone who manages a team. And when the company works together to create a good work environment, everyone wins.