Today’s post was originally published on Forbes on February 1, 2019. I’ve made some modifications to that original post.
It’s starting to happen. I hear it. I see it. Finally.
It’s not perfect, but we’re making progress. I’ll take progress at this point. It’s better than nothing.
What am I talking about?
Employee experience. It’s finally getting the air time it deserves. Yes, some of that air time is coming in the form of more consultants talking and writing about it, but when they’re doing that, the better we can spread the word about employee experience and point companies in the right direction.
I’ve been talking about employee experience for what seems like forever. For 25 years, I’ve been telling clients they need to listen to employees, understand the experience, and do something about it. In the early years, they’d say, “We’ll focus on the employees later.” In the last year or two, it feels like there’s a greater understanding of the implications of waiting until later. (It’s not perfect, though. I still hear clients say, “Oh, I never thought about that. You’re right. It makes sense that the employee experience drives the customer experience.”)
It’s not just about the impact on the customer experience – it’s also about the impact on employees. It’s about treating them like humans, not like cogs in the wheels of corporate success. It’s ultimately about caring about people like people.
In Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book, Dying for a Paycheck, he cites the following:
In one survey, 61 percent of employees said that workplace stress had made them sick and 7 percent said they had actually been hospitalized. Job stress costs US employers more than $300 billion annually and may cause 120,000 excess deaths each year. In China, 1 million people a year may be dying from overwork. People are literally dying for a paycheck. And it needs to stop.
Yup, employee experience needs to be put at the top of the priority list. Immediately.
What exactly is employee experience? My definition is this:
Employee experience is the sum of all interactions that an employee has with her employer during the duration of her employment relationship. It includes any way the employee “touches” or interacts with the company and vice versa in the course of doing her job. And it includes the actions and capabilities that enable her to do her job. And, importantly, it includes her feelings, emotions, and perceptions of those interactions and capabilities.
Is it benefits and perks? No. Absolutely not. A lot of companies mistakenly think that because they offer free massages and beer on Fridays that they’ve checked the employee experience box.
Is it culture? No. Employee experience and culture are two different things, although culture certainly plays into or affects the employee experience. Culture is values plus behavior. It’s what employees do when no one is looking. It’s like the energy or the vibe of the place. Great cultures make for a great experience, no doubt. Toxic cultures drain and demoralize.
What comprises a great employee experience? The following are some factors that, when a part of an employee’s daily interactions with the employer, contribute to a great experience.
- Growth and development: working together on setting career goals, developing a career plan, and working toward it.
- Feedback and coaching: providing constructive feedback about employee performance and helping them maintain or improve their performance.
- Recognition and appreciation: taking the time to recognize employees for the work they do, sharing their contributions and impact with the rest of the organization, and saying “thank you” or showing gratitude on a regular basis.
- Leadership: a lot of things fall under this one, but I’m thinking about servant leadership (serve your employees and put their needs before your own) and truly human leadership (providing a caring environment where everybody matters).
- Communication: must be open, honest, candid, transparent, and ongoing; this includes sharing information about the company, e.g., sales, revenue, personnel, challenges, etc.
- Camaraderie and collaboration: work together, play together; take real and sincere interest in your staff or your co-workers.
- Contributions: let employees know the impact they are making on their customers, on the business; ensure they understand the company’s “why” and how they contribute.
- Trust and respect: create an environment where employees are both trusted and respected.
- Empowerment: allow employees the freedom to do their jobs; enable them to take the right actions; and give them the authority to make decisions in their day-to-day roles that simplify their work and make things more efficient – for themselves and for their customers.
- Success: help employees be successful by first defining what that means for each individual and then working together to ensure that happens.
- Alignment: employees aligned with the vision, mission, purpose, and values of the business will definitely have a better experience than those who aren’t. Hire accordingly.
Those all sound soft and mushy, right? You might think that – but these are all essential and critical to the employee experience.
And yet, employee experience isn’t just about those things. When you see research about employee engagement and employee experience, the findings often include some of these items. But, there’s more.
Yes, employees want to be wrapped up in one nice big care package of employer love. But they have jobs to do. On top of being cared for, they need to be able to do great work. And when they can’t do great work, they’re not happy, customers feel it, and the business does, too.
So what else is included in employee experience? In a nutshell, the rest of the story is all about tools, processes, policies, resources, workspace, and workplace.
- Tools: desk, computer, tools, software, etc.; not every employee needs the same tools or the same types of tools, e.g., a graphic designer needs different hardware and software then an accounts payable person needs.
- Processes: when there are no processes in place, employees make up things as they go; when there are broken processes, steps get missed, and things are done incorrectly; when there are old and inefficient processes, that can be a waste of time.
- Policies: if you’ve got outdated policies, policies that make employees’ jobs harder than they should be, ambiguous or unclear policies, unfair policies, or any other policy issues, these are inhibitors for employees to do their best work.
- Resources: ensure that employees have the training, education, books, documentation, management support, teamwork, collaboration, etc. that they need to do their jobs well.
- Workplace/workspace: is there a quiet place for employees to work? Is it clean and roomy enough to get work done? Can calls and meetings be completed without distractions or background noise? How’s the temperature and lighting? How’s the parking situation? And more!
At the outset of a client engagement, I interview executives, employees, and customers to get a general assessment of the current situation. When I talk to my clients’ employees, yes, I hear about all of the “care package” items above. But some of the biggest pain points of their experiences are most often about their inability to do a good job. At the heart of it all, employees want to do their jobs and do them well. Unfortunately, they can’t if they aren’t provided with the tools, processes, and resources needed to do that.
If you’re not yet focusing on employees and their experience, it’s time. Employees must come first. Don’t delay!
Image courtesy of Pixabay.