New research uncovers four key drivers to curating an impactfulÂ employee experience.
By Colon McLean and Ray Baumruk
With economic expansion and a competitive laborÂ market, organizations are increasingly fighting toÂ protect their bottom line while attracting and retainingÂ top talent. This has placed more pressure than everÂ before on HR to focus on enhancing employeeÂ engagement and productivity. However, even asÂ investments in pay, benefits, and other HR programsÂ have increased over the past few years, research fromÂ Alight Solutions shows that employees and employersÂ alike are struggling to improve employee engagement.Â According to the 2018 Workforce Mindset Study, anÂ employeeâs ability to get work done efficiently andÂ collaborate and contribute on meaningful projects areÂ factors that create an engaging workplace environment.Â These elements also shed light on a much largerÂ driver of organizational success: the overall employeeÂ experience. The employee experience is the collectiveÂ set of day-to-day work interactions that enable peopleÂ to give their value fully and efficiently, express theirÂ authentic selves at work, and connect with other peopleÂ while contributing to a meaningful corporate brand andÂ purpose.
The study draws a direct correlation betweenÂ engagement and the employee experience. In fact,Â engaged employees are six times more likely to rateÂ their employee experience as great than those classifiedÂ as nearly engaged. While there are a multitude ofÂ factors that drive an employeeâs engagement, severalÂ of which are outside an organizationâs direct influence,Â companies can design and deliver a great employeeÂ experience as a path to enhanced engagement andÂ performance. In 2018, only 23 percent of U.S. workersÂ said they have a great employee experience, meaningÂ there is plenty of opportunity for progress. InsightsÂ from the 2018 Workforce Mindset Study point to fourÂ areas of opportunity for organizations to explore asÂ they look to create a great employee experience.
1. Flexibility. When asked what characteristics they wantÂ their employers to have, U.S. workers by and large saidÂ that flexibility was the most meaningful quality. In fact,Â 51 percent of workers would not consider taking a newÂ role if it provided less flexibility than their current role.Â Workers who would give up their desired flexibility for aÂ new role said they would want a 31 percent pay increaseÂ on average to offset the shortcomings of less flexibility.
Workers are simply looking for opportunities to weaveÂ their employment experience into their ever-evolvingÂ life and related priorities. Flexibility means differentÂ things to different people. For some, it may mean anÂ altered schedule or flexible hours; for others, it mayÂ mean working remotely in order to make an after-schoolÂ soccer game. As employers begin to focus on keyÂ drivers for building a great employee experience, theyÂ should take the opportunity to learn from their workersÂ about what flexibility means to them and how it canÂ help meet their changing needs.
2. Technology. As newer and faster technology continuesÂ to enter the marketplace, workers are seeking to have aÂ technology experience at work that mirrors that of theirÂ personal lives. While 50 percent of workers believe theirÂ current workplace technology enables productivity,Â 31 percent of employees say they are often frustratedÂ by their companyâs technology. A top request fromÂ employees today is for an easy-to-use, one-stop shopÂ for job, HR, benefits, pay, and employee information.Â Additionally, only 40 percent of workers believe theirÂ HR systems are easy to use. According to the research,Â when HR systems work effectively, employees are sixÂ times more likely to be engaged. If companies wantÂ employees to be engaged and working efficiently, thenÂ they must understand what is and isnât working whenÂ it comes to technology in the office. Many companiesÂ are aggressively leveraging cloud-based applications toÂ allow workers to access data and perform work in theÂ most flexible way. A flexible work environment withoutÂ flexible technology doesnât make for a great employeeÂ experience.
3. Communication. U.S. workers continue to viewÂ clear and effective communication as an expectationÂ from any employment experience. In addition toÂ communicationâs priority status within the employeeÂ experience, the Workforce Mindset Study alsoÂ shows that employees are 13 times more likely to beÂ engaged when they feel well-informed and when theÂ communications they receive are open and honest.Â Unfortunately, over the past three years, theseÂ expectations have not been met and they continueÂ to decline. Only 44 percent of workers believe theÂ communication they receive from their organizationÂ is open and honest and this is slightly down from theÂ previous year.
When it comes to finding the right information aboutÂ factors like pay or benefits, 62 percent of workersÂ say they know where to go, which is a decrease ofÂ nine percentage points from just three years ago. AÂ comprehensive communication review is a great wayÂ to identify available tools and channels, examineÂ their effectiveness, and then simplify and strengthenÂ communications efforts based on the needs of theÂ companyâs employee population. A frequent shortfall ofÂ many communications platforms is the failure to ensureÂ accountability for managing content, making sure it isÂ current, compelling, and accessible to employees. A bigÂ impact can be made with relatively minimal effort.
4. Connection. Employees who have a strong connectionÂ to their company and team are more likely to beÂ engaged than those who do not. Research from theÂ Workforce Mindset Study shows that 43 percent ofÂ U.S. workers say their companyâs culture and purposeÂ inspire them to work at their best. With only 45 percentÂ of employees feeling connected to the mission of theirÂ company, there is plenty of room for organizationsÂ to step up and engage their workers by building outÂ or more effectively deploying an employee valueÂ proposition (EVP).
An effective EVP is not something employees just readÂ on a careers site, it is something they experience inÂ their daily life as employees. It embodies the behaviorsÂ that drive company culture and personally connectÂ individuals with the companyâs purpose. It should goÂ without saying that everyone wants to be included,Â heard, and valued, but in truth, a large portion ofÂ employees are not feeling that way. In fact, 85 percentÂ of workers expect their manager to value their opinionsÂ on matters that affect them, but less than half say theirÂ manager does. In addition, only half of U.S. employeesÂ believe their manager cares about them as a person.Â This doesnât mean that these leaders are necessarilyÂ bad managers; they just may not be equipped with theÂ right tools to be successful. In fact, only 50 percent ofÂ managers say they have the proper tools to have theseÂ conversations. Managers need active personal supportÂ and direction to maximize their leadership role withinÂ the organization as they develop future leaders.
A great employee experience is critical to achievingÂ goals in attraction, retention, and performance. WithÂ mounting evidence toward its more direct path toÂ productivity and engagement, it should be a goal ofÂ organizations (including HR, IT, facilities, and others)Â to improve the drivers of the employee experience.Â Companies should use all the tools at their disposalâsurveys, town halls, performance feedbackâto solicitÂ input from employees about what works and whatÂ doesnât. With real and ongoing feedback, organizationsÂ will be best positioned to design and deliver anÂ employee experience that fosters engagement andÂ positive business outcomes for all stakeholders.
Colon McLean is chief human resources officer, and Ray Baumruk isÂ vice president of employee experience design, research, and insightsÂ for Alight Solutions.