5 steps to focusing on employee experience to drive the bottom line

employee experience

Employee experience is a broad and complex topic. This white paper provides ways to opt the employee experience by looking at the whole picture first, and then zeroing in on how to really make an impact within your company, writes Alec Bashinsky.  

Many research studies over the past few years have shown that companies that invest in their Employee Experience are better places to work and that having a good employee experience leads to higher levels of enthusiasm and involvement and actually helps drive bottom-line results.

When it comes to employee experience design, you must be strategic in setting your priorities. Trying to do too much at once is doomed to failure. Every job role is different, and the capabilities/ skills required varies.

Companies have become highly focused on improving the work experiences of employees to the point that employee experience is now replacing employee engagement as one of the biggest topics in HR. In fact, these organisations faced with skills and people shortages in every industry are bending over backwards to make their employees’ lives better.

Why the emphasis on this area? Business leaders are becoming more heavily focused on productivity improvements, organisational transformation, and the disruption/development of new digital business models. Success in these areas is not possible if employees are having a hard time getting their work done. Bersin’s Human Capital Trends report shows that the average US worker now spends 25% of their day reading or answering emails.

Step 1 – De-Clutter the Environment
Josh Bersin makes the point that without good, meaningful jobs, no investments in experience will really matter. So, as an HR professional, your first step toward improving employee experience should be to understand the work your people do. However, employee experience is not about new or improved HR, Employee benefits, Branding nor Employee Engagement. Mark Levy, former Head of Employee Experience for Airbnb, defines employee experience as anything that sets up an employee for success or improves your culture should be part of employee experience.

Organisations need to de-clutter their processes and doing such activities will uncover many obstacles that get in the way of work.

So, the first step to improving employee experience is a job design exercise. An HR professional should partner with IT and functional business leaders to examine the elements of the most problematic jobs. This exercise will help you identify and prioritise where and how to spend time and efforts to bring about the greatest impact. A few years ago, Pepsi went out to their employees with an online survey called the Process Shredder where they asked each employee to name one process that stopped them from getting things done fast. I won’t tell you what came up as the number 1 obstacle here so have a guess.

Step 2 – Take Care of the Basics
The second priority is simply making the basics of work easy and efficient for employees. I’m sure this is what all leaders and organisations try and do but in nearly all cases things become like a ‘complexatron’. How does an employee update an address? File an expense report? Track time? Schedule a meeting? Take a holiday, parental leave or even a sabbatical? All these transactional tasks that surround work should be easy to execute.

While most newer HR tech systems try to make such tasks easier, even the best HCM systems (such as Workday, Oracle, and SuccessFactors) are not as easy to use. Having done five HRIS implementations in my career, I’d suggest you carefully walk through all these processes, understand all of the steps, and verify that employees really know how to get them done.

So, the first step to improving employee experience is a job design exercise. This exercise will help you identify and prioritise where and how to spend time and efforts to bring about the greatest impact.

Step 3 – Focus on the Transitions at Work
Common work transitions such as new hire orientations, promotions, salary reviews, performance discussions, training events, relocations, and maternity leaves, etc should also be reviewed. All such transitions are hugely important to employees, and each requires a systemic approach.

As you review the requirements of these transitions, you’ll quickly realise that HR is only one of many functions involved. Almost every employee experience involves HR, IT, finance, and line management. So as soon as you start redesigning these various experiences, you find that service delivery must be coordinated with these other areas.

The involvement of technology and your IT function is critically important, given that every transition will inevitably cross multiple systems. Consequently, the redesign of employee transitions quickly become process design and system integration projects.

Step 4 – Understanding the Employee Problem
When it comes to employee experience design, you must be strategic in setting your priorities. Trying to do too much at once is doomed to failure. Every job role is different, and the capabilities/ skills required varies eg: the experiences of sales representatives are very different from those of call centre representatives.

It is an essential step to segment your workforce and identify the processes and challenges relevant to each job role so employees understand what their jobs entail. I definitely don’t mean re-writing job descriptions here. If you haven’t experienced it before then a Design Thinking approach may be one of the most valuable things you do in HR because it gets you closer and closer to your employees.

Remember that HR’s focus on employee experience is just applying the same principles and work most product and marketing organisations have done to develop optimal customer experiences.

Companies have become highly focused on improving the work experiences of employees to the point that employee experience is now replacing employee engagement as one of the biggest topics in HR.

Step 5 – Finally Bring in the Technology
The majority of existing and also new start-up HR tech vendors are jumping on the bandwagon and have redesigned their marketing to address the employee experience related to their products eg: Workday People Experience. But be wary if a vendor tells you its technology will magically improve the employee experience, don’t believe it. While the tech may in fact make work easier for people, it will do so only if you fit it into your company’s work environment carefully and this takes time and effort to get right.

Many companies have made significant investments in new cloud HR platforms with the expectation that the employee experience would improve. In some cases, the systems did bring improvement, but only when the HR team focused on the employee experience as part of the implementation.

Naturally, HR system replacements are necessary every decade or so. Just don’t assume that a new HR system will make the employee experience better. You must do foundational work first, and in most cases, you will discover that you’ll still need multiple systems.

In summary, a focus on the employee experience is going to change everything you and your HR team do. An employee experience focus brings an existential change in the way HR operates. Rather than new processes or designing new programs, organisations must start with the employee experience and design backward.

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