- What is employee experience?
- How employee experience has evolved
- Who is responsible for employee experience?
- Create a remarkable employee experience from hiring to retiring
- Improving employee experience
- The effect of COVID-19 on employee experience
- How can you measure employee experience?
- The tools you need for a fantastic employee experience
- Looking to the future of employee experience
What is employee experience?
At barest of bones, employee experience is the sum total of all the interactions your employees have with your company . It's everything your employees encounter, feel or observe along their journey with your company - from hire to retire. Employee experience isn't something only large companies have; it exists within every organisation regardless of size, industry or location. Company culture, technology and physical environment are all pieces of the entire experience.
Employee experience isn't just employee engagement, perks, benefits, flexible working hours or an online collaboration tool. It is all of these things and more. A positive employee experience has many benefits for employees and companies alike. We'll be exploring these benefits and more in this guide. But first, let's start at the beginning.
How employee experience has evolved
The term employee experience (EX) is a relatively new one. Coined on the back of the popularity of journey mapping and the 'customer experience', the EX field has expanded as an organisational shift has occurred. Over the last decade or so, there has been a dramatic change in the balance of power between employees and employers. Whereas once employees were grateful for a job and a paycheque, recruitment and retention strategies now need to be more holistic, strategic and always-on. The war for talent continues to intensify, and successful organisations must showcase an exceptional employee experience to attract and keep employees.
Not only has the focus sharpened on employee experience, but the way it has to be designed has become more complex. The gig economy, a multi-generational workforce and the rise in remote working have coalesced to create the need for an individualised and bespoke formulation of the employee experience. The EX must look very different for the contractor who logs on for a day week compared to the full-time office employee. The same for the near-retirement worker with no mobile (and we promise, these people do exist) compared to the tech-savvy Gen Z intern.
What employee experience encompasses has also transformed. Where in years past a family sausage sizzle or a once a year Christmas bash were seen as "it", now companies are looking to digital, wellbeing and inclusive experiences to ensure their employees are healthy, happy and productive all year ‘round.
Why is employee experience important?
Because it makes employees happy. At Perkbox, we'd love to leave it at that as we believe that making people happy doesn't need further explanation. However, for those looking for the stats and facts to prove ROI for employee experience, here they are:
Research shows companies that invest in employee experience grow 1.5x faster than those that don't. They produce more than double the revenue and are four times more profitable.
Highly engaged employees who work in organisations with high levels of employee enablement are 50% more likely to exceed performance expectations.
Those companies with highly engaged and enabled employees also have turnover rates 54% lower than companies with a low level of engagement and enablement.
Who is responsible for employee experience?
Traditionally, employee experience has sat within the HR function of a business. And some larger companies now have a dedicated employee experience lead or community role who manages and is responsible for the experience, from end to end.
Day-to-day though, responsibility for employee experience is something that is held across the business. People managers are critical as they are generally the gatekeepers of an employee's empowerment and overall experience within a company.
Another key touchpoint of the experience sits with IT. Without the provision of the right tech, the employee experience will be clunky, slow and frustrating.
And, of course, buy-in from the C-Suite is essential. With so many more tools and technology available to measure experience, satisfaction and engagement, it has become somewhat easier to prove ROI and gain C-Suite support within the last few years.
Lastly, the employee experience needs to also be driven by the employees. This is why it's crucial to survey, question or poll your employees to find out what's currently going on and what areas need to be addressed and improved.
Create a remarkable employee experience from hiring to retiring
Employee experience spans the entire employee lifecycle, starting before a person joins your team. Let's explore how to make sure your employees are bestowed with a fantastic experience from start to finish.
Attracting talent and recruiting
The global workforce has changed dramatically, and this means the way businesses attract top talent has also shifted. Expectations have changed, employees want flexibility to be able to work from anywhere and to work for companies with a purpose, who care. The reality is, employees can increasingly afford to be picky about who they work for. This is why creating a great employee experience needs to start before they sign on the dotted line.
How someone experiences your company, from your website to your branding, to your reviews on Glassdoor to the job application process, all inform how a candidate will feel about your business. How you treat a candidate signals how you treat employees, so creating a high-quality candidate experience is key to attracting and retaining top talent.
Even though the majority of candidates will not get the job, creating a positive experience is still crucial for them for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it will entice them to apply for future roles with your company. Secondly, they'll spread the word about their experience and let their network know what they think of your company.
Onboarding sets the tone of your newbie's employment; don't waste the opportunity by delivering a sub-par experience. Onboarding gives your new employee the chance to get to know the atmosphere, environment, routine and technology of your company. It's the time to clarify expectations on both sides and, importantly, to make them feel welcome and comfortable. Employees are looking for ways to make navigating their new employment as seamless as possible so do what you can to reduce uncertainty in this period. It's also the perfect opportunity to align your new employee with the business's mission, values and goals.
On the surface, a successful onboarding experience is a collaboration between HR, IT and management. But new employees also need the opportunity to connect and establish relationships with people across their team and the organisation. Salesforce uses a buddy system to provide new employees with a mentor who helps them navigate their new company. The buddy system is incredibly powerful as it allows for new employees to find information through a less formal channel and sow the seeds of friendship at work.
Explore how your onboarding experience stacks up by checking in with employees. Ask "what did we do well?" and "what could we do better?". Take an iterative approach to onboarding by continuously improving the process based on feedback.
Career progression and development
Employees don't just work for your company; they also learn, evolve and grow within your organisation. Unlike in years gone past where employees expected to slowly progress up the 'ladder' and be led by the organisation, today's employee wants to be in charge of their career progression - to own their future within the business. In fact, career progression doesn't automatically mean advancement to positions in management or leadership - some would prefer to expand their expertise as an individual contributor to the business. So incorporating the employee in goal setting and evaluation processes empowers them through learning programmes and assists them to choose their path through the organisation.
At Etsy, the learning and development team facilitates training, retreats and coaching, and offers online resources on everything from how to invigorate a sluggish meeting to how to give difficult feedback.” Interestingly employees both learn and teach across their wide range of resources, creating a continuous learning and mentoring culture within.
Performance management no longer needs to look like a dreaded annual review. Instead, companies are trying frequent conversations, such aslike weekly or monthly meetings between managers and employees to discuss goals, career path and progressions. As such, performance management is a perfect opportunity to create a positive experience for employees. Most leaders today understand that it means engaging with the whole person, not just their task responsibilities. This means engaging and exploring their career goals, their lifestyle and their interests or commitments outside of work, ultimately allowing the manager to respond more appropriately and compassionately.
Having a reliable system that will help your employees develop and build new skills will future-proof your business and, at the same time, support your workforce to improve, which keeps engagement levels high.
At Google, performance management consists of two parts, a six monthly check in and an annual review. Google’s 360-degree review process interestingly includes a peer-review system, which also consists of colleagues that are junior to the employee. At Perkbox we have a similar peer-review system in place which ensures we also receive the ‘whole picture’ when it comes to feedback.
Provide a good employee experience and employees will stay. It's not rocket science, but it can sometimes get overlooked in the day-to-day hustle of the workplace. In the long run, retaining employees requires supporting them in building an authentic connection to their colleagues and the company. And there are many ways to go about this. One of which is an employee recognition program.
Think Cleaning Solutions use Perkbox to encourage employees to recognise their peers with a company-wide recognition feed. The business also uses Perkbox to give employees the rewards and perks they actually want. Recently, they even identified an employee as an excellent candidate for promotion into a position of leadership, using the Perkbox platform.
"Her natural leadership ability was highlighted by the way she was using Perkbox to recognise peers and improve the employee experience within her own team," said Alex Floyd, HR manager, Think Cleaning Solutions.
Whether an employee is leaving voluntarily or not, offboarding is still an essential part of the employee experience. Perhaps the most crucial reason for this is that happy former employees will spread the word and possibly refer new hires. Your previous employees will continue to build networks beyond your company as they progress in their career, so leave them with a good impression and positive tale to tell.
People leave jobs for many different reasons and many come back. Think Cleaning Solutions often have employees return to the business after a few years - perhaps in part to their great offboarding experience. On a larger scale, Chevron has created a program where former employees can choose to be exclusively considered for contract assignments coming up within the business.
Even if an employee is leaving due to a negative experience, the offboarding phase is an opportunity to learn from mistakes, missed opportunities and ultimately to improve the experience. When you support the employees that have decided to go, and part ways on favourable terms, it can still result in a new advocate of your company, and in some cases, the employee may even return.
Improving employee experience
Where to start
Determine your top priority
Start by asking your employees about their experience. Find out what's working, what's not and if there is any low hanging fruit to be picked. This first round of feedback can also act as a baseline to measure your employee experience improvements against.
When the information flow within a company is streamlined and straightforward, and when staff feel well-informed, they typically become more engaged and motivated. Put the extra effort into the streamlining business processes and employee communication practices, to make employees feel frequently heard and valued, and you will positively impact the overall workplace experience.
Enable your managers
The relationship between employee and manager is one of the most significant impacts on employee experience there is. If leaders and managers aren't educated in employee engagement, motivation and communication, it can cause a breakdown in this relationship and negatively affect the employee's experience. All managers should undertake training in interpersonal skills, delegation, goal setting, feedback, career development and the best ways to recognise and reward employees.
People like to receive acknowledgement in different ways. For some, a big public declaration is the ultimate. For others, a private pat on the back is preferable. Identify the type of reward and recognition preferred by each of your team members and use this to provide acknowledgement. This will likely be very well received and also help enhance the overall employee experience.
Encourage continuous feedback
Deloitte research found that only 22% of companies survey employees quarterly or more often, 79% survey employees annually or less, and 14% never survey employees at all. Yet, asking your employees what they think is the best way to prioritise areas for improvement in your employee experience. Therefore, implement some form of continuous employee feedback system to make sure they can have their say.
Empower and take action
It's not just about collecting employee feedback; your company also needs to act on it and make visible and impactful improvements. If this part of the equation is forgotten, it breeds mistrust. Employees are much more willing to share their opinions if they can see they are being listened to, and their feedback is being actioned.
The effect of COVID-19 on employee experience
COVID-19 has inarguably been the biggest shake-up of the business landscape in our lifetime, and it has had an equally large impact on the employee experience. So what's happened?
Boundaries between home and office blur
Before the pandemic, for most employees, life was separated into two parts: life at the workplace and life at home. And it was a challenge for some to balance both with conflicting responsibilities and finite capacity. Enter COVID-19, and this balance has become a whole lot more precarious.
The boundaries between the workplace and home have blurred over the pandemic, with no way to differentiate between professional and personal spaces in some cases. With less structure and socialisation, employee behaviour has changed, and now includes working longer hours.
Complex emotions and uncertainty
Whether it's frustration, anger, sadness, anxiety or grief, employees are experiencing a rise in complex emotions. There is a range of reasons for this, including:
- Social isolation due to lockdowns
- The loss of a loved one due to COVID-19, or the fear of it
- Job security concerns
- Loss of normality
- Concern for family or close friends working in healthcare
- Negativity and sadness in the news cycle
Leaders at work must acknowledge these complex emotions and provide a safe space for employees to work through them, whether this is through an employee assistance program or with wellbeing initiatives such as meditation and mindfulness - or both. Accounting software company Intuit’s wellbeing program reimburses meditation and mindfulness classes for staff and includes incentives for employees who engage in stress-reducing habits, like walking, practicing breathing exercises, or listening to calming music.
Life has always been uncertain, but COVID-19 has taken it up a notch. The unknowns in the workplace have significantly increased as a result of the pandemic. Things like job security, role and responsibilities, returning to the workplace and professional development are probably on your employees' minds right now. Communicating regularly and being as transparent as possible is the best way to allay fears.
How your company can respond
Widespread working from home meant windows were being opened to personal lives across businesses all around the world. Employees were able to share glimpses of their families, pets and interests more than ever before. Build on this by encouraging employees to continue sharing these personal sides to them, as authenticity fosters collaboration and innovation.
Provide meaningful work
In uncertain times, it feels good to be doing work that matters. Ensure employees know where their role fits into the bigger picture and how they will contribute to shared success post-COVID-19.
Many employees have experienced unprecedented levels of freedom and empowerment while forced to work from home during the pandemic. Resist the impulse to put things ‘back to normal' as employees return to the workplace. Instead lean into self-management, especially if your company saw that this increased productivity and efficiency.
How can you measure employee experience?
To make sure your company's employee experience is a great one, you must have a strategy in place for measuring how you've done. To do this, you will need to ask for feedback at key touchpoints of the employee journey:
- Recruitment: Request feedback from both successful and unsuccessful candidates for a holistic view of the recruitment process.
- Onboarding: It's helpful to get retrospective insights from new employees who've completed your onboarding process.
- Career development: Solicit feedback from employees in different stages of the career about how your company supports progression.
- Performance management: It's also important to request feedback about the performance management process from employees at all levels of your organisation.
- Offboarding/exit: This is your opportunity to gather insights on how to improve retention and engagement.
Regular feedback is vital as if there's an issue diminishing the employee experience, you can quickly rectify it, as opposed to letting it fester until the next annual employee survey. Collecting a mass of information in a yearly review can also be overwhelming, time-consuming and more costly for HR to analyse and tackle – at a time that it might be too late for many employees.
The tools you need for a fantastic employee experience
A well-thought-out employee experience strategy needs to be supported by technology solutions and resources to ensure it can be implemented successfully. Tools you may like to add to your arsenal include:
Looking to the future of employee experience
The future of employee experience is looking rosy, and there are a few developments we're excited about:
Employee experience won't just sit with HR
As the impact of positive employee experience becomes more well-known, so does the uptake of responsibility outside of HR in organisations. EX is increasingly a more comprehensive company effort, including all levels of the organisation, adding to the range and breadth of ideas and initiatives.
The digital organisation
In a world where remote working has now become the norm, companies can hire for skills disregarding the location of the candidate. This will see workplaces flooded with new and different ideologies, cultures, views and ideas. This means personalisation in the employee experience will become even more critical.
The breadth and depth of employee experience data will expand and deepen in the coming years as more technology and tools become available. You can expect to see more experimenting with A/B split testing and surveying all in the name of improving employees' working lives.
For a flourishing workforce, thriving business and happy customers, begin with your employees. How your employees experience your business and workplace has a ripple effect across your entire company, impacting performance, morale, focus and engagement. Now is the time to consider, explore and examine your employee experience and, where required, make positive changes for a happier future.
Our platform provides employee benefits, recognition and rewards, all in one place – taking your employee experience to the next level. Find out how we can take your company’s employee experience to the next level, book a demo today.