Winning hearts & minds with the employee experience

As companies seek to improve the employee experience, they need to evaluate the close connection between employees’ physical, social and cultural environments

As companies seek to improve the employee experience, they need to evaluate the close connection between employees’ physical, social and cultural environments, as well as the tools and relationships they need to get work done on a daily basis, according to a new report.

Recognising the impact experience has on employee engagement and productivity, companies are taking a more comprehensive view of how to influence it.

“Much as organisations are paying increased attention to winning customers’ loyalty, preferences and wallets, they are now turning to creating environments conducive to a more engaged and productive workforce,” the IBM Institute for Business Value report said.

“They are designing employee experiences that not only attract and retain crucial talent, but that optimise individual and collective potential in the workplace.”

A number of factors shape the employee experience, including the formation and development of work-based connections and relationships, the design and ongoing use of employees’ physical work environments, and the tools and social platforms employees use to accomplish work-related activities.

The report, Designing employee experience: How a unifying approach can enhance engagement and productivity, found that organisations are examining employee experience from many different perspectives.

Themes that emerged from the report include: linking the employee experience to the organisation’s culture, fostering a collaborative community, and building purpose and value in work.

“They are designing employee experiences that not only attract and retain crucial talent, but that optimise individual and collective potential in the workplace”

The enhanced focus on designing meaningful employee experiences has its roots in five important trends:

1. The ongoing war for talent is intensifying, particularly in emerging disciplines.
Organisations across industries recognise that to attract and retain top talent, they need to differentiate themselves. In addition to traditional competitors, companies in other industries are now also vying for employees with in-demand skills.

2. The Millennial mindset is permeating the entire workforce.
As this latest generation has established itself in the workforce, its expectations for workforce flexibility, use of mobile tools and enhanced performance feedback have spread to other generations.

3. Employees are approaching the workplace as consumers.
Individuals want the same experiences in the workplace that they have as consumers, such as having the use of simple, intuitive technology, the ability to rate and share opinions about products and services, and direct access to decision makers.

4. Organisations are recognising the relationship between customer experience and employee experience.
Many experts from companies we spoke with said that to provide unique, positive customer experiences, they need to create an environment where employees not only feel valued, but are able to perform their jobs effectively.

5. Research continues to show linkages between employee engagement and productivity.
Numerous studies demonstrate that employees who are positively engaged in their work environments are likely to be more productive, achieve higher customer satisfaction scores, produce higher levels of quality, and have lower absenteeism and attrition rates.

“Recruiting and on-boarding processes have a significant impact on attracting and retaining top talent”

The report recommended organisations adopt four steps in order to designing a better employee experience, in order to generate quick successes and prevent larger, more costly challenges in the future.

1. Tune into the voice of the employee using analytics.
The subject of employee experience may suggest the softer disciplines of employee culture and perception, but enhancement efforts should start with analytics, according to the report.

“Your organisation can apply similar techniques to gauging employee experience as those you use to measure and evaluate customer experience,” it said.

“Traditional employee HR information, semi-structured engagement surveys and unstructured comments from internal and external social platforms can provide insights into potential solutions to experience challenges.”

Analytics can help organisations develop insights about specific segments of the population, identify changes in physical and social environments, amplify employee voice and address issues associated with productivity and tool usage.

2. Invest in key touchpoints where employee experience has the greatest impact.
Making changes to employee experience often requires investment, and forces organisations to think about the points in the employee lifecycle that truly make a difference – for employees and the organisation as a whole.

“For some companies, particularly those in traditionally labour-intensive industries, recruiting and on-boarding processes have a significant impact on attracting and retaining top talent,” the report said.

“These organisations depend on recruiting experiences that reflect the employer brand and are able to rapidly absorb employees into the working environment.”

For other companies, experiences related to project assignments and career development will more notably impact retention and productivity.

“Understanding the relevance of different employee experiences, and taking into consideration your organisational strategy and culture, will help you target investment in those areas that are most impactful,” said the report.

“Develop a deep understanding of your user population based on quantitative as well as observational data”

3. Build an employee experience coalition that crosses traditional silos.
Designing integrated experiences around the physical, social and task spheres requires a multi-functional perspective, according to the report.

“In addition to tool design and development, IT needs to provide the hardware and help desk support that makes it easier for employees to perform their jobs,” it said.

“Facilities and real estate services are vital to delivering workspaces that enable individual productivity and collective innovations.

“Marketing must help amplify and communicate the connection between employee and corporate branding.

“And perhaps most importantly, leadership at the line-of-business level must oversee day-to-day employee activities and the overall work environment.”

Employee experience cannot be delegated to a specific supporting organisation; rather, it needs to be woven into the very fabric of the business.

4. Design employee experiences using rapid, iterative design principles.
Lessons from the world of customer experience point to the value of applying agile design principles to enhancing employee experiences, the report concluded.

“First, develop a deep understanding of your user population based on quantitative as well as observational data,” it said.

“Second, document the stages of the employee journey, highlighting the physical, social and task-related interactions that occur at each stage, as well as approaches for addressing limitations or bottlenecks.

“Third, rapidly develop solutions that solve parts of the puzzle over short time periods rather than creating one larger solution that may take months or years to execute.

“Finally, capture feedback and refine the original solution on an ongoing basis.”

For more information see the Designing employee experience: How a unifying approach can enhance engagement and productivity report.

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