We all get it – well at least our HR leaders do – there’s significant value derived from an engaged workforce and its contribution to creating an employee experience that delivers real and sustained business performance. The problem is the inevitability of chasing workplace employee experience trends, some of which are nothing more than semi-imaginary in terms of their relevance or perceived benefits. Let’s cut through the noise and talk about the *boring* foundational elements that need to exist for the successful implementation of employee experience initiatives.

First, a definition

At its most basic, employee experience is a term used to describe the combination of an individual’s interactions, encounters and observations over the course of their employment. Think in terms of customer experience – all of the touchpoints a customer has throughout their buyer’s journey – but in this instance we’re talking about your people and their experiences through each stage of the employee lifecycle, from the moment a job candidate first learns about an organisation till the time they exit. And because organisations love an abbreviation, you’ll often see it referred to as EX.

It starts with listening

The basic tenet of any employee experience programme is listening to your people and engaging them on the things that matter most. What that typically translates to is some variation of an engagement survey or voice of the people type initiative where you are trying to uncover ideas and inspiration to create a better workplace. This not only comes directly from your people, but also from other data sources that deliver insights into why things are happening in your organisation – for example, your HRIS (human resource information system) and metrics like employee turnover.

So, what’s going wrong?

It’s understandable that in the context of a busy organisation and with the focus on business goals, growth and performance, that engagement efforts often shift from “listening and understanding”, to “problems to be fixed”. You’ll see this playing out with lengthy, infrequent, or annual employee engagement surveys comprising generic questions that are received with dislike or distrust by employees.

This type of traditional approach to “listening” is akin to checking your blood pressure once a year and using that information as an indicator of good health. Situations change, priorities shift, an employee’s experience and preferences fluctuate over time – you’ll have a much better focus for your engagement efforts if you are tracking sentiment in near to real time. But it goes deeper than that, in terms of how you interpret the information received and the conclusions drawn – there’s a lot of context that needs to be understood. As the saying goes, “torture the data and it will confess to anything”.

Which leads to the next big roadblock for traditional engagement programmes – observation without action can harm an employee experience more than not asking for feedback in the first place. You won’t receive candid, honest, actionable insights if you simply collect data for organisational KPI or “dashboard” purposes. There’s also the argument that just how in touch are you with your people, if you can’t determine how your employees are doing – you don’t know the pulse of your organisation – without them taking a survey. If you need further evidence to support this stance, then you only need to look at the massive investment globally in employee engagement and feedback systems against the alarming stats of record low engagement rates.

EX programmes are complex. If your organisation does not have the capacity or maturity to do things the right way, then you are probably best served by not doing anything at all (and ultimately suffering the consequences of a disengaged workforce).

What you’ll need most is support

Just like with any organisational transformation project, ownership of your EX programme needs to be company-wide. It is likely to sit with your senior team or be led by your Head of HR, you’ll need the backing and support of the C-suite to truly prioritise employee experience and reap the benefits of what an engaged workplace can deliver. And this includes a commitment to action change which in some instances could translate to investing budget into meaningful initiatives. But don’t stop there, your executive team are just one voice, you also need to create champions of change within your people and line managers, across all teams and departments, and with all employees. What does that look like? Circling back to our earlier discussion on the efficacy of annual employee engagement surveys, best practice would be offering a feedback channel across every stage of the employee lifecycle, from pre-employment through to onboarding, training, tracking performance, right through to departure.

“Well, we already do that…”

If your employee experience strategy was created pre-2019, chances are it is in need of a refresh. Since the pandemic began, the way we work and our view of work, have changed dramatically. What we’re seeing is a huge shift in what employees actually need to do their jobs well and a massive reorientation at organisational level, with a greater focus on people first. Organisations that truly prioritise EX and put effort into building engagement, are taking into account this seismic shift and transforming their strategies and approach to deliver an employee experience that attracts, grows and retains the best talent.

Need help?

How is your organisation tracking on its EX journey? At Decipher Group we work with a range of organisations to help them craft a productive and meaningful employee experience, suited to the unique needs of their business. Let’s talk.

The Decipher Team

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