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What is employee experience and why is it so important?

Employee experience (EX), or how your employees feel about working for you, can make or break your organization and determine your company’s success. It’s one of the most important aspects of any business: satisfied employees are less likely to quit their job, and are also more productive and engaged – and, as a result, they help companies thrive.

amount companies invest in employee experience relative to financial metrics (e.g. Revenue per employee)

Source: Harvard Business Review

Even though most companies understand that, only 13% of employees feel completely satisfied with their experience at work, according to a Gartner study – and this is not necessarily due to a lack of willingness from business and HR leaders.

Often, companies don’t have a comprehensive employee experience strategy in place and concentrate on one-off initiatives, for example, to improve employee engagement or decrease turnover rates. While these can help address specific issues, they’re only band-aid solutions: Companies often fail to identify the root causes of employee dissatisfaction and are prone to treating symptoms only superficially. In most instances, this approach doesn’t contribute to meaningful long-term improvements.

In this blog post, we'll talk about the importance of employee experience and how it can affect business results (including the customer experience). We’ll give you specific tips on how to make your employees happy, improve employee engagement, and also help you build a meaningful employee experience strategy.

What is employee experience – and why is it important?

Simply put, employee experience is the way your employees perceive their job and your company. It encompasses all interactions during the entire employee lifecycle and affects employees’ well-being, sense of purpose, motivation, and job satisfaction.

In order to understand, measure and improve EX, first you need to understand and map all the interactions that your employees have with your company in the context of an employee-employer relationship, assess which ones are positive and which ones are negative contributors, pick those with the biggest impact and then improve on them.

People-centric companies that understand this and build an environment that enables their employees to thrive will see an improvement in employee productivity and in business performance, as well. According to a report by the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute, organisations that score in the top quartile of employee experience report a double return on sales compared to organisations in the bottom 25%.

Additionally, they’re able to attract and retain talent even in highly competitive industries and fill skills gaps before they lead to poor performance.

A bad employee experience can drive people away – both future employees and customers. Unhappy employees won’t put much effort into providing a stellar customer experience, are more likely to leave the company, and will share their negative experiences with others. This will inevitably lead to reputational damage if you fail to manage the employee experience proactively.

How do you create a positive employee experience at your organisation?

To improve the employee experience at your company, you need a comprehensive employee experience strategy. This comprises many different elements, which we’ll discuss in this section.

1. Provide seamless access to the resources employees need

Providing everyone with the resources they need to excel is the foundation of good work and a necessary condition to the success of your organization and your employees; for this reason, it also has a direct impact on the employee experience. To provide every employee with the resources they need, you need to:

2. Have a clear onboarding process that you communicate to employees in advance

Set up an onboarding process that is highly digitised, with minimal admin charge or friction (such as exchanging too many emails with too many people in different departments). This sets the tone of the employee journey and makes a lasting first impression: We are here to get things done.

3. Provide modern and performant equipment

Deliver modern, high-quality equipment to your employees before the start date, replace it quickly in case of problems or damages, and try to automate overhead arising from security policies. This can be challenging in remote setups, where delivery very often leads to delays, and administrators cannot physically touch the device to set it up, especially if it’s international. Modern device management software and outsourced international equipment providers can help.

4. Provide easy access to core systems and productivity tools

Clearly communicate what core systems productivity tools your organisation is using. Make sure access is correctly set up before the employee joins, and that you can make changes easily, when needed. Once an employee is used to working with a certain set of tools – even if they were incorrectly set up or if some are missing – it is hard to change their behaviour.

5. Set clear goals and objectives

Define what success looks like at an individual and team level, and communicate your expectations and requirements clearly and in time. Using the right tools and systems can make all the difference in creating a clear framework for your employees.

One of the best ways to do all this seamlessly is to use a modern employee platform centered around the needs of employees. It helps keep everything organized, easy to access and gives you real-time visibility into all processes, devices, and accounts.

Note that this is different to an HRIS, which is mostly focused on providing HR managers with tools for their job function and introduces a hierarchical structure between employees and the employer that is not employee-centric.

When employees have what they need to do their jobs well, they're much more likely to be satisfied with their work and be motivated.

6. Provide growth opportunities tailored to your employees’ talents

One of the most important things you can do to improve the employee experience is to provide your staff with opportunities to grow and develop within the company.

This could include offering relevant training and development programs, giving employees the chance to take on new and challenging projects, or providing mentorship or certification opportunities.

Career growth and development are essential for keeping employees happy and engaged in their work: According to a Gallup study, 87% of millennials consider growth opportunities to be very important for their job satisfaction.

7. Improve your organisational culture

Company culture is a key element to creating a positive employee experience, and the first step towards building cohesion between the two is understand what culture you currently have by performing a culture assessment.

The purpose of the assessment is to help you make sure your company values are aligned with the way you want your employees to feel, and that your policies and practices support those values. For this, you need to bring clarity to what your company culture is like at the moment, and steer it in the right direction, if needed.

Some examples:

  • If you value collaboration, make sure you have systems and processes in place that enable and encourage teamwork.

  • If you want to create a diverse workplace, make sure you’re giving everyone equal opportunities and access to resources.

  • If you value experimentation and innovation, frame mistakes as learning opportunities rather than as a failure to avoid at all costs.

According to research and McKinsey, the most successful organisational form for startups are adhocracies. An adhocracy is an informal, organic and fluid organisational structure staffed by professionals with high levels of expertise. Control comes rather from lateral co-ordination than to traditional hierarchy. It is because of these characteristics that adhocracies are particularly beneficial for knowledge sharing, workplace collaboration and rapid adaptation - some of the most important attributes for companies in the knowledge-based age.

Whatever the culture you are aiming for it is important to note that culture is eroded by friction which employees experience in their employee journey, for example as a result of bureaucracy, admin, inefficient people operations or clunky admin tools like HRIS, payroll or access management which are not centered around needs of employees but of admins and stakeholders.

8.Invest in the physical work environment

The physical environment at your workplace – or at home, if your employees are working remotely – can have a big impact on employee experience. Make sure that:

  • Office spaces are clean, comfortable, and well-lit

  • Employees have the ergonomic furniture and equipment they need

  • Employees have the necessary amenities that help them relax and recharge

If your employees are working from home, make sure they have the right conditions to work. Provide an adequate budget for home office furniture and equipment, or for a subscription to a coworking space.

It’s important to provide the high quality hardware, so that employees don’t have to waste time with computers that are slow or crash often. This doesn’t have to be a huge investment, either: For example, new Macbook Pros can be rented for just £60 per month and will make your employees feel appreciated and set up for success from day one.

Keep in mind, however, that the requirements for adequate device protection in a remote setup have increased significantly, which can be disruptive to employees’ day-to-day work, if not handled correctly. For this reason, you need to make sure that device security enforcement is seamless and doesn’t stand in the way or slow down the work of your employees. You can achieve this by integrating it into your own HR system, or by using a unified workspace platform.

In addition to the above, the best way for remote companies to address employees’ needs is to actually ask them what would make the most sense for them. Assisting with childcare arrangements, for example, might be much more valuable than simply allocating a budget for new equipment.

9. Encourage open communication

Open communication is essential for creating a positive employee experience.

Show employees they can share their ideas, concerns, and feedback openly and without fear of retribution. Listen to what they have to say, and take action on their suggestions whenever possible.

One-to-one conversations are important and will allow you to get an in-depth understanding of how employees feel at work, but not everyone might feel comfortable sharing their experiences with their direct managers, especially if communication between them is strained. You can also use employee surveys to collect feedback anonymously.

For this to be effective, you need to act on employee feedback in time and show your employees they’re heard and valued. Otherwise, you risk creating resentment, which will negatively impact employee engagement and motivation.

Employees will not always raise their hand if they’re dealing with inefficient admin processes, such as late or incorrect salary payments, a lack of clarity around benefits and pensions, or not having access to company systems. The digitization of employee processes can help you overcome this and further improve communication.

10. Show appreciation for your employees' work

Employees who feel appreciated for their contributions are more likely to be happy and engaged in their work.

Monetary rewards, such as bonuses and pay raises, are obviously very important. However, you need to be careful with this approach: Once you start giving additional monetary incentives, it is very hard to turn back from them and can lead to the opposite effect if not given when or in the amount expected. According to studies, monetary rewards can even harm intrinsic motivations which employees have independent of money.

However, there are many more ways to show appreciation, such as:

  • Public recognition (remember: criticize in private, praise in public)

  • Adequate career growth opportunities

  • New challenges that help employees develop their skills.

Encourage employees to support each other, as well. HR systems which are built around the employee experience can help with this: Employees can give each other positive feedback or public kudos on the company's social feed.

Don't forget the small gestures, too: even an impromptu thank-you message or a surprise gift card can go a long way.

11. Use a HR platform that automates people operations

Another easy way to improve employee experience is to use a modern employee platform, which is centered around the needs of employees and allows you to manage:

  • The relationship with your employees

  • The tools employees want to use (software, hardware)

  • The compensation package employees expect (pay, benefits, pensions, time off)

  • Processes and workflows in an automated way (approvals, requests, etc.)

This provides employees with a single point of access to all resources they need to do their job, and also to an admin interface where they can request days off, see their payslips, and manage their pension contributions.

This is particularly important in a hybrid or remote work environment. If crucial information and employer services are scattered, or if administrative and managerial processes are sluggish or inefficient, or if employees have to chase admins for things they consider personal (pay, benefits, time off, etc.) this will inevitably result in friction during the employee journey, and harm the employee experience.

How can a unified workspace platform help improve the employee experience?