If someone were to ask what drives a business, on the whole, the answer would be customers. Because without customers, there is no business. However, with equal measure, if not greater importance, employees actually make a business, as they are the cogs which in fact make the business tick on a daily basis. With this in mind, more and more organisations are starting to examine and focus on the employee experience (EX), as there is a lot of productivity and innovation when employees are content and thriving.
Times have moved on where all employees worked for was their salary each month. Employees are on the whole, more invested in their roles and companies, and want to feel they are valued and a critical link in the business chain. A recent study by Deloitte University Press found that almost 80% of executives worldwide rated employee experience as important or very important. This is not surprising when you consider its impact. When the employee experience is great, employees are happy, engaged, and able to get their work done efficiently.
So, what exactly is employee experience?
The employee experience refers to the sum total of everything an employee experiences with the organisation throughout their whole employment, right from the interview process to their interaction with management and workmates, the values and culture, the work-life balance, how issues and challenges are dealt with… the list is endless! It is that holistic and all-encompassing feeling an employee experiences from the first to last encounter they have with your company and everything in between. As quick and easy as it is to create a great employee experience, the reverse is true, and damaging any touchpoint in the experience timeline, may have detrimental repercussions in how an employee will react.
What employee experience is NOT
Commonly misunderstood, a lot of organisations and employees believe that the EX is all about a drinks trolley on a Friday, the ping-pong table in the communal staff room and ice-creams delivered in the hot weather. An Employee Value Proposition (EVP) contains what companies offer over and above remuneration to attract and retain its employees, therefore this being an important element of the employee experience but not the sum total.
What makes the employee experience so important?
Organisations need to remember that their employees are in actual fact their first and most important customers, so to speak. With this in mind, businesses need to put in the necessary time, budget and resources into hearing what makes their employees tick, what employees want and need, listen to their challenges and worries, as well as figure out how to improve the working environment in order to enhance the employee experience.
The “employee” part in the employee experience is key. Companies need their input and should never make assumptions what employees are truly after and why. Employees should be given the autonomy and let them be the decision makers as it is them who own and shape the employee experience. There needs to be an ear to the ground and two effective methods are through frequent engagement meetings where employees can voice their opinions, as well as through (anonymous) internal surveys.
Organisations need to optimize every touchpoint that employees come into contact with and create an integrated experience at every opportunity of the employee journey for overall business success. Research by The Employee Experience Advantage’s author Jacob Morgan revealed that companies who invested heavily in their employee experience are included 11.5x more often in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work and 28x more often listed among Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies.
How to cultivate and improve the employee experience?
Make every moment count
The employee experience needs to be all-encompassing, therefore companies need to be aware of every interaction point, be in mundane weekly status meetings, to performance reviews, feedback sessions and even informal staff gatherings. Employee interaction needs to be authentic, transparent and reassuring – a simple opportunity to make an excellent experience.
Encourage honest communication
There needs to be open, two-way communication channels for an effective dialogue to happen. Employees need to feel comfortable and safe if they are to be open and share the information companies need to hear for improve the EX. They should not feel threatened or in any way at risk of losing their job. Companies need to reassure employees that there will be no negative repercussions and nobody will be at jeopardy if they provide authentic feedback.
Powerful, user-friendly technology is an integral part of a positive employee experience and has the potential to streamline communication and processes in a business, plus will improve culture and engagement. For example, an Intranet is one piece of technology which allows companies to interact with the employees on multiple levels and vice versa. Here employees can explore and partake in the fabric and culture of a business. Companies can use these networks for peer-peer recognition, leadership articles and feedback opportunities.
If a company truly wants to enhance the experience of all their employees, it is their duty of care to encourage a healthy work-life balance, where employees are not constantly burnt out and have the opportunity to have a vigorous balance where they’re not expected to be available 24/7. Offering flexi-working hours, giving employee discounts with lifestyle benefits like a concierge team, discounted gym memberships and cheap cinema tickets, are some ways to ensure employees are stimulated outside the work, as opposed to only looking after them within the working environment.