In the life of an employee, there are times that inspire dread, there are times when you avoid looking colleagues in the eye, and then there’s the annual staff survey. HR leaders are beginning to recognize that measuring employee engagement once a year is an increasingly problematic method. It only measures the temperature of employees’ mood at that specific point in time. Companies are now rethinking what it means to be an employee and implementing policies to optimize the employee experience.
Why is employee experience so important?
Josh Bersin, who, with Deloitte, has researched extensively performance, motivation and productivity, emphasizes the importance of employee experience:
In a digital world with increasing transparency and the growing influence of Millennials, employees expect a productive, engaging, enjoyable work experience.
Rather than focus narrowly on employee engagement and culture, organizations are developing an integrated focus on the entire employee experience, bringing together all the workplace, HR, and management practices that impact people on the job.
Employee experience births work culture
Employee experience has a direct impact on your organizational culture.
Your marketing and comms team have worked hard on building a corporate culture that is on message and fits the brand. However, the real work culture evolves from the way your employees work, communicate and relate to each other.
Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company’s president once quoted the management consultant, Peter Drucker: he said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
The working culture is a prime factor in dictating whether an organization can achieve strategic goals.
Employee experience is the largest contributor to the working culture. A positive employee experience creates a positive atmosphere, which, in turn, creates greater productivity and higher retention. But, just as it is hard to define culture, it can be hard to define what makes up a good employee experience.
Bersin identified three areas that are key to today’s workers: “…employees expect a productive, engaging, enjoyable work experience.”
Every organization wants all employees to be productive – so this shouldn’t be hard, should it? In fact, this may be the greatest challenge.
Productivity at an individual level means using your talents and skills as you see best and exploring the “fun” bits of work, rather than focusing solely on what your organization needs.
The demand for flexible working conditions is symptomatic of this.
In order to get the best out of employees, an organization must align an individual’s skills with the strategic tasks that need to be completed.
This is a real challenge as we are not good at identifying our skills, nor are our skills static. Just as the organizational needs change, so do our skills and talents.
This means that matching employees to tasks and roles is a continual process that needs careful management. You cannot attempt to do this without an effective talent management process.
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As your talent program evolves to match employee skills to tasks, employees begin to understand the value they bring and they take ownership of processes and their roles.
We are most engaged when we feel that we have a personal, emotional stake in something. Using your talents effectively is a key motivator and positively influences how you perceive your work environment.
You can see your colleagues doing their best at what they are best at and you realize that you are making a difference as well. This, in turn, creates more committed employees who are aligned with business goals.
For many people, it is a dream to be paid to do what they love doing.
For a growing number of people, and millennials in particular, it is an expectation of work that they will enjoy what they do.
If we can see that our employer recognizes, values and uses our talents, we take ownership of the processes and tasks, and finally, we see we can make a real difference. This triggers an improvement in the sense of self-worth, a reduction in stress, and greater satisfaction. In short, enjoyment.
In a 2019 survey of HR priorities conducted by Gartner, more than half of the 800 HR leaders asked, stated that improving employee experience was their number one priority. And it is no surprise.
The journal, Industry Week published an alarming statistic last year: for every unemployed STEM worker, there were 13 online vacancies posted. This means that workers are in high demand. Not only can they pick and choose where they work, but they are also in a position to negotiate from a strong position. They can also be much more mobile in their working life. Moving between organizations is much simpler.
Vacancies are a strategic risk to the organization, recruitment is expensive and onboarding staff takes a long time. If we can create a positive employee experience, we are making a competitive efficiency and utilizing our talent pools more effectively. The business case is clear and investment is minimal. Global markets are evolving so quickly that top talent is becoming an even more critical strategic resource.
If the employee experience doesn’t match expectations, your organization will be a follower rather than a leader. The future of work is about evolving in order to enhance the employee experience and retain and attract talent.