Employee experience as a best practice has come into its own in the last few years, drawing lessons from User Experience and Customer Experience constructs.
What exactly is it – more importantly, how is it different from employee engagement and similar earlier concepts? How is it implemented and what are the gains for the organization? These are some of the concepts being looked at in this article from an implementation point of view.
How Critical is Employee Experience as a Strategy?
We live in the experience economy. Consumers and employees are empowered and have access to information and choice like never before. They connect, absorb, evaluate and make decisions quickly.
It has become key to cater to all stakeholders – external and internal – community, shareholders, employees, customers.
Employee experience is a core part of business strategy today to consistently meet and exceed customer expectations in a rapidly changing and uncertain world.
What Comprises Employee Experience?
Employee experience comprises how employees interact with various events, processes, and systems in the company. Are they easy to interact with and do they leave positive energy behind? Are they “frictionless” – can they be navigated with ease?
Specifically four components together comprise an experience:
- Conversations: what conversations do employees have about the company while going through situations
- Thoughts: what are the employees thinking in specific situations? It could be individual as well as formation of collective conscience and thoughts. Certain conclusions and perceptions – regardless of whether they are right or wrong, are echoed by groups of employees.
- Emotions: what kind of emotions and feelings do they go through, both positive and negative during the course of work and as they interact with others in the organization. What is the frequency and intensity of these emotions? Emotions shape and color experiences.
- Actions: Finally, what actions are taken by the employees to express themselves? These actions are driven by thoughts and emotions. When thoughts and emotions are positive, outcomes are also positive. When emotions and thoughts are negative, the outcomes are lack of productivity, absenteeism, disengagement, and attrition. These in turn lead to customer dissatisfaction and impact the company’s business.
How Employee Experience Forms and Takes Shape
While experiences are spontaneous, they are first classified by the human mind as positive or negative and then crystallize to form an opinion which in turn results in an action. Actions could have a positive or negative impact on the business.
A typical cycle looks like this: Experience > negative or positive classification > continuous reinforcement > formation of opinion > decision > impact and result
For example, when an employee has consistent positive experiences, they form a positive perception about the job and their behavior is constructive and positive toward customers e.g. solving a problem, exceeding expectations, or being proactive.
In short, consistency is the key component of employee experience– Positive experiences delivered consistently, can add up to a huge net positive impact on business results.
10 Do’s and 5 Don’ts About Employee Experience
Do’s in Creating a Great Employee Experience
- Listen Intentionally- It’s important to continuously listen to employees in various forums – one to one, groups, open house sessions, and through feedback collection at each stage within the employee lifecycle journey as well as after key milestones and important events. Intentional and strategic listening also requires developing a nuanced understanding of the audience and listening to their specific conversations, thoughts, emotions, and actions. Depending on where they are in the employee journey, these could be quite different.
- Follow a Data-Driven Approach- Best employee experience interventions are data-driven. Data needs to be collected on an ongoing basis and looked at regularly. Most traditionally managed companies look at data as an afterthought and analyze post-event metrics at a snapshot in time – often too late to influence the outcome. In order to build great experiences, it is important to look at real-time data even as it dynamically evolves and use it to shape emerging stories. This requires building a management culture with an appetite for data and observation; and replacing snap judgments and prior biases with scientific temperament and evidence-based decisions.
- Pay Attention to Small but Significant Moments- Certain situations are called “micro” moments because they occur in a flash. However, their impact in shaping the overall experience can be disproportionately high. Examples of such moments include receiving a call on your birthday; the feeling evoked by reading the subject line of an email; the stress experienced by some people when asked to switch on video during a call; the quality of voice – pitch, tone, volume, pace – of the very first call received from the company, etc
- Demonstrate Deep Empathy- Empathy is a powerful contributor to shaping and influencing an experience. There are various levels of empathy – how it is experienced – felt, mirrored, and expressed. At the deepest level, empathy can be experienced as “oneness” and can be unforgettable and life-changing. Empathy also involves studying the persona, pain points, and aspirations of employees.
- Maintain Consistency- Consistency of positive experiences gives the organization shape and character as a caring entity. Values are reflected in every gesture. Consistency reinforces positive experiences and gives them a familiar and comforting texture.
- Aim to Provide a Personalized and Differentiated Experience- Personalization involves creating choices and preferences for people based on their likes, life stage and specific needs. Certain benefits can be catered to specific groups of employees based on demographic information such as age, language, location, etc. Such benefits could be related to medical and life insurance, professional certification and education, family-related perks, housing, commute, lifestyle, health and wellness, fun and engagement, flexible work arrangements, work set up etc.
- Build Credibility- The mantra for building credibility is to “do as you say and say as you do”. Promises should be kept and experience should be delivered as promised. In general, as with customers, “under-promise and over-deliver” is a good practice. Credibility is a direct outcome of trust and transparency and organizations which invest in developing trust and credibility perform better in the longer term.
- Manage Expectations- Current workforce is a multi-generational one and expectations are different for each one. Millennials require more hand-holding, coaching, and support. They expect frequent feedback, clear expectation setting, and instructions, guidance, early and often rewards and recognition, work-life balance, and a variety of experiences. The baby boomers on the other hand look for job stability, upskilling, and higher-level challenges.
- Train Everyone- It is important to train everyone in delivering employee experience. When people work carefully to delight internal and external stakeholders in all the interactions, the cumulative impact of employee experience goes up.
- Link with Customer Experience – It is important to demonstrate the connection between employee experience and customer experience. Everyday many small and big actions from employees lead to a great customer experience. When employees know the impact of their actions and how they link with the bigger organizational strategy, they are more motivated to deliver positive experiences- for themselves and for others.
Don’ts for Employee Experience
- Don’t Over Promise and Under Deliver- While building experiences it is important to not overpromise and under deliver. Experiences are first created in imagination by the expectations set and then occur in real life. So there is a danger of setting up huge expectations or an imagined scenario that would be too difficult to fulfil. Another factor to bear in mind is that the value of the same experience goes down the second, third or fourth time. What was once a pleasant surprise and a positive wow experience has now become the norm and to be expected. This requires constant innovations and raising the bar to meet elevated expectations.
- Don’t Lose Touch with Employees- Pandemic has led to a distributed workforce operating from hundreds of locations and places. While communication and collaboration technology has evolved to keep pace, it is not enough. All digital and electronic communications have their own fatigue. Constant electronic communication develops stress, has health implications, and an impact on the quality of relationships. Great experiences can only be developed with deep and genuine relationships.
- Don’t Use Automation Where Human Touch is Necessary – With plenty of electronic communication avenues present, there is a temptation to automate and use modern technology for repetitive communication. While technology can enhance experience, using automation where human touch is necessary will dilute employee experience.
- Don’t Go by Assumptions- In the absence of data and feedback, there is a tendency to go by assumptions while designing experiences. This results in mismatches between what is expected and delivered.
- Don’t Replace Employee Engagement with Employee Experience- Sometimes companies use the term employee engagement interchangeably with the employee experience. Employee engagement activities and events are performed under the banner of employee experience. Employee experience comprises mapping employee journey, being aware of the conversations, thoughts, feelings experienced by employees and specifically designing experiences to deliver positivity.