Your ultimate guide to employee experience (EX)
What is employee experience?
From the moment someone looks at your job ad, to the moment they leave your company, everything that worker learns, does, sees and feels contributes to their employee experience. For an organization to master employee experience, it must listen to its people at each stage of the employee lifecycle, identify what matters most to them, and create personalized, bespoke experiences.
In a world where money is no longer the primary motivating factor for employees, focusing on the employee experience is the most promising competitive advantage that organizations can create.
– Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience Advantage
The rise of employee experience
The shift from old-school employee engagement to a more holistic approach to employee experience has been driven by a number of factors – including social media, changing demographics, and more volatile economic conditions.
- The millennial generation wants more opportunities to have their say and companies need to get a deeper understanding of a group who feel, think and behave differently to the generations before them.
- The war for talent is fiercer than ever before – there are now more candidates for fewer jobs and experiences are one of the last ways to differentiate yourself as an employer.
- Organizations are changing faster than ever – digitilization, disruption and other economic forces are causing companies to shrink and expand at a more rapid pace. Meaning there’s a need to really understand the impact this is having on people more regularly than once a year.
- There’s an expectation for personalized employee experiences – employees now expect they’ll be treated as a unique person, just like they are when they interact with leading B2C brands as a consumer.
- The explosion of social media and the potential for damaging reviews to go viral has meant workplaces have become more transparent to protect company and brand reputation.
By focusing on improving the employee experience, the world’s leading brands have discovered that there are knock-on effects: not just to traditional HR metrics like turnover and absentee rates, but also on customer experience and overall profitability.
Employee experience definition
Employee experience equals everything a worker learns, does, sees and feels at each stage of the employee lifecycle.
The 5 stages of employee experience
|Recruitment||This includes all the steps that lead to hiring a new employee. Considerations are: how long it takes to hire, how much it costs to hire, the rate of offer acceptance and the hire’s quality. Were your job ads attractive and clear enough to catch the attention and applications of the best candidates? Did your interview process engage and reassure great candidates so they quickly accepted your job offer?|
|Onboarding||Where a new hire gets up to speed with the systems, tools and processes and to grips with the role’s expectations. Most new employees need ‘ramp time’ to get up to speed and become productive in their job. Obviously, the quicker they can do this, the more profitable it is for your organization. An effective onboarding process translates someone’s initial enthusiasm for their new job into a more meaningful, long-term connection to the brand and a commitment to doing great things while they’re there.|
|Development||This is the ongoing stage in an employee’s journey, with individuals developing at different rates and across a variety of skills. As the employee develops within their role, you need to quantify their productivity, ability to be a team player and promotion aspirations. You also want to offer them the chance to expand their skill sets, an increasingly important differentiator for many employees looking to have a ‘portfolio career’ consisting of many different experiences.|
|Retention||Employees are now fully ramped and integrated into the organization. Your challenge then is to keep them performing, developing and contributing to the company’s success. Plus, ensure they’re inspired by and connected to the company’s core vision. It makes economic sense for a company to do all it can to keep hold of existing employees. It can cost in excess of $35k to replace an employee.|
|Exit||Employees can leave for a whole host of reasons: they may retire, move to another employer or make a life change. Every employee will leave your company at some stage, and finding out why is an opportunity to improve and develop the employee experience for current and future employees. Leavers may be more candid about why they’re going as they may feel they have nothing to lose by being brutally honest.|
How to improve employee experience
As a new hire travels along their employee journey to their eventual exit from your organization, there are a few things that will shape their employee experience. Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience Advantage, highlights three basic environments, no matter how large or small your organization, that make up employee experience.
Culture – Difficult to define as each one is different, a company’s culture may be what the C-suite tells you it is, what you understand of its mission, values, practices and attitudes, or even the shop-floor camaraderie when senior management isn’t in. It’s a mixture of leadership style and organizational structure, sense of purpose and the mixture of personalities who work with you. Corporate culture is the vibe that you feel when you come in to work – it can motivate or stifle, energize or drain, empower or discourage its employees.
Technology environment – Imagine firing up a desktop computer on your first day and discovering you’ll be working on Windows XP. Forward-thinking organizations invest in suitable tools for employees to get their work done efficiently, with future developments in mind. The technology landscape is so vast, that it’s easier than ever to give employees the tools they need to maximize their efficiency and make them feel more confident in their role.
Physical workspace – Employees who work 9 to 5 in a windowless, air-conditioned basement will have a very different experience from those who work flex-time in an airy new glass building with an on-site gym, subsidized canteen and chill-out lounges. Employees who are happy in their work environment will concentrate better, have improved well-being and will be more productive. And the physical workspace is not necessarily always in the office: autonomy to work from home or in multiple workspaces can also contribute to a positive employee experience.
The business impact of employee experience
Good employees are your greatest investment, and they’re hard to find. When you’ve battled to attract and hire quality people you don’t want to lose them. Employee churn doesn’t just eat into your HR department’s time but also your business’s bottom line. Investing in positive employee experience is crucial to create an engaged workforce who want to stay with you, and an effective way of reducing staff turnover.
Companies that invest in employee experience are 4x more profitable than those that do not.
– Jacob Morgan
The organizations that invest most heavily in EX are found:
- 11.5x as often in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work
- 4.4x as often in LinkedIn’s list of North America’s Most In-Demand Employers
- 2.1x as often on the Forbes list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies
- 2x as often in the American Customer Satisfaction Index
Source: Jacob Morgan
How to improve employee experience
If you only focus on employee engagement and corporate culture, you’re missing the trick of integrating all your workplace, HR and management practices to focus on the employee experience.
Combine your O- and X-Data
You’ll gather an enormous amount of O-Data (operational data) from an employee throughout their time with you – from basic personal details, to training they’ve received and their salary history. Combine that with X-Data – what that employee tells you about their experience – and you unlock greater insight into why things are happening in your company and what you can do better. For example: O-Data tells you spend $1m on employee perks; X-Data tells you whether your employees like those perks, and what they’d prefer instead.
Enlist C-suite and leadership support
The executives of your organization will be interested in business performance: increased productivity, lower staff turnover, company reputation, excellent scores and a healthy return on investment. Excellent employee experience will deliver all these. Delivering these results in easy to understand dashboards and reports gets your most important stakeholders onside.
Designate ownership to a senior leader or team
Senior HR staff such as learning and development directors and recruitment directors will be the natural choice to own your program and report its data and actions into the executive team. Work with them so that they understand the program’s workings and the actions you intend to take when the data is in.
Listen to all your employees!
Learn about what your employees are doing every day and trial new ways of simplifying work and improving productivity and performance, making every event along their lifecycle engaging, meaningful and personal. Where your company is international, understand that different cultures will have different views and opinions.
Be prepared to invest in workplace environment
Redecorated, light premises; autonomy to work from home; fresh new furniture and tech; real coffee on tap, space and permission to take time out to be creative or make their own customer service decisions; even an office dog. Things that make your employees want to come into work – when you make a habit of asking them what they want through surveys, they’ll tell you.
Replace annual or biannual employee engagement surveys with regular pulse surveys and open feedback platforms. Include candidate interviews, engagement surveys, ongoing performance conversations, and exit interviews to gather real-time understanding of the issues your employees face.
Our insights into the employee experience have moved on leaps and bounds – we can now give leaders the actions they need to focus on to have an impact on their teams.
– Carl Tabisz, Senior Engagement Manager, Asda
How to design your Employee Experience strategy
When you consider that employee experience is ultimately about creating personalized experiences, developing an employee experience framework is a challenge – especially in the face of constant change. Yet if you embrace a growth, rather than fixed mindset and break down your EX strategy into three basic elements, you’ll be able to design and shape a compelling employee experience for your workforce:
- Discover the moments that matter to your employees by collecting regular feedback from across the employee lifecycle
- Make company culture, technology and the physical workplace the best they can be
- Broaden your traditional HR functions to recognize the importance of customer experience and how employee experience impacts it
No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.
– Jack Welch, former CEO of GE
Types of employee experience surveys
It’s important to understand how people feel at different stages of their employee lifecycle: when they join you, as they develop, and as they leave. What experiences have been positive, and where could you, as a company, make improvements?
To deliver personalized experiences, it’s crucial you understand how people feel at different stages of their employee lifecycle.
Employee engagement is a measure of someone’s connection to their work and how they think, feel and act towards helping their organization meet its goals. These reviews are particularly useful at the retention stage of the employee lifecycle: they indicate how involved and engaged established employees feel in their work.
When employees are engaged, it has an impact across the business:
- Increased performance – Research shows that business unit-level engagement is predictive of future customer experience metrics, productivity, and financial performance1
- Lower attrition – Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave2 their organization, which means reduced costs in having to recruit new staff, train them and wait for them to ramp up to full productivity
- Increased revenue – According to Bain & Company, companies with highly engaged workers grew revenues 2.5x as much as those with low levels of engagement3
- A better customer experience – 70% of engaged employees indicate they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs; only 17% of non-engaged employees say the same4
Additional employee engagement resources:
- What is Employee Engagement?
- How to Design an Employee Engagement Survey
- When is the Best Time to Run an Employee Engagement Survey?
- Anonymous vs. Confidential Employee Surveys
Candidate reaction surveys
These evaluate your company’s ad-to-hire process for new employees. A good survey will capture the experiences of both successful and unsuccessful candidates, making everyone feel that they matter and their voices are heard, whatever the outcome. It’ll reveal the effectiveness of your reach with advertising and marketing, brand and recruitment processes. And treating unsuccessful candidates well enhances company reputation, by creating advocates who had a positive experience with you.
Onboarding introduces a new hire to their colleagues, their role, expectations and available resources, and embeds them into your company culture. It’s important to find out what your new hires think of their ‘ramp time’ by using onboarding surveys. Gather first impressions from day one, then regular surveys once new hires have had a chance to settle in and form their opinions. The onboarding experience sets the tone for the whole employee journey and it’s strongly linked with important employee experience and engagement KPIs.
Training feedback surveys
Training sessions are crucial to a successful onboarding process, but they’re also important milestones during the development and retention stages. Gathering data after every training event during the lifecycle will map an individual’s growth, and highlight where the organization could enhance learning and development more efficiently.
More regular reviews – pulse surveys every three to six months – and ‘performance conversations’ with managers are becoming the new normal. Specific metrics could be included in performance review feedback, or the focus could be on developing ‘soft skills’ like how an employee interacts with colleagues.
Additional performance review resources:
- What is Performance Management?
- What Questions to Ask on an Employee Pulse Survey
- How Often to Run Employee Pulse Surveys
Manager and employee performance reviews can reveal only part of the picture of how an employee functions in your organization. 360 reviews include appraisals by a senior, a junior and a peer, as well as a self-assessment. Because they’re anonymous, 360 reviewers are more likely to say what they really think. That said, they are best used only for team development, not to rate and reward individual performance.
Additional 360 review resources:
- Advantages and Disadvantages of 360 Feedback
- Who Should You Ask for 360 Feedback
- What to Ask in 360 Feedback: Example Questions and Template
- Using 360 Reviews for Leadership Development
You’ll probably get your most honest feedback at the exit interview. It’s an ideal opportunity to ask those questions that your organization most needs answers to, particularly where staff turnover is high. You’ll be able to understand your attrition rate better when you can link exit surveys with your other lifecycle surveys such as 360 reviews and employee engagement.
Pay and benefits optimization surveys
In a Glassdoor survey, 60% of employees said that benefits were a major factor when weighing up a new job offer. And 80% of employees would choose better perks over a pay raise. Using pay and benefits surveys, you can find out what your employees really want – and analyze their responses to create a benefits package which helps you attract and retain talent, while also optimizing your overall spend.
Always on surveys
There’s a growing trend for daily surveys that include a handful of very simple questions about how employees are feeling. This real-time snapshot of company morale and employee satisfaction can affect a number of things. For example, if morale seems low one day, this could mean a change in tone from leadership communications.
Employee experience jobs
With companies realizing that improved employee experience leads to increased customer loyalty, profitability and revenues, there’s a new kid on many C-suite blocks along with the CEO, CFO, CMO, CIO and COO – the CXO (Chief Experience Officer).
CXOs take ownership of all aspects of employee experience, and bring them to the executive table alongside finance, IT, operations, HR and marketing. Reports to the CXO include EX managers that deliver on the strategy across the organization. This role ensures that employee feedback is acted upon, and that any changes are communicated to employees effectively. This is fundamental to the whole thing, as demonstrating action creates a cycle whereby employees are more likely to be engaged and deliver feedback.
For us, the focus around employee experience is on creating a seamless experience around the things somebody needs to do as an employee while allowing them to focus on the business we hired them for—development, sales, leading new products [and so on]. We’ve actually created a VP level role to strictly focus on the employee experience.
– Adam Khraling, VP of Global HRIS, American Express