With employees spending more than a third of waking hours at work, the employee experience (EX) matters. It sets the tone for how an employee views their job and is the lens through which interactions are filtered.
For better or for worse, employee experience has the power to affect employee perception of work/life balance, identity, general satisfaction and happiness — and those with a positive experience have 16x more engagement and are 8x more likely to want to stay at a company.
Plus, with the shift in the labor market, employees are redefining what’s acceptable for their workplace experience. The workforce landscape has changed, and so have employee expectations.
Beyond competitive pay and benefits, today’s employees are increasingly less tolerant of employers who don’t support opportunities for growth and learning, offer flexible work experiences or prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion. Negative employee experiences that might have been brushed off in the past, can now make the difference in an employee staying with an organization or moving elsewhere.
Creating a positive and engaging employee experience can move the needle on engagement and retention, making it a critical exercise for organizations and HR leaders today. Research shows that transformative EX organizations are more likely to report 90% lower annual turnover and 2.7x higher productivity.
EX is a metric that cannot be ignored. Let’s discuss how you can take your efforts to the next level and provide a world-class employee experience that distinguishes your company as an employer of choice.
What is employee experience?
Understanding employee experience
Employee experience refers to an employee’s perceptions about their journey with a company, beginning when they first engage with a job posting and ending with the exit interview and final paycheck. The more positive the employee experience, the more engaged and productive the employee is.
Every point within the employee lifecycle represents an opportunity to record, analyze and improve your company’s EX.
For example, think of running video calls on outdated software that freezes every few minutes, extending the length of the meeting into your dedicated work time. Or perhaps your company offers tuition reimbursement, but most employees don’t have the financial means available to pay for the cost of education upfront.
It’s these sorts of pain points that collectively define the employee experience. And what employees prioritize has changed since before the COVID-19 pandemic, with expectations for ping pong tables and happy hours replaced by flexible schedules and remote work.
Now more than ever, employees want opportunities for upskilling and growth. And they want agency — in this case, opportunities tailored to their specific needs and interests in a way that works with their personal lives.
Improving the employee experience
How to improve employee experience at your company
Your company might already have an employee experience strategy in place. But it’s important to see if your strategy matches what your employees value in today’s rapidly-changing workplace.
No one thing improves employee experience, and any strategy will need a holistic approach. Here are some things to consider:
- Culture, technology and physical space
How a workplace feels and what resources employees have access to are hugely important drivers of EX. Consistent cultural values, up-to-date and functional infrastructure and even office design can influence an employee’s sense of personal productivity.
- Taking an integrative approach to data collection
Operational data – employee info, training, pay history and other metrics – will give you a great quantitative foundation for your EX analytics. However, it’s equally important to pay attention to the experiential (qualitative) data garnered from employee surveys and interviews. A combination of both gives you critical big-picture insight into the current employee experience.
- EX is personal
No two employees will have precisely the same wants and needs, which renders a one size fits all approach ineffective. Especially along the lines of individual access needs related to disability, racial and cultural background and other contributing aspects of an individual’s identity, a unique and diverse workforce necessitates a personal and individual approach to employee experience.
- A paycheck alone won’t cut it
A huge portion of today’s workforce is operating in a remote or hybrid environment, blurring the lines between professional and personal life. As a result, more and more employees are seeking an “emotional paycheck” from their job — factors beyond just monetary gains. This can include things like the ability to work autonomously, a flexible schedule and access to learning and education opportunities.
Millennials – who dominate 35% of the workforce – are shown to be motivated at work more by development opportunities and cultural stability than a dollar amount. Workers are eager to learn new skills and employers need to provide them with the means to do so. Learning opportunities that support growth are critical to the contemporary EX.
Factors that influence employee experience
Key factors that influence employee experience
Now that we’ve touched on ways to enhance EX, let’s dive deeper into some of the most influential factors that impact it.
Culture is critical
Workplace culture is often designed to support the mission and vision of the organization as a whole, as dictated by the C-suite. However, it also has to support the needs and wants of its people. Employees want to feel empowered and uplifted by their working environment – their needs and feedback can’t be overlooked.
Learning and development opportunities
Employees place extraordinary value on the opportunity for learning and growth. In fact, 94% say they would stay with a company that invested in helping them learn. Effective L&D requires low barriers for engagement. With full-time jobs and commitments at home, employees may find the process of pursuing skill-building and education overwhelming.
The question becomes how can you improve the employee learning experience to facilitate engagement in a way that benefits both the company and the employee? Educational resources with tangible benefits, such as training workshops or workforce education for upskilling or reskilling, support a culture of learning that gives employees tools for career advancement and compelling reasons to stay — and gives organizations skilled workers and a deep talent pipeline.
Gallup research shows that managers have the greatest power to influence employee experience, shaping their perceptions from the first interaction forward. Done right, a manager’s conversations and actions can encourage employee engagement and productivity, directly affecting their department’s bottom line.
Businesses should be ready to invest both ideologically and financially into an improved EX. Educational opportunities, modern tech solutions and cultural training all require investment — both from a resourcing and budget perspective.
That said, the ripple effect of positive EX throughout your workforce can deliver returns far above your investment. But to measure ROI, you first have to understand EX metrics.
Employee experience metrics
Regularly tracking employee experience metrics allows you to paint a compelling picture for your executives that underscores the importance of EX to the health of the company.
These metrics, which likely feed into multiple areas of business, also can provide useful insight into your EX initiatives:
- Retention rates
- Employee satisfaction
- Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)
- Internal promotions
As mentioned earlier, the quantitative data from these operational metrics should be used in combination with experiential data to provide deeper insight into the state of employee experience at your company.
Employee surveys paint a fuller picture of why your metrics are scoring as they are. By scheduling these regularly across employee lifecycle milestones (such as onboarding, promotion and exit), you may see a correlation across teams or departments, highlighting where your organization is hitting the mark or where you’re falling short.
Develop questions based on the operational metrics most relevant to your company and ask your employees to rate and describe their experiences in relation to:
- Overall engagement
- Recruitment experience
- Development and education
- Benefits and compensation
Anonymous surveys encourage more honest feedback, while still providing you with valuable data to adjust course and improve outcomes. Alternately, asking questions in weekly 1-on-1s or as part of performance reviews allows for a more expansive discussion and insight into the employee’s goals, giving managers specific ideas for how they can best advocate for their direct reports.
A better employee experience supports organizational success
Employees are an organization’s greatest asset and it’s paramount to keep the employee experience top-of-mind. With these tips in mind, you have everything you need to rethink your current efforts and make the needed adjustments that deliver a top-notch employee experience — one that resonates with the individual and benefits your business.
What does a positive employee experience actually look like? Watch this video to hear from Chelsea, Shift Lead at Banfield Pet Hospital, as she shares how she’s fulfilling her dream of going back to school with the help of her employer.