Customer and user experience have been in style for a while, but in recent years, the employee experience has become a top agenda item for HR leaders.
More and more, businesses have become more attuned to the importance of ensuring their teams are happy and have the tools they need to succeed.
A 2017 survey by Deloitte found that 80% of HR representatives and business leaders were concerned about employee experience, though a measly 22% said they were excellent at creating a unique experience.
This begs an important question: how, knowing that employee experience is increasingly vital for satisfaction, productivity, engagement, and success, can we succeed at improving it?
We can take a page from companies that have cracked the code, for starters. Businesses who understand the importance of EX are willing to make changes, both small and drastic, to ensure no issue goes unheard and no employee problem falls through the cracks.
1) Being employee-centric is being change-ready
More importantly, companies who are EX-centric are ready and willing to make structural changes, in some cases going as far as giving HR an expanded leadership role to help drive a unified vision forward.
Regardless of the approach they take, EX is here to stay, and companies must understand that it’s not just important to listen, but also to act.
It’s important to understand that employee experience is more than cool perks and a nice office, or a manager that knows how to communicate and actively cares about employees’ development. These aspects are important, but successful EX is about understanding employees’ needs on a more granular level. Even things as small as an uncomfortable chair or a noisy hallway can impact overall productivity and impact your employees’ success.
Because of this, HR teams and companies need more data than ever on their teams’ needs, perceptions of work, and engagement levels.
One-on-one meetings, experience surveys, and other information-gathering tools helps leadership understand what their employees are thinking and what they need, and how they can subtly and gradually improve their experience. Even so, EX is more than just HR’s job; it is a collaborative effort across a company’s leadership, and one that must be structured.
2) How EX works in reality
As HR professionals, it’s our job to nurture our company’s culture and be aware of our employees’ prevailing attitudes and behaviors. Oftentimes, when the business landscape gets tough, leaders can be too focused on the bottom line that employees’ human concerns get overlooked.
A piece by Boris Groysberg et al. in the Harvard Business Review echoes this tendency, “Unfortunately, in our experience it is far more common for leaders seeking to build high-performing organizations to be confounded by culture. Indeed, many either let it go unmanaged or relegate it to the HR function, where it becomes a secondary concern for the business.”
Major efforts like digital transformation can be undertaken without considering their impact on our staff. Imagine if employees receive word that new enterprise solutions are about to be rolled out but the “little nagging things” they’ve been complaining about haven’t been addressed yet. There’s a host of issues that can be dismissed as minor inconveniences by management — a noisy bullpen, uncomfortable chairs, and conference rooms that are never available.
We can’t expect employees to believe that new technologies will make them more productive if they can’t even get through an hour of work without getting irritated by these concerns. Even the most advanced technology solutions wouldn’t be maximized if they’re forced upon an unwilling workforce.
Policies, when treated as immutable laws, can also cause friction. For example, there was one incident at my previous company where an employee, who was six months, pregnant was sent on a business trip. The shortest flight could have been four hours direct, but the person was scheduled for a flight with two stops instead, adding several extra hours of travel, just to save the company about $100.
The person in charge of scheduling the business trips was concerned more with saving the company money than the employee’s comfort. Of course, the employee was very upset and inevitably thought that the company didn’t care enough about her condition.
It’s stories like these that show us it’s not just a manager or co-workers that affect the employee experience. Each department plays a role. The decisions that come from Finance, as in this example, had an outsized impact on the experience of this employee. IT and the technology it chooses for employees, the internet strength, and access to support also have a large effect.
3) HR must take the lead
These stories might sound familiar as you probably have similar concerns in your company. Most organizations do have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to EX. But who’s supposed to drive these changes in your organization?
To simply answer the question, HR departments must take point in this. To start, we’re already in the best position to understand the composition of the workforce. We’re also already the ones responsible for driving engagement, diversity, and culture-building initiatives. Enhancing these programs to be more adaptable should be right up our alley.
But we also have to realize that we can’t control every aspect alone. EX can be a tough mandate since it requires the whole organization to revisit its ways of working. Because of this, we need to establish better coordination with other departments including finance, IT, and office managers to address the factors that affect EX.
We also need to encourage departments to be more attentive to staff concerns and inform them of relevant changes in status or disposition of certain employees. For instance, in the case of the pregnant employee’s case, the HR department should’ve done a better job informing relevant departments of the employee’s condition so that they can readily accommodate certain concessions in favor of the person’s health and well-being.
4) Building an EX fit for your company
Workers tend to reciprocate companies that care make them feel valued.
As Morgan also discovered, organizations that have EX management programs have lower turnovers, enjoy larger growth, and post better revenues and profit compared to EX laggards. We can also browse Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For and Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work lists and see that both include many high-performing industry leaders.
To emulate their successes, EX needs to be at the top of the agenda for HR and the executive team. The good thing is that with the right effort, it’s possible to create an EX for your own situation.
Here are several ways you can start:
1) Acknowledge all of the factors that affect EX
Taking steps to improve EX is an organization-wide effort so companies must comprehensively review almost all areas of operations. There’s no substitute to actually talking to employees and getting their inputs on how they regard your processes, management, technologies, culture, and physical space.
Dive into the details and include even the “minor” things such as temperature settings and seating comfort. You can even start out small and focus on these nagging issues.
2) HR needs to step up to the plate
HR needs to take charge of the effort. After gathering all input from employees, HR together with the executive team, could create an EX strategy that’s aligned with the business’ core values and business goals. HR must function as the hub that coordinates with other departments to get everyone on the same page.
It must also provide the necessary support that would enable managers and other employees to accommodate the changes that EX could bring.
3) Education and development are critical
Speaking of support, HR must also consider setting up training and development programs to help employees function capably within the workplace. For example, even though our employees are increasingly becoming tech-savvy, we can’t simply leave them to their own devices when implementing new tech tools.
There must be formal programs to orient them on the proper use of these tools. Using digital adoption platforms could also help in the onboarding process.
4) Understand it’s a process
Just like any initiative that brings about major changes within the organization, we must acknowledge that creating an optimal EX for employees is going to be a process. It takes a concerted effort across all stakeholders to get it done. It’s only realistic to expect resistance and some hiccups along the way. The important thing is to learn from these obstacles and work on ways to overcome them.
Sure, EX can be a major undertaking but the benefits that it brings could be instrumental to your companies’ success.