Employee Experience: What does it mean for the return to the workplace?

Employee Experience (EX) is being prioritized by senior leaders as people return to the workplace. Find out why it’s so important and how to create positive EX in your organization.

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT | 6 MINUTE READ
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Employee experience was already on the radar pre-COVID. Eighty-four percent of CHROs backed it as a priority,1 and brands like Zappos and Airbnb were exploring how to utilize it more effectively. But what we thought we knew about employee experience - and what it means for employee engagement - has shifted significantly since the pandemic.2, 3

The world has experienced a fundamental change where employees are looking for more from their workplaces than before. Working styles have changed. Money is no longer the only motivating factor for people rethinking how, when and where they want to work.

So what does this mean for people, and what does it mean for the companies they work for? Let’s start at the beginning.

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What does employee experience mean?

What does employee experience mean?

Employee experience encompasses everything a person feels while part of your company – positive, negative, and neutral. It crosses all touchpoints, from initial recruitment, right through to the exit interview.

EX may be influenced by anything from how you display your values and culture to the public to how you respond to someone’s initial application. Potential new hires make a series of subconscious judgments about your organization from the beginning of their journey with you.

EX may be influenced by anything from how you display your values and culture to the public to how you respond to someone’s initial application. Potential new hires make a series of subconscious judgments about your organization from the beginning of their journey with you.

In the past, those touchpoints or ‘moments’ happened within a physical workplace. But now people are working in a variety of hybrid ways, EX includes the virtual environment too.


So how do you know if your company has the employee experience advantage? Here are eight initial questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are your people happy at work with a good sense of wellbeing?
  2. Do they feel inspired by your company, its leaders, and its vision?
  3. Do they trust you?
  4. Do they feel they have a voice and that they are listened to?
  5. Are they engaged with your organization’s approach to inclusion, equity, and diversity?
  6. Is the work meaningful to employees aof all ages and backgrounds?
  7. Does your company and its people have a growth – rather than fixed – mindset?
  8. Do people feel they are making a difference in the lives of colleagues or customers?
What’s the difference between employee experience and employee engagement?

What’s the difference between employee experience and employee engagement?

The terms employee experience and employee engagement (EE) are often used interchangeably, but the two concepts are different. A simple way to think about it is that employee engagement is the result of good employee experience. So, if EE is one of your key deliverables as a manager, EX is going to be an important element that feeds into that.

It’s also useful to consider that EX is about an employee’s perception of work, rather than any initiatives intended to keep them engaged.


Forbes defines employee engagement as top-down and EX as bottom-up. In this case, the employee's pre-existing tendencies are the basis on which you can build a good EX. So, a good employee experience strategy would be to stop choosing people based on whether they're 'a good fit' for your pre-existing company culture and values. It's more organic than that.

The employee experience advantage

The employee experience advantage

Good EX can impact many areas of your business, from how hard someone works and collaborates to how invested they are in overall company performance. A few important areas where your company can gain the employee experience advantage include:

Culture

Authenticity and integrity are important elements of employee experience – and it starts at the top. Leaders need to be honest and fair and demonstrate the correct values for positive workplace culture. As some members of the team return to offices, some stay at home, and others work a mixture of the two, building culture with hybrid teams will be essential.


As Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb, puts it, "Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It is living the core values when you hire; when you write an email; when you are working on a project; when you are walking in the hall. We have the power, by living the values, to build the culture." 4

Recruitment

A great EX strategy supported by employee experience software can take recruitment to the next level. The best way to attract new talent is by having a straightforward recruitment process and a clear vision that potential employees can identify with. It also helps if your current and ex-employees speak highly of their experience with you.

Absence reduction

EX is a key component when it comes to staff absence. If your people feel connected and committed to your company and its goals and values, they’re less likely to take unnecessary time off. This, in turn, will help prevent a dip in productivity and overall team morale.

Revenue

Along with its cousin, customer experience, excellent employee experience can have a profound impact on revenue. According to a Salesforce survey, companies that prioritized EX to deliver better customer experience achieved 18 times faster revenue growth.

Productivity

A happy worker is a more productive worker – some studies say by up to 20% 4 – so the better your EX, the more productive your employees will be.

Innovation

Innovative companies have a competitive advantage, and companies with good EX can be twice as innovative as those with low EX scores.

Retention

Did you know that an estimated 10% of people leave a new role within six months of starting? 5 It's hugely expensive to keep rehiring for the same positions, so the work of your Head of EX doesn't stop once they've hired and onboarded a new employee.

Customer experience

There's a clear link between employee experience and customer experience. Happy employees give customers a better experience. An MIT survey found that organizations with the highest EX had double the customer satisfaction scores of organizations with the lowest EX.

Employee experience management

Employee experience management

Job titles like 'employee experience manager' and 'head of employee experience' show just how important EX has become. So much so, it's now a recognized discipline. So what do these people do?


An employee experience manager, for example, will work alongside traditional HR, IT and marketing teams to deliver the employee experience strategy. In a nutshell, they're responsible for positively and deliberately influencing every touchpoint or 'moment' in the employee lifecycle.


As Susan Peters, Senior VP of HR at General Electric, said: ‘We define employee experience simply as seeing the world through the eyes of our employees, staying connected, and being aware of their major milestones."

How do you improve employee experience?

How do you improve employee experience?

If you want to improve employee experience as people return to the workplace, there are several essential stages in the employee lifecycle you can look at. Here are four of them:

  1. Recruitment

    EX starts from the moment a potential employee sees one of your job ads or hears about your company from a friend or contact. It runs right through the application and interview process, even down to how and when you respond after first meeting a candidate. Do you email immediately to thank them for coming in, or do you leave them hanging for weeks while you're interviewing other people?

  2. Onboarding

    By now, most companies know the importance of a great onboarding experience, so it's one area where leaders usually give EX a fair amount of consideration. Mentor and buddy schemes are well-established tools for keeping newbies' enthusiasm up and helping them feel confident, capable and part of the team.


    Another tip is to make sure you tailor the tech you provide to their needs, that it's ready to use immediately and it's easy to pick up and get started.

  3. Development

    Companies that take EX seriously invest in excellent internal communication. They tend to be moving away from traditional annual performance review structures in favor of more frequent employee experience or 'pulse' surveys that give managers immediate feedback.


    They're also more progressive regarding recognition and rewards, making them more frequent and a lot more bespoke. Some companies give people social recognition on their platforms which can boost happiness and motivation.

  4. Exit

    Exit interviews are a great opportunity to gather important feedback about EX. You may gain valuable insight into many stages in the employee lifecycle, like where you can make quick wins or find out where longer-term changes may be necessary.

In short, it helps to think of employee experience as human experience. Can your people find purpose and meaning in their roles? Are they able to enjoy an enduring connection with your organization or brand? And do you see them and treat them as individuals? Give your people the gift of a memorable and meaningful time with your organization and watch employee engagement grow.

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1 "2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends", Deloitte: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/cz/Documents/human-capital/cz-hc-trends-reinvent-with-human-focus.pdf

2 "The Importance of Company Culture at Airbnb", 6q.io: https://inside.6q.io/the-importance-of-company-culture-at-airbnb/
3 Business Insider, 2020: https://www.businessinsider.com/zappos-tony-hsieh-paid-new-workers-to-quit-the-offer-2020-11
4 Brian Chesky, Medium: https://medium.com/@bchesky/dont-fuck-up-the-culture-597cde9ee9d4#.qfc0aqqnr
5 Social Market Foundation, 2015: http://smf.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Social-Market-Foundation-Publication-Briefing-CAGE-4-Are-happy-workers-more-productive-281015.pdf?
6 CultureAmp: https://www.cultureamp.com/blog/cost-of-employee-turnover
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