A defining moment for employee experience — now’s the time to prove its value
Before COVID-19 and the shift towards hybrid working, organizations were already competing for talent based on employee experience. Now, given the demands of working through a pandemic, and entering a new era of work, the need to be in tune with what people want and need at work has never been so acute.
It all comes down to empathy, and over the past 18 months it’s been on the rise — and it’s safe to say that’s a good thing.
But being empathetic and listening to people comes with a higher expectation of action. After all, why listen if you don’t plan to do anything about what you’ve heard?
This rise in empathy is not just increasing expectations from employees who feel heard and want better experiences as a result. Boards, CEOs, and shareholders now expect the organization to deliver on employees’ most important needs as a matter of good business strategy: They know that great people experiences translate to reduced attrition, better CX, and higher team performance.
In our most recent study, we found 90% of companies are currently actively engaged in efforts to better understand and manage the human experience of work.
It’s become a hot topic both inside and outside of companies. For example, in the UK the hotly anticipated IPO of food delivery service Deliveroo failed to live up to early expectations after investors raised questions about how its couriers were treated.
Employee experience is now headline news and while the growing consensus from all stakeholders is encouraging, it puts leaders that own employee experience (EX) in the spotlight.
At this inflection point, EX teams will either ascend into the shortlist of value-creating functions in their organization, or be side-lined for a few years as the attention of the c-suite, and the investments they’re making could quickly divert to other areas.
Worse still, their organizations risk losing their best people as inaction drives employees to look elsewhere for better experiences.
So, how do EX leaders rise to the challenge and demonstrate their enormous potential to drive growth in the post-COVID economy? Simple – EX teams need access to a new generation of tools that provides ongoing ‘experience intelligence’.
The ‘Experience Intelligence’ Breakthrough
Think about the volume of experiences we have at work, and the diversity of people having them on any given day. It’s a huge number.
Traditionally, EX leaders have attempted to ‘reverse engineer’ engagement data - collected through annual or pulse surveys – into Experience data.
These efforts have failed, mostly because engagement and experience are different things: Engagement is a measure of an employee’s commitment to the organization, while Experience is the sum of interactions individuals have with an organization as they perceive, understand and remember them.
We need to start with better visibility into these experiences. Our research ‘Advancing the Human Experience at Work’ found this was a top priority for organizations too. Talking to over 100 EX leaders, the top priority across the group for the next 12-18 months was to ‘Gain a deeper understanding of the phenomena of the human experience of work and how to approach experiences in order to make a meaningful impact for internal customers’.
A new approach to listening
To really understand the experience, and where you can make a meaningful impact, you need a listening strategy that captures the complexity of human experiences. And you need to be able to translate that into impact through both rich and insightful analysis on the back end, as well as tools and processes to take meaningful action on what you hear.
Experience data is different. Capturing it requires a listening strategy more akin to that of a customer experience program rather than a traditional engagement approach that surveys employees regularly to assess their commitment to the organization.
While engagement or pulse surveys are still a cornerstone of any listening program, you need to extend your listening capabilities to capture the full voice of your employees. That includes first-hand experience feedback on the friction employees might encounter when, for example, they return from parental leave or solve a customer issue while interacting with new workplace technology (and let’s face it over the past 18 months we’ve all been there!)
Experience data reflects the experience people have during moments of their life at work, as they interact with digital, human, and physical elements of the ecosystem that surrounds them. It all adds up to form a perception of the overall experience they have at the company.
Experience Intelligence adds a layer of analytics, benchmarking, and visualization to experience data to better understand highs, lows, and gaps in the experiences provided across the organization. It provides a granularity that, when combined with operational, pulse, and engagement data, gives real insight into the actions an organization can take to improve the experience of people at work.
Identify and improve ‘moments of highest impact’
At TI People, we’ve analyzed more than 1 million data points to identify the moments and interactions that have the biggest impact on people’s perceptions of their experience at work. We found that everyday work (ie. ‘I perform my job) has the biggest impact.
For example, activities that are central to one’s day-to-day work (such as ‘serving a customer’ for customer-facing employees) are more than 3X more influential on the experience than performance management moments; 4.5X more influential than L&D moments, etc…
While traditional ‘moments that matter’ do matter and rightfully receive much time and attention from HR teams, they have less of an impact on the overall experience than other less visible moments embedded in one’s job.
All these interactions matter, of course. But what we’re seeing is that by prioritizing where you invest your resources, you can drive greater impact by focusing on the moments that matter most.
Expand experience listening beyond ‘corporate services’
If enabling people to better perform in their jobs is a key experience priority, EX leaders should drive a two-pronged experience listening strategy to find out:
- Where are corporate services (HR, IT, Facilities, Comms, etc.) delivering or not delivering ‘consumer-grade’ experiences to employees?
- Where could business leaders minimize friction in the daily workflow of their frontline teams to improve their experience and consequently improve CX?
It’s a similar approach to how a customer experience team would set up listening posts at key moments along a customer buying journey to understand the impact of every interaction whether it’s browsing a website, completing a purchase, or the order being delivered.
Armed with insights provided by EX intelligence tools, EX leaders should partner with those leaders and departments in the organization to act on those insights, make meaningful impact and measure progress over time.
Prioritize and commit to experience improvements
Real impact starts with prioritizing your EX efforts based on a rich experience dataset from across the employee journey that identifies the gaps between people’s expectations and their experiences of work.
But understanding which moments actually matter the most to people, which are most dysfunctional and why, is just the start — you need a lasting commitment from senior executives to taking action.
As you shift to a new paradigm in understanding how well your organization is meeting the needs of people, leveling up your experience intelligence will help you frame and prioritize the investments Boards and CEOs are now placing in the employee experience.
Measuring the impact of these investments with Experience KPIs will ensure you capitalize on this defining moment, and in the long run, establish the emerging EX function as a contributing driver of healthy growth for the organization.
Original research: 2021 employee experience trends
February 15, 2023
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