October 23.2017, 1.10pm

Old Rules vs New Rules: Employee Experience Game-Changer

Employee experience has been an emerging trend in the HR world for several years. Employee experience is generally taken to encapsulate the things your employees encounter, experience, and feel in their working life.

Driven by digital transformation and a focus on engagement, companies are increasingly prioritising employee experience with job titles like ‘Director of Happiness’ or ‘Chief Happiness Officer’ becoming more prevalent.

With the evolution of cloud and mobile computing, increased automation, and agile workplaces, employers are looking to create human-first experiences for their employees.

However, all isn’t quite as it seems: according to the Employee Experience Index report, Ireland ranks below the global average in positive employee experience levels. In the UK, half of UK employees say their workplace has a negative impact on their physical, mental, and financial well-being – with 50 percent also revealing that they’ve taken a sabbatical from work to deal with the stress of their working life.

While the employee experience revolution is on the rise, many companies can do much better – and with strong fiscal outcomes (and the potential for a much happier workforce), HR is facing a changing landscape.

Out with the old.

A decade is a long time in HR. In the late noughties, the emphasis was on ‘Client 360’, the hot-button trend of human relations.

HR experts emphasised 360-reviews where employees and managers were totally honest with each other in the hopes of fostering increased productivity, retention, and job satisfaction.

At the time, 360-degree feedback revolutionised performance management, with peer appraisal coming to the fore. However, in recent years, the approach has fallen to the wayside.

The Harvard Business Review summarised the problem with this approach, saying that, “more times than not, it exacerbates bureaucracy, heightens political tensions, and consumes enormous numbers of hours. No wonder so many executives wonder if peer appraisal is worth the effort.”

Where Client 360 put the employer first, the new approach is to prioritise the employee.

The Employee 360 revolution

Employee 360 takes elements from the Client 360 approach (chiefly a peer-based review system) and updates it to fit modern thinking.

Modern HR strives to create a complete (360) view of employees by aggregating data from multiple touchpoints e.g. mobile devices, social media, customer support, day-to-day activity.

Employee experience – engagement, hiring, retention, and development

In 1990, Professor William Kahn of Boston University coined “engagement” relative to the workforce in his paper, ‘Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work.’

Kahn interviewed employees and found that their engagement was impacted by three things:

  • The feeling that their work was meaningful.
  • Feeling valued, trusted, and respected.
  • Feeling secure and self-confident.

While remuneration was important, the most engaged employees sought a feeling of community in their workplace.

To engage their workforce, employees need to think ‘bottom-up’ instead of ‘top-down’. Run periodic surveys and questionnaires to gauge your employees’ satisfaction levels. Effect change relevant to their requests and listen to their queries.

Foster feelings of confidence by showcasing good work and praising outstanding teammates. Millennials, in particular, value recognition so cultivate a feeling of positivity by creating a collaborative work environment or running team-bonding days. An anonymous suggestion box is a cheap and effective place to foster open communication with top brass.

Employees need to feel that they have the ability to exact change in the workforce, but also that they can take their own development in their hands with training, progression, and self-growth.

While focusing on the current working environment is a core part of employee experience, employers should also look towards their hiring techniques and employee retention plans.

Marry data and know-how

Employers must be willing to offer development opportunities and learning environments to suit different types of employees. Again, the Millennial workforce values career progression above all else so HR needs to marry their data and human know-how to create a happy environment for young staffers.

CoreHR’s Workforce Management tools give you access to pertinent employee data and real-time performative analytics so you can pinpoint employees on course for promotion or mentorship.

Rostering software gives HR the ability to ensure the right people are given the right opportunity to prosper, which can be used in tandem with employee analytics and talent management software to create succession plans and identify strengths and weaknesses.

Active learning, mentorship, and clear progression paths will put your employees front and centre of their own careers, leading to improved satisfaction and productivity.

Lastly, self-service options for workers are a vital part of an improved employee experience. Self-service includes simple measures like booking holidays online (or via an app) and enabling employees to manage expenses.

Win the war for top talent by focusing on the employee

While the hiring process might seem rudimentary, employee experience is impacting it too. Attracting top talent requires a recruitment process that needs to be positive and candidate-focused.

The interview process should highlight company culture and the interviewer should approach the interview with transparency. You want any future prospects to feel comfortable in their interviews – and not like they’re being grilled for information or set up to fail with unnecessarily tricky questions or an awkward interview environment.

The application should feel efficient, with reduced data admin for candidates. You can also use the inbound recruiting methodology to help attract the best candidates.

The onboarding process forms a large part of the employee experience too. Some studies have suggested that companies lose 17 percent of new hires within the first three months. This means re-advertising, re-interviewing and re-training almost one out of every five hires.

That’s why companies who are on top of their game have a thorough onboarding process. Taking the EX approach to onboarding means realising that onboarding doesn’t end once the employee has signed their contract and you’ve shown them to their desk.

An effective onboarding programme helps both the new employees and their managers. Google, for example, uses an electronic checklist to remind its managers of exactly what to do with new hires the week before they are due to start.

This checklist details the basics of what to do: go through the role and responsibilities, match the new hire with a ‘buddy’, get their workstation set-up etc. While it seems like a simple idea, Google says that it has shortened the time new hires take to get to full productivity by a whopping 25 percent.

A hard return on employee wellness

Wellness is a booming trend across the globe, with an increasing emphasis on mental and physical health. But employee wellness can go even further, reaping benefits both for the employee and employer.

In a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, 76 percent of respondents said that their company offered some type of wellness resource, while three-quarters of companies said that their programmes were “somewhat effective” or “very effective.”

Wellness should be tailored to your employees and their lifestyles: for examples, if your workforce is sedentary, you could supply fitness monitors to measure key metrics alongside providing healthy breakfasts or free yoga classes at lunchtime.

Many companies are offering preventative services like biometric screenings and health education, though change can be on a more minor scale. Wellness programmes don’t have to cause stress for the HR department: extending paid holidays, paternity/maternity leave, or providing “duvet days” are all easy ways to improve wellness.

Health is holistic, so check in routinely with employees, as wellness isn’t just about physical health. Prioritise open communication and a healthy workplace culture and you’ll see a knock-on effect on performance and employee turnover rates.

Employee experience: is it all good?

While the results for improved employee experience seem to speak for themselves, employee over-engagement is becoming a risk in some sectors. Companies are facing over-engagement while employees are facing overly-intrusive questioning and an over-emphasis on wellness/engagement as a metric for performance.

However, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) is a prime example of how to do it right. There’s a reason Alphabet topped LinkedIn’s list of best places to work.

Sure, its culture is legendary with free gourmet cafeterias, foosball tables, relaxed offices, nap pods and massage rooms but it’s the opportunities and resources that truly make for a content workforce.

In many cases, a happy medium is the best solution. Improved employee experience doesn’t have to involve costly technology: sufficient holidays, cognitive days, succession planning, and self-service go a long way towards creating a content and productive workforce.

Negotiating between the old and new rules can be a fine balance, but our Research Report, ‘The Challenges and Opportunities facing HR’ can help you to plot your route for the year ahead.

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Keir McCarthyBy Keir McCarthy

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