When people ask me what I do, the question that almost always follows is: “But what on earth is employee experience?!”
Employee experience (or EX) has been defined as:
“What people encounter and observe over the course of their tenure at an organization.”Culture Amp
While others say it’s:
“The way in which employees internalize and interpret the interactions they have with their organization.”Gartner
For me, the employee experience starts as soon as someone takes an interest in working for the company. This could be from seeing a job advert or website, all the way through to when they leave. It encompasses, well, everything.
It’s the policies, the procedures, the employee value proposition (EVP), the tools to do a job properly, the culture, the communications, the giving back, the development, the psychological safety, the leadership and everything else that sits in between.
If done well, the employee experience should attract the right people to an organisation, deliver what they promised while they are there and then – when they leave – ensure they talk positively about the organisation.
Why is EX such a hot topic?
In the last few years, the term EX has been cropping up everywhere and companies have started to take a real interest in what their people experience while working with them. The pandemic only added to this and according to a 2021 Willis Towers Watson global survey, 92% of employers said enhancing EX will be an important priority for their organisations over the next three years. Just 52% indicated that EX was important just before the pandemic.
One of the reasons for this is the need to retain talent. We’re hearing a lot about “the Great Resignation” and this is, in part, a result of companies not delivering a great employee experience.
Up until quite recently in history, employees were expected to be happy to have a job that paid them an OK wage. When I started my career 20 years ago it was extremely common to find a company and then stay in that company for a long time – if not your whole career!
But things have changed. It’s now much more common to view your career as a series of “projects”. Each project will usually last one to two years and give you the skills you need to get to the next stage. As an employee this is great. As an employer… not so much. Firstly, it costs a company money each time and they lose talent. And secondly, it can weaken the culture if people keep leaving, or if teams have to pick up additional work due to a lack of resources. A great EX is how organisations can reduce this cost; by retaining great talent and developing a robust pipeline of talent for future openings.
Starting with why
I was working with a client who was looking to recruit more people but was finding it difficult as they had no employer brand presence. Basically, no one knew who they were or what they stood for. Now, this isn’t something unusual. Organisations spend thousands on great marketing campaigns to attract customers but don’t tend to do the same for people. We really should!
When I spoke to the people that worked there, they told me that it was great, and they were surprised that people weren’t desperate to join. They told me amazing tales of how the company had supported them during hard times or helped them progress in their career. But no one could articulate exactly what made it special, which meant there was no story to tell.
Now, with every client I work with, I like to start with the why. And yes, I may have stolen that from Simon Sinek (if you haven’t read his books, you really should). Why is your organisation special? What makes it different to others? That’s how you are going to attract the right talent.
By speaking to colleagues to understand the good bits, and the not so good, you can build a picture that will attract the right people, but also discourage the wrong people. It also helps to understand where the pain points are.
In this case, I used all the feedback from those on the ground to create an EVP and employer brand strategy that showcased the company and what people could expect by working there. Within four months, they saw a 38% uplift in applications, including a higher number of diverse candidates, which reduced the time to hire and saved the company money.
Creating solutions that work
By re-evaluating the EX roadmap, discovering pain points and then working with people to create solutions, organisations can increase engagement and productivity, reduce attrition, attract talent into the company and have happier people working for them. It’s a win-win!
Now, what I’ve described sounds simple. And, in some cases, it is! What generally tends to happen, however, is that one pain point will unravel a whole load of other issues. But don’t panic – this is really the good stuff. The stuff that will help transform and strengthen an EX journey, leading to happier employees internally and an attractive employer brand externally.
If you’d like to understand more about this topic, I recommend:
- Employee Experience by Ben Whitter – a fantastic book to give you an overview of EX plus some handy hints and tips that you can use.
- Startup Culture by Alexander Nicolaus – the title is misleading but everything Alexander talks about is crucial for any company.
- Chaos to calm: Employee engagement, employee experience and internal communication – in this bite-sized podcast, Jenni Field explains the difference between the three terms.
- Widgets by Rodd Wagner – if you want to improve your people’s performance through improved EX, this is the book for you as it takes you through the fundamental principles that will up an organisation’s efficiency, profitability and employee happiness. Win, win, win.
- The Best Place to Work by Ron Friedman – this book is a guide through the process of improving your working environment leading to more enthusiastic, productive and happy employees. Hurrah!
- Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia – this book chronicles Bob’s quest to find the best approach to business leadership and style rather than treating everyone like cogs in a machine. No one likes a cog.
If you’d like to find out more about improving the employee experience in your organisation, please get in touch to arrange a free 15-minute chat with Lucy, our employee experience strategist.