The employee experience – also known as EX – is defined as the psycho-cognitive sentiments or perceptions that employees have about working at their specific companies. To translate that into English, it encompasses the feeling employees have about their work, their colleagues, the culture and every encounter and observation they have over the course of their tenure. As customer experience (CX) continues to become a pillar to brand success and differentiation in the 21st century, many businesses are starting to realize that, since people are their greatest assets, more energy and effort must be afforded to both the experiences that internal and external stakeholders have.
There are many factors that play into the employee experience:
- Location: Where they work, either physically in an office or remotely from home, and the communication and professional tools that are afforded to them in those situations
- Relationships: How they work and regularly interact with their bosses, peers, leadership team, and those that they serve (clients/customers)
- Culture: How connected, understood, accepted, supported, and cared for they feel within the larger company – it’s important to note that work-life balance comes into play here Mission: How well they understand their individual goals, the company’s overall goals, and the expectations their performance is evaluated against
- Purpose: How well they understand and align with their work and company mission, and how much they feel their contributions matter
How Does EX Impact CX?
Picture this: Your company spent weeks, months, maybe even years executing a digital transformation that allows customers to easily search, compare and buy products on your website and coordinate curbside pickup. The experience is dialed in. The site is easy to navigate, the content – from both an editorial and design perspective – is clear, and every stage of the buying journey motivates users to take action and convert. But then, when time comes for the customer to pick up the order, she is greeted by an employee who carries it out with his mask hanging below his chin. In a time when people prioritize safety and trust over everything, exceptional digital CX isn’t enough to prevent customer churn after a poor in-person interaction.
So, how do you ensure your business delivers exceptional experiences, whether digitally (via real people or A.I.), in person or via a hybrid of them all? You focus on your employee experience first. And employee engagement – the most common metric for identifying positive or engaging employee experiences – is directly related to the customer’s experience.
If you look at employee net promoter scores (ENPS) and compare them to customer net promoter scores, you’ll see that the metrics are highly correlated. When one is up, the other is typically up. When one is down, the other is usually down. And it’s not hard to understand why. When people are engaged in their work environment – no matter what they’re selling, what the company does, or what industry they’re in – they’re bringing their best self to work. They’re going the extra mile and innovating on the fly. That mindset pays off downstream for customers.
On the flip side, if employees feel disconnected – say, for example, they feel their wellbeing isn’t cared for – they’re probably not doing their best work. They’re not promoting the organization to others because, frankly, they don’t really like it. In turn, they create a lackluster customer experience for everyone involved.
No matter the industry, your people are who drive your customer experience. The larger your organization, the more critical that is because, as leaders, you’re typically further away from the frontline of customer experience. You must rely on your people which is why the investment is so crucially important.
The Biggest EX Mistakes
There have been a few trends in employee experience over the last decade. For example, game rooms were once the big thing. If you had a game room in your office – allowed employees to play pool or tennis table during encouraged breaks – that meant you were creating a really engaging, cool experience. Don’t get me wrong, the fun stuff does matter, but other things are more impactful than the perks, frills, and extras that companies often tout as cultural differentiators.
The biggest misstep organizations make is not asking employees directly what they want, what they value, and what’s most meaningful to them.
When you don’t ask those questions, you’re making assumptions based on what you think and read is the hot fad of the moment in employee experience. You’re likely spending money, time, and effort in areas that aren’t as appreciated by your employees as you think.
6 Ways to Begin Improving Employee Experience
Employee experience and the ways in which it can and should be implemented is multifaceted, but here are six ways to begin improving your EX today.
1. Lead with vulnerability
One of the most underutilized but most important leadership qualities is vulnerability. It is especially important these days, during the current pandemic and crisis. Leaders should project an image of consistency, confidence, and resilience but also be humble, authentic, and vulnerable. Admitting to not having the answers or making mistakes can empower the cultivation of an open and honest work environment.
If you’re going to ask teams for feedback, plan to address the feedback and actually do something. That, in itself, goes leaps and bounds in helping bring that engagement and bring those employees along for the ride.
If you’re just surveying for the sake of surveying, you’ll likely end up with an irritated team and an even worse employee experience.
2. Understand what your employees really want
I suggest using an employee engagement survey-type tool to solicit feedback from teams. The tool you choose doesn’t need to have 47 reports and multiple different ways to slice and dice data, especially if you’re not a big organization just yet. What’s most important is to pick a couple of benchmark metrics that you’re going to use to consistently look over time. When surveying, you’re trying to accomplish two things:
- Identify what’s working and what’s not so that you know where to focus your efforts.
- Over time, measure how the actions and changes you make actually impact engagement
Short but frequent surveys are best – you don’t want to wait six months or a year to get an update or a pulse check. Anonymity is the other key factor in gathering real, honest feedback. However you’re sending surveys out to the team, make sure they feel confident to share how they really feel.
3. Measure improvement with metrics
The two most commonly used benchmark metrics for employee engagement are overall engagement and employee net promoter score (eNPS). They are widely used and consistent definitions that act as monitors for organizations to track progress as they make changes.
There are, of course, questions that sit underneath metrics that help define how engaged employees are in their job – including relationship with managers, work/life balance, and wellness – but employee engagement and eNPS are good places to start with a plan to dig a little deeper later.
The very first survey should be used to establish benchmark numbers that every following survey is compared against. This approach will reveal how effective your actions are in driving and improving employee engagement.
Also read: How to Brainstorm For Innovation
4. Prioritize mental health over everything
Mental health was relevant pre-pandemic but even more so now. Everything is moving so quickly. Our personal and professional lives are melding together in ways they never have before. If you’re not intentionally creating safe spaces for employees to take breaks, you may be doing a disservice to the organization.
Taking time is about so much more than just avoiding burnout. It’s in those disconnect times that teams and employees find moments to grow – to think about what’s possible, instead of what you have to do today. Architecting and innovating time to breath can empower positive feelings and greater commitment to work.
5. Reimagine what’s possible
As you begin looking for ways to create more space for your teams, you may find that old techniques don’t work anymore. Strategies may need to evolve, including those crafted with the intention of building team connectedness.
Here are some ideas:
- Swap virtual happy hours for virtual escape rooms or other competitions.
- Change the location up! Instead of meeting in a conference room, try parks or (in a post-COVID world) coffee shops.
- Think differently about recognition. If you previously sent flowers for birthdays or gift cards to restaurants, are those things still valuable? How about sending a box of cookies to a team member on a tough day? We’ve found that to be more valuable than a $100 gift card to a high-end restaurant because, in the moment, that’s what they needed.
Only you and your team can know what’s right for each individual. Get creative and think outside the box to cultivate a sense of connection that goes beyond a Zoom screen.
Also read: Solving For the Lack of Diversity in CX
6. Get started today
If employee experience is not something you’re actively monitoring, you should take steps to do it today. There’s no time to wait. It’s not even about taking action, it’s about gaining awareness of where you are right now and how your employees are feeling. If that’s a blinder to your organization, you’re missing out on a whole component of your business that is likely having an impact on your end-of-the-line results and overall customer experience.
What’s Next for Employee Experience?
The word “workplace” is defined differently today than it was even a year ago.
As we move forward, expect to see more integration of wellbeing in the workplace. The days of trying to make time for self-care – whether after work, over a weekend, or in-between errand runs – are gone. People are beginning to prioritize their own wellness as highly as they have for their families and loved ones.
The challenge? The path to wellness and wellbeing is different for everyone. Some people need to practice stress-relieving techniques, while others prefer engaging in physical activity, reading a book, furthering education via a certification, or relaxing at a spa. Whatever it is – they all have one thing in common: It provides space and time for people to breathe, explore and grow. The longer we stay in a dispersed work environment and the more weight that continues to fall on people’s shoulders, the ways in which time is spent will be prioritized. Organizations that can find ways to seamlessly integrate these kinds of opportunities into their organizations will benefit. They will become the true differentiators for employee experience.
Also read: What Is CX & Why Does It Matter?
The Bottom Line
The most successful employee experiences must be crafted with the whole person in mind. When you understand who people are – not only when they’re on the Zoom call but who they are when they’re off – and you provide opportunities and experiences catered to them, your end-of-the-line results and overall customer experience will benefit.