Employee experience at a tipping point

There has been a fundamental shift in how leaders view employee experience. As customer expectations continue to increase post-COVID, employees are expected to rise to the challenge. How well they do that ultimately depends on how happy, engaged and valued they feel at work.

The link between employee experience (EX) and business growth is undeniable. Your people underpin your competitive advantage, and your ability to maintain business performance. According to Korn Ferry analysis, increasing employee engagement and motivation can potentially double revenue and profits.

But there is still a lot of work to be done to elevate the employee experience.

More than a third of HR leaders expect EX will be the most important factor in their HR strategy within the next two years – and they expect 16% of HR budgets will be allocated to EX initiatives. However, according to a global Forrester survey, employees are sceptical about seeing any improvements in their experience.[1]

And that’s not surprising, given fewer than 10% of HR leaders say employee needs are their number one priority when setting EX strategy.[2]

But shouldn’t employee needs shape that experience?

Traditional HR management does not put the employee experience on par with the company’s business needs, and that’s a big challenge. Instead, it tends to focus on organisational goals – and collecting the data to support them.

This plays out in ‘experience gaps’ – a gap between what the employee expects and what they actually experience. And it’s usually driven by leaders who lack understanding about the needs of their people. For example, our research shows that while 90% of c-suite executives rate their company as a great place to work. Yet only 70% of employees feel the same.

Mind the experience gap

Our research shows that there are definite gaps in the employee experience-particularly when employee and C-suite perceptions are compared side by side.

To close the gap, a mindset shift is needed – from what employees need to do to make the company successful, to what organizations need to do to empower employees from all demographics to be successful. To focus on meeting their people’s physical, economic and psychological needs – whether that’s access to the right tools to get work done, or a feeling of connection and fulfilment.

Beyond financial rewards

Human Experience Management helps companies shift that mindset, looking beyond the ‘what’ of talent management (such as high turnover or absenteeism) to working out why it’s happening. And more traditional drivers like financial benefits are just one part of the experience puzzle. You need to piece together elements from three broad areas:

Task experience

  • Access to the necessary tools and technologies to be effective
  • Flexibility and empowerment.

Social experience

  • Opportunities for employees to learn, grow and collaborate with others
  • Being part of an inclusive team.

Fulfilment experience

  • Financial compensation
  • Meeting work-life needs
  • Sense of purpose.

Here’s an example. Let’s say a company identified high turnover amongst its female management, making it harder to reach their leadership diversity targets. Digging beneath the data to understand female managers’ underlying feelings, beliefs and values, the HR team realised it was because their roles require them to be ‘always on’. This additional out-of-hours stress in turn impacted the time they spend on family, community and wellbeing.

So, with this information, the HR team would work with those managers to redefine their roles, setting some boundaries around work and re-setting expectations amongst senior leadership. Instead of designing jobs for the needs of the business, it focused on individual employee needs at specific life-stages. This is very likely to improve employee productivity, engagement and performance within that cohort – and those managers might be more interested in taking on future leadership roles because they felt valued.

Understanding the individual needs behind EX

It takes more than exit interviews, management assessments and annual pulse surveys to uncover meaningful EX insights like this.

That’s why it’s time to start truly listening to what employees are saying and offer more opportunities to provide feedback frequently. Instead of top-down annual metrics, look for real-time insights.

And just as Customer Experience teams now understand every customer touchpoint is part of a non-linear journey, HR will need to stop packaging its activities into siloed sequential events such as ‘onboarding’ or ‘annual performance reviews'. All these activities build on each other as part of an interconnected employee experience.

EX is always on and impacted by every interaction at work. Because it’s about people – not just data collection and analysis.

Designing a great employee experience starts by understanding your employees’ needs and wants, and then applying them within this framework.

The 5 Cs of EX success

1. Clarity: Define how your EX program supports your strategy and business outcomes.

2. Commitment: Build agreement on the purpose and objectives of your EX strategy – what role will leaders and other stakeholders play?

3. Content: Design the right tools to measure and monitor feedback as part of broader change.

4. Cadence: Set a listening schedule that fits with your organization’s culture and capacity to act on feedback.

5. Control: Make sure your governance reflects the organization’s need for centralization and control.

Highly skilled people have many options. They can work for you, they can work for your competitors – or they might even work for themselves. Ultimately, the decision will come down to what they think it will be like to work with your organization. By investing energy and resources into their experience, you will have an advantage when it comes to finding, attracting, and retaining the right talent.

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[1] Close The Employee Experience Gap, Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership Paper

[2] Close The Employee Experience Gap, Forrester Consulting