If You Have Employees, Then You Need An Employee Experience Program

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I originally wrote today’s post for Medallia. It appeared on their site on August 31, 2022.

Employee experience is a hot topic right now. Finally, right? The Great Resignation really turned the focus onto employees and on understanding what’s driving them to switch jobs, move to other industries, or leave the workforce altogether. A lot of studies have been conducted to better understand what employees are thinking about their jobs and the workplace. Sadly, it’s too late for some, but the learnings are important as we consider the future employee experience.

In October 2021, Medallia conducted research among 1,471 workers in the United States who either recently left their jobs or were thinking about quitting. The findings are highlighted in their report, Insights Into the Great Resignation: Understanding Why Employees Leave Their Jobs, but the top five reasons employees leave included:

  1. the nature of their jobs in general
  2. their workloads
  3. concerns about pay equity
  4. not feeling appreciated
  5. limited career advancement opportunities

These findings are comparable to what I’ve seen in other research, as well.

MIT Sloan School of Management also took a look at a ton of data recently across a couple of different sources to find the greatest predictors of turnover during the Great Resignation. Most of the conversations had revolved around wages and employee dissatisfaction with those wages being at the root of the Great Resignation. Instead, compensation was actually 16th on the list of predictors of turnover. Corporate culture was the top predictor, specifically a toxic corporate culture, and was 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover.

So, you’ve got a lot of data points and a lot of details to consider as you think about employee retention and the employee experience. But what exactly is employee experience? Here’s how I define it:

It’s 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.

Those actions and capabilities mentioned in the definition are some of the things that both McKinsey and MIT highlighted in their research: career development, meaningful work, knowing how the work I do impacts the business, wellness/well-being, leaders who care, open and honest communication, camaraderie and collaboration, and more – not to mention having the tools, training, and resources to do the job and do it well.

One thing that you must know about the employee experience is that it doesn’t just happen by accident. Well, it does, but it likely isn’t the experience employees want or expect. The experience that employees deserve is one that is designed to be that way – based on their needs and desired experience. That means you’ve got to have an employee experience program in place that ensures that you do all the work needed to design and deliver that experience.

The first thing you’ll need to ensure your employee experience program is successful is both executive commitment and alignment. Leaders must commit to putting employees and the employee experience at the top of the priority list. People first. That commitment comes not only in a verbal form but also in the form of resources – human, time, capital, financial, etc. – to show employees that “we put our money where our mouths are.” And they must all be aligned; if only some executives across the organization are on board, then the employee experience will be siloed and disjointed.

To help you get that executive commitment and alignment, you’re going to need to answer the Why behind it. Why do we need an employee experience program? In Medallia’s latest guide about how to build an employee experience program, they list some of the benefits of designing and delivering a great employee experience.

  • Gaining insight into the employee experience. Take the time and do the work to understand your employees, the current experience, and their ideal future experience. Then work together to design and deliver that ideal experience. “You’ll understand what’s happening to employees, uncover obstacles, and discover efficiencies and challenges. You’ll also find ways to problem solve together as a team to make things more effective and let your people have the impact they want to have.” – Melissa Arronte, PhD, Medallia Global Employee Experience Practice Lead.
  • Creating an organization of folks who are committed to the success of your business. Employee engagement is an outcome of designing and delivering a great employee experience. Engaged employees are productive, passionate, and proud of their work and of the business. “The more engaged your employees are, the more they’re going to go the extra mile for your customers, whether internal or external.” – Grace Black, Group Director, Employee Experience Advisory.
  • Driving employee retention, talent recruitment, and customer outcomes. Want to become an employer of choice? Take care of your employees, and they’ll repay you in spades. They’ll stay. They’ll speak kindly of your employer brand. And they’ll take care of customers. “Employees want to work in great organizations where they feel valued and are having  quality experiences. Talent attraction and retention are extremely challenging, so if employee experience is not a priority for an organization, they risk losing great talent and not serving their customers well.” – Nina Bianchi, former Chief of People and Culture at the U. S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • Unlocking new opportunities for innovation. Innovation can be uncovered both in how the work is being done and in the products they are creating. “Employees doing the work every day have great ideas on how to do the work better, how to do it smarter, and how to do it more efficiently.” – Grace Black, Group Director, Employee Experience Advisory.
  • Being able to more effectively deliver your organization’s mission. Without employees, you have no one to design, build, sell, install, or service your products. Treat employees well, and they will treat customers well; in turn, the business benefits. Whether it be meeting patient needs, meeting customer needs, or building a product, you can’t do that without your employees. If you’re not meeting their needs, they’re going to either not do a very good job or they’re going to leave the organization.” – Sarah Mocker, Senior EX Advisor.
  • Solving problems for customers. Take care of your employees, and they will take care of your customers. When I talk to my clients’ employees, they tell me that they need the tools and resources to do their jobs well and to serve their customers the way they deserve to be served. Employees know. Take care of them!If employees don’t have the resources or permission from management to solve customer problems, then that eventually filters down to poor customer satisfaction scores.” – Diane Daum, Senior EX Advisor.
  • Bridging the communication gap for remote teams. Beyond employee listening initiatives, leaders should be having regular conversations with their employees. Don’t wait for that annual survey – set regular one-on-ones with your employees and conduct stay interviews to stay connected and in the know before it’s too late. “Now is the time for organizations to reinvigorate their employee experience programs and do things differently than they did before the pandemic. Employee listening initiatives may be one of the few opportunities that remote employees may have to speak about their experiences because they don’t come into the office very often, or they don’t have a direct line to their manager’s manager or have the face time to communicate with leaders.” – Scott Spayd, EX Senior Technical Manager.

Clearly, it’s important to design and deliver a great employee experience. You can start by talking to your employees. Get to know them. Understand them on a human level, a personal level. There’s no better way to ensure they have a great experience and can do the work and deliver the customer experience you expect than talking to them, uncovering what’s important to them, and then involving them in the whole process.

We think it’s important to have a company culture where employees feel loved, valued, and appreciated. ~ Hendrith Vanlon Smith Jr, CEO of Mayflower-Plymouth

Image courtesy of Husna Miskandar on Unsplash.

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