What is Employee Experience? Is it just a passing fad?

How companies should focus on what will employees truly want and ditch the free cafeteria snacks.

Like us, you may have noticed the bidding war that currently exists between companies trying to offer the best employee experience. Free massages at work? I’ll raise you laundry pick ups and onsite manicures. Free gourmet coffee? I’ll do you one better. Ice cream Sundays and beers on Friday. Looks like work should feel like a holiday in a five-star resort interrupted by the occasional meetings here and there, with employees being looked after by Employee Engagement Managers and Chief Heart Officers. With a war on talent constantly being fought by companies to recruit and retain the best people, these laundry lists of perks seem like necessary benefits for organisations to distinguish themselves amongst their competitors.

Whilst the above sounds like employees should be the ultimate winners, research shows that motivation levels are pretty low amongst staff and have been for the past decade, with no real improvements being made despite the rise in employee experience (EX) initiatives. So are all these efforts being wasted? Are employees just becoming more and more difficult when it comes to job expectations? Can we blame this professional unhappiness on generational shifts? At Let’s Talk Talent, we think it’s more complicated than that. Because companies have just been focussing on the wrong things.  

What is employee experience?

Before we go any further, it’s worth making sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to employee experience.

‘companies and their people working together to create personalised, authentic experiences that ignite passion and tap into purpose to strengthen individual, team, and company performance.

McKinsey & Company on EX.

The key elements to retain here are that:

  • Employee experience is not created by your management team in an ivory tower and then cascaded down. It is done in collaboration with your people, and requires their constant input
  • Employee experience is unique to each organisation

At Let’s Talk Talent, we like to summarise it in an even simpler way. EX is about getting great people, and keeping great people. This may already be an area of focus for some. But others may feel overwhelmed at the thought of even starting to tackle it. Because if EX is a unique concept, in constant evolution in order to keep up with your staff’s expectations, that needs to consider every single touchpoint in their lifecycle… Where do you even begin? Crafting something that will shape everything from before your employee has even joined your organisation to after they have left, without any structure to follow, can seem like an impossible task.

Whilst it’s true that improving EX within your company may require some hard graft, there are however some tools to help with the process. And one of those comes in the shape of a triangle.

The Let’s Talk Talent triangle model

At Let’s Talk Talent, we believe in getting shit done. We believe in starting by doing something. Anything. Because if you’re looking at the whole road ahead and waiting for everything to perfectly fall into place, you may never get started. The same applies with improving EX within your organisation, which can be done one step at a time.

1. Start with your big question

Before you look at improving everything at once, ask yourself what your most urgent issue is. Are you struggling to attract the right people? Is retention a problem in a key team within your business? Or are absenteeism levels at an all time high? If so, start with that. And if you don’t really know what deserves your immediate focus, find out. Do an audit. Send out a survey. Get to the bottom of the issue and get staff to tell you exactly what would make the biggest difference in their working lives. Once your first step has been identified, you’ll be able to structure all the building blocks and work streams you will need to utilise in order to reach your goal.

2. Focus on the right things

Perks are just that. Perks. They are more like the icing on the cake, as opposed to true motivation-generating factors. And if the cake is bad, no amount of icing will make eating it a good experience. So before you start a public relations campaign full of side-benefits to seduce future and current employees, start with asking yourself what truly creates the kind of drive that makes people get up in the morning rearing to go to work. This part requires getting to know your staff and understanding what drives them on a personal level. And there are several ways to achieve this. Engagement surveys, focus groups and exit interviews are fairly easy to implement can be a great source of qualitative data. But they shouldn’t be considered as a one-off exercise. It is important to use those tools to create a benchmark that will allow you to monitor the progress of your efforts, on both recruiting the right people and keeping them engaged throughout their lifetime with you.

If you’d like to know more, we have written a blog about the three motivation-generating factors that will truly generate engagement amongst your talent pool: cause, community and career.

This is where the bulk of your efforts and resources should go.

3. Review regularly

Staff’s expectations of what good EX is about change all the time, and so should your efforts and focus. For example, coming to work from 9 to 5 on a fixed workstation was the norm a few years ago. Today’s professional scene is different and often allows for flexible hours, remote working and multi-location teams. And this is but one element of the employee experience.

The only way to keep up with what’s important for your people is to set up continuous reviews of every single touchpoint in their lifecycle. Ensure you have systems in place for regular check-ins. Encourage feedback through honest and transparent discussions. And empower your managerial team to have those conversations and take corrective action when needed. Regular communication is key to understanding your employees and their expectations, and it requires having the courage to hear the truth about what they want, or don’t want, out their career with you.

Conclusion: Is Employee Experience A Passing Fad?

Whilst some organisations’ employee experience programs may be slightly out of focus, it’s clear that those initiatives are derived from a profound desire to improve staff’s motivation and overall satisfaction levels, which is good news in itself.

However, the key to achieving that goal is not through a long list perks and benefits, but comes from a dedicated focus on those areas that will have the greatest and deepest impact on employees’ professional life. Companies that do well on this front put as much importance on both attracting and retaining talent, creating a transparent and realistic view of what it is to work for them.

Whilst the current climate may appear uncertain, we think it represents the perfect opportunity to get ahead of the curve. Those who are open to change and will modify the course to adapt to their employees’ new realities, current and future, will benefit. So use this time to check in and review your employee experience’s key milestones. Ask your staff which elements of this new reality they wish to take with them once the storm has passed and lead the way by setting the new workplace normal. 

A great place to start is our employee experience whatsapp course, starting on Monday 18th May. Register now for tips and advice on how to truly meet your staff’s expectations and ensure they have a fabulously fulfilling career with you.

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