Once upon a time, employee experience was a straightforward concept. Work was traditionally confined to the office, while everything else was considered home life and personal time. But the nature of work has changed, and even as more and more people are returning to their places of business (and many not returning at all, or quickly leaving for other opportunities), it’s becoming apparent that companies in the post-pandemic world are going to have to change how they approach the sometimes-difficult issues of employee engagement, ownership, and satisfaction.
Here, we take a closer look at the world of employee experience—what it is, why it’s important, how it’s changing, and what your business can do to provide exceptional employee experiences in the post-pandemic world.
What Is Employee Experience?
At its most basic, employee experience is an umbrella term that describes an individual worker’s collected perceptions throughout their time with a specific company. From first encounter as a potential hire through final interactions as their employment ends, employee experience takes into account every touchpoint across the entire employee journey.
Company culture may play a significant role in employee experience, and other relevant factors can include leadership, available technologies, physical workspaces, and more. Businesses that wish to improve the employee experience will often implement detailed employee experience management strategies.
Why Is Employee Experience Important?
Employee experience is nothing less than the sum total of all the experiences an employee has while working with an organisation. As such, it has the capacity to impact nearly every aspect of a business.
At the risk of oversimplifying, it’s a widely-recognised truth that happier, more-engaged employees bring in additional value to their companies while also helping cut back on expenses. At the same time, an exceptional employee experience can help organisations reach other, non-revenue business goals, while also improving their business reputation and strengthening their brand.
Here, we touch on several important results of improving the employee experience:
Increase Employee Productivity
Although it may seem like an obvious statement, it’s still worth mentioning that happy employees are more productive. In fact, in a 2019 study conducted by Oxford University, researchers found that workers were on average 13% more productive when they were contented than when they were stressed or otherwise unhappy. Focusing on delivering a positive employee experience has the potential to significantly increase employee output, resulting in gains across the board.
Attract and Retain Top Talent
A significant number of US workers quit their jobs in 2021, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting a record high of approximately 4.5 million instances of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs in November alone. And while it’s easy to blame ongoing economic disruption for this surge in vacant positions, the truth is that the Pandemic has simply brought into focus many employee-experience problems that were already there. The good news is that by improving the employee experience, businesses can more effectively attract top talent, and inspire their best earners to remain with the organisation longer.
Align Everyone Involved on Strategy and Goals
Organisations have long used vision, mission, and values statements to establish direction for the company and create a positive brand identity. But if those policies are not reflected in the daily employee experience, then they’re nothing more than words in a slide deck. On the other hand, when important standards are incorporated into the employee experience, individuals and teams at all levels are able to more successfully coordinate in achieving company objectives.
Help Employees Find Meaning
A key element in a fulfilling employee experience is having a sense of meaning in the work. Employees want to know that what they do matters, and that they are making a positive difference. An effective employee experience program can help companies discover what matters most to their workforce, and more accurately identify and call attention to victories and accomplishments.
Create Employee Advocates
Although often discussed in different terms, employee experience and customer experience are two sides of the same coin. Employees are the company’s most-direct line to their buyers. How businesses treat their employees is paid forward in how employees interact with clients. A positive employee experience can do more than just engage workers; it has the potential to create employee advocates who inspire customer commitment with every interaction.
Identify Areas that Need to Be Fixed
Communication is at the heart of any great employee experience. Why is this so important? Because it gives the people who are most familiar with the processes and inner workings of the business a voice. Employees can make suggestions and call out any areas that could be improved. This is particularly true in terms of company culture—one aspect of organisational success that is often overlooked in traditional metrics.
How Has Employee Experience Changed?
While the business advantages of a positive approach to employee experience remain valid, the new work/life balance of the COVID-era continues to impact organisations and their workforces.
We find ourselves in the middle of a “Great Resignation.” To put it bluntly, many formerly-engaged employees are failing to return to work. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, 40% of employees are at least considering leaving their jobs in the next three to six months. And the prospect of unemployment isn’t necessarily dissuading them; 36% of those who quit do so without having new jobs lined up.
There are a number of possible explanations for this phenomenon: Some employees may have expanded on other sources of income to create new careers that are more personally rewarding than what they had in the office. Others—particularly those who are themselves or have family members who are at higher risk of COVID-related complications—may simply be acting in the name of caution. There are many who have become accustomed to a more flexible intermingling of work and home life.
In each of these cases, it now falls on employers to pivot to the new employee reality. Doing so means being more than just open to employee feedback; it means actively seeking out their unique insights and engaging them on those issues that matter to them.
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Employee Experience Is Poised to Reshape Business
Making the transition away from the traditional top-down model makes it possible for businesses to put their people first. It takes an honest look at the employee journey, and places the employees at the heart of the restructure by providing them with the power to determine their own course.
In other words, for organisations to counter the pandemic-era mass exodus of valuable talent, they must go beyond just tracking employee experience and instead use candid feedback as the foundation for action. Doing so, businesses can identify and remediate potential problems, create more-collaborative work environments, and build experiences that are highly satisfying, productive, and enjoyable.
The Continuous Improvement Framework
In an earlier post, we shared a new framework for experience improvement success. This Continuous Improvement Framework consists of five steps:
Before an organisation can begin collecting valuable feedback, it must define what valuable feedback is. Companies need to know what kind of employee-experience information they’re looking for, and design an experience program that clearly identifies goals and aligns with the objectives and promise of the brand.
With a clear idea of what they’re looking for, the business can now begin an organised process of purposeful listening. In many cases, this may mean employee experience survey initiatives. But while surveys are invaluable, the new approach to employee experience should go further. Setting up channels where employees can provide anonymous feedback without being prompted offers opportunities for workers to call out issues that may not be accounted for in surveys. At the same time, the surveys themselves should be to the point—more frequent surveys that highlight specific topics and touchpoints and only take a few minutes of employee time are more valuable than long-winded ones that attempt to cover every issue at once.
After collecting the right kind of feedback, the next step is to understand it. Some employee observations offer obvious insights, while others may be more buried. By leveraging text analytics, businesses can pick out the hidden gems from employee feedback, identify possible trends, and uncover less-obvious areas for improvement. Text analytical data provides the actionable insights organisations need to enact real, positive change.
Often, the step from insight into action is the most difficult one to take. Employees who provide feedback—who take the time to fill out surveys of who seek out other feedback channels—do so because they trust that the organisation is willing to make changes for the better. Without a process in place to turn validated employee insights into action, the entire employee experience program loses its meaning.
Finally, the business must evaluate how any changes that have been implemented are affecting their established goals. Making note of exactly how improvements have effected key success metrics not only helps validate the need for the program itself, but also provide clear insights into any areas of the program that may need to be revised. A successful employee experience strategy is one that is constantly improving.
Best Practices for Promoting a Positive Employee Experience
Following the framework outlined above, businesses should be able to acquire the vital insights they need to improve their employees’ job satisfaction and engagement. That said, there are several additional ways that an organisation may supplement their strategy for better results. Consider the following best practices:
Practice Holistic Listening
As the term suggests, holistic listening is an approach that takes into account every aspect of the employee experience to help prevent disengagement and burnout. By listening holistically, organisations may anticipate and react to changes in the needs of their employees, better understand how employees wish to feel valued, and build meaningful connections between employees and teams.
Allow Employee to Remain Anonymous
Employees may be hesitant to completely open up and be totally honest when providing feedback. Why? Often, it’s because they fear reprisal. An employee that complains openly might be considered a negative influence, and those who have feedback regarding management might fear that they are making enemies in positions of power. An anonymous employee experience program helps ensure that employees aren’t too scared to give candid feedback.
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Honesty is a two-way street; if businesses expect their employees to be open about their experiences, then the leaders must likewise be open with their employees. By being transparent about goals, initiatives, and other important topics, leaders can inspire confidence and trust—both of which are essential in achieving success in employee experience programs.
Use Technology to Bridge the Gap
Employee experience platforms, such as the InMoment Employee Experience Cloud can provide an easy-to-use structure for gathering and analysing employee feedback, and taking transformational actions. Additionally, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies can help organisations better understand employee feedback and identify otherwise-hidden commonalities or issues. By harnessing AI and other technologies for the full range of employee experience processes, businesses can improve reporting efficiency and gain a clearer picture of how employees are feeling at every step of their journey.
The Future Is Bright
The employee experience and how organisations approach job satisfaction and talent retention have certainly changed in the past few years. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The pandemic, the new normal, and the Great Resignation may have brought more attention to many employee experience issues, but the reality is that those issues have always existed. Now, businesses have a greater incentive to root out those issues and resolve them, creating a more positive employee journey in the process.
Yes, the new world of employee experience is one that demands change. But for those businesses that are willing to put in the effort, backed by the right tools and resources, and motivated by an honest desire to listen to their employees, the future of employee experience is brighter than ever.
Learn more about how InMoment can help you build your business today, and make the employee experience a top priority.