Why it’s time to prioritise your employee experience

By Ben Egan, Senior Communications Manager at leading HR consultancy ETS

Employees have surely never been as influential or important as they are now. Sites like Glassdoor mean that every employee is a potential publisher and, hopefully, advocate. So, what your employees think and feel about your organisation and the things they observe about working there has taken on added significance. Good or bad, these views can be amplified far and wide. And that is why delivering the very best employee experience has become the Holy Grail.

The question is, what does a great employee experience (EX) look like and what do you need to do to become a ‘destination employer’ like Google, Netflix or Airbnb?

Employee engagement or employee experience?

Engaging your employees remains crucial. What is sometimes puzzling though is that, even when employee engagement levels are high, this doesn’t always translate into performance gains or other tangible business improvement. This is perhaps because a couple of other key factors either weren’t being properly measured or, if they were, they weren’t being focused on.

You see, engagement is just one (albeit important) part that makes up the employee experience. Two other areas that we should be looking just as closely at are enablement and empowerment.

Enabling and empowering employees

Employee enablement involves providing employees with the right preparation, training, frameworks and tools with which to do their job effectively.

Empowerment meanwhile is about the need for you to give authority to employees and the right amount of autonomy to do their job. This is essential to establishing trust.

Both areas are things we should all be tracking in an engagement survey (or whatever other employee research channels you use). Typical questions used to assess enablement and empowerment include:

• I have everything I need to do my job well (enablement)
• I feel fully supported to do my job well (enablement)
• I have the appropriate level of freedom within my role to do my job well (empowerment)
• I feel like a trusted member of the company (empowerment)

How Airbnb has shown the way with EX

Airbnb are widely thought to be pioneers in terms of the employee experience. They recognised before others the importance of aligning what their employees experienced every day with the company’s mission and proposition for customers. For them it was clear that, not only would this help them to attract, engage and keep hold of the best people, but it would also help their consumer marketing and brand-building efforts.

What’s perhaps most remarkable about Airbnb’s approach to creating a great employee experience is just how simple it all is. Essentially the priorities for them are:

• To involve employees in a really immersive way in the running of the business, to seek their input to shape everything from strategies to workplace fixtures and fittings
• To be authentic in all they do from the top down so that the company’s mission and culture is always clear in decisions taken
• To continually evolve – a trait characterising many successful start-ups – which is all about being open to feedback, remaining agile and bringing about change where it’s needed.

Five ways to improve your employee experience

1. Make a great first impression

On boarding your new employees well is so important to the impression they form of the organisation in what is a formative period. So make sure you create a thorough induction plan and don’t leave them hanging! Also, make sure they have everything they need to do their job well and check in with them and seek their views on how they found the hiring and on boarding process.

2. Seek your employees’ views and input frequently

One of the ways that the workplace has changed with the influx of Millennials is that employees now have greater expectations of being more involved and consulted in direction. Use formal channels such as pulse or engagement surveys, ‘town halls’, employee councils to get deeper insights as well as informal channels like Yammer, company intranet forums, manager one-to-ones and team meetings to keep in touch.

3. Be flexible with your employees, treat them like adults

As a style of leadership, command and control is now a relic. A more modern workplace necessitates a more adaptive way of managing and treating people. Things like offering remote working (as long as it doesn’t adversely affect colleagues or objectives) and allowing some flexibility in the hours people work are now increasingly demanded by employees.

4. Be generous, recognise and reward employees’ efforts

This doesn’t have to mean big salaries or bonuses; think of non-financial rewards too. Just as important is to recognise outstanding team and individual achievements and offer public recognition where warranted (and where individuals are comfortable with this). And don’t forget to celebrate the little things as well as the big successes.

5. Foster a working environment that employees can thrive in

Starting from the top, ask managers to set the tone in promoting a supportive, open and collaborative culture. Have as flat an organisational structure as possible, be as inclusive as possible and encourage employees to have fun while at work!

Doing these five things well will undoubtedly go a long way to enhancing your employee experience and, in the process, help to create many more brand ambassadors.

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