Disengaged employees can cost organizations up to $550 billion per year. Despite that, most companies today fail to create a fulfilling work culture and empower their employees to do their best work. While many have made customer experience the focus of their attention for decades, the conversation has shifted and employee experience (EX) has gained the spotlight as a primary driver of success and a defining growth factor. As businesses start to see how valuable investing in their people is, the need to create a better EX has become evident.
With that in mind, let's look at the definition of employee experience, understand why it's important, and explore strategies that you can use to attract and retain talent.
What is Employee Experience?
In the most literal sense, employee experience is everything your employee experiences throughout their relationship with your company. The employee experience, therefore, starts with the very first moment you interact with a prospective hire up until their last day at your company.
But what does that mean, exactly?
In essence, employee experience defines how your employees feel about your company, their work, their position, their responsibilities, and their goals in relation to their career within your company.
Employee experience also encompasses a combination of culture, technical environment, and the physical environment that the employees experience. Essentially, every touchpoint throughout the employee journey can have an impact, so you need to take a holistic approach when trying to provide a great employee experience for your team.
As an employee progresses within your company, their employee satisfaction must evolve with it. Otherwise, a formerly happy employee may become frustrated when their expectations in regards to career progression, compensation, responsibilities, recognition, and countless other factors go unfulfilled.
For instance, lack of a clear career path and growth opportunities can result in disengaged employees, costing organizations billions in lost productivity. At the same time, the career prospects and growth must also be aligned with adequate compensation and non-monetary benefits that play a big role in employee happiness.
As an employer, it's your responsibility to stay on top of these expectations and the overall experience of your employees, while making sure that you are aware of what they find important at every stage of their journey.
Many companies mistakenly think that employee experience boils down to drinks on Fridays or a new break room. But while these types of small details can have an impact, you’ll have a hard time retaining talent in the long term if you solely rely on superficial fixes or trendy employee engagement tactics.
When it comes to making real improvements in your employee experience, shortcuts and superficial fixes aren’t going to get you the results you want. With that in mind, let’s explore some strategies that will actually make a difference in how your employees experience work. But first, here are some of the main reasons why employee experience is so critical to a company’s success.
Why is Employee Experience Essential?
Your employees' experience impacts everything from your company culture to your bottom line—and it's not difficult to understand why. After all, when the employee experience is good, you have a workforce that is happy, engaged, and able to get work done efficiently which in return delivers better results. But how does that look in action?
Here are some of the ways employee experience can make a big difference.
Lower Turnover Rates
Retaining your best employees is a top priority. And the good news is that if you strive to improve and deliver a positive employee experience, your employees–including best performers–will be much less likely to actively look for new career opportunities or get persuaded by head hunters.
In fact, turnover rates can be as much as 54% lower in companies that engage, enable, and nurture their employees, maximizing their potential and maintaining a positive employee experience.
Although offering a competitive salary and a challenging position is a good start, it’s wise to have a holistic employee experience strategy in place that recognizes the small moments that truly matter to an employee in their day-to-day living and career.
You need your employees to be engaged to produce their best work. Working with an engaged workforce means that they are more likely to be motivated and productive, willing to learn new skills, and eager to deliver a positive CX, while unhappy employees can easily start to resent and disengage from their work, which can affect overall business performance.
As an employer, you want your team to consistently have positive experiences at your company, which means meeting (or exceeding) their expectations and anticipating their needs for maintaining good morale, achieving their goals, and moving forward.
And over time, having better engagement will drive better employee performance. 67% of employees with a manager that focuses on their strengths and enhancing their positive characteristics are engaged in the work that they do. And that’s just one example of how employee experience can lead to engaged and focused employees who want to be with the company long term.
Innovation & Progress
The most significant breakthroughs happen through innovation. And even though some might like to attribute that innovation to leadership, in most cases, it comes down to employees who can take the company's vision and turn it into reality.
But for that to take place, you need to have a workforce that's willing to go the extra mile. And only employees who are happy with their experience will be willing to make that kind of a special effort and show genuine care for whether a project is successful or not.
At the same time, you need to empower your employees to do their best work by providing them with current and innovative technologies or equipment. You can’t expect your employees to push through challenges if you, as an employer, aren’t putting them in a position to succeed.
Essential Strategies for Improving Employee Experience
Now that we've understood what employee experience is and why it matters, we can dive into the specific strategies you can use to improve it and ensure that you can retain the top performers in your company.
Map Your Employee Journey
If you're going to improve the experience of your employees, you need to understand the typical employee lifecycle stages that they go through. That's the only way to pinpoint key areas of improvement for engaging your employees, understanding how they're feeling, and implementing proactive steps to keep them happy.
Typically, an employee journey consists of the following key employee lifecycle stages:
- Recruitment is the entire process until a new employee is hired, all the way from when you first make contact. For most companies, the relationship between candidates and human resources is an afterthought, but first impressions can have a substantial impact and set up how your employees will feel about the company as they get started.
- Onboarding refers to the stage when the employee accepts the job offer and is introduced to their role, company processes, policies, and overall company culture. This is a crucial time to provide a smooth and frictionless employee experience, forming strong, meaningful, and long-lasting bonds with colleagues, superiors, and the entire organization.
- Development is the stage in which the employee moves forward and progresses in their role. You need to monitor the employee experience closely throughout this stage to know how your employee is doing, what challenges they are facing, and how you can help them get on track to achieve their goals.
- Retention is when the employee becomes fully integrated within your organization and performs at their best. This is also when you will face big challenges in terms of retention since they may get reached out to with new opportunities and might even seek them out if they are not satisfied.
- Exit is the final stage when the employee parts ways with the company. It can happen for various reasons (or may not happen at all), and some of those reasons are beyond the employer's control. However, understanding this stage through exit interviews is crucial if you want to identify the biggest reasons why your talent is leaving and implement steps to prevent it in the future.
Ensure a Smooth Onboarding Experience
As mentioned before, onboarding is a vital part of the employee journey within your company. The initial impression you make during the first weeks and months will usually determine the opinions and feelings the employee develops around their experience at your company, so a crucial part of creating a positive employee experience is ensuring that the onboarding goes well and according to employee expectations.
When designing an effective onboarding program, one thing to consider is that each employee (or at least each group of employees) is different. Because of that, the one-size-fits-all approach might not work well across departments, different roles, and people from different backgrounds.
To make sure that an employee feels welcome and understands their role, you need to have a process to measure the onboarding, track its progress, and generate insights about what might be done better. Then, you can start tailoring the experience to each new hire, giving them a sense of belonging and speeding up their integration into your team.
Focus on Employee Wellbeing
The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on employees across all industries. The uncertainty regarding the future, changing work conditions, health risks, and the (sometimes erratic) transition to remote work have left many employees emotionally and mentally exhausted.
Because of that, it is now more important than ever to consider how you can make employee wellness and mental health an even bigger priority than before. That's the only way to ensure that even during turbulent and uncertain times, your team can remain motivated, resilient, and happy to work in a company that understands their needs and prioritizes their wellbeing above all else.
But what are some of the ways you could boost employee wellbeing within your company?
The best place to start is to have an open conversation with your teams and get to know their biggest challenges and struggles. You can encourage anonymous suggestions since many people might be uncomfortable talking about their challenges publicly or with their superiors.
Additional support for mental wellbeing including physical activity encouragement, more paid time off, parental support, and an overall better work-life balance can all be a great starting point to consider. It’s also essential to base your company culture on the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Follow Through on Feedback
Collecting employee feedback is an excellent first step in understanding what your employees need from you and how you can provide them with the best employee experience possible.
But at the same time, collecting feedback from employees through interviews, surveys, and anonymous suggestion boxes is just a part of the process. For any of it to mean something, you need to also be capable and willing to follow through on the insights that you collect.
In fact, failing to show your employees that you actually listen and take action on what they have to say can have the opposite effect and make it difficult to get through to your teams and get them to share their insights. You can quickly alienate your entire workforce if you don't show that the feedback you collect is valued and leads to actionable change, so you need to close the feedback loop and communicate how you will implement the key suggestions for improving the employee experience throughout your company.
To do that, create a clearly-designed plan and share it within the organization, showing the specific steps that you took from the moment you collected the feedback to putting together a plan that takes into account the insights you collected.
Provide a Path Forward
No matter how you look at it, a big part of employee experience is providing your employees with opportunities for advancement that they can get excited about. Most high-performing employees today have a clear vision about where they want to be in the short and long term, so perks and a good atmosphere alone will not be enough to get them to stay, especially if they feel like your company can't provide them with the growth opportunities they need.
To avoid this, you must use the insights you gain from your employees and design career development programs that lay out a clear path your employees can take when moving from where they are now to their desired career destination.
This process can include sitting down with employees for extensive career goal interviews, mentorships opportunities within the company, and specific skill workshops that expand competencies, boost confidence, and equip your team to take on more and thrive in bigger roles.
Improving the employee experience is a complex process. But despite being a challenge for many, investing in employee experience is a win-win: you'll be not only helping your workforce reach their full potential, but also helping your business' bottom line.
The strategies listed above should help you create an environment where your employees feel heard, can get the help they need, and know that they will have the growth opportunities they seek within the organization.