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The Power of Employee Experience: What Is It & How Can You Turn It into a Competitive Advantage?

Written by Alida

Published June 28, 2021

In an increasingly competitive market, homing in on the employee experience (EX) can differentiate your brand and result in a better end result for your customers.

After the pandemic shook up the workplace as we know it and many employees are on the brink of burnout, more business leaders are prioritizing EX than ever before. A recent industry study found that 92% of surveyed businesses flagged employee experience as a top priority for 2021.

But it’s not enough to pencil it in at the top of your list. Instead, we’re sharing some actionable steps you can take right now to start improving EX at your organization. 

Ultimately, once you can tap into the power of a great EX, you’ll witness its impact across all aspects of business.


What is employee experience (EX)?

If customer experience (CX) is the sum of all interactions that customers will have with your company, then employee experience is your workforce’s relationship with your business. That encompasses every interaction an employee has with you, from their first point of contact as a potential recruit to their day-to-day reality as a member of the staff.

EX matters to everyone on your payroll, from leaders in the C-suite to team members in the IT department. It touches every aspect of your workplace, from physical offices to virtual spaces that bring remote employees together. A wide range of factors contribute to your overall EX— from policies and benefits packages to training and tools your staff relies on to do their work. 

In short, EX is about anything that contributes to your company’s culture and the day-to-day experience of someone working for your company. 

When you sustain a positive employee experience, that means your teams have the tools they need to succeed on the job and in their own careers. It shows you have a healthy and welcoming culture and a set of shared values that inspires everyone to do their best. It means your workers are empowered to deliver the very best offerings, service, and support to your customers, day in and day out. 

In short, it’s a three-way win for your workers, your customers, and your bottom line.


Why employee experience is so important

A happier workforce is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of embracing EX. 

We’ve already written about the correlation between a more engaged workforce and a better customer experience. Investing in employee experience can also lead to better workplace safety, engagement, innovation, productivity, and profitability.

According to research from Gallup, you want at least 8 in 10 of your employees to confidently say, “The mission and purpose of my organization make me feel my job is important.” That can result in a 51% drop in absenteeism, 64% fewer safety incidents, and a 29% boost in quality, compared to if just one-third of your workforce shares that sentiment. 

An oft-cited Harvard Business Review study by Jacob Morgan—one of the leading authorities on EX—revealed the direct correlation between industry-leading EX and impressive earnings: If your company focuses on making the right EX investments, you might expect to see four times the average profits and more than twice the average revenues of your competitors who don’t prioritize EX. 

And that’s just scratching the surface of the research around EX and its benefits. As a recent Entrepreneur article sums it up, improvements to the employee experience can help you hold onto top talent, attract better recruits, and lower your recruiting costs. A positive work experience puts the people on your team in a better position to innovate and excel in their roles, while contributing to a better customer experience.


Improving your employees’ experience

Given the advantages of investing in EX, it’s no wonder the vast majority of your competitors are making it a top priority this year. 

If you want to keep up—or, better yet, get ahead—and start building a better employee experience, here’s what you can do next:


1. Go beyond hollow perks

Buzzy benefits for remote and in-person teams might seem like the key to a better employee experience. But well-intentioned virtual happy hours and feel-good foosball competitions can seem like shallow attempts or distractions, rather than meaningful EX investments.

While fun perks may end up being part of your overall strategy, don’t use them to mask the symptoms. If you’re dealing with a problematic workplace culture or a negative EX that drives workers toward burnout, your focus on employee experience should be your search for a cure. 

After all, your employees’ work lives are about so much more than perks. The people on your staff want to work in a great environment. They want to know their contributions are valued, that their work has meaning and that their employers listen to them. And they want to pour their time and talents into something that’s worth doing.

Improving your EX is about considering every touchpoint employees have with your company. It’s about designing an environment where your workforce can be committed to and engaged with your company and what you stand for.


2. Create an ongoing dialogue

Improving your employee experience is a two-way conversation. Doling out the changes you think will work won’t actually work. Instead, you need to listen to your people—and do it often.

Employee surveys are a powerful tool for getting the pulse of your employees. By distributing employee surveys, you’re showing that you care about your workers’ opinions and perspectives.

Be sure to ask for qualitative responses as well as questions on a Likert scale. Strive to understand how your employees genuinely feel about the company and what they want to see changed. 

Many companies already perform this kind of interaction in the form of annual staff surveys. But as the workforce rapidly evolves, the employee experience changes almost by the minute. Blink and you’ll miss some major developments and changing preferences among your staff.

Now’s your chance to look beyond one-sided outreach and one-time surveys. Start prioritizing an ongoing dialogue wherein you listen to your employees and report back when changes have been made. 

By inviting employees to become a part of an insight community, you can have those all-important conversations on a regular basis. This gives you the ability to seek input and close the feedback loop. By truly understanding what your workforce wants, where their pressure points are, and what they need to succeed, you can drive the kind of EX improvements that will make a lasting difference.


3. Articulate and live out your company values

Aligning EX with your company values helps ensure a happy workforce, and, ultimately, happy customers. Looking back at Gallup’s EX research, when your company’s mission and purpose resonates with your employees, they’re more likely to thrive, personally and professionally.

From the boardroom to the front lines, your team should be able to fall back on your company’s core values at all times. It doesn’t matter if they’re engaging with a colleague or a customer; the key is creating a consistent experience for every stakeholder, rooted in the same vision and values.


4. Don't lose sight of the customer

Although focusing on the employee experience will deliver a range of benefits to your business, it’s vital that you don’t lose sight of the customer in the process. 

After all, what’s the point of creating a great company culture that helps your employees thrive if it doesn’t extend beyond your own four walls to reach the people you serve?

Your customers should be central to everything you do, and they should be at the core of all of your employee experience decisions. 

We’ve talked about the relationship between EX and CX—but it’s not just that happy and well-equipped workers can create a better experience for customers. Spend time gathering employee insights around how to optimize the customer experience, too. The changes you implement will not only benefit your buyers, but they’ll also make it easier for your hard-working teams to do customer-facing jobs well.


There’s no time like the present

If you’re a customer-facing brand looking to unlock the power of a better EX, the time to act is now. Improving the employee experience is not only going to help give you an edge on your competition; it will also make your company a better place to work. The very definition of a win-win.


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