How to ensure a first-class employee experience

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When your employees describe your company and talk about what the business does, do they refer to “we” or “they”? 

What might seem like a minor detail or perhaps even a trivial difference can often be a tell-tale sign of just how engaged a team member is with your organisation.  

Think about your team today. Who demonstrates a genuine commitment to help drive the business forward? These are your engaged employees. Who has essentially ‘checked out’ and might be investing time as opposed to energy or passion into their work? Unfortunately, these employees are no longer engaged. You might even have some actively disengaged employees who are clearly disgruntled and may even try to sabotage the progress of the business. 

Apparently nearly 90% of employees around the world would describe themselves as either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work right now, so it’s critical for leaders to be more focused than ever before on the experience they are providing their workforce.

After all, just as ‘customer experience’ provides companies with an edge to attract and retain customers, a superior employee experience is the competitive edge for talent hungry and people focused organisations. 

Many leaders will use the terms ‘employee engagement’ and ‘employee experience’ interchangeably. However, there is in fact a clear distinction in what they describe. 

‘Employee experience’ is all about the environment an organisation provides the workforce, and the perception of the workforce as a result. On the other hand, ‘employee engagement’ is the level of emotional connection employees feel toward their organisation. It is a direct result of an organisation’s employee experience.

In other words, employee engagement is a snapshot in time, while employee experience is something that is (or at least should be) measured continuously, which is why ensuring a first-class employee experience becomes an essential part of an organisation’s retention strategy.  

It is usually fairly obvious when your team feels emotionally connected to the organisation. Productivity levels are off the charts; customer satisfaction is second to none; and people take full ownership of their projects and tasks.

More importantly, the business typically experiences a low level of staff turnover, because employees have a clear understanding of their goals and expectations, they feel respected and acknowledged, and empowered to take action. This, in turn, increases employee loyalty, and reduces both absenteeism and, perhaps more importantly, presenteeism. 

Whilst absenteeism has always been an unavoidable part of running a business, ‘presenteeism’ was originally the term given when workers would come to work unwell rather than eating up their sick leave but would then function at sub-optimal or non-productive levels. Notwithstanding the pandemic, presenteeism can also refer to completely healthy employees coming to work (or working remotely) but being totally disengaged. This is why presenteeism can become a far more serious problem than absenteeism for organisations. 

So, how can you foster a culture of ‘emotional connection’? 

One way is to make engagement an ongoing focus as opposed to, for example, an annual survey – the results of which often never see the light of day.  

In order to build a robust engagement strategy, you need to find out what motivates your employees, establish a responsive and regular feedback loop, and promote an environment of team collaboration along with a safe space for open communication.

With today’s increased competition for top talent, not to mention the huge costs associated with The Great Resignation, this has become more important than ever. 

Other initiatives to help make the employee experience best in class could include: 

  • Providing corporate wellness initiatives 
  • Embracing flexibility 
  • Establishing a coaching program 
  • Supporting employee recognition 
  • Enabling career development 
  • Encouraging employee creativity
  • Promoting ongoing performance feedback 

However, it’s important to point out that if you say that as an organisation you promote these initiatives, then you need to follow through on your commitment. For example, many companies say that they prioritise their employees’ well-being but then quibble about reimbursing gym memberships. Others claim to encourage creativity, and yet have no policies in place to support it. While even coming out of the pandemic, many will pay lip service to embracing flexibility yet still want everyone in the office every day. Such contradictions don’t exactly endorse a positive employee experience. 

Of course, from an employee engagement perspective, you still might want to implement a survey or pulse check system to help detect the overall ‘health’ of the business and to provide management with feedback in ‘real time’. Having said that, there are a few unspoken rules about surveys. First and foremost, keep your survey brief. Invite feedback, gather responses and share the results with the leadership team and with your employees. But above all, take action from the survey and implement change.

If people are asked to take part in a survey (particular around engagement), but then see no action or follow-up, they will very quickly lose faith in the leadership and in the organisation as a whole.  

Employee experience is an organisation-wide concept – not a standalone HR project and, as such, people leaders need to be on top of it at all times.  

One way to do so is to ask employees how they want to be rewarded and recognised; how they need to be motivated to work best; what they don’t like about your management style; and what you can do to make their job easier. Asking this final question on a regular basis can be an incredibly powerful reinforcement of your commitment to your team members and their ongoing professional development. 

Another strategy to properly gauge employee sentiment is to consider conducting ‘stay interviews’ as opposed to solely relying on exit interviews at the time of an employee’s departure.  

Typically more effective than any survey, stay interviews allow leaders to delve more deeply into an employee’s motivations. You could consider asking: 

  • What’s important to you in your job? 
  • What makes you loyal? (i.e. why do you stay?) 
  • What would make you consider leaving? 
  • What were you excited about when you first joined? 
  • How has this excitement changed over time? 

Each of the strategies or initiatives outlined above is aimed at helping you create a best practice employee experience which should, in turn, keep your employees more engaged. 

Research states that nearly 80% of engaged employees place more trust in their leaders.

So, if you haven’t placed a priority on fostering a first-class employee experience, then there’s a good chance your workforce won’t trust you as much as you think they do (or need them to). This trust needs to start from day one and will ultimately help create more authentic connections between employees and their leaders right across the organisation. 

At the end of the day, if you can nail your employee experience, you’ll be in a better position to transform performance with a team of more engaged individuals at which point you will also be well on the way to improving employee retention. 

hellomonday provides coaching and support to leaders at all levels; prioritising development initiatives that result in long-term sustained learning and change; and reinforcing habits through curated learning and impactful coaching. 

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