Improving the employee experience is a key consideration when attracting and retaining top talent.
By Simon Kent
A positive first impression is often not enough to keep new employees happy and engaged. Whilst a new hire may experience excitement and pride at first, their positivity will decrease if the reality of working for a company doesn’t match their expectations. In order to address this, HR is exploring the employee experience—a consideration of what it is like to work at a company from a multitude of perspectives.
According to the Aon Global Employee Experience Research 2018 report, 21 per cent of organisations are already measuring employee engagement, with 41 per cent planning to do so by 2020. However, employee experience transcends static measures. Martha How, principal of Aon, says, “[The employee experience] acknowledges that engagement is not a one-off snapshot measured through a survey. Instead, it is a fluid matter that maps an employee’s lifecycle within an organisation from their experience as a candidate for a job to performance assessment, training, promotion, and leaving and being an alumni.” Daunting as this may seem, if HR is able to describe, sell, and deliver a positive experience, they are more likely to attract and retain the best talent for their organisation.
Stuart Hearn, CEO and founder of performance management company Clear Review, believes the employee experience begins with the head of an organisation. “If the company is a ship, then the CEO is the captain,” he says. “The employee experience begins with the CEO because this is the individual who makes decisions regarding company values and ethics. They decide what kind of organisation they are developing. This will govern who they employ, the work that gets done, and how people are treated.”
“It comes down to taking the values of your organisation and making them a reality,” says Cathy Temple, vice president of HR at Oracle. “If one of your values is passion, then you need to look at how you help your employees act in such a way. You cannot just ‘talk the talk,’ but have to demonstrate it consistently.”
For Temple, delivering on passion requires working with line managers to ensure that each employee’s areas of interest are taken into account when mapping out their careers, and that they are matched with the training provisions and resources they need to do their jobs effectively.
Similarly, if a key value of an organisation is collaboration, the employer needs to ensure that employees can collaborate. This can be achieved through an environment that encourages working together—perhaps an open plan office—and technology that enables the sharing of work and ideas.
“All of these pieces need to come together and work in harmony to impact the employee experience,” she says. “You can’t just do some in isolation or the whole thing becomes disjointed and can have a negative impact on the experience.”
Carolyn Nevitte, HR director of PeopleInsight, says that companies will see the best results if they invite employee feedback and conduct surveys to monitor employees’ perceptions of the organisation. “Companies aren’t able to completely control the employee experience as it’s a reflection of the employees’ opinions and insights, which are subjective,” she explains. “However, companies can control certain elements so they can deliver a specific experience to their staff. They can strive towards a desired employee experience and make amendments to improve and adapt it based on employee insights.”
Despite the multiple stakeholders who can play a part in enhancing the employee experience, Aon’s How says that forward-thinking HR teams can have a direct impact through their own work. This includes consistent recruitment and onboarding, acting on engagement survey results, and pushing for more regular measurement.
“Those organisations that are looking at experience in the widest context but are clear on the focus of action and the types and timing of the employee data they collect are showing the greatest employee engagement results,” she says.
Peter Harte, vice president of enterprise sales in EMEA at Kronos, says employee engagement and satisfaction, embodied within the employee experience, are arguably the most important areas to focus on in a business. “Your people are the ones who help innovate and grow the company,” he says. “Employees become more of a focus when you consider the potentially severe business implications associated with burnout and low morale which can result from long hours or stressful conditions that can come with peak times, like the holidays.”
For Kronos, one positive by-product of addressing the employee experience has been the company’s gaining a “Great Place to Work” certification. Harte says that this designation has more than doubled applications to the company in five years. “To get started, evaluate proper solutions that help employees get their jobs done in the most efficient way possible,” he advises. “Look to leverage emerging technologies such as AI and automation to speed up mundane processes that bog managers and employees down.”
“I think HR departments are acutely aware of how important the employee experience is,” says Oracle’s Temple. “Where companies struggle the most is where it isn’t a boardroom discussion. The retention and attraction of staff is not something the board can ignore—it has a direct impact on every single department.”
Temple’s observation may be correct in the current climate, but the discussion of the employee experience means businesses are gradually taking a more holistic and proactive approach to their working environment—and that will involve everyone.
“I believe companies are starting to sit up and pay attention to the importance of employee experience, but there is so much to explore and many HR departments simply don’t have the time or resources to devote to improving the employee experience,” says Hearn. “The good news is that this is changing and some companies are even creating job roles to cater to the employee experience. Ten years from now, it might be commonplace to find a chief employee experience officer at most organisations.”