Employee experience has been at the top of the priority list for many companies in recent years. But with the ongoing demographic shifts in the workforce, plus a dramatic move to remote work in light of the pandemic, it has been thrust firmly into the spotlight as the highest priority.
Both of these shifts are putting stressors on traditional employee experience models. They’re forcing companies to think about the experiences they’re giving their employees and how that either helps or hinders their cause.
In this article, we’ll walk you through adapting to this shifting culture by making the employee experience a top priority at your organization.
What is meant by employee experience?
Employee experience is the total of experiences, encounters, and observations that an employee makes over the course of their tenure at your company. This includes three key stages of employment:
A person's journey from an anonymous candidate to an employee to a former employee is all part of this experience.
Companies that focus on employee experience recognize that employees are their greatest asset. Because of that recognition, they dedicate resources, personnel, or even entire departments to ensuring that all employees are given a positive experience.
Now that we've explained what employee experience is, let's look at the benefits.
Why is employee experience important?
Employee experience has been known to have a positive impact on four key areas:
- Employee engagement
Let's explore each area in more depth.
Staff engagement is a strong indicator of how much time, energy, effort, and intellect employees will put into their jobs. As such, engaged workforces have been proven repeatedly to be more effective and perform at higher levels than disengaged ones.
To quantify that, a recent report from ADP found that companies who actively engaged their employees pulled in a head-turning 2.5 times more revenue than those that don’t. If you’re in business for the revenue, engagement is a good way to get there.
Strong engagement is perhaps the biggest indicator of a positive employee experience and vice versa. If people are happy in their jobs – aka having a good experience – they’re much more likely to be engaged.
Relevant: 20 employee engagement survey questions to ask
Job seekers today have more tools than ever for researching and evaluating a company before they apply. In particular, review websites like Glassdoor let employees peer into the company and culture before making direct contact.
These reviews provide honest accounts of positive and negative employee experience at your company. If the negative outweighs the positive, then your recruitment team will likely find it harder to attract the best talent.
According to SHRM, companies that have strong employee experiences have 40% lower turnover rates. That's a huge drop in employee turnover, and unsurprising given the shifting workforce demographics and remote arrangements mentioned earlier.
Short tenures and premature departures are both on the rise in many industries. This is especially true for the tech industry and particularly noticeable among the two younger working generations.
To combat this churn, companies should adopt strong onboarding, training, and welcome programs that help to create a positive employee experience from the start.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, companies that provide the best employee experience have been found to have four times higher average profits and two times higher average revenues than those at the lower end of the spectrum. That statistic again comes from our friends at SHRM.
Despite these irrefutable benefits, 59% of executives recently reported that their company is not ready to address employee experience. That's in spite of 80% of those same executives acknowledging that employee experience was "very important" or "important."
So why the hesitation?
For most companies, overhauling your entire employee experience will likely seem like an onorous task. And it is. But, it's less daunting if you understand the frameworks, processes, and techniques that go into creating a winning employee experience.
That's what we'll focus on for the rest of the article.
The employee experience framework
There are three key stages to employee experience that you should focus on:
Let's look at each in more detail.
This phase is predominantly handled by the recruitment team and hiring managers. It's what you'd call the "first impression" phase.
The goal of this phase of employee experience is to:
- Introduce the company
- Establish a connection with the candidate
- Provide a positive candidate experience
- Solicit feedback along the way
Obviously, there's a lot that goes into each of those steps, but that's the process in a nutshell. Let's look at the second two points specifically.
Providing a positive candidate experience means open and prompt communication, regardless of success. You should strive to treat every candidate equally from a communication standpoint, even if that person is not ultimately hired.
To do so, it's helpful to gather feedback from all candidates. Get their opinions on each stage of the process: application, interviews, personability of contacts, and speediness and thoroughness of communication.
Use this feedback to improve your candidate (and employee) experience.
There’s a well-known strong connection between employee onboarding and retention. That’s because onboarding is critical to providing a positive employee experience from day one.
Make sure every new hire undergoes a thorough onboarding process. This starts from when they accept the job offer and can last up to one year on the job, depending on the role.
In addition to an onboarding plan, managers should also regularly check in with new employees to make sure that they’re happy, have the information they need, and what they’d like to see changed or continued in their onboarding process.
It's critically important to stay connected with employees as they're leaving the company. Many companies forget this step, and it's detrimental to their employee experience.
Treating exists seriously, conducting exit interviews and formal surveys of departing employees, helps the company understand the reasons behind the employee's decision to leave. Those insights can be used to inform changes at various stages of employment and at the manager level if needed.
Now that we've looked at the benefits and general framework of employee experience let's dive deeper into how to improve your existing one.
How do you improve the employee experience?
Three key areas that help to improve employee experience include technology, physical space, and culture. Upgrading your tech stack and improving your physical workspace if needed, and working to actively foster a strong culture all have direct impacts on experience.
That last one, of course, is easier said than done. Company culture is an organic phenomenon that develops over time and is driven by your organization’s employees. It’s not something that can be shoehorned in by executives.
Positive company culture does, however, correlate closely with the positive employee experience. And there are ways to improve that directly. Doing so helps develop and implement an employee experience plan that deliberately identifies and addresses weaknesses in the organization.
Here’s what an employee experience plan might look like.
1. Make the employee experience a priority. Someone needs to become a champion of employee experience at your organization. If that’s you, then that means approaching your executive team and succinctly explaining why this issue is so critically important (hint: revenue). To be done right, employee experience needs to be a core focus of your organization and needs support from all the way at the top.
2. Designate a leader and form your team. Once you have buy-in from the very top of your organization and have been allocated resources to focus on improving employee experience, the next step is to assemble your wonder team. A program lead will need to be identified. That person will then select the team that they will work with to improve the employee experience. Once the team is assembled, then comes the real work.
3. Determine priorities. You can’t improve everything, so the first step in this project will be to come up with a shortlist of priorities. That is: what aspect of employee experience will you be focusing on in the short, medium, and long term? This will be determined by two key factors: what the current pain points are and what activities or strategies are coming down the pipe that may affect employee experience.
4. Capture data. Now that you have your priorities, the next step is getting a benchmark to work from. For each priority, establish a set of KPIs that you will measure to determine success down the road. Depending on what those KPIs are, that might include leveraging HR tech tools, analytics platforms, employee surveys, or third-party reviews. This is the data that you’ll measure against later on to determine if your efforts were successful.
5. Create journey maps. Map out a typical day for your employees, a typical hiring process for your candidates, and a typical exit experience for your departures. This should be based on an aggregation of interviews and insights from across your organization. What are the positives, negatives, and stress points on each journey map? This will give you a great idea of what factors might be affecting employee experience.
6. Combine strategies. Managers across your organization have likely created their own micro-processes or cultures that they use on their team to improve the employee experience. Meet with high performing managers and their team members to get an idea of what strategies they’re using and the results. Leverage and combine these insights into your master plan of attack for the organization.
7. Aggregate feedback. An employee experience wonder team would be remiss if they didn’t take into account third party feedback. Spend time scraping insights from Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and any third party sentiment you can find about your organization. This will give you insight into what people are saying about the organization and what you need to change from an employee branding perspective.
8. Make an action plan. Once you have all of the above in place, put together a master plan to tackle and measure the employee experience. Communicate that plan – and the goals – across your organization, and keep employees informed of what changes are to come. Check-in regularly with your key stakeholders and KPIs as the plan unfolds. Communicate progress, measure improvements, iterate and adapt as needed.
As always, this plan may not work for every organization and team. We encourage you to use this as a roadmap for what to focus on when improving your own employee experience.
One key element missing in this list is measurement. How do you measure and track the employee experience? We’ll discuss that in the next section.
How do you measure employee experience?
How you measure employee experience will depend on what your priorities are as an organization. And that relates back to your employee experience plan.
Draw a line in the sand that clearly defines what you want your employee experience to involve and what it shouldn’t. From there, you should be able to determine some KPIs that measure success.
Here are some examples of employee experience platforms and tools that you can use to measure your KPIs.
- Engagement and feedback. Pulse survey, employee net promoter scores, open-door policies, candidate interviews, stay interviews, town halls.
- Performance management. 1:1 meetings, 360-degree reviews, goal setting meetings, talent management platforms.
- Physical wellbeing. Wellness and fitness apps, in-office competitions, vacation time usage, out-of-hours screen time usage.
- Professional development: Learning management systems (LMS), talent management platforms.
- Productivity and collaboration: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google G-Suite, Basecamp, Trello, Asana.
- Recognition: gamification platforms, peer-to-peer recognition, bonus or time-off programs.
All of the above tools and platforms and be implemented to both improve and measure the employee experience. In each case, use built-in analytics tools - if available - to track usage and to measure improvements in your KPIs.
Encouraging regular feedback loops and radical candor is one final way to ensure that your leaders are well aware of issues that might be affecting employee experience. Make open and honest, multi-directional feedback a core tenet of your company culture. This will ensure that you have the insight and agility to address employee experience issues before they become systemic problems.