“It’s all about the experiences,” is what people say when it comes to life or that “life isn’t made up of how many things you amass but at how many quality experiences you live” - and these sentiments also spill over into the workplace. Experience counts, and this doesn’t only refer to an employees skills set.
According to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, the employee experience is ‘defined’ as follows:
“A productive, positive employee experience has emerged as the new contract between employer and employee. Just as marketing and product teams have moved beyond customer satisfaction to look at total customer experience, so is HR refocusing its efforts on building programs, strategies, and teams that understand and continuously improve the entire employee experience.”
What is an employee experience?
An employee experience is the sum of all the interactions that employees have with their manager, team and company. The complexity hereof will depend on the size and hierarchical set-up of a company.
The term ‘employee experience’ is somewhat nebulous as it is hard to pin down a definitive term because it is subjective to what the employee actually experiences. But for the purposes hereof, let’s use the terms, ‘holistic interactions’ to describe the sum of an employee’s experience or journey at a company.
The impact of employee experiences on companies
Think about the last time you interacted with your favourite retail store outlet? Was the experience okay, awful or great?
As consumers, our experiences shape the way we shop, our habits if you will. And, as a result, we know the difference between an exceptional experience and a I-need-to-write-to-complaints-about-this experience.
Simply put, experiences - customer or employee - matter.
For customers and employees, it impacts their loyalty, happiness, retention, satisfaction, engagement, and shapes their experience at your company.
According to research by Cornell University, humans derive more long-term happiness from experiences than things. They also discovered that experiences can also generate stronger feelings of gratitude.
Bringing this back into the workplace you can see that when employees have positive experiences at work they are likely to have more endearing connections to their companies. Similarly, negative experiences also affect their connections with their immediate managers, peers and the company at large.
Successful companies place a high value on designing great employee experiences. Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience Advantage: How to Win the War for Talent by Giving Employees the Workspaces They Want, the Tools They Need, and a Culture They Can Celebrate analysed 252 companies’ employee experience and published the Top 15 companies with the best employee experience:
So what then is the employee experience?
The employee experience sage, Jacob Morgan, defines the employee experience as: “designing an organisation where people want to show up by focusing on the cultural, technological, and physical environments.”
Distilling this another way, it could also mean the methodology used to deliver exceptional experiences to your employees throughout their employment lifecycle with you - from recruitment, onboarding to employment termination - and how they are impacted by your company’s policies, processes and internal programs.
As Morgan explains, companies will be remiss to assume that employees must show up. As a forward-thinking entity, you must cultivate a desire for them to want to be there.
Employee experience has become a top priority for companies who want to remain relevant, foster innovation and collaboration amongst teams, attract and retain top talent and improve the customer experience (CX). These all eventually lead to overall improvement of your company’s bottom line.
Employee experience focuses on making workplaces more human. It’s not just about stuff at work any longer - the tasks and tools. It’s about ensuring your employees are engaged, have the right tools and tech they need to do their jobs and that their physical work environment delivers more than just infrastructure but daily opportunities for growth.
To this end the employee experience isn’t static - it envelops everything that your employees observe, encounter and feel during their journey at your company.
Developing the employee experience to retain Millennials and attract Gen Z
Millennials are set to make-up 50% of the global workforce by 2020. This growing representation of the generation band has contributed to the rise and importance of the employee experience. Add to this the burgeoning Gen Z crowd and you can see why it’s imperative to have a stellar employee experience to retain the Millennials as well as to attract the next Generation Z.
Millennials see the world differently and they demand different things from their employer - autonomy, flexibility, purpose and more - that’s why companies must redefine their experiences to cater to them. The generations before Millennials were adept in not speaking up for the change they wanted to see in their companies - Millennials not so much.
This group will vocalise their needs and the experiences they seek from their current or future employer. If companies want to actively engage, attract and retain them, it will require them to design a great employee experience.
Become an experience-centric company
First, let’s start by saying that designing an employee experience doesn’t happen at the snap of a few fingers. It is a process that needs careful planning and an in-depth understanding of what your current employee experience is like.
But, while this isn’t an overnight transition, there are a few things that you can start thinking about or exploring:
Understand your current experience: A good way to do this is by first assessing your current company culture. This will help you understand how your employees are experiencing their teams and the company as a whole. Always keep this question top of mind when doing this: What’s the reason they aren’t experiencing the company culture the way leadership intends them to?
Encourage employees to share their experience: Everyone loves a good story but when it comes to employee experiences, it is imperative that you also hear the not-so-good tales as this will help you to shape the experience for your employees for the better. Motivate your employees to share everything - the good, the bad and the ugly. This storytelling can be used as a powerful tool to transform your company culture and design a great employee experience. Add rewards to encourage employees to participate - there’s no better data than from your employees themselves.
Every company that wants to succeed needs to start considering just how their employees are experiencing their company. Remember that a poor employee experience (EX) affects your customer experience (CX) and that certainly impacts the organisational experience (OX).
Multiple generations in the workforce, economic turbulence, disruption - there’s a not-so silent revolution taking place in the workplace today. If you want to drive employee engagement and retain your top talent, then you’re going to need to design an epic employee experience.