Employee Experience: How it is Defining Future Workplaces

The employee experience is one of the most important aspects of business development and internal growth for the future of workplaces. It is much more than just the salary or perks that a company provides to its employees.

It is all about fulfilling employee needs and desires throughout an enriched spectrum of means. When measured according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it sits firmly at the top of the pyramid, under self-actualization.

What is the Employee Experience?
The employee experience is the product of the journey an employee takes throughout the lifecycle of their employment. It is a perception that encompasses every moment that an employee spends interacting with their workplace, co-workers, and company.

Self-actualization represents the highest order of motivations for employees. They are what drive people to realize their true potential and achieve their ideal self.

What many businesses are realizing is that their bottom-line success is tied closely to the motivation and drive of their employees. Businesses and corporations are turning their practice of focusing on their customers inward, to better focus on their employee needs.

The inward focus is part of the realization that the employee experience is just as vital to the success of a business. A motivated and happy workforce bodes well for business. According to Gallup’s 2019 “State of the American Workplace” disengaged employees cost US organizations $450 to $550 billion per year.

In future business, the employee experience will mirror the customer experience in importance and as a key focus for the next generation of business.

The customer experience maintains sales and feeds revenue, so companies work incredibly hard to perfect it. Likewise, the employee experience maintains business success and feeds business growth. Businesses keen on ensuring their future success must get both of these concepts right.

COVID-19 and the advent of work-from-home (WFH) models have turned early conventions of the employee experience on their head. This article will explore its meaning and how future businesses should perfect it.

Studies are Now Pointing to the Importance of the Employee Experience

According to Gallup research, the number one reason why people change their job and leave their current company is a perceived inequality in career growth opportunities between the two businesses.

Many employees even consider leaving every day that they are working. According to research, in 2019 81% of employees said they would consider leaving their job if the right opportunity came along.

Additionally, Gallup research states that after employees join a new company, only 12% strongly agree that their new organization did a great job of onboarding them.

Outdated models are a major reason for these disconnects between the modern employee and employer. The right employee experience practice aligns the employee’s experiences with the company’s purpose, brand, and culture. Unfortunately, work environments of the 2000s have not always been managed with the right strategy in mind.

Workplaces of the 2000s were designed for the extrovert. Walls were removed or chopped in half and floor plans were opened so everyone could interact across the entire space, constantly. As it turns out, not every employee needs that.

In Gallup’s 2019 State of the American Workplace report, employees reported that 43% of the time they complete their work away from their team members.

All employees approach work differently, and the introvert vs extrovert framework is an aspect of the employee experience that employers should facilitate, rather than dictate. Businesses of the future will recognize the different needs of employees and will cultivate their spaces, engagements, and messaging to better fulfill all employees.

Rolling into the 2020s, businesses are taking steps to follow the new trend of improving the employee experience. A global study performed by the research and advisory firm Gartner determined that in 2019 global companies spent an average of $2,420 per person on efforts to enhance the employee experience. The price point is even higher for progressive North American businesses riding the first wave of enhancement.

There is still much to learn about the best way to improve the employee experience. The same study determined that the return on investment of the 2019 global efforts to improve it was low. Only 13 percent of employees polled as a part of the research experiment reported being happy with their employer’s efforts to improve their experience.

This highlights a still misunderstood gap in knowledge for businesses looking to improve the employee experience. Namely, employers cannot just throw money at the problem and expect it to improve.

Solutions for improving employee experience need to be just as innovative as the solutions developed for the customer experience.

Rising Expectations

The employee experience is a key business function for human resource departments to take control of and to improve. According to Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Trends survey, employee experience was rated as important or very important by 80% of human resources and management respondents.

However, only 22% of leaders and HR professionals, stated that their organization was excellent at managing a differentiated employee experience.

A business’s employee experience is what helps retain top talent, bring out the best of employees, and attract new skills to the team. Job searchers are evaluating prospective employers for a place that will value them and their contribution.

5 Key Employee Experience Statistics

  • Companies who act well on feedback have twice the engagement score than those that don’t — 80% vs. 40%. (Qualtrics)
  • Managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores, and engagement is strongly linked to productivity. (Gallup)
  • 89% of employers think employees leave for more money but in reality, only 12% do. (Forbes)
  • Companies with engaged employees pull in 2.5x more revenues compared to competitors with low engagement levels. (ADP)
  • A whopping $11 Billion is lost annually due to employee turnover. (Forbes)

Online business review companies like Indeed and Glassdoor enable job searchers to learn anything about a company and how it treats its employees. The employee experience is an important metric that these online sites key in on, and a company’s ability to manage it is on full display.

According to Glassdoor, the companies in the top 6% of heaviest investors in employee experience are included among Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work 11.5 times as often as other companies.

Job searchers expect a good company to emphasize having excellent benefits, engagement, and training opportunities for employees. Recruiters that can also sell the employee experience will help their company stand out amongst the other companies.

The employee experience is not a natural focus for businesses. It is not directly reflected in the bottom line and it cannot be expressed on an income sheet. Because of this, not enough companies pay attention to improving their employee experience.

For those businesses that put effort into improving employee experience leading up to 2020, unfortunately, now their efforts need to be completely realigned. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely redefined the workplace, and so likely rendered some programs outdated.

Defining Employee Experience

The employee experience is the summation of every touchpoint and interaction that an employee has at their place of employment and with their employer. It is primarily subjective at the individual level, and all perceptions are developed through the lens of the employee’s personal perspective.

Simply put, analyzing the it means seeing the world through the eyes of the employee. As an internal business function, it is uniquely empathetic and breaks the adage of “it’s just businesses, it isn’t personal.”

Archival notions of employer-employee relations are sometimes draped in the twentieth century factory line or sweat shop image. As most people would recognize, modern workspaces should be starkly different. Inspiration, growth, and development are hallmarks of the new employee experience.

Employee experience is a business function to be managed. It is the relationship and climate that an organization maintains with its employees.

Organizations that thrive in connecting with their workforce reap the benefits of a strong employee experience. Statistically, organizations that place little focus on employee experience have higher rates of turnover, lower performance, and greater employee mental health issues.

There are misconceptions about what constitutes the employee experience.

Employee experience is not the typical HR metric that businesses may expect to effect employee mindset. For example, it isn’t simply how well a business pays its employees.

Employee salary is not an additive element to the employee experience. Poor salary packages can, however, be a detractor from it. At some point, it doesn’t matter how great an experience employees have at work if they are so poorly compensated that they can’t live comfortably.

Employee Experience Management

Employee experience management is a human resources business function. Numerous technology and Fortune 500 businesses have created employee experience management positions.

HackerOne, an information technology and ethical hacking business based out of San Francisco, CA is one such technology startup with multiple job postings for employee experience management positions.

In HackerOne’s job description for a Senior Employee Experience Manager Role, the position is described as suitable for someone: “Obsessed with culture building, is passionate about creating memorable experiences for employees, and is a natural at communicating across mediums and geographies.”

HackerOne describes the employee experience management position as a “critical member of the ‘People’ team where we are leaders in creating and sustaining a transparent and innovative workplace that promotes employee engagement, high performance, diversity, and mutual respect.”

Employee experience management is a high visibility role in many organizations. Experience managers effect all functional areas of the business because they are charged with positively influencing every employee.

Because of their broad effect across an organization, experience managers must be able to “wear many hats” and communicate effectively to diverse groups of people.

The experience needs of a business’s software engineering group is likely different from the needs of the marketing group. Experience managers must recognize the differences of these groups and employ effective strategies to ensure that both are getting their own positive experiences from the company.

Interestingly enough, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an experience management hiring surge across multiple job search businesses like Glassdoor, Indeed, and Monster Jobs. Businesses are recognizing the threat that virtual work can pose to employee productivity. Deloitte’s? Global Human Capital Trends states that only 23% of companies claim that their work-life balance solutions are excellent for them or their employees. In response to this, hundreds of positions in employee experience management have popped up on sites.

The increased demand for employee experience management positions represents many businesses’ recognition of how the pandemic has stretched the boundaries of traditional program management.

The complete set of needs and experience requirements for virtual and work from home employees are unfamiliar and yet to be defined for businesses. In response to this, many are creating new employee experience management positions to fill the gap.

The Importance of a Formalized Program

Employee experience management programs are designed to meet the experience needs of the employees at a firm. These programs are headed by the managers that a business hires.

Experience programs need to be crafted for the characteristics and needs of each individual business unit. This means that different divisions within a business could have different employee experience programs.

Manufacturing teams and cybersecurity technicians are going to have some significant differences in what they need from their experience. These differences are just part of the dynamic of modern workplaces.

Cumberland FarmsCumberland Farms is an example of a company that created a unique and powerful employee experience program. The company’s mission statement is, “to deliver the friendliest, cleanest customer experience by first being the best place to work.”

Employee experience programs need to be all encompassing to meet the needs of every type of employee at the firm. Cumberland Farms recognized that the majority of its 9,000 employees are constantly on the move and assisting customers while they are at work.

They created a platform with Dynamic Signal called FarmFeed to bring employees together and create a stronger community. FarmFeed is a social network and digital workspace where team members can connect with company leaders and fellow employees. The FarmFeed network supports Cumberland Farm’s strategic employee experience initiative to make all employees feel like valued members of a team.

Creating initiatives and an experience program that captures every wide-ranging employee experience need can be very difficult. Human resource managers and employee experience managers that are creating programs from scratch could benefit from incorporating actual employee input into their programs.

When creating the initiatives and experience programs, managers can utilize different data gathering techniques to gain an understanding of what initiatives will work best. Data gathering methods such as surveys, polls, or focus groups can provide valuable insight into the experience needs of a company and its employees.

Employee experience programs should also incorporate periodic audits and reviews of the effectiveness of their programs. As the physical and environmental makeup of a workforce in a business changes and evolves, the employee experience needs of the workforce will also change.

Programs should be prepared to stay in tune with the changes of the workforce they are designed to serve. Once again, periodic data gathering methods such as surveys, polls, or focus groups can provide both the notification and insight into changes in the sentiment of the workforce.

Communication and dialogue will always be the key to maintaining an effective employee experience program. According to Qualtrics US Employee Pulse Research, only 60% of employees say that they have a way to provide feedback about their personal employee experience. Even worse, only 30% of US employees say that their employers act upon their feedback.

Employee experience plans are only worthwhile when they have top-to-bottom support. Commitment and buy-in to the program must be supported at the senior management level and backed up by resources and funding to ensure success.

The creation process for a program can start off with an incomplete and undefined end state. Traditional methods of project and program management can prove ineffective when there is an unclear set of deliverables or end state.

An agile project management approach to developing and implementing employee experience programs can be a highly effective methodology to adopt for experience managers. When the end state of a project is undefined, agile project management can be employed to develop solutions and program principles iteratively.

Agile project management allows an employee experience implementation team to break the large, challenging problem of creating and instilling an employee experience program into more manageable tasks that are tackled in short iterations, called sprints.

Each successive sprint is focused on achieving a small set of goals that were set at the end of the previous sprint. Often, as programs develop and become a part of an organization, they undergo significant changes in adapting to the needs of their workforce.

Agile sprints allow managers to quickly incorporate the feedback and reviews they receive from their employees into the next sprint iteration. This iterative feedback can be crucial to keeping employee experience programs in-touch with the needs of the employees in a business.

No matter what sort of approach employee experience managers take to creating and adapting their experience programs, the programs need to be flexible enough to adjust to changes.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated for many businesses, within 24 hours the entire nature and physical location of the workforce could go through a drastic switch, like transitioning to remote work from home employment. Businesses with flexible and agile employee experience programs will be best suited for these times of crisis.

Post Author

G.I. Sanders

G.I. Sanders is Senior Director, Creative Services at Dynamic Signal. He specializes in entrepreneurship, digital and social media, design, and marketing. G.I. is based in Dallas, TX with his wife and two sons. Passions include technology, startups, music, fitness and sports.