The term “employee engagement” is all over the headlines these days and seems to be a buzzword that companies rally around. Engagement, however, is more of an outcome or a result rather than an activity to increase job satisfaction. For a company to have a highly productive workforce, it needs to create a positive employee experience for its employees. If it does, increased engagement will follow.
Over the past ten years, we have seen some unique trends in the modern workplace when it comes to hires, job openings and voluntary quits. While hires do continue to rise slightly, they are being outpaced by job openings. In fact, in the beginning of 2015, job openings surpassed hires, creating a significant shift in the market.
A natural byproduct of that shift is the rise in voluntary quits. About 3 million Americans voluntarily quit their job each month. Today, workers have choices, and they are choosing to work in places that they want to be, rather than where they feel they need to be. Workers today don’t settle for the first job that comes available as they may have in the past, instead taking the time to research prospective companies in great detail. This shift brings a more educated, but also a more choosy, candidate.
Knowing this, a company needs to ensure that they are providing a positive employee experience to prospective and current employees alike. The war for talent is heating up and getting the true, top-tier talent takes a fully focused approach.
Defining employee experience
The employee experience can be defined as a set of perceptions that employees have about their experiences at work in response to their interactions with the organization. The employee experience (EX) signifies the entire life cycle an employee has with a company, from onboarding to departure.
There was a time when posting a job opening would attract hundreds of candidates eager to be employed. That model has changed and now it can take several months to find that high performing employee that has all the attributes that your company is seeking. When your company finally does find that diamond-in-the-rough, you better hope they feel as good about your company as your company feels about them.
The employee experience is all about people feeling good about the work they do and the company for which they work. It’s about being excited, or even loving, to go to work. A positive employee experience gives workers a feeling that they are a part of something special and meaningful and that their contributions matter to the organization.
It’s as simple as this: If organizations aren’t doing the things needed to have a good employee experience, they may not attract new employees or keep the ones they have. A positive employee experience is not reserved for the elite workplaces in the world such as Apple, Zappos and Disney. EX is something that all organizations should aspire to in order to compete for top talent in the modern workplace.
Engagement’s role in employee experience
A recent Gallup poll indicated that 34% of workers today are truly engaged. While that number may not seem all that high, it’s actually at an 18 year high. Gallup started measuring this statistic almost two decades ago, when engaged workers represented a bleak 26% of the workforce. A direct result of higher engagement is that the number of actively disengaged employees is now at an all-time low of 13%, compared to 18% in 2000 and 17% as recently as 2015.
Engagement doesn’t just happen; it’s a result of something bigger. The employee experience is the bigger component that drives and affects engagement. If employees are happy, it stands to reason that they will be more engaged. If employees feel like their voices aren’t being heard and their contributions don’t make a difference, the likelihood of disengagement grows. Engagement simply represents the level of commitment to the company and job performance. Positive employee experience will naturally lead to higher engagement.
Bill Bonnstetter, the founder of TTI Success Insights, once said the biggest challenge in today’s workplace is to “produce more with fewer resources and employees for customers who demand more for less.” With today’s record low unemployment, there are more job openings than qualified candidates. Bringing in the wrong person just to fill a position can erode positive EX that a company has created.
Components of a great employee experience
If an employee leaves the office exhausted day after day and can’t make it through dinner without almost falling asleep, he or she is probably not having the best employee experience. The same can be said if they start to get knots in their stomach on Sunday, thinking about the looming work week ahead. The key is to create an environment that attracts people; an environment where current employees want to recruit their friends to work. Imagine the productivity of a company where every employee loves his or her job!
One of the most successful entrepreneurs of our lifetime is Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. He breaks down employee experience simply and succinctly in his quote, “There’s no magic formula. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated. Think of it as the Golden Rule for creating an exceptional employee experience.”
Leaders need to think about what type of experience they themselves want and how can that experience be translated to the entire staff? Our goal at TTI Success Insights is for employees to be excited on Monday morning, looking forward to coming to work.
Employee experience does not come from an improved or enhanced human resources department any more than it comes from “Massage Mondays” or company sponsored parties.
According to a recent Deloitte report, “Employers must provide development more quickly, move people more regularly, provide continuous cycles of promotion and give employees more tools to manage their own careers.”
Employees don’t want to come in and do the same thing day after day, week after week, year after year. They want to be challenged, know someone is listening to their ideas and that their ideas can and will take the organization to the next level.
4 Steps to create a positive employee experience
- Strategic approach
- Employee rewards
- Employee wellness
Taking a strategic approach means there is a specific plan that stretches organization-wide. Giving managers proper authority to execute a positive experience, doing the things necessary to appeal to the unique wants and needs of each member of the staff. EX needs to be consistent. There may be bumps along the way but you must stay the course and follow through for it to work, long term. It’s not a seasonal experiment or a trial period; it needs to be ongoing.
Annual reviews aren’t effective on their own. It’s important to understand what employees are seeking and what’s important to each individual. Every person is motivated by different things that get them excited to get up in the morning. Traditional rewards such as annual compensation, a yearly review, health insurance and vacation time simply are not effective on their own in the modern workplace. Today, an agile compensation model, flexibility, creative incentives all tailored to individuals is what appeals to the modern worker.
A leader needs to understand his or her employees, know what they bring to the organization and most importantly, understand what drives them. Rewards and recognition need to be more personal.
Job-related development requires role clarity on all jobs. Workers need to know exactly what their accountabilities are and what is expected of them. Managers need to respond to a person’s behavioral traits, understanding whether or not they favor people over tasks (or vice versa) and what pace they feel most comfortable working. Leaders need to fully understand each employee’s personal skills. What does each person do exceptionally well? Paying attention to this may reveal that you have the right person in the wrong job.
Employee Wellness speaks to the physical and mental state of the worker. With online connectivity at an all-time high, is it about work/life balance or is it more of a work/life blur?
Physical, mental, financial and spiritual health all come into play in order to have an exceptional employee experience.
Simple allowances such as healthy snacks and/or giving employees 15 minutes to walk around the block and throw a football around can have a recharging effect and make the rest of the day much more productive. All of these things drive employee productivity, engagement and, ultimately, the overall EX.
What does the modern worker want?
Organizations would be well served to listen to what is important to their employees. Flexible schedules and telecommuting are topics that are on the short list of most employees. Wellness and employee assistance also resonate highly.
If you are leading an organization, can you articulate why an individual would want to work at your organization? And, would your current employees agree with your assessment? To create a positive employee experience, you need to create an action plan and figure out what three things you can do this week to positively impact that experience.
It’s never been more challenging to attract and retain top talent. Having a positive employee experience is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity, if you truly want to have a highly engaged workforce.