What is the Employee Experience?

Employee experience

You’ve probably heard of the customer experience (CX). It’s the experience we have as a consumer when buying from or selling to a business. It answers questions like: Were they friendly on the phone? Did they have what we needed? Were my expectations met? Did I have a wow experience?

The customer experience determines the likelihood a customer will buy again.

The world’s leading research company, Gartner, indicates more than 90% of businesses compete primarily on the basis of CX.

But what about employee experience (EX)? Don’t employees deserve to be treated as well, if not more so than the customer?

Our always-connected, 24/7 culture requires companies to show up in new and different ways if they want to remain competitive. Companies, big and small, must showcase their employee experience by creating a responsible workplace.

“EX is the sum of everything an employee experiences throughout their connection to the organization,” says brand leadership professional Denise Yohn.

The employee experience includes every employee interaction, from the first contact as a potential recruit to the last interaction at the end of employment and everything in between.

Why There’s a Need for Employee Experience

The short answer is the Millennial generation.

Millennials bring an even larger workforce to companies than Baby Boomers. Millennials are the wireless generation, the digital generation, and they’re looking for much more than a paycheck and pension.

Regardless of what we call them, they’re a committed group of talented individuals who value experiences over things. This creates a skills gap because they don’t have the mindset to work for 30 years at one company.

This gap leads to talent wars, in which companies compete to attract potential employees that have the necessary skills. From direct sales to skilled trades, these employees need to know the value of their jobs within the organization as a whole.

Bridging the skills gap means finding ways to attract and retain valuable employees.

The Foundation for Employee Experience

“(Our) study showed just how much millennials are turning away from materialism and traditional measures of success, and instead focusing their (considerable) disposable income on experiences. In fact, 65% of the 18-34-year-olds surveyed were driving the Experience Economy through buying real-life experiences versus possessions.” Millennials Want Experiences More Than Anything Else

The employee experience begins before recruitment and is based on a set of distinct core values.

Brand reputation can be defined as how your company’s core values determine the way your company behaves and makes decisions. The companies of yesteryear are still focused on competing with their mission statement and goals with the focus on profits through superior customer service.

That’s not enough anymore. Today you need a well-crafted employee experience to build a successful company.

Core Values: Not Just Words, Actions

“Communication. Respect. Integrity. Excellence. They sound pretty good, don’t they?” says Harvard Business Review. Those words sound great, but if those are your core values, your employees are saying, PROVE it.

As an employer, when you make decisions that are core values-based, you have the foundation to attract new employees.

Too often companies select values that are the bare minimum for being in their industry. If one of your core values is honesty, is it really benefiting your customers? Honesty, integrity, respect, etc. are nothing more than the minimum requirements for owning and operating a well-run business.

Today’s employees want more from their employers when it comes to the rules by which they play.

Creating Employee Experience Through Core Values

Following successful recruitment, the first 30 days of onboarding are critical to you and your new employees. You must train them on what your core values mean to you.

Your core values are what make your company and your company’s culture unique.

Now that you’ve recruited people who have bought into your culture, it’s time to train them on the basics. Training your new and current employees on your company’s culture gives them the freedom to make decisions the way the leadership team wants them to.

When training is complete, your new team members need to know how to be a productive, contributing member of the team. Your onboarding training must include the following:

  • Communication: Interactions need to be ongoing. Communicate transparently, open, and often and through:
    • Face-to-face meetings
    • Group meetings
    • Newsletters
    • Social media posts
    • Training opportunities
    • Social events
  • Expectations: Reasonable and fair expectations must be part of the job definition. Ask new and current employees what they want and expect from you. It’s crucial for you to be completely clear about what you expect from them.
  • Fulfillment: Broken promises are one of the main reasons employees leave. You must keep your commitments to your team.
  • Transparency: Knowledge and trust are part of a company’s transparency policy. Transparency is about sharing roles and responsibilities between employees. It’s also about sharing results and trusting your employees to make the right decisions.

The Rules Are Being Rewritten

Social media has bridged the gap between employers and employees. Not just HR (human resources) personnel but business owners and corporate decision-makers are researching employees using social media sites including LinkedIn, Facebook, and more.

Employees change jobs so frequently that employers utilize social media to understand the workforce connection better. Employers aren’t just looking to find skilled employees; they’re looking to find out more about employees.

The Unengaged Worker

More than 56% of the United States workforce is likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months or would leave their job immediately for the right opportunity.

Employee engagement is at a mind-boggling 33% – only 1 in 3 of today’s employees are actively engaged at work.

It’s no longer enough to pay well, provide great benefits, or even offer perks. Today’s employees want a reason to stay, a reason to belong, and a culture where they thrive.

What the Employee Experience is Not

“Anything that sets employees up for success or improves our culture should be part of EX.” –Mark Levy, former EX manager, Airbnb

Culture is at the forefront of the employee experience. Your team buys into why long before what. A healthy culture is rooted in a definite purpose, and a definite purpose comes from a solid foundation of values.

However, there will be naysayers. Here are some things cynics might say about EX:

  • Perks and parties are enough for a great employee experience.
  • Branding ourselves differently will attract better people.
  • Simply measure employee engagement and improve it.
  • We just need to treat our employees like we treat our customers.

While EX can include perks and parties, branding, engagement, and treating employees better, it won’t be enough. Making promises you can’t, or won’t, keep only covers up the problem in the short term.

Long-term solutions require so much more:

  • A commitment to delivering on your employees’ success.
  • Dedication to improving employee engagement by listening to your employees.
  • Creating a brand image that’s competitive for the right people and can deliver on your promises.
  • Empowering your employees to make decisions on how to treat your customers.

Employee Retention Is at the Heart of Employee Experience

Recruitment, onboarding, and training expenses for new hires are costly, but necessary. When employees leave, you’ve lost an investment. Employee turnover also impacts morale and productivity.

Many employers fear not having enough work to keep employees busy. Others fear not having enough employees to keep their customers happy.

Overworked and stressed employees are sure to impact customer service and profits.

Here are some reasons employees leave:

A Career Plan

Today’s employees want to feel there’s room to grow within your company. You can offer educational training, tuition reimbursement, and career advancement options. If you lose employees thanks to the training you provided, be grateful.

It’s better you train them and they leave, than not, and they stay. Developing a success or career path for your employees will go a long way in driving engagement.

Communication

If the only time you see certain employees is at the annual performance review, you’re doing it wrong. Ongoing communications through group or face-to-face meetings are important. Other communication mediums include bulletin board posts, memos, newsletters, and social media posts.

Core Values

Today’s workforce wants to understand their company’s mission and core values. They want to know where and how they fit into your organization. If your employees are unsure of your company’s goals, they become unsure of how they can contribute. They may then feel devalued.

Flexibility

Virtual employment is one of the most desired positions. It doesn’t mean they work from home whenever they want, but flexibility is an important part of the employee experience.

“Some 60% of millennials, 53% of Generation Xers, and 61% of Baby Boomers stated a desire to work remotely half of the time or more . . . In fact, 63% . . . said they would be willing to take a pay cut to telecommute at least half the time.” -CIO

Management

If you have high employee turnover, investigate your management team. “This is the first place to look,” says Wendy Duckrey, a recruitment professional. Ask your employees:

  • Do you feel team-oriented?
  • Is everyone pulling their own weight?
  • Are your suggestions accepted and sometimes acted upon?
  • Do you feel valued?
  • Does your manager hear you or listen to you?

Sometimes excellent employees are promoted to a management level, reminiscent of the Peter Principle. In this scenario, employees are promoted based on competency until they eventually reach their level of incompetence. That means some of your managers may have been excellent workers but make poor supervisors. Managers need to be trained too.

Technology

Valued employees care about your image. Even if you can’t pay the highest wages, your company’s reputation for cutting-edge technology can make you a competitive employer. Current technology offers your employees opportunities to enhance and increase their skills.

Work/Life Balance

Successfully managing work and personal life is key to today’s workforce culture. Some companies offer child care or even car washing services.

You’ll retain the best talent for your business when you offer strategies to bridge their work and home life.

Tools to Facilitate Employee Experience

You can use many of your current processes as tools to facilitate EX.

To recruit the right people, you must understand what attracts them to an employer in the first place.

With behavioral assessments and a proven marketing process, you can understand what attracts the right employees and create a brand presence to be proud of.

Behavioral Assessments

This analytical tool needs to be part of the recruitment and/or onboarding process. Use behavioral assessments to help your teams better communicate with each other. They’ll learn ways to motivate each other and strengthen your team.

Continuous Education

Training must be ongoing and it doesn’t always have to relate directly to their job to add value. What kind of training is useful? Skills training? Leadership development? Retirement planning or financial management seminars? What about a fun cooking class?

Perhaps leadership training would give them the confidence they need to pursue advancement within your company. But financial management reduces stress, improves focus, and leads to higher productivity within your company.

Onboarding

Your onboarding process and policies set the expectations for your employer/employee relationship. Spend the time to bring them aboard correctly by keeping the promises you made about your company.

Set them up with a success plan and get them the training they need. You want them to be competent and they want this as well.

If You’re Looking for Better Talent, Become a Better Place to Work

You’ve got decision-making skills. And you operate a successful business because you know what kind of service customers expect and deserve. You’ve created a brand that includes honesty and superior work at reasonable prices. But you may still be wondering . . .

Why am I not as far along as I thought I’d be by now?

Why is it so hard to find good people?

And why is it so difficult to keep good people?

What can I do?

Possibly one of the best decisions you’ll make is to revamp your recruiting and onboarding processes. You’ll have to make some changes within your company. Those changes will be adjustments that can ensure better long-term growth, but be prepared for some culture shock.

You need to be very clear in your statements about the changes you plan to initiate and maintain within your company. Remember to emphasize these changes are for the betterment of the organization and the workplace culture.

Your talent will be better prepared and excited about the future when you:

  • Challenge the status quo
  • Ensure clarity of objectives
  • Minimize resistance
  • Minimize uncertainty
  • Create clarity
  • Obtain individual buy-in
  • Reduce personal anxiety
  • Obtain commitment to the change
  • Share information and vision

You’ve been in business long enough to know you can’t do it all. It’s time to invest in your future and your business with the employee experience.

Ryan Englin