Employee experience means everything to your people, so it makes sense that you’d want to find ways to ensure that their experience is a positive one. This usually means you need to rethink your employee experience strategy.
But because employee experience is so vast and nebulous, companies need to come to terms with the fact that their employee experience can’t really be managed or controlled with an “employee experience strategy.” There’s simply too much that’s out of their hands.
Which is not to say that your organization in particular can’t find ways to facilitate a more positive employee experience. You can (and should)! It just requires a change in how you think about employee experience strategy.
In this article we’ll take a look at why an employee experience strategy can’t really begin to address your people’s experience. We’ll also talk about how their experience can be understood and improved upon for the benefit of your people and your business.
Examining Why Your Employee Experience Strategy Won’t Work
Why is Employee Experience So Complicated?
“Employee experience” refers to anything and everything an employee (you guessed it) experiences over the course of their employment at a company: from the interview process, onboarding, development, everyday processes and workflow, the tools they use, the conversations they have, all the way to offboarding.
As put by DecisionWise, employee experience is “the sum of the various perceptions employees have about their interactions with the organization in which they work.”
Jacob Morgan delves even deeper into the complex nature of employee experience, explaining that it comprises every interaction and/or experience within three distinct workplace environments: cultural, physical, and technological. What do these mean?
- The cultural: how employees feel when they’re inside an organization, which is impacted by “the organizational structure, leadership style, compensation and benefits, etc.”
- The physical: “anything that can be seen, heard, touched, and tasted like desks, chairs, art, and meals.”
- The technological: the overall experience of “the tools an employee needs to do their jobs, including the user interface, mobile devices, and desktop computers.”
Because there are so many different factors at play, measuring the employee experience in a meaningful way is almost always going to be difficult.
And an overarching, company-wide employee experience strategy to “solve” or “manage” the employee experience will probably fall flat. Why? Because employee experience is something ongoing and enduring that you’ll need to work at constantly. It’s time to abandon the notion that employee experience can be completely controlled.
What Can You Do About Your Employee Experience Strategy?
You can try to understand your people’s experience through their eyes, and adapt accordingly. One way to go about this is to start journey mapping.
If you’re versed in customer experience, you know about journey mapping. If not, it’s basically a way of mapping out a customer’s experience with your company. And it’s a process that can easily be adapted to map an employee’s experience as well.
Here’s what you’re trying to figure out:
- What does a typical employee’s journey from onboarding to offboarding look like at your organization?
- What about an atypical employee’s journey?
- Forget sweeping generalizations and personas: what about each individual employee’s specific, personalized journey?
Journey mapping, especially if done well, can give you a good sense of your employees’ experiences at your workplace from beginning to end. But, it’s important to remember (and acknowledge as you go forward) that there are variables that you’ll never have access to, which means you’ll never have the complete picture.
Getting Your Employees to Participate is All About Great Internal Communications
This is where your internal communications comes in. In order to create a stellar employee experience strategy, as an internal communicator, you’ll need to collect information through surveys, interviews, casual and formal conversations, social gatherings, formal and informal feedback sessions, and 1:1 meetings.
Before you interview your people and learn about their personal employee experiences, you’re going to have to be as transparent as possible about what you intend to do with the information they provide.
Internal communicators, take note. When you first put out a call for submissions or publish an announcement about collecting employee data, you’ll want to keep the following tips in mind:
Try to keep your people front and center: Transparently share your objectives for the surveys and polls
- Explain why employee journey mapping is necessary and how it will help the organization improve employee experiences
- Reward and celebrate employees for sharing their experiences and perceptions of the organization. Remember: they’re doing you a favor
- Encourage complete honesty without repercussions. The last thing you want is a workforce that’s afraid to provide accurate, honest feedback
To expand on that list point, another important thing to remember is that you’re probably going to receive negative feedback that you may not like or agree with. How you respond to the negative aspects of your employees’ experiences needs to be carefully considered. By reacting defensively, for example, you’re probably going to make it more difficult to obtain real, thoughtful feedback from your employees in the future.
You’ll also want to keep your people informed throughout the process: from the initial data collection to announcement of findings to the actual implementation of new policies and procedures. Rubain Manzoor sums up the link between employee experience and internal comms well when she says, “When it comes to internal comms, employees appreciate a steady flow of information which tells them how their team and the wider company is progressing towards various goals.”
After all, improving your employees’ experience is all about strengthening the bonds that hold your organization together.
What to Do Next?
So, how do you go about changing your current employee experience strategy or revamping it entirely? First, look for common threads on a case-by-case basis to identify potential issues with the employee experience at your organization. If you’ve designed your surveys thoughtfully, a lot of these issues will have already been identified by your people, so how you approach these will depend on a number of variables specific to your company. But the goal is to make quality of life improvements that address the feedback you’ve received.
Some would argue that the data you’ve mined should be used to create a persona for the “ideal employee” to help you understand who you want in a particular role and begin to theorize “how that person thinks and feels.” It’s here that your organization may be tempted to develop an employee experience strategy for existing employees or new hires.
But again, it’s best to avoid relying on employee personas whenever possible, mainly because doing so severely limits your understanding of your people and reduces them to dehumanized personality types as opposed to complex individuals with legitimate concerns and impactful experiences.
Approach Your Employee Experience Strategy With a Growth Mindset
Employee experience, even once it’s improved upon, is never a fixed concept. Rather, it’s constantly changing each day depending on factors that are fundamentally out of your control. And this is precisely why a mindset bent on “solving” a static problem or constellation of issues cannot work, not permanently.
It’s best to approach employee experience with a growth mindset. Outline journey maps, but constantly be questioning and tweaking them to find out what works best for your people and organization. Rely on your people for regular feedback and the impact your choices have on their employee experience will evolve along with their needs and concerns.
Gaining an understanding of your organization’s employee experience is invaluable to your company and its people, not to mention your customers. It’ll require a lot of ongoing research and analysis, but in the end it’s more than worth it.
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