Positive Employee Experience is key for driving performance

Every employee has a set of perceptions about the experience they expect at work, and these expectations change and develop over time. These expectations cover literally every element of an individual’s work life – as Annette Franz says, the concept of employee experience represents

“the sum of all interactions that an employee has with her employer during the duration of her employment relationship. It includes any way the employee “touches” or interacts with the company and vice versa in the course of doing her job.”

How well the employee experience is shaped and delivered therefore affects all parts of the organization – including motivation, productivity, and employee retention, as well as an organization’s ability to attract quality candidates to vacant roles.

Whilst this has always been the case, in recent years the impact of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent "Great Resignation", driven in part by people thinking more deeply about what they really want from both their home and work life, has brought the importance of how people experience their work environments into sharp relief. This means that with so much at stake, organizations and their leaders must understand how to design employee experiences that are exceptional.

Three questions to kickstart your employee experience design

The process of designing, developing, and delivering an employee’s experience will necessarily take in a broad range of experiences, from employee onboarding, to the physical work environment, to how employees are supported in their roles. In other words, employee experience design needs to focus on how organizations can make their employees at all levels feel valued, appreciated, and happy at work. It also has a role in positively influencing how they feel about themselves.

Although this might sound overwhelming, when designing an employee experience initiative an organization can focus on three specific questions to kickstart the process:

One crucial measure that can help you discover how employees feel about their work and their employer is employee engagement, which the global analytics and advice firm Gallup defines as “the involvement and enthusiasm of employees in both their work and workplace” (their latest research has found that employee engagement in American firms stands at only 32%, whilst globally employee engagement has remained stable but low at 21% since the pandemic).

Gallup look at such factors as Knowing What's Expected, Materials and Equipment, Someone Encouraging Development, and Opinions Counting at Work (see here for the full list), but whatever metrics you use, remember that employee perceptions are developed over time and across multiple touchpoints – how they are treated in all aspects of their work and attachment to their employer, and across the period they have been working for that employer (though most recent are strongest in the memory).

It’s not only about the work that people do, but also about where they work. This environment not only covers the physical space of wherever it is they find themselves working, but also such factors as the organizational culture and the technology made available to them.

  • The physical space that an employee works in includes items such as desks and chairs, the green plants in the office, air quality, temperature, lighting, smells, and so on. Leaders should not underestimate the effects the environment can have on motivation and productivity.
  • Culture encompasses a variety of factors, such as leadership, structure, pay and benefits, as well as how people feel about their work and the workplace social norms that guide interaction. It also important to consider the impact of your organization’s Learning and Development approach on its culture, both in terms of attracting and retaining talent (LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report states that the main way organizations are working to improve retention is by “providing learning opportunities”), and in positively influencing such factors as effectiveness and productivity (IBM found that well-trained teams increased their productivity by 10%).

Remember:

“People don’t leave a bad organization; they leave bad managers”.

In short, you’ll need to make sure your managers are skilled at creating the type of working environments where people feel valued, respected and included. If they don’t have these skills, you need to help them learn and develop in order to acquire these skills.

  • Technology is a broad sphere, but you can narrow it down to the tools to do the job: the computers, servers, software, mobile devices, and so on. In this age of increasing hybrid workplaces, don’t forget to include the tools used to enable effective remote working.

There are a lot of correlations between identifying and qualifying the customer experience and conducting an employee experience analysis, which is an area that HR should exploit when designing employee experiences. Deliver an exceptional and impactful employee experience that motivates employee engagement, and it follows that the customer experience should move from better to exceptional, which in turn drives customer loyalty and profitability. As Joe McKendrick says in Forbes magazine, “Happy employees = Happy customers, Unhappy employees = Happy competitors”.

9 steps to design an exceptional employee experience

Having considered these factors when planning your employee experience design, here are nine steps to help you bring it all to life:

  1. Take a proactive approach
  2. Don’t wait for rocketing employee turnover to tell you that you must act. Measure employee engagement constantly, and evaluate all feedback for any positive improvement actions you can take.

  3. Look at as much available data as possible
  4. Gather both quantitative data (e.g. employee turnover rates, professional development opportunities requests, staff surveys) and qualitative information (free text input in staff surveys, personal objectives information, informal feedback, exit interviews) before analysing what the data really means.

  5. Know your challenges around employee experience
  6. Take time to understand what your employees are experiencing currently, and the gap between this and their needs and wants – then define the challenges you have.

  7. Align employee experience with company values
  8. The experience of an employee should be aligned with the company’s values in such a way that it meets or exceeds expectations for them.

  9. Define key employee personas
  10. Whilst perceptions and expectations of employee experience are unique to individuals, they can be categorised. Defining as broad a range of employee personas (a profile of a specific employee segment that details their characteristics, attitudes, wants, and needs) as possible will help you to design greater personalisation of employee experiences.

  11. Don’t rely only on HR
  12. While HR plays a leading role, employee experience is actually a shared responsibility across departments, with IT, recruitment, and operations, to name but a few, all playing a role.

  13. Create partnerships across your organization
  14. Develop partnerships throughout the organization, between distinct functions and workplace groups, managers, leaders, and departments. This will help you to stay focused and on track, and share lessons and best practices as you work toward common goals.

  15. Consider and invest in digital employee experience
  16. Employees are now more connected and mobile than ever before, and they expect to be able to work anytime, anywhere, so providing them with the tools and support needed to do their jobs better is an important element of the overall employee experience. However, whilst digital employee experience is the new frontier for HR, research by Gartner indicates that the employee experience with technology remains a “black box” for most leaders, so make sure you are fully aware of its impact on your organization.

  17. Look at engagement metrics
  18. Return to step 1. Constantly look at your engagement metrics. These should guide you as HR evolves employee experience initiatives to improve outcomes over the long term.

It’s time to fast-forward

Fast-forward five years. Where do you see yourself and your organization? Will you be able to look back and see your current challenges as the greatest gift? More importantly, what will your colleagues be saying about their experience of working at your organization – will it be seen as a place where they can successfully meet the challenges of their job and be properly aligned to the goals and vision of the company? Design the ultimate employee experience, and you will be able to use its insights to boost employee engagement, support a positive company culture, and improve organizational and individual performance at nearly every level.

Complete this short Employee Experience Assessment to help identify the key areas you need to focus on as a company.

Contact Primeast today, and we’ll help you realise the benefits of designing an exceptional employee experience.



FAQs

Whilst you will need to create an Employee Engagement Survey that reflects the needs and reality of your organization, your questions will need to refer to such important factors as employee satisfaction, alignment, and future goals. Example Employee Engagement Survey questions could include:

  • What is the most interesting part of your job?
  • In what way does leadership energise you to come to work?
  • In that way does your job provide you with meaning and purpose?
  • In what ways does autonomy from your manager play into your everyday workflow?

Whilst it is good practice to carry out surveys annually, often in connection with performance reviews, this might not be enough when it comes to measuring employee engagement. Conducting regular pulse surveys not only avoids the risk of waiting months before discovering if you have a problem with employee dissatisfaction, it also lets your people know that you are interested in finding out about, and acting upon, their concerns. find out you have a department-wide problem or someone who’s deeply dissatisfied.

The importance of empowering employees in the workplace should not be underestimated: it breeds individual and group confidence, enabling people to work both more efficiently and more effectively. When people are confident within their work and with their employer, they are more willing to identify problems and suggest ways to improve quantity and quality of output. This culture will jumpstart change, increasing agility in the market and providing the impetus to grow revenues. Find out more here.

Although almost any social or business trend could influence the perspective of your employees at any given time, some of the larger current trends include the increasing demands for a 4-day work week culture, an increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, the need to positively influence employee well-being, and the drive to upskill and train employees in order to retain talent.

Different generations have different expectations when it comes to employee experience. Whilst we are all aware of the broad generalizations (for example, Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 value stability and loyalty in their work; Millennials born between 1981 and 1996 prioritise work that aligns with their personal values and a sense of purpose) it is important to note that not everyone in a particular generation may fit these expectations. Overall, employers need to create a flexible work environment that can cater to a range of needs and priorities. As Research by LiveCareer and Oyster points out, “Every age and stage has its uniqueness, but the real take away is the extent to which workers have shared needs and priorities. Work is part of a full life and the opportunity to express talents, contribute capabilities and learn and grow are among the most meaningful parts of work and life – for everyone”.

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