A long, long time ago in a land far far away...just joking, let’s not go that far back!
Instead let’s go back about 200 years ago to the early 1800’s, to a time that we now call the pre-Industrial Age.
Why so far back?
We want to take you on a journey across the four eras that the workplace has been through…
First came the era of employee utility
At this point in time, the only question that HR departments were trying to answer went something like: “What is the bare minimum that employees need, in order to do their work?”
This meant that if you worked a manual job, you would be given a hammer and some nails and would be put to work immediately.
Then came the Industrial Age, which was marked by the first shift that mankind made to powered, special-purpose machinery, factories and mass production.
The second was the era of employee productivity which came along with the emergence of the Industrial Age.
The question for HR now became “how can we get the most out of our employees i.e. “what do employees need to do work faster and better?”
The answer? better tools. So they took away your hammer and nails and upgraded you to a power drill.
When companies realised that employees weren’t happy with just simply going to work and drilling holes into things, they had to now then find an answer to the issue of “how can we make employees happy so that they perform better?”
This was the era of employee engagement!
Companies started providing football tables for recreation and giving away free soda 24/7.
This was cool at first and employees could brag to their friends about these kinds of perks.
But every other company caught up and started offering better perks, therefore this tactic was no longer enough to keep employees engaged.
Which brings us to today:
We find ourselves in the era of employee experience and the question that is causing HR a big headache is: “how can we create a company where people want to show up versus where they have to show up?”
And the answer to that?
Create positive employee experiences.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, what exactly is the employee experience?
Employee experience is the sum of everything an employee experiences throughout their connection to an organisation.
It is literally every single interaction that forms, reinforces or changes the perception of the employee.
From the time they read your job offer on LinkedIn all the way to the last interaction after the end of their employment - and everything in between.
Employee experience, when done well will help new starters reach their full potential much faster and keeps them in the organisation for longer.
The million dollar question on your mind right now is:
What can we do to go about creating these positive employee experiences?
Don’t fret, we are here to map it out for you!
There are 5 ways in which you can create a positive employee experience, each powerful in its own right.
Get all 5 of them working together in harmony, however, and you might just become the best organisation to work for in the universe.
Let’s unpack these:
Trust is the oxygen on which any relationship runs on but it’s going to be difficult for you to get it right from the get-go.
You see, an asymmetrical relationship has always existed between the employer and the employee.
It is asymmetrical because the employer is always in the position of having more information than the employee, thus a foundation of distrust and misaligned expectations is usually the starting point between any employer and employee.
Learning to manage all expectations between employer/employee and employee/employer reduces this asymmetrical gap and thus increases the level of trust.
Strive to build a work environment where positive interactions between coworkers are encouraged.
Employees perform better when they have the right support from management and their co-workers. This is because they know that there is someone who can help them out when they get stuck.
An added benefit is that turnover is also reduced, as a survey revealed.
While employees tend to change jobs more easily, loyalty and engagement to organisations depend mostly on working relationships more than on economic incentives.
The meaning that each employee derives from their work is subjective and thus will always vary from person to person, but there are ways that a company can help facilitate this.
You need to ensure that people’s skills and talents are being fully utilised and that there is an alignment to shared core values between the employee and the company.
When people have a sense of meaning in their work, they become more committed to the organisation they work for and have a greater drive for producing results.
4. Recognition, feedback and growth
Employees will always be searching for fulfilment in their work; For a reason to wake up and go back to the office every day...
You need to move your company to the opposite end of the spectrum, from single annual review, way past “more frequent reviews”, to continuous feedback.
Learn to give constant feedback and re-affirmations.
Provide opportunities for growth, not necessarily in job titles but also in scope and difficulty of work.
People are looking to contribute more, to take on bigger challenges and to lean deeper into the work...provide those opportunities to them and you may be pleasantly surprised!
5. Work/life balance
People don’t usually hate their jobs or the work that they’re doing. They usually grow to despise the fact that they had to stay at the office racking up “bum in seat” time and missing out on little Jonny’s first soccer game.
People who feel that they have more say in how they do their work whilst still being allowed the opportunity to take care of their life responsibilities respond in a proactive way, in that they actually become more productive.
This is in line with the social exchange theory; basically, the organisation offers something that benefits the employee, and the employee reciprocates in turn by going beyond the call of duty.
So how will the move toward employee experience drive your competitive advantage?
A competitive advantage is literally the ability to outperform your competition because you have developed distinctive competencies that are fundamentally difficult for anyone else to replicate.
In an age where everything is basically becoming a commodity, where if you invent something today, it will be reverse-engineered and replicated tomorrow. People are fast becoming the only way you will ever be able to achieve a competitive advantage.
A positive employee experience will give you a competitive edge in attracting recruits and engaging them in ways that encourage them to stay with their organisations.
We would go as far as to say that people are your ultimate competitive advantage!
Because companies that take care of these details become more profitable, have lower turnover, tend to be smaller (indicating higher productivity) and see more revenue…in short: they have a significantly higher ROI!