An eye on company values, leadership, mission, and brand can elevate the employee experience and deliver a competitive advantage.
By Sue Quackenbush
With the sharing economy in full swing, employees now have the power to broadcast their overall experience with an organization—the good, bad, and ugly—to a wide audience. Their reviews illustrate that in today’s competitive global market, pay isn’t the only criteria that attracts and retains good talent: Employee experience now displaces simple employee engagement as the number one focus for organizations. Experience comprises the sum of an employee’s perceptions about a company, making it a much more important and challenging focus area for organizations. And with the shrinking talent pool adding another wrinkle, companies must focus on the employee experience now more than ever.
Engagement Versus Experience
Gallup, an analytics and advisory company, defines employee experience as the journey an employee takes with a company and employee engagement is an ongoing part of this journey. Defined further, Gallup says that employee engagement encompasses the basic needs required in order to do a job well, such as materials and knowing a manager’s expectations. Employee experience, on the other hand, refers to the entire employee journey, from initial engagement with a company to day-to-day work until the employee’s last day. Depending on how long an employee works for a company and how positive the experience is, this 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 destination that attracts and retains quality, long-term employees, HR leaders must first lay a strong foundation of the elements that are most important to employees. These include competitive compensation and benefits; engaged, effective leaders who establish strong relationships with their team members; clear definition of how each member contributes to the team and to the organization’s success; and growth opportunities.
Beyond this, company culture emerges as another key pillar integral to a positive employee experience. A bit more nebulous as it varies from organization to organization, culture comprises four basic elements: values; leadership style; mission, vision, and business state; and employer brand. These define the attitudes and behaviors of individuals and the organization as a whole.
- Values. Values are a reflection of what’s important to a company and its members—what talent sees and experiences every day in the workplace. Values are always necessary, but it’s easy to get carried away with too many. To positively influence the employee experience, focus on three to five of the most essential values and put them into action in the workplace.
- Leadership style. Leadership style refers to how management, especially senior management, behaves. Whether it’s collaborative or siloed, status quo or innovative, hierarchical or open, leadership style sets the tone and has a big impact on culture. However, it’s the mid-level managers that can really make or break culture. Organizations should invest in the development of these leaders to truly impact employee experience.
- Mission, vision, and business state. Mission and vision are an organization’s reason for existence. They should be expressed and brought to life in a way that employees find meaningful and valuable. Organizations should evaluate whether employees understand their own roles in bringing the mission to action.
The business state reflects where the organization stands in realizing its mission and vision. Significant changes in leadership, acquisitions or expansions, and transformation in response to changing customer needs can all affect culture and employee experience by introducing uncertainty. In the face of such challenges, HR leaders should keep the lines of communication open so that employees feel a sense of belonging in the process and have the opportunity to make decisions about their employment that align with their best interests.
- Employer brand. Employer brand is the company brand as both employees and potential hires express it to others. Just as a well-known marketing brand fosters customer trust and loyalty, an employer brand encourages pride, loyalty, and the desire to stay and contribute to an organization.
By focusing on the overall experience—company culture, growth and opportunities, and rewards and recognition—organizations can turn employees into brand ambassadors. New talent will organically come forth, curious about how working at such a company can enrich their own lives. Most importantly, an organization that focuses on employee experience will reap the rewards of a happy and productive team, which will provide a powerful competitive advantage.
Sue Quackenbush is the CHRO of Vonage.