In today’s highly competitive job market, employee experience is becoming one of, if not, the most important aspects in keeping turnover to a minimum and ensuring your best employees stick around long-term. So what exactly is employee experience (or “EX”) and how can employers set and maintain the highest standard for EX?
In this deep dive, we’ll be discussing the various factors that play into the quality of experiences your employees may have at your company. We’ll also be walking you through ten steps you can take to ensure your employees’ experiences at your organization are positive.
- What Is Employee Experience (or EX)
- What Are The 5 Stages of Employee Experience
- The Difference Between Employee Experience & Employee Engagement
- How To Measure Employee Experience
- 10 Ways to Improve Employee Experience
What is employee experience (or EX)?
Simply put, Employee Experience is the way an employee perceives their personal journey through all touchpoints at a particular company.
EX is measured through every experience an individual employee has, in relation to an organization, from the time they read a job posting through their official exit from the company.
Employee experience can apply to anyone who engages with any area of the employment process at your company. This includes everyone from prospective candidates who may have applied for a position but were not hired to the CEO…and everyone in between.
A few examples of touchpoints that an employee may experience with an organization typically include:
- Interview process
- Onboarding & training
- Alignment of company culture description with actual culture
- Getting acclimated and building relationships with coworkers
- Company celebrations and outings
- Promotions and raises
- How conflict between co-workers is handled
The 5 Stages of Employee Experience
Not everyone who is affected by your organization’s employee experience will go through all 5 stages. Some candidates’ journey may end in the recruitment or occasionally, even in the onboarding stage. The longer an employee is with an organization, the more factors play into their perception of what it’s like to work there.
This is why it’s important for employers to do everything within their power to create an inclusive environment that ensures each employee will feel valued, respected, and ultimately, happy.
Why Are They Important?
Each time a new person joins your company, they are bringing their own set of values, culture, beliefs, personality, and past experiences into the workplace as well. All of these factors will also play an important role in someone’s perception of their experience at your company as positive or negative.
That being said, it’s easy to see how ensuring a positive EX can increase in complexity through each stage. Developing a strategy can become an integral part of protecting your company’s reputation among past employees and future candidates.
So let’s dive deeper into some common EX touchpoints of each stage and how employers can strategically guide employees throughout their employment to ensure a positive outcome.
This is where every EX journey begins. This is where a potential employee is first introduced to your company (also known as “a first impression”). We all know first impressions are important, so how can employers make sure it’s a good one? It’s important to first consider all the ways a candidate may come across your company.
In this digital-first age, there are endless ways a candidate can be introduced to your company. If you’re a smaller company or small business, a jobseeker may hear of you for the first time through a job listing (most commonly through sites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, etc.) or through a recruiter who may have found them.
For a larger, more established organization, it’s likely that potential candidates have seen or heard of your company before applying. It’s possible an applicant may have even experienced your company as a customer or client, which can play into their perception of what it’s like to work for you.
How To Ensure Positive Touchpoints Throughout The Recruitment Stage:
1. Know your reputation and do damage control wherever needed or possible.
Investigate both your employee and customer reviews across all platforms and websites they exist. You never know how deep a potential candidate is going to research your company and what kind of environment or culture they’re signing themselves up for.
If you have negative reviews, you can either reply to acknowledge their experience and apologize if needed. You can also choose to address ways in which you’ve improved and changes you’ve made to ensure this negative situation or experience does not repeat.
2. Make your application, interview and hiring processes are organized and pleasant.
Nothing is more frustrating to a jobseeker than feeling like they’re being strung along for weeks with no updates or progress. Employers can avoid this by setting up an operation to stay in consistent communication with candidates that are being seriously considered.
3. Be considerate of your applicants’ time and how much you’re asking of them in the hiring process.
Overly lengthy interviews, traveling back and forth for multiple in-person interviews or having to complete intricate projects to be considered for a role can feel very time-consuming and frustrating to someone who may have been looking for
The onboarding process is a crucial stage in an employee’s overall experience with your company. It directly affects their perception of your company as a new hire and sets the tone for their enthusiasm about what their future at your company may hold.
How To Create A Positive Experience In The Onboarding Stage:
1. Develop a clear and efficient onboarding process
Starting a new job can be stressful and overwhelming with all the new experiences and information they’re taking in. Set new hires up for success by having a concrete onboarding structure in place that clearly states where they can find important resources, company policies, a directory of who they can come to with specific questions, etc.
2. Help them get acclimated with their coworkers as soon as possible
Some people are better at socializing and forming connections than others. Help make getting to know one another as easy as possible for new hires and existing team members. If you’re a small team, consider scheduling some one-on-one time with a new hire and each of their coworkers. If your organization is on the larger side, make sure to schedule time for a new hire to get to know at least the members of their team they’ll be interacting with on a day-to-day basis.
Development is most commonly the longest stage. In addition to an employee’s overall experience, the quality of this stage significantly impacts their experience in future stages. Employers can proactively provide support for new and lower-level employees by properly training upper-level managers c-suite exs.
Employers can provide opportunities for growth within an individual role offering resources and assistance to build on existing skills or develop new skills related to the employee’s role. Opportunities for growth can also be provided to help an employee advance within the organization as well as; like offering promotions to employees who show ambition and dedication to the company.
Finally, employers can offer more general professional and personal development to employees. For example, an employer can offer to pay or reimburse an employee for the cost of tuition or any form of higher education. This will help the individual both financially and professionally, and in turn, develop them into a more devoted employee and valuable asset to the company.
The retention stage involves both employers and employees putting forth an effort to continue working with one another. The level of effort an employer needs to attribute to an employee’s performance, development, and contribution to their success works both ways.
The more effort the employer puts in, the more the employee will feel valued and confident about their future, encouraging them to increase the level of effort they put forth. And vice versa; the more effort an employee puts in, it’s likely for the employer to notice that that person cares a lot about being successful in their role and will help ensure success for the company as well. It’s integral for employers to
The retention stage involves an individual’s continued inspiration and connection to the organization’s purpose and core beliefs. It is closely tied to ongoing development and employee engagement. When an organization struggles to keep employees feeling valued, satisfied, growing, or included in the workplace, many are lost in this stage due to a negative experience.
The exit stage may seem less significant than the other four stages, but it’s arguably the most sensitive stage that requires a high level of carefulness and attention to detail. Someone could work happily at a company for years and not have a single complaint, but when it comes time to part ways, there are a few factors that come into play that could potentially leave a permanent bad taste in a former employee’s mouth.
Take into consideration their reason for leaving.
They may be choosing to leave to pursue a personal passion or they could be quitting because they are fed up with an issue that has spiraled out of control. They might be being made to leave because the company needs to downsize or maybe they’re getting fired because they severely broke company policy.
Regardless of the reason for their split from the company, an exit interview is always a crucial part of this stage that can provide an employer with valuable feedback. Asking the exiting team member to address their concerns and genuinely listening can also make them feel a sense of closure and help to dilute intense negative feelings towards the company, if they exist.
What Is The Difference Between Employee Experience & Employee Engagement?
Both employee experience and employee engagement are important parts of maintaining high retention rates, but conceptually, they have some key differences.
Employee engagement is a measure of how involved an employee is in the workplace and their commitment to the company’s overall objectives.
Employee engagement takes into account the way in which employees interact with their team and other coworkers in the workplace. It measures how passionate and invested they are in their own role, how often and interested they are to interact with their coworkers, and the level of excitement they show around different events and happenings at the organization as a whole.
Employee experience is a term that refers to the totality of an employee’s interaction with their company.
It refers to the way they feel about the emotional, physical, social, and intellectual experiences they have through your company.
In short, employee engagement is how actively involved an employee chooses to be at work and employee experience is their perception of whether their time at the organization is enjoyable or not.
Another way that EX differs from employee engagement is determining who is responsible for their outcomes. Employee experience is affected by the actions of others and what the employee witnesses or incorporates all aspects of an employee’s work life whereas engagement only looks at the emotional connection that an individual feels for their job.
How Is Employee Experience Measured?
There are countless softwares available for HR teams to use that store information about their employees and give insights into valuable metrics like retention rate, referrals, complaints, etc. The main types are…
- HRMS: Human resource management system
- HRIS: Human resource information system
- HCMS: Human capital management system
These tools and databases hold information and metrics that can be used to measure employee experience from factors such as…
- Applicant tracking
- Benefits management
- Attendance tracking and timekeeping
- HR development management, including integrated training and ongoing education
- Performance management & reviews
- Career planning
- Succession planning
- Employee communication
- Candidate Experience Surveys
- Onboarding Surveys
- Employee Feedback Surveys
- Pulse Surveys
- Exit Surveys
Conducted by managers to understand why employees choose to stay at the company.
Conducted by HR and/or leadership when an employee either chooses to leave or is discharged from the company.
Conducted by leadership to ask managers about the experience of employees in levels below them.
10 Ways To Improve Employee Experience
There are many things employers can do in 2022 to improve employee experience in 2022. Here are a few things you can start incorporating today.
Survey Your Employees To Keep A Firm Grasp On How They’re Feeling
As with any program, execution is key. You can have the world’s greatest wellness program with the perfect structure and employees who are eager to participate, but if the execution and management of the program are insufficient, it’s likely to fail.
Consistently surveying your people is one of the most effective ways to get honest feedback on their perception of your company culture and environment.
Prioritize Well-being In And Outside Of The Workplace
Show employees that you care about their health and well-being can reap incredible mutual benefits for both employees and employers. Health and wellness employee benefits (check out the 7 dimensions of personal wellness) such as biometric testing, lifestyle reimbursements, rewards or incentives for wellness activities, and team wellness challenges are proven to boost morale, camaraderie, and productivity. The best part is that you can automate the data syncing process through wearable technology!
Train Managers To Be Support Systems & Leaders For Their Team
Many companies are acknowledging more and more the importance of empathetic, emotionally intelligent leaders who can support and champion their teams. This goes a bit further than excellent communication skills, being emotionally intelligent, and being an expert in your field – though these skills are still important.
Managers that can form healthy bonds and strong trust with their teams are extremely valuable to individual employee experience and company culture overall. Looking for these qualities in candidates and developing these skills in existing team members.
Develop A Culture Of Empathy
The pandemic taught everyone a variety of important life lessons and changed our perspectives, especially when it comes to work. We’ve granted more importance to ourselves and our personal lives where many of us had been giving the majority of our attention to work. So what does this mean for employers? Empathy is key to ensuring a positive employee experience.
As an employer who cares about maintaining a good employee experience, you should value for your employees what they value for themselves. Leadership should work to develop a people-centric culture that is not only understanding, but also supportive, when employees choose to put themselves and their personal lives first. We’re all human, we all make mistakes and life is notorious for throwing curveballs our way. Employers should be understanding when their employees have a personal emergency to take care of or need to take a day off to prevent burnout.
Take A Strength-based Approach To Employee Development
Focusing on strengths when it comes to developing employees can greatly benefit both parties. Noticing someone’s strengths can instill a sense of confidence and letting them lean into that strength will empower them to produce better quality work that they feel more connected with and ultimately, make them feel more connected to their role and the company in general.
Maybe you notice a copywriter on your marketing team who loves to socialize is really great at talking to people face-to-face and making connections interpersonal connections. As a copywriter, they’re probably great with words, but missing that element of socializing is making them feel disconnected from their role. This person would likely flourish in a social media role, event production, managing partnerships, or hosting webinars. These all require the same level of speaking and language skills, but also incorporate the social element the employee thrives with as well.
Offer & Maintain Flexibility
Post-pandemic, the ability to work from home has become the norm. This has given many people a lot of their personal time back, but it’s also taken away the small talk and face-to-face connection element that is integral to building connections among coworkers in an in-person workplace.
Many of today’s organizations have found the solution is finding a happy medium: offering employees the option to work from home (if possible), but requiring them to come into the office a certain amount of days per week or a percentage of their time. This can allow employees to keep that sense of freedom and work-life balance offered by WFH, but also make sure they’re forming those in-person connections as well.
Focus On DEI Initiatives
Whether an employee feels welcome, included, valued, and treated fairly or not is arguably the most important factor that will determine whether their experience with your company was positive or negative. It’s important for HR teams to educate themselves and ensure their creating and maintaining a culture that is inclusive, equitable, and accepting of all employees. Building an environment where differences are valued, uniqueness is celebrated and varying perspectives are viewed as a competitive edge will greatly benefit any organization, as well as its people.
Make A Conscious Effort To Look Out For & Reward Small Wins & Accomplishments
Nothing is more demotivating than putting countless hours of hard work and energy into something that you’re really proud of, only to have it go unnoticed or unappreciated. Employers can ensure a more positive employee experience by making a genuine effort to notice when an employee is putting in extra time and effort and utilizing their unique strengths to contribute to the overall success of the company.
Make them feel valued and appreciated by offering performance incentives or rewarding them with extra PTO or complimentary lunch. A little can go a long way on both ends. What may seem like a small win to you may feel like a great accomplishment to the employee, and an unexpected shoutout or acknowledgment of a job well done could completely shift their sense of belonging and satisfaction at your company.
Offer Opportunities For Learning & Personal Enrichment
Encouraging employees to learn new skills, advance in their career, and grow both professionally and personally, plays a huge role in building a positive connection. Offering a professional development stipend or personal enrichment reimbursement can increase their sense of fulfillment and satisfaction within their role and at the company overall.
You can also offer international relocation with a generous relocation package if you have an office overseas, which can help them upskill and, at the same time, improve your company’s global reputation.
Offer Unique Benefits
In today’s competitive job market, organizations are offering more and more unique and enticing benefits. See examples of some of the most popular fringe benefits here.