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How To Improve The Employee Experience

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

Whereas normally the customer experience and customer satisfaction are 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 the shifting demands of employees. 

With many organizations and business leaders trying to figure out how to return to the office (if they will at all), and retention and recruitment potentially becoming more difficult (see my previous article on "The Great Resignation"), let's take a look at what your organization can do in order to create a great employee experience. 

What Is The Employee Experience?

The employee experience refers to the experience prospective, current, and past employees have with your organization. The experience might begin well before someone has interacted with anyone in HR or a hiring manager and, ideally, continues on a good footing even after someone has formally left.

Of course, it goes without saying that you want to make this experience as good as it can possibly be. But people are complex with individual wants and needs. 

So, how can you ensure a good employee experience for everyone?

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Designing The Employee Experience 

The trick to designing a positive experience for employees is to think like a designer, product owner or customer experience professional.

Think of your 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. 

This means having multiple touchpoints along the way that you can plan for with regard to each employee’s journey. 

Opinions differ, but the employee journey, or employee lifecycle as some call it, is normally split into 6 stages:

  • Attraction - employer branding and marketing
  • Recruitment - sourcing, interviewing, negotiating offers
  • Onboarding - and preboarding
  • Development - performance management, learning and development, coaching, mentorship
  • Retention - wellness, engagement, DEI, flexibility, pay
  • Offboarding - exit interviews, alumni groups.

Naturally, there’s a deal of overlap between them, but separating each stage out like this allows HR and those tasked with the employee experience management to focus on particular areas of improvement. Some organizations even hire a Chief Employee Experience Officer.

To give you an idea of how to improve the employee experience, I’ll take a look at some crucial aspects:

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:

  • Did I make the right choice in joining this organization?
  • What are my coworkers going to be like?
  • What should I know before starting this role? 
  • Is there an acronym list somewhere I can get my hands on?

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 give 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 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. 

But employee engagement is with focusing on because an engaged employee is more productive and likely to stay.

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 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, information gets back to human resources and business leaders much quicker, so issues that can impact engagement can be addressed in a much faster timeframe. 

Related read: 10 Best Employee Perks Programs to Automate Rewards

Performance Management

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

Of course, performance management means performance reviews, and 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 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:

  • Over 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue
  • Remote job postings on LinkedIn increased more than five times during the pandemic.

Such is the attraction of working from home, employees are willing to give up various benefits 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 a strong competitive advantage when it comes to retaining and attracting talent, you're probably going to set your organization up to be flexible regarding hybrid or fully remote work. 

Useful resources for this:

Capturing data

How do CX and UX designers design and improve customer experiences in their apps and services? 

Answer: using data. They monitor customer behavior across various touchpoints with their brand and solicit as much feedback as possible from their customers. 

You can take the same approach when designing the employee experience. You might want to measure the digital employee experience when using your internal communication systems or intranet

You might want to get feedback on how employees found your hiring or onboarding experience, or how employees feel in regards to your performance management system, learning and development opportunities, or workload.

There’s an old saying: “You don’t ask, you don’t get” and while soliciting honest feedback from employees can be challenging, in general people like to be asked. It’s all about what you ask, how you ask it and how often, and whether or not you do anything with the feedback. 

There’s no quicker way to disengage employees than not acting on feedback (or justifying lack of action).

In terms of how to gather employee data and feedback, some of your systems will have data capture and analysis built-in, e.g., your HRMS, HR Analytics software, or BI software.

As referred to above, employee surveys are another method. As are one-on-one meetings, performance reviews, people analytics reports, and also Employee Recourse Groups. Used together, these can get you a lot of actionable insights to improve different aspects of the employee experience.

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 craft a better one.

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 this article on employee journey mapping.

You could also make use of employee experience tools that will help you zoom in, analyze and improve the different stages. 

Some further reading/listening/resources:

Also Worth Checking Out: How To Create A Thriving Culture Of Learning

By Paul Lopusushinsky

Paul Lopushinsky is the founder of Playficient. Playficient is an employee experience design consultancy that helps cut out the bull and focus on what really matters in the employee experience. Best place to reach Paul is on LinkedIn