Growing Workplace Results Through Employee Experience

  • Brace
  • September 19, 2018
  • 17 min

Proving integral to building a more productive workplace, Employee Experience has become a promising focus for HR, managers, and executives alike. Often overlooked, it encompasses many things that are regularly confused with Employee Engagement; mood, atmosphere, interactions, and environment, to name a few.

What is Employee Experience?

In the lexicon of useful terms, this is one of the most important, and at the same time, the most abstract. Clearly stated, Employee Experience is the sum total of moments, interactions, impressions, frustrations, education, and actions that have ever impacted an employee in their time with your company. This means everything from the first interview, through onboarding and the daily routine, to the final “stay interview,” has a lasting effect on your company, culture, and employees.

Employee Experience is the “everything” or the indescribable “ness” of your company. It’s the combination of the many elements of the workplace such as team, chemistry, leadership, and mood that build on themselves once set in motion, and need constant attention and steering to get or keep them going in the right direction.

Exploring the Need for Employee Experience

If your engagement program boosts just aren’t sticking, you aren’t alone. Many forward-thinking leaders have already noticed that the hyper-focus on engagement programs is only a piece of the puzzle and often leads to such short term bursts in positive team engagement and company culture. In the search for a long term, sustainable solution for today’s workplace woes, a study by Deloitte shows that employers have turned to the whole picture of Employee Experience.

  • Employee Experience is a driving area of study in 2018, with studies showing that it is gaining more and more professional attention and interest. Driving this new attention…
  • 8 out of 10 executives rate Employee Experience as a significant concern, with 42% considering it very important, and the other 38% ranking it as important. But despite the attention, still not enough is being done, as…
  • Only 20% of company leaders feel that their company is doing enough to build a better and successful Employee Experience.

Adapting to the Brave New (Work) World

If the data is to be believed, the moment for the focus shift to Employee Experience has come in the nick of time, with job openings rising and new employee hiring at a plateau.

For the first time in a decade, there are more open positions than can be filled by the workforce. What this means for employers is that it is more important than ever to retain a talented and productive staff. Employees have better chances than ever to leave a company where the work experience leaves them dissatisfied, unmotivated, and disengaged. All the more reason to start going a step further than Employee Engagement alone and focus on the entire Employee Experience.

Benefits for the Business and Bottom Line

The benefits for employee retention are not the only areas where Employee Experience has shown proven results. Companies that focus on staff experience:

  • Show 4x the average profit and earn double the average revenue.
  • Earn 2x higher marks in the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
  • Appear 28x more in Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies.
  • Are listed 11.5x more as a Best Place to Work by Glassdoor.
  • Count twice as often among Forbes Most Innovative Companies.
  • Rank 4x more on the Most In-Demand American Employers List from LinkedIn.

With these kinds of results, Employee Experience is on track to becoming a necessary concept for the future of business. As the graph above shows, not just competitive sectors, rather everyone, needs to start taking steps to keep and attract the best talent and increase Employee Engagement. The most promising method to achieve this is to start building your Employee Experience sooner rather than later.

A Change in Strategy

In other fields of business, experience has long become a driving ideology. You just have to think of UX (user experience) or CX (customer experience) to see the influence this thinking has had. But just as much as UX is not CX, Employee Experience (EX) is not the same as the others. Employees just don’t care that much about membership cards, schwag, and accessible website design, as much as they do about personal growth, appreciation, and environment. These “X’s” do, however, have something in common: They all view the whole picture.

EX means:

  • Seeing what employees need and desire, then help them get it.
  • Striving to understand and influence the whole biosystem of a workplace, since every element of the office effects the other.
  • Allowing leaders, HR, and managers to put wheels in motion that nurture employees to be more engaged and grow enduring positive feelings toward their company, which in turn bloom into creativity, productivity, and staff retention.

As opposed to simplified satisfaction programs, or worse, yearly reviews, that are used to only address specific symptoms, EX directs its influence on the whole underlying system of the office and organization, taking on the virus rather than the symptom.

The Manager is Dead, Long Live the Manager

New conditions call for new approaches. Addressing Employee Experience means sometimes stepping away from concrete command structures, and taking on things you can’t directly control, such as employee feelings and moods. EX expert Jacob Morgan, in his book The Employee Experience Advantage, calls this the “ripple effect” and breaks it into a clear order of influence. Far from being created by everyone, Employee Experience is:

  • “Initiated By the CEO and Executive Team”
    — through clear and well-crafted company mission and goals.
  • “Owned By the People Team”
    — such as HR or a specialized unit, in charge of monitoring and implementing changes for Employee Experience.
  • “Driven By Managers”
    — that nurture and mentor their teams, while realizing the aims of the People Team on the ground level.
  • “Championed by Everyone”
    — through regular, open, honest feedback and staff integration into workplace decision-making.

By understanding and creating the right environments for workers, instead of dictating them, leadership teams can exert influence on what thoughts and relationships develop in the office. Planting and nurturing the right seeds in a fertile company culture with an Employee Experience approach leads to great conditions for healthy and sustainable growth in engagement, mood, and productivity.

Employee Experience Is Not…

  • …simply employee satisfaction.
    Many things make an employee satisfied, good hours, decent pay, or workplace events, but they don’t directly lead to a great overall experience, or even to increased productivity. Having 9 to 5 hours may make staff members tolerate their job, but does nothing to inspire. Remember, a satisfied employee only gives the status quo.
  • …a glorified HR tactic.
    Many companies set up a devoted EX department as part of HR, but that doesn’t make it solely an HR issue. Creating great Employee Experience involves elements from all over the company, from communications, facilities, IT, all the way to leadership.
  • …an excess of parties and benefits.
    Break rooms and fitness options can make for great moments, but they don’t cover the breadth of EX. Initiatives to improve Employee Experience connect all the moments of a staff member’s tenure, not only to a positive feeling but to your desired company culture.
  • …only handling staff members like customers.
    CX is a useful model for developing an EX plan, but employees have other motivators and needs than a customer would. As Jacob Morgan asserts, making your employees want to work is what should drive any Employee Experience programs, not simple loyalty.
  • …a variation on Employee Engagement.
    Simply put, Employee Engagement is a result, whereas EX is all the elements that help make it happen. But let’s look at this important distinction in detail in the next section.

Employee Experience vs. Employee Engagement

Much of the advice you get involving Employee Engagement uses the same terminology as Employee Experience: Company culture, team mood, environment, and feedback, among others. But experts don’t simply enjoy repeating themselves, rather, this doubling is due to the interconnection between EX and Employee Engagement.

Employee Engagement is defined as the emotional connection a staff member feels to a workplace and their personal interest in its goals and success (for more on this, check out our guide to Employee Engagement). Involved in this are reciprocal elements between team and leaders regarding how valued, integrated, challenged, and comfortable employees feel in their place of work.

It’s exactly these elements that a company must generate, and exactly here where an understanding of Employee Experience is useful. To feel integrated and valued, employees need open, two-way feedback, to be challenged they need an atmosphere that encourages growth, and to be comfortable, they need a positive environment, generated by good recruiting and office spaces. This all falls under the umbrella of Employee Experience. Employee Engagement is the goal, a focus on EX provides the means of achieving it.

Building Engagement With Employee Experience

The workplace ecosystem is made up of many interconnected environments. All of these have an effect on one another and can make or break Employee Experience. This can seem like a lot to take into consideration, so it helps to divide EX spaces into a simpler equation: By adding culture, technology, and physical space together, you end up with the total Employee Experience.

  • Cultural Environment: Culture can be hard to define, but one basic fact remains constant: Culture is about feeling. This “vibe” of the office is generated by managerial styles, team interactions, and the levels of appreciation among staff. You can tweak all of these by using open communication and feedback to ensure that your workplace stays positive and productive.
  • Physical Environment: Humans are emotional, as well as rational, thus the office has to be more than functional to inspire your team. If staff feel that they are entering a sanitized laboratory, then they are unlikely to feel energized and motivated, which in turn, impacts their mood and the cultural environment. Decorating the office in friendly colors and homey touches is a good start, as well as creating specific spaces for certain tasks (creativity, research, etc.)
  • Technological Environment: Nothing is more frustrating than being asked to produce the newest ideas on the most outdated software. Employees interact every day with technology, from video conferencing and remote work to simple word processing. Making sure your office stays cutting edge reduces frustration among employees, increases their potential to produce, and presents your company (and its culture) as progressive rather than stagnant.

By measuring, observing and refining all of these, the final result is your total Employee Experience; one that you can actively work to steer and shape for the benefit of your company and employees.

The Stages of Employee Experience

Companies often make the easy mistake of focusing on one or the other of the workplace environments. Sometimes they place too much attention on culture, and other times on the workspace itself, but in any case, improving just one area leads to less than ideal results.

  • The Empowered (but uncomfortable) Workplace
    These companies focus on corporate culture, but not much else. This leads to a great company mission and attitude, but the benefits are hindered by less productive workplace design and technology.
  • The Enabled (but disconnected) Workplace
    In such offices, they’ve nailed the aesthetic and atmospheric elements. Alas, the hyper-focus on great design and rooms for creativity has ignored the needs of employees to be connected with the company mission, and valued and integrated in the workplace.
  • The Engaged (but ill-equipped) Workplace
    At these companies, understanding the mission is no problem, but finding the tools to do it can be. Great communication and integration of team members into the company goals makes employees motivated and connected, but this can turn to frustration if they lack the technology and office space to complete their tasks.
  • Experiential: The Goldilocks Workplace
    Experiential companies are the cutting edge in workplace improvement and focus on all three environments. Among these count Adobe, Airbnb, Google, and Facebook. By recognizing environmental interconnections, and investing accordingly, Employee Experience is maximized and the positive aspects of each previous style are harnessed and brought to their full potential; a workplace that is engaged, equipped, prepared, and profitable.

5 Steps to Bolster Employee Experience

To reach the goal of a fully engaged, able workforce and sustainably competitive company, EX can be the driver that’s been missing. Begin steering your company in the direction you want with these 5 EX steps:

  1. Define your ideal employee and empathize
    Similar to CX, your “user” is your desired employee. Define and understand who they are and how they think. Then you can plan how to attract them and nurture your relationships.
  2. Consider ideal employee desires and needs
    Think about what makes your ideal employee tick. What makes them feel valued? How do they face challenges and what are their passions? With this in mind, you can put structures into your workplace that feed and excite your staff, starting the ball rolling for a great Employee Experience.
  3. Get creative
    Imagine every phase of your employee’s time with your company. If you can understand in advance what complications can arise for your employees, you can work to prevent them.
  4. Design a trial program
    Use the phases from Step 3 to build a working model of how to keep the Employee Experience positive. Check it with others to see if they can improve it further.
  5. Give it a test run
    Take your solution to a larger scale by presenting it to your employees and getting their feedback. They can inform you how well it addresses their needs and where it might be out of touch.

With these first steps, you can begin building a healthy workplace framework for your employees that allows them to grow, connect, and nurtures all the intangibles of Employee Experience. Once the process is in motion, you can keep it going in the right direction through understanding, attention, and guidance.

Key Takeaways

  • Employee Experience is the sum total of moments that have ever impacted an employee in their time with your company, blending the cultural, physical, and technological environments.
  • Employee Experience is not Employee Engagement, but a positive EX drives engagement, making it sustainable and productive while generating proven revenue and profit growth.
  • Employee Experience can’t be directly controlled but can be steered by management and leaders through creating the right environment and framework for employees to excel.
  • EX takes elements of CX but is distinct in that it strives to inspire staff to want to work at your company.
  • Great Employee Experience involves all aspects of the company working together, thus building a more integrated team while optimizing the office.

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