Everything You Need To Know About Employee Experience

Employee experience (or ‘“EX”) is a term that has gained popularity recently in the HR space. It sounds similar to employee engagement, another HR buzz word, but the two terms are actually not synonymous. There is, however, a critical connection between the two, and prioritizing your employee experience should be a high priority as it directly impacts employee engagement (and with it retention, and productivity, and sales, and performance).

Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered: Here’s an overview of exactly what employee engagement (EX) is, as well what it means for HR, the business, and—most importantly—the employees.

What is Employee Experience?

What is employee experience, exactly? According to Bersin by Deloitte, it’s “the sum total of all touchpoints an employee has with his or her employer, from the time of being a candidate (active or passive) to becoming an alumnus or alumna.” In other words, the employee experience encompasses an employee’s entire journey with your company, from recruitment to the exit interview.

Don’t let this broad definition overwhelm you. Focusing on three main workplace environments—the physical, the cultural, and the technological—can help you pinpoint where you are strong and which areas are ripe for improvement. In order to have a meaningful impact on employee engagement, all three of these pillars must be strong and in line with your corporate mission and values. They all play a role in shaping your employees’ experiences and satisfaction.

Every company, whether they are aware of it or not, plays an active role in their employees’ experiences.

Employee Experience vs. Employee Engagement

When employees have a great experience at work, they are more likely to be engaged with their work. It’s as simple as that. When employees have a safe and comfortable work environment, are engrossed in a positive and supportive culture, and have the technology to do their jobs efficiently, they experience a deeper commitment to their company and its values. This commitment results in positive spillover effects, motivating employees to engage more with their work and to become more productive.

Essentially, employee engagement is a product of positive employee experience.

And while you can only measure employee engagement, you can proactively design employee experience.

How Employee Experience Impacts Customer Experience

The relationship between employee experience and employee engagement is direct, but HR professionals (and their C-suite executives) sometimes forget that employee experience also directly impacts a multitude of other business functions.

Happy employees lead to happy customers, for example. Research clearly shows that engaged employees create better products and provide better customers service than their non-engaged peers. In fact, companies who provide an excellent customer service have, on average, one and a half times more engaged employees than similar companies with poor customer experiences. J. W. Marriott famously said, “Take care of associates and they’ll take care of your customers,” and our founder and former CEO Scott Scherr built Ultimate’s entire legacy on the foundation of taking care of people first, so they can take care of the customers, who in turn take care of the shareholders.

Benefits of a Positive Employee Experience

Other advantages of a strong employee experience include:

  • Winning the war for talent. With record-low unemployment rates and a strong economy, today’s jobseekers are looking for the jobs they want, not the jobs they need. Quits have outpaced layoffs two-to-one for years and companies have had to continue improving their benefits and salary options to stay competitive as they search for talented candidates. And with review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed sharing honest feedback about what it’s like to work for a company, today’s savvy candidates are choosing to work for companies that have a reputation for having strong employee experiences.
  • Retention. It’s not just recruiting talented people that’s difficult in today’s market, it’s keeping them. Almost a quarter of employees switch jobs every 3-4 years (and some much more frequently than that), which means that employers must active ensure they’re keeping relationships and opportunities strong. Research suggests that the an employee’s first year and a half at a new company are crucial for setting the stage for long-term engagement and loyalty. A high-quality, strategic employee experience encourages workers to stay longer at your organization. Show your people, from the very beginning, that you care, you value them, and you are invested in their experiences. They’ll invest in your organization in kind.
  • Productivity. Every employee interacts with HR on a regular basis, whether through obtaining their paychecks, requesting paid time off, submitting sick leave, inquiring about professional development, etc. When executed poorly, these tasks can become confusing or time-consuming, taking employees away from the work they were actually hired to do and exacerbating them simultaneously. Slow processes and extraneous paperwork get in the way of productivity for everyone involved, but HR service delivery and similar tools can nip these issues in the bud. When a company provides fast and easy HR experiences, employees have more time to focus on their real job (and your HR team is freed to focus on high-value work). Everybody is more productive and everybody wins.

How to Design Employee Experience

At Ultimate, we believe strong employee experiences rely on design thinking - a process that focuses on building a sustainable solution or desired outcome rather than simply removing the perceived problem. A carefully-designed employee experience helps you avoid fixing the wrong problem. Here is a step-by-step process for improving employee experience that’s rooted in design thinking:

  • Step 1: Determine your employee experience goals – You should align your employee experience goals with your business objectives to get the greatest ROI. Just as it’s important to invest in your business, it’s important to invest in your people. Build your business case by showing specifically how employee experience can improve talent acquisition, cost savings, productivity, and more. The data is there, and the data speaks volumes. People success equals business success.
  • Step 2: Map the employee journey - To get a full picture of the impact of employee experience, you can start by mapping out the entire employee journey at your organization, from the recruiting process to retirement. You can then evaluate each engagement point. Ask yourself, what steps need to be made in order to enhance the employee experience? How do I want the employee experience to evolve and advance? Perform a gap analysis to determine what needs to change.
  • Step 3: Plan your approach: Once you have a clear path for your organization’s employee experience, figure out which steps achieve that goal. Think about opportunities to make lengthy, manual processes simple and automated. You should constantly be asking yourself: How can I make this process easier for my people?
  • Step 4: Implement technology - Keeping up with modern technology is a critical component to ensuring a great employee experience. Technology alleviates tedious and trivial processes that get in the way of more important work. Technology also provides easy access to information about HR policies to employees. In essence, technology leads to greater productivity, and it allows people to become more self-sufficient and allocate their resources to more critical tasks. When employees spend less time on lengthy processes and more working on the task at hand, they have a better employee experience, and are better at their jobs, too.
  • Step 5: Measure and evaluate - This step is crucial in creating a positive employee experience. Revisit the goals you defined in Step 1 and make sure you’re tracking these metrics so you can test the efficiency of your organization’s employee experience. Seeing great results? Fantastic! Remember: there’s always opportunities to keep improving.

What is Digital Employee Experience

Employees expect their experiences at work to mirror their experiences at home. They expect access to the same modern technology in the workplace that they receive as consumers. They want to get things done quickly and at their own pace. They want to be able to access information easily and they want personalized experiences.

The purpose of the digital employee experience (DEX) is to close the gap between how people get things done in their personal life and how they get things done in the workplace. Employees want to be proactive with information once they access it, without having to jump through another set of obstacles.

Remember those three workplace environments from above? The digital employee experience is part of the technological work environment. While it’s only one of three crucial considerations, the digital employee experience is often a great place to start as it can have a much faster impact on overall employee experience than the other two. It takes time to build a welcoming and open physical environment, and it takes even longer to cultivate a strong, unified culture within the workplace. But technology? The moment your employee has a digital experience—positive or negative—it leads a lasting impression that can define his or her experience at your organization.

The Future of Employee Experience

Technology is advancing exponentially. In order to maintain a positive employee experience, employers must keep up with rapidly evolving technology. We now have technologies such as Siri or Alexa that allow us to have more human-like experiences with our devices. These conversational experiences, though initially a bit strange to get use to, provide a more natural interaction between humans and technology.

Text messaging has also become one of the most common methods of communication, and employees expect access to this kind of ease in the workplace. Communication technology is becoming more and more human-like to provide an enhanced and more natural experience for users. Employees expect to communicate using these channels in the workplace, since they use these technologies outside the workplace as well. New communication technologies allow HR to mimic the way employees communicate in their personal lives.

In order for HR to lead the future of employee experience, they must first become comfortable with emerging technologies, such as AI and RPA. They must also be on the lookout for an employee touchpoints that can be improved and simplified. Technology is a great aid for HR, as it has allowed them to speed up many processes that have previously been manual and repetitive. Advancing technologies allow HR to allocate their time, energy, and resources on improving the employee experience, increasing employee engagement, and making an impact on the organization and its people.

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