An eye on company values, leadership, mission, and brand canÂ elevate the employee experience and deliver a competitiveÂ advantage.
By Sue Quackenbush
With the sharing economy in full swing, employees nowÂ have the power to broadcast their overall experienceÂ with an organizationâthe good, bad, and uglyâto aÂ wide audience. Their reviews illustrate that in todayâsÂ competitive global market, pay isnât the only criteriaÂ that attracts and retains good talent: EmployeeÂ experience now displaces simple employee engagementÂ as the number one focus for organizations. ExperienceÂ comprises the sum of an employeeâs perceptions aboutÂ a company, making it a much more important andÂ challenging focus area for organizations. And withÂ the shrinking talent pool adding another wrinkle,Â companies must focus on the employee experience nowÂ more than ever.
Engagement Versus Experience
Gallup, an analytics and advisory company, definesÂ employee experience as the journey an employeeÂ takes with a company and employee engagement is anÂ ongoing part of this journey. Defined further, GallupÂ says that employee engagement encompasses theÂ basic needs required in order to do a job well, suchÂ as materials and knowing a managerâs expectations.Â Employee experience, on the other hand, refers to theÂ entire employee journey, from initial engagement withÂ a company to day-to-day work until the employeeâsÂ last day. Depending on how long an employee worksÂ for a company and how positive the experience is, thisÂ journey could span a handful of years to decades.
Putting Employee Experience at the Core
If the goal of an organization is to be a destinationÂ that attracts and retains quality, long-term employees,Â HR leaders must first lay a strong foundation of theÂ elements that are most important to employees.Â These include competitive compensation and benefits;Â engaged, effective leaders who establish strongÂ relationships with their team members; clear definitionÂ of how each member contributes to the team and to theÂ organizationâs success; and growth opportunities.
Beyond this, company culture emerges as another keyÂ pillar integral to a positive employee experience. AÂ bit more nebulous as it varies from organization toÂ organization, culture comprises four basic elements:Â values; leadership style; mission, vision, and businessÂ state; and employer brand. These define the attitudesÂ and behaviors of individuals and the organization as aÂ whole.
- Values. Values are a reflection of whatâs importantÂ to a company and its membersâwhat talent sees andÂ experiences every day in the workplace. Values areÂ always necessary, but itâs easy to get carried awayÂ with too many. To positively influence the employeeÂ experience, focus on three to five of the most essentialÂ values and put them into action in the workplace.
- Leadership style. Leadership style refers to howÂ management, especially senior management, behaves.Â Whether itâs collaborative or siloed, status quo orÂ innovative, hierarchical or open, leadership style setsÂ the tone and has a big impact on culture. However, itâsÂ the mid-level managers that can really make or breakÂ culture. Organizations should invest in the developmentÂ of these leaders to truly impact employee experience.
- Mission, vision, and business state. Mission andÂ vision are an organizationâs reason for existence. TheyÂ should be expressed and brought to life in a way thatÂ employees find meaningful and valuable. OrganizationsÂ should evaluate whether employees understand theirÂ own roles in bringing the mission to action.
The business state reflects where the organizationÂ stands in realizing its mission and vision. SignificantÂ changes in leadership, acquisitions or expansions, andÂ transformation in response to changing customer needsÂ can all affect culture and employee experience byÂ introducing uncertainty. In the face of such challenges,Â HR leaders should keep the lines of communicationÂ open so that employees feel a sense of belonging inÂ the process and have the opportunity to make decisionsÂ about their employment that align with their bestÂ interests.
- Employer brand. Employer brand is the companyÂ brand as both employees and potential hires expressÂ it to others. Just as a well-known marketing brandÂ fosters customer trust and loyalty, an employer brandÂ encourages pride, loyalty, and the desire to stay andÂ contribute to an organization.
By focusing on the overall experienceâcompanyÂ culture, growth and opportunities, and rewards andÂ recognitionâorganizations can turn employees intoÂ brand ambassadors. New talent will organically comeÂ forth, curious about how working at such a companyÂ can enrich their own lives. Most importantly, anÂ organization that focuses on employee experience willÂ reap the rewards of a happy and productive team, whichÂ will provide a powerful competitive advantage.
Sue Quackenbush is the CHRO of Vonage.