Why Now’s The Time To Focus On The Employee Experience

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The term employee experience has started to get a lot more usage in recent years, and especially in the last year and a half.

Whereas normally the customer experience and customer satisfaction were front and center, with the employee experience receiving much less emphasis, the worldwide pandemic has greatly shifted this focus. 

Not only are aspects like employee engagement receiving more attention, but many organizations have started to focus on other areas like employee well-being, what the employee journey looks like, and building out a company culture aligned with shifting demands from employees. 

With many organizations and business leaders trying to figure out how to return to the workspace (if they will at all), and retention potentially becoming more difficult (see my previous article on “The Great Resignation”), now’s a great time to refocus and be more intentional with how you tailor the experience of your team members.

Designing The Employee Experience 

Think of the employee experience as the journey taken by each employee, beginning at your very first interaction with them.

It’s like a story—stories in films, shows, or books tend to have a set structure as a foundation (such as having 3 acts, or the hero’s journey), but what happens in those stories will all vary depending on the setting and the characters. The same thing goes with your employee experience.

Each employee is going to have a different kind of journey, due to their role, seniority, living situation, personality, etc., but it’s possible to build a solid foundation that will allow you to tailor your approach to each employee and give them the best possible experience.

This means having multiple touchpoints that you can plan for in each employee’s journey. The ones that we will go over here are:

Let’s take a look at these in more depth and examine the role each plays in creating a great employee experience.

Employee Onboarding

One of the best ways to create a great employee experience, and get new employees off to the best possible start, is by crafting a stellar onboarding process.

New hires are always going to have first-day jitters in starting a new role. You know, the usual:

I’m sure you’ve probably started a new role where it seemed like they couldn’t wait for you to start—only to arrive and feel that wasn’t the case. 

You had zero idea of what to expect beyond showing up at 9 am on Monday, and your arrival felt like less of a welcome and more of a hindrance to others. 

You might have been invited into a meeting and struggle to follow what’s going on when someone drops 4 acronyms in one sentence. 

Instead of being welcomed, you felt that you were tossed into the ocean with no life jacket. 

Not exactly the greatest start, was it? 

Sadly, this is all too common but, with a bit of work, can be easily avoided. 

One of the best things you can do with your onboarding is giving new hires everything they need to know, but are afraid to ask, before starting on day one. This can include a small welcome guide (think a two-pager) to help alleviate those anxieties that we all face when starting off. 

When they begin, there are lots of great ways to design your onboarding process to create a positive employee experience for new hires, including:

Other possibilities you can make use of include what I like to call “smaller victories” such as having new employees start later in the day, or starting on a different day than Monday. 

An effective onboarding experience leads to greater retention, more engaged employees, and higher levels of employee satisfaction.  

If you want more ideas in regards to onboarding, and how to include them in your employee experience framework, after you’ve finished this read my article Twelve Employee Onboarding Ideas Your Organization Can Use Right Now.

Fostering Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a bit of a funny topic. 

For some business leaders, employee engagement is a bit of an afterthought and only consists of a yearly employee or engagement survey. 

They’ll collect some employee feedback, do absolutely nothing with it, and then struggle to find out why they’re having such a hard time engaging employees. 

Some HR and business leaders see perks as the #1 driver of employee engagement, or are constantly obsessing over NPS or business performance. They get swallowed up by the metrics and forget to see the forest for the trees. 

And yet, employee engagement isn’t 100% influenced by the workspace, the work environment, the business performance, and the business outcomes. According to research, about 50% of employee engagement comes from the personality of the individual.  

So with that, what else can you do about employee engagement? Well, it’s quite simple really, you have to find out what works for each individual.

For new employees, in the onboarding section I suggested making use of the entry interview and the 30-60-90 day plan. These intervals are the best times to collect feedback from employees about what works for them in regards to employee engagement, and can help create a plan that will engage them on a more personal level. 

Also, when it comes to employee feedback from an engagement survey or employee surveys, you don’t just want to collect them and do nothing with them. You need to show employees that their feedback matters. 

Instead of waiting for the yearly engagement survey, consider trying out pulse surveys—these are conducted much more frequently throughout the year and in smaller chunks. This way, any issues that can impact engagement can be addressed quicker.

Performance Management

Related to the above, performance management is a key component of your employee experience strategy.

Of course, performance management means performance reviews, meetings that generally strike fear into the hearts of both employees and HR leaders. 

While performance reviews are an important part of the employee journey, no one really likes to conduct them, or be on the receiving end of a performance review. 

With that, what’s the best way of conducting them? 

Like with engagement surveys, try conducting smaller performance reviews more frequently throughout the year—anywhere from 2-4 can be ideal.

As with the pulse surveys, instead of waiting until the end of the year to receive employee feedback, or give feedback, issues can be addressed much quicker and this will do wonders for employee well-being and retention.

A lot can change throughout one’s work experience over the course of a year—if you’re conducting performance reviews annually, there are things that may fall through the cracks, or tension that can build up within the employee. 

HR professionals have praised the value of conducting smaller, more frequent performance reviews for a number of years now, and for good reason. 

If your organization has not made the leap yet, I highly advise you to bring it up with your HR team. Don’t wait until the Glassdoor reviews that pop up after an employee leaves to get insight into what really went wrong. 

Some further reading here:

Remote Work

Lastly, something that has been getting a lot of attention over the last 18 months. 

While remote working used to be an option for only a small percentage of trusted employees in the tech industry, the forced switch due to COVID demonstrated that many jobs can be done just as effectively from home. Employees now know this.

In my article on The Great Resignation, I talked at length about how the hybrid model and being flexible is going to do wonders for work-life balance, and that business leaders and stakeholders, who have been pushing for a return to the workplace, may be caught flat-footed when retention drops as employees leave for organizations offering greater flexibility. 

Microsoft has done thorough research on remote work and what it may mean for organizations that are against it and want to bring people back to the workspace. 

Some of the key findings:

Such is the attraction of working from home, employees are willing to give up various benefits—or even take a pay cut—in order to have that flexibility. Millennials and Gen Z, in particular, are more focused on work-life balance and having the freedom to work from anywhere when possible. 

So if you’re looking to create a great employee experience, and create strong competitive advantage when it comes to retaining and attracting talent, you’re probably going to set your organization up to be flexible regarding remote work. 

(If you’re looking for more advice on how to prepare for remote working, the People Managing People Community is packed full of useful resources).

Wrapping Up And Your Employee Experience

This article has been a quick overview of the employee experience framework and what your organization can do to create a better one.

While every organization and employee is different, focusing on the above will provide a solid foundation for you to create a great experience for your team members.

If you’re interested in learning more about using storytelling and a mapping technique that comes from the world of creating a better customer experience, check out my article on employee journey mapping.

Until next time.

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