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Your Guide to Employee Experience – What it Means, Why it Matters & How to Improve It

Employee experience, often referred to as EX, encompasses everything a worker feels, encounters and sees from the time that person starts at a company until the time they leave. Writing about EX, the Academy to Innovate HR, an institute offering educational programs with a focus on HR, puts it this way, “the employee experience is how employees feel about what they encounter and observe over the course of their employee journey at an organization.”

The next question you’re probably asking yourself is this: why is employee experience so important? The answer: happy employees are more likely to excel and remain at your company. Read on as we break down everything you need to know about employee experience.

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Why Employee Experience Matters

We briefly touched on the “why” of EX in the opening, but there is a long list of reasons to justify the critical nature of getting employee experience right.

Culture Amp, a people and culture platform that helps improve employee engagement, retention and performance, has published extensively on this subject. In a blog post for Culture Amp, Sophie Lee explains the importance of employee experience is all-encompassing, “Designing a powerful employee experience isn’t simply a box to check for the HR team – it can also have a significant impact on many aspects of an organization. Company leaders recognize this influence, which is why nearly 80 percent of executives rate employee experience as very important or important”

Lee goes on to list 4 major areas of any business that are impacted by employee experience:

  1. Engagement,
  2. Recruiting,
  3. Retention; and
  4. The bottom line.

Important Employee Experience Stats

The numbers do not lie. There are countless studies and data points that prove the benefits positive employee experience can have for a company. After researching the subject, we are sharing a few notable highlights that can be helpful for determining the employee experience with your company.

MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research published a report with data that shows the benefit of positive employee experience. Professional services company Avande used MIT’s research when writing that “The top quartile performers in employee experience saw these gains: Double the customer satisfaction (industry-adjusted Net Promoter Score, NPS), twice the innovation in terms of percentage of revenues from new products and services and 25% greater profitability compared to competitors.

Echoing MIT’s research we mentioned above, data from technology company IBM found that “Organizations that score in the top 25 percent on employee experience report nearly three times the return on assets compared to organizations in the bottom quartile.” IBM’s research also finds that, “Organizations that score in the top 25 percent on employee experience report double the return on sales compared to organizations in the bottom quartile.”

Gallup has also researched employee experience, and published stats that help put into perspective why it is so important for companies to invest in their workers. Here are a few of the key data points from Gallup:

  • The number 1 reason people change jobs today is “career growth opportunities”
  • Only 2 in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work
  • Only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job of onboarding

The Employee Journey

When you sit down to take a look at employee experience at your individual company, it is imperative you take into account all different aspects of the journey that a worker will go through. Understanding the life-cycle of an employee is a critical step in figuring out how to improve employee experience at each stage that a worker experiences.

In a blog post, Qualtrics, an experience management company, breaks down the employee journey into 5 stages:

  1. Recruitment
  2. Onboarding
  3. Development
  4. Retention
  5. Exit

Improving Employee Experience

There are many things that you can do to improve employee experience at your company. Josh Bersin an industry analyst, educator, and thought leader in HR, leadership, and HR technology, wrote a very thorough post where he offers   advice on the employee experience. We are sharing his guidance below:

  1. Design thinking: this really matters. It’s time for you to “empathize” with your employees, follow them around, survey and interview them, and sit down with them in workshops. They will tell you what bugs them at work, and you’ll hear all sorts of little things that make work difficult.
  2. Start with the basics: look at the common “moments that matter” at work first, and flatten these issue completely. Onboarding, job changes, relocation, and all the little things can really bog people down if they’re difficult. Every company can look at these topics and map out better solutions.
  3. Partner with IT and Finance:  as I discuss in the Employee Experience Platform report, none of these problems is HR”s alone. Bring finance and IT into the team immediately, they are going to be part of the solution.
  4. Practice Co-creation: every solution you develop should be “co-created” with business people and leaders. There’s no way to improve the employee experience without employees being involved. We have to work with them to fix old and broken processes, design new systems, and make work easier. Job shadowing is a good practice to use.
  5. Look at New Tools: the ERP and HCM platforms may not help as much as you think. Every client I met with in Europe told me their big HR systems project did NOT necessarily improve the employee experience. In some cases they did, but only if they looked at the platform project as an “employee experience project.” (more on Employee Experience Platforms)
  6. Practice process simplification: every “process harmonization” project I uncover comes down to one thing. We have a tendency in business to make things too complicated. As your company grows, acquires, and changes people keep tacking on new steps, approvals, and branches to everything.
  7. Segment the workforce:  we can’t possibly fix every employee’s experience in every way at once, so we need to segment the workforce. After we take care of the basics (ie. core HR practices, IT), we can move into specific strategies for the workforces or personas that matter most.

Research Based Advice

A recent article published in Forbes Magazine takes a look at why employee experience is more important than ever given the current work climate as a result of the pandemic. In the article, the author, Jeanne Meister, shares the 5 lessons she’s learned from L’Oréal, ING, and other companies Future Workplace has been researching. Her list is below:

  • See the employee experience through the lens of your employees
  • Listen to your employees to understand what type of virtual and physical workplace environment they want
  • The future of work is the future of worker wellbeing
  • Employee Experience is a business initiative and requires cross functional involvement of key stakeholders
  • Use agile methods to design for the “optimal experience” rather than just solving a pressing problem

Smartway2 is a next-generation worktech company that helps organizations create a world-class employee experience, by enabling employees to book office facilities in advance, from conference rooms and desks to parking and equipment.

Jane Young

Jane Young

Last updated February 17, 2021