As the physical makeup of the workplace evolves, so does the role of work’s psychological aspects. People want to enjoy their jobs. They want to feel better at work. They want fair and equitable workplaces characterized by inclusivity, wellness, self-care and work-life balance. Increasingly, these aren’t just dream job qualities; they are expectations. There’s an all-encompassing term at the center of this cultural shift: These factors all tie back to what we call employee experience.
What Is Employee Experience?
To get a sense of employee experience, organizations used to be very preoccupied — and some still are — with measuring “employee engagement,” the qualitative and quantitative relationship between employee and employer. But eventually leaders realized they were asking the wrong questions.
To truly understand the health of your workforce, you can’t just focus on the group as an aggregate, asking questions like “Is our talent engaged?” Rather, managers need to focus on individuals, asking questions like “What can I do to help each individual employee in my company or on my team thrive?” When you ask questions like this, and actively seek the answers, you are getting to the heart of employee experience.
Why Is Employee Experience Important?
A 2021 global survey by Willis Towers Watson found that a sweeping 92 percent of employers named enhancing employee experience an important priority at their organizations over the next three years. Before the pandemic, just 52 percent fell into that category. Why is it suddenly so high on the list?
Employee experience is inextricable from so many other factors of success, from team morale, to customer experience; from productivity to talent retention.
In fact, companies that invest in employee experience tend to outperform those that don’t in all manner of ways, including that they are twice as likely to be listed on the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
What Hurts Employee Experience?
A number of factors can hurt employees’ experience in the workplace, from a lack of quality workspace to toxic company culture. Here are three big issues at the forefront of company efforts to make employee experience a top priority.
1. Gloomy, Hard-to-Reach Office Spaces
Is your office space dark, gloomy, hard to get to and full of distraction? It’s the stuff of Hollywood, but it’s reality, too: Nothing kills the soul like spending 40 hours per week in a dreary cube with bad lighting. Workspace is a critical piece of the employee experience puzzle. Organizations don’t just need a nice workspace that’s easily accessible, full of natural light and equipped with amenities. You should be investing in a variety of different types of workspace, for different types of work and different styles of worker, from quiet spaces for deep work, to common areas for collaboration.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a room with a view: Surveys find nearly half of employees said they feel fatigued without natural light in their workspace and over 40 percent feel gloomy without it. By the way, if this space has some of your employees taking long commutes, that’s a problem — research shows long commutes are linked to lower employee wellbeing.
2. Outdated Technology
Forcing employees to jump through hoops with slow, ineffective technology that gets in the way of their productivity or poses barriers to a sense of accomplishment is going to bring employee experience down. G2’s 2019 State of Software Happiness Report put numbers to it. More than half of workers reported dissatisfaction at work due to missing or mismatched software; about a quarter said they “considered looking for a new job” because their tech stack was such an experience killer. One in 10 respondents noted they actually left a job because their employer’s tech was so outdated. Inefficient workplace procedures and policies can have quite the same effect.
3. Poor Workplace Flexibility
At this point, workplace flexibility is approaching non-negotiable status. Survey after survey shows that, in this era of the Great Resignation, employees would sooner quit their jobs than be required to go back to commuting to the same office full-time, five days per week. Especially in light of shifting priorities, the need for work-life balance and the recognition that not everyone thrives in the traditional office environment, companies that still insist on inflexible, one-size-fits-all workspace strategies are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to employee experience.
How to Improve Employee Experience
So, companies say they want to prioritize employee experience. But what actions are they taking to benchmark this metric and act on their findings? Here are just a few of the many ways to improve employee experience.
Design Work Around Team Members’ Needs
Design work not around the company’s needs, but around your team members’ distinct work styles. Some workers prefer autonomy. Some love constant collaboration. Some team members do their best work when they have consistent routines. Others will flourish with flexibility and variety. Get to know your team members and how they work best, then create work policies and strategies that empower everyone to thrive.
Pay Attention to How Employees Feel
The role of the manager or leader in today’s workplace is changing. Expectations now go well beyond 360-degree performance reviews twice per year. Today’s leaders need to step into the role of mentor, or coach, so their team members can be confident enough to approach them and talk about what we’re increasingly recognizing as the employee experience. Tune in to how your employees are behaving, to how their attitudes may be changing and to the quality of their work. If you notice a downturn, be proactive about offering appropriate support. Keep in mind that everyone works differently and each person may need something a little different from you in order to thrive. Learning what that is, for each person on your team, is essential to improving employee experience.
Designing an Employee Experience Strategy
1. Collect the Right Data
Collecting the right data and analyzing that data is key to helping managers understand how to move the dial in the right direction. Want to know what would make your employees happier? Ask them — and ask them in ways wherein they feel comfortable giving you an honest answer. Consider creating employee touch points like employee sentiment surveys or open forums for candid discussion.
2. Promote Organizational Transparency
Want employees to be honest about how they’re doing? Lead by example. Companies that champion thoughtful, effective workplace transparency tend to boost morale and trust within the organization and reduce workplace stress, all of which contributes to better employee experience.
3. Demonstrate Your Investment in Your Employees
Want your employees to invest in your company? Invest in them. Help your team members develop, upskill and re-skill, year after year. When you show your employees you value them by investing resources in their development, you are giving them more to love. According to a survey by CNBC, over 90 percent of workers who have a mentor said they are satisfied with their jobs.
4. Consider Individual Employees’ Talents, Interests and Skills
Employees want to feel recognized, valued and to know their skills are being put to the best use. Consider loosening rigid job descriptions and pairing employees with projects or responsibilities based on their ambitions. Look for ways to ensure your team members have the opportunity to put their heart into their work. Do this by getting to know each team member and taking their talents, interests and skills into account.