What Is Employee Experience, and Why Employers Must Get It Right?

About a decade ago, if you asked managers and employees what was top of mind for their organization, Customer satisfaction was the first thing that popped up in their minds. Not only was it not on top of their list, but employee experience (EX) was missing. 

In the last few years, we have witnessed a radical shift in the workforce mentality. While customer satisfaction remains crucial, organizations learned that the best way to reach it is by investing in their most valuable asset: employees!

Employers started to understand the importance of employee experience during their journey within the organization, from the onboarding process until their departure.

Then COVID-19 happened, and everything we knew about the nature of work flew out the window.

According to the 2021 Employee Experience Survey conducted by Willis Towers Watson, employers are learning the magnitude of employee experience and see the urgency of improving it.  

We’re seeing a “great EX awakening,” with 92% (more than nine in 10) of organizations prioritizing EX enhancements over the next three years. This figure is up from 52% before the pandemic.

COVID-19 was a wake-up call for employees also. Employees reevaluate their life priorities within The Great Resignation and quit their jobs. They want to feel valued and empowered. They want to align their vision with that of their organization. They want to be members of a truly collaborative team and work in an environment that gives them the flexibility to achieve the much-desired work-life balance.

In other words, they want an excellent employee experience. Give them that, or they will leave for greener grass.

Don’t ask yourself if your employees are good enough for you. Continue reading this article and make your company good enough for them.

Table of content

I. What is employee experience?

II. Main pillars of EX strategy

III. What are the six stages of employee experience?

IV. How to improve the employee experience

V. Why is the employee experience vital?

I. What is employee experience?

Employee experience (EX) includes everything an employee encounters during their professional journey with your company, from the moment they look at your job opening to their last day of work and beyond.

Essentially employee experience is the collection of impressions, emotions, actions, and interactions in the workplace.

Each employee has their individual perception of the workplace, whether physical or virtual. As a manager, you must create an environment where everyone has a positive experience that will eventually impact their hard work, goals, happiness, and your organization’s bottom line.

II. Main pillars of employee experience strategy

Whether you design a new EX strategy or improve the existing one, you must consider

  1. The scope of your EX strategy
  2. The critical factors influencing EX in the workplace
  3. The goals of your EX strategy.

1. The scope of the employee experience strategy

When reflecting on the objectives of an EX strategy, we aim to create personalized experiences that attract, engage, and retain the most talented employees.

2. The critical factors influencing EX in the workplace

The future of work is more about why your employees want to work vs. why they need to work. You must understand how crucial employee experience is nowadays if you aim to attract top talent and break through your competitors.

In his book The Employee Experience Advantage, author Jacob Morgan identifies three basic environmental factors influencing every employee experience: the cultural, technological, and physical environments.

All three of these aspects should be focused on creating an environment where people want to show up!

a) Company culture

Company culture encapsulates the core vision and shared values, goals, behavioral and procedural norms that shape your organization both internally, for employees, and externally, for the public.

It is a mélange of management styles and organizational structure on the one hand and the personalities of your employees on the other hand.

b) Technological environment

The technological environment includes all the tools we use to perform our tasks to a high standard. The advancements in digital technology remodel work as we know it. 

The industrial mentality shifted, as the knowledge economy workers can work from everywhere on their laptops – not only from the office desk and be just as efficient or even more so.

Whether they are in the office or work remotely, your employees expect you to provide the best tools available for doing their jobs. That includes finding new and better ways to improve communication, giving and receiving feedback, and a transparent flow of information.

c) Physical environment

Rest assured: the work environment impacts your employee’s ability to concentrate and focus on their tasks. Everything you can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste is part of the physical environment.

Working in a place that happily stimulates the senses makes employees more productive and improves their well-being.

3. The goals of your EX strategy

You cannot design a strategy and expect it to work unless you know where you are heading and what you are trying to achieve.

If you reduce things to their basics, employee experience builds on three critical goals.

High levels of productivity

Employee productivity is the ultimate goal of any business. An excellent employee experience makes people happy, creative, and loyal. The secret ingredient of productivity is employee happiness.

"Productivity isn’t everything, but, in the long run, it is almost everything." Paul Krugman

Excellent working condition

Everything from a comfortable chair, a modern laptop, or a smartphone to flexible working arrangements impacts your employee experience. Providing an employee-centered work environment that helps them feel great about their work can help increase their motivation and productivity and improve employee relations.

"It is to the real advantage of every producer, every manufacturer, and every merchant to cooperate in the improvement of working conditions because the best customer of American industry is the well-paid worker." Franklin D. Roosevelt

Higher employee retention rates

Employee experience can make or break your company’s ability to retain or attract new employees. If people stay with your company over the long term, the chances are that your employee experience is of high quality. On the other hand, good people will leave if your employee experience doesn’t measure up to their expectations.

"You should define and design your Employee Experience, not just monitor it. The CEO should think about EX as one of the most important design issues in the company. Done well, the EX program drives employment brand, productivity, engagement, retention, and customer success." Josh Bersin

III. What are the six steps of employee experience?

Employee experience is a holistic concept that starts before the employee starts working for you and ends after terminating the working relations between you two.

You must understand and recognize the importance of employee experience for each HR process, from recruiting to exiting, if you want to be successful in the workforce market.

Step 1: Attract

Employee experience begins when a prospective employee learns about your company’s brand. If you want to attract the brightest minds who fit perfectly within your culture, developing an excellent employer brand is critical.  

Your vision and values aim for the organization to stand out as a leading employer, a place that employees want to be a part of.

Step 2: Hire

So, now that you have an attractive employee brand and an open position, it is time to hire the best candidate. Like the attraction stage, hiring happens before the candidate signs the offer letter. If the hiring process doesn’t meet the candidate’s expectations, they may drop out before becoming your employee. 

Consider all the interactions with recruiters, hiring managers, and team leaders and foster open communication during the hiring process for a positive employee experience. 

Step 3: Onboard

The onboarding process starts on day one of the employment. You spent countless resources to reach this point. You will want to make a great first impression. On this first day, your new hire speeds up with working tools, processes, colleagues, and workplace environment.

A thorough formal onboarding process translates the new employee’s enthusiasm into a long-term affiliation to your company’s mission.

Step 4: Develop

If an employee spends significant time in their current position, you must be doing something right. Yet, when there is no progress in sight, employees feel trapped, like the walls are closing in on their careers. With no chance to advance or try new things, they will soon begin to look for fresh air, a place that lets them expand their skill set.

Offer them the opportunity to develop and learn new concepts and see how their productivity and engagement increase, making everyone a winner. 

Learn more about areas of improvement.

Step 5: Retention

Employees are now fully integrated into your team. They are enrolled in your company’s core mission and vision. A strong employee retention strategy will help to keep them happy, motivated, and satisfied

During this EX step, it is crucial to ask for feedback continuously. Whether using pulse surveys or one-on-one meetings, open your door and encourage horizontal and vertical communication.

Step 6: Exit

Exiting is the final step of the Employee Experience. At some point, every employee, including you, will leave the company for different reasons. They may retire, make a life change, or continue their career with another employer.

A person who decides to leave may be more candid during their exit interviews about the reasons behind their decision. Use this opportunity to optimize your organization’s employee experience for current and future employees.

Learn more about termination letters.

IV. How to improve the employee experience?

Employee experience is vital to a happy workforce and sustained long-term organizational prosperity. Thus, it is up to enhance your company’s employee experience. Here is how:

1. Promote excellent communication

Clear and open communication is essential in any relationship, including the workplace. If you genuinely care about your employees, you must provide the space to express their hopes, fears, and concerns. Encourage regular two-way, meaningful conversations. 

Use the newest tools to share good and bad news, celebrate your employees’ professional and personal significant accomplishments, set goals, and measure performance.

2. Encourage honest feedback

What better way to improve employee experience than hearing directly from your staff? What would they change and do better? How can you improve their overall experience? Encourage real-time feedback and learn what motivates your workforce. 

Use survey tools to capture continuous feedback from your employees. Ask them the right questions, listen to their answers, opinions, and proposals, and implement change whenever possible. 

3. Focus on your employees

Given the constant uncertainty in the world today, it is crucial to shift your focus from results to people. Make employees’ satisfaction – not success – your main priority. Routines, rituals, and surprises help you connect with the human, less-known side of your employees.

Go through every step of the EX journey, from attraction to departure, and see the work environment from your employees’ perspective. Learn what needs to be improved to create a positive employee experience.

Related: People management skills you need to have as manager.

4. Align work with skills

Provide meaningful work that fits your employees’ skill set. Encourage your staff to work independently. Ensure career development opportunities and let your employees know you trust them and believe in their abilities.

Be open to new ideas and encourage creativity and innovation. Don’t overreact when they make a mistake. Use this as an opportunity to learn and grow.

5. Be a supportive manager

Find the right balance between providing autonomy and support to your employees. Be there whenever they need you while avoiding micromanaging. Set clear goals that align with the company’s mission. Ensure every team member has the skills, tools, and knowledge that help them complete their tasks.  

As a supportive leader, you don’t delegate tasks and wait for the results. Instead, you are available whenever an employee needs you until completing the task.

6. Create a positive work environment

A positive work environment is a combination of factors, such as:

  • Flexible arrangements
  • Diversity & inclusion, equity
  • Strong work ethics
  • Excellent organizational culture.

Cultivating a positive workplace environment influences the attitude of your employees toward their job and colleagues, performance, and productivity. 

When employees experience contentment in a positive work environment, employee experience thrives.

V. Why is employee experience vital?

If you aim for success within your business, then you must prioritize employee experience. People are the center of any organization. They are the force behind your success (or failure).

Employee experience impacts every aspect of your employees’ journey, from hire to retirement. You can expect remarkable returns when you invest and care about your workforce.

A positive employee experience:

  • Attracts and retains top talent
  • Boosts employee engagement and productivity
  • Strengthens the company’s culture
  • Improves employees’ well-being
  • Reduces the turnover rates.

In addition to these reasons, a great employee experience balances top-down guidance. You are all on the same path, partners working towards the same goal.

The best employee experience is not just a phrase defining another organizational process.

Employee experience identifies the crucial moments during an employee’s journey and makes them more positive and authentic. Focusing on employees can help you attract the best people in the market, motivate them to perform at their highest level, and increase feelings of loyalty to your organization.

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