Revisiting employee experience: The basics & beyond

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A staggering 84% of HR and People Operations professionals are confident they’re meeting employees’ work preferences. (Source: Zendesk 2023)

In startling contrast, only 13% of employees report that they are fully satisfied with their workplace experiences. (Source: Gartner 2023)

This gap between perceived success and actual satisfaction is glaring and raises a vital question: What are we missing?

This is an honest attempt to get to a solution by going back to the basics of employee experience.

In this blog we are going to talk about:

  • How global Employee Experience experts define EX
  • How to answer your CEO when they ask, “Why is EX important?”
  • A simple employee experience framework that has worked for our customers
  • And, how to measure employee experience

…among other things.

Let’s get started: What is employee experience?

That fluffy, nice-to-have thing within the organization…

That is not employee experience!

Instead, as Emma Bridger, Co-Founder of The EX Space and MD of People Lab pointed out:

Definition of employee experience

Employees will have their own unique experience at work, whether you intentionally design it for them or not. The beauty of employee experience as a practice is that you can define and design those positive experiences and eliminate the negative ones.

For instance, you can let your new hires walk through the door on Day One and figure their way around by themselves, or you can make them feel welcomed, supported, and seen.

But what's in it for the business?

“Why is employee experience important?”, asked the CEO

C-suite leaders are increasingly curious about the potential of employee experience strategies than they ever were before. But they don’t yet fully grasp the value of it. This is evident from the fact that during any kind of economic downturn, HR budgets are usually the first to get axed.

This is simply because most decision-makers need to focus on impact and numbers. They're not interested in abstract ideas or fluffy concepts; they want concrete, measurable outcomes. And HR is not exactly known for being able to justify their budget needs in terms of actual results.

So, let’s cut to the chase: C-suite leaders are keen to know how investment in employee experience will impact the business’ bottom line. To address this, it's crucial to present employee experience not just as a nice-to-have, but as a strategic imperative that can lead to tangible benefits. This includes improved employee retention, higher productivity, and ultimately, better financial performance.

For instance, a strong employee experience can enhance the company's brand reputation, making it easier to attract top talent in a competitive market. This, in turn, can lead to a more skilled, efficient, and motivated workforce, driving innovation and better business outcomes.

Similarly, a positive employee experience can make employees feel valued and as a result, they are less likely to leave, reducing the costs associated with high turnover such as recruiting, training, lost productivity, and even, low company morale.

In one of our earlier newsletters, we went into the details of how to get C-suite buy-in for your employee experience initiatives. You may want to check it out to convince the CEO who asks, “Why is employee experience important?”

No, employee experience and employee engagement are not the same

Employee engagement is not the same as employee experience

Employee experience is the effort. And employee engagement is the result.

The easiest way to understand this is through the analogy of a relationship.

Employee engagement is your partner’s love and affection for you. No matter how much you want to control it, you can’t. What you do have control over is your behavior, actions, and attitude which can grow your partner’s love and affection for you. And that’s what you need to focus on. In the case of organizations, this is your employee experience - it’s what you can do to make your employees want to engage with you.

In other words, a great, intentionally designed employee experience will subsequently lead to great employee engagement.

That’s why, not only are both concepts not the same, but focusing only on employee engagement is futile. Instead, build, nurture, and grow your employee experience, as Jacob Morgan points out.

Jacob Morgan on employee experience

Who the h*** is responsible for employee experience?

No, it is not HR.

Treating employee experience as an HR responsibility alone is one of the many reasons why a lot of employee experience strategies fail.

Just think about it: the employee experience ecosystem includes one’s work environment, technology, the physical infrastructure, the relationship between managers and employees, and the overall culture of the organization among other things. Without the active involvement of people and teams responsible for the above areas, HR is pretty much running on a hamster wheel.

If HR is the only team whose KPIs include employee experience in your organization, it is time for some rejig. A cross-functional team that includes a sponsor from the C-suite should, ideally, be responsible for employee experience. 

Leslie Rogers, an employee experience consultant notices this very evidently in her practice. She says, “HR initiates the employee experience projects that I work for with companies. But after the initial discovery or assessment work, when we get to the trenches of implementation, we are working with everyone who influences the experiences of employees within an organization. That includes managers, facilities management, and subject matter experts from various disciplines.”

A simple employee experience framework

For anyone who is still chalking out their employee experience plans, we have a detailed employee experience framework that you can use. 

The four steps in this employee experience framework are:

1. Dive in

Get into the shoes of your diverse employees. Understand them - their motivations, ambitions, dreams, fears, life outside and within work.

And the best way to do this?

By studying data. Collect qualitative and quantitative data from multiple sources and analyze it to identify different employee personas within your organization.

2. Design

Translate your knowledge of your employees into an employee experience strategy that is personalized for every individual.

Start this step by identifying key touchpoints within an employee’s journey. Then align each personas needs and pain points around these touchpoints.

Finally, sit down with your team to brainstorm ways to alleviate these pain points and fulfill the needs.

3. Execute

Share your plan with all stakeholders and get down to the implementation. Go one step, one pilot at a time. 

4. Evaluate

Continuously track the performance of your strategy and make improvements on the go. 

You could do this in multiple ways. Introduce employee experience surveys at each touchpoint. Or, monitor analytics. And, check employee reviews on Glassdoor and other such websites.

That brings us to another important question…

How do you measure employee experience? 

If you were expecting a ready-to-use tool or template to measure employee experience, we’re sorry to disappoint you.

Also, if there’s someone out there promising you one, we would caution you to take a step back before you make any decision, and here’s why:

Emma Bridger on measuring employee experience

That doesn’t mean employee experience is completely unmeasurable.

Rather, there is no standardized, one-size-fits-all tool to measure employee experience.

Here are three types of employee experience metrics you need to care about when it comes to measuring your employee experience strategy.

  1. Business level metrics: These are the numbers your leadership wants to know. The numbers your CHRO will present to the organization to show the overall impact of employee experience on the business. Some of these metrics are Employee Lifetime Value, Voluntary turnover rate, Customer Satisfaction Score, Time to productivity, and Early attrition rate.

  1. Strategy level metrics: These metrics are of particular interest to the HR function and your CHRO to gauge the impact of their EX initiatives on people. For example, Employee Satisfaction Score, Employee Net Promoter Score, employee absenteeism, and company ratings on social sites.

  1. Tactical metrics: These metrics reveal the implementation level success of various EX initiatives. Some of the commonly used tactical metrics are response rate, engagement rate, ticket volume, average ticket resolution time, and employee effort score.

We have an entire article dedicated to these employee experience metrics with real-world examples of how to use them. You can head over to our “How to measure employee experience” blog to dig deeper into this topic.

Do employee experience surveys even work?

You need employee experience surveys to gauge how your EX initiatives are faring and to understand how to improve employee experience.

But here’s a fair warning: if your employee experience survey looks like a never-ending questionnaire handed out to employees once every year, it’s a complete waste of time. Unless conducting the survey is only a checkbox activity for the company.

To get real employee feedback that you can act on, you need to add a new twist to your employee experience surveys. And that’s what is called contextual feedback.

Contextual employee experience surveys are short 2-3 questions asked to an employee immediately after their interaction with a certain touchpoint in their employee journey.

For example, taking feedback immediately after a training program or administering a survey at the end of the employee onboarding program are all great examples of contextual employee feedback.

All this can be a lot to do by yourself and manually. This is when you might find yourself evaluating employee experience platforms to do the job for you.

Employee experience platform - Which one is right for me?

When it comes to employee experience platforms, you're spoilt for choice. The market is flooded with tools that are branded as employee experience platforms. That makes your job harder, unfortunately!

Evaluating and identifying the right employee experience platform can be challenging. But if there are must-have features you need to look out for, here are our recommendations:

Features of an employee experience platform

1. End-to-end EX management

An employee experience platform shouldn’t just take care of one part of your employee experience. Rather it should be able to bring the entire employee experience ecosystem together for you. That means pure-play employee feedback platforms, employee recognition tools, employee information, and data management systems do not qualify as EX platforms.

2. Data capture and management

Data is the foundation for designing employee experience. The employee experience platform must be able to:

  1. Collect data from multiple systems, tools, and data sources within an organization. In addition, it must also be able to capture data on its own in the form of surveys, documents, etc. 
  2. Implement “Extract, Transform, Load (ETL)” processes for seamless data synchronization across systems, as well as data orchestration and identity management to ensure cohesive tracking and integration of employee interactions.

3. Workflow design and management

A good employee experience platform must enable HR to define and automate a series of actions based on specific triggers for processes like onboarding, training enrollment, or leave request approvals, all from one single control center.

4. Personalized, cross-functional journeys

A good employee experience platform must allow you to curate tailored experiences for employees across departments, roles, levels, and life stages within the organization, linking every workplace system and tool they might need during their journey. 

5. Self-service capabilities

An employee experience platform must give you a great amount of autonomy in managing every aspect of the experience from one place. 

6. Analytics and decision-making

An employee experience platform will not only help you get your hands on the right data, but it will empower you to act on the insights you get from that data. Whether it's in the form of better workforce planning, improved onboarding experiences, inclusive policies, or more, the platform gets you accurate, real-time information and enables you to close the feedback loop with timely decision-making.

7. Scalability

For growing organizations, a tool that doesn’t grow with the organization is a liability. This is why ensuring scalability in an employee experience platform is a must. Without increasing headcount at the same time.

Based on the aforementioned features, the top eight employee experience platforms, according to us, are:

  • ServiceNow
  • Tydy
  • WorkDay
  • Oracle
  • SuccessFactors
  • Microsoft Viva
  • Qualtrics

Learn more about these employee experience platforms and the evaluation criteria here.

A parting note: Employee experience best practices

Here are three best practices that we’ve learned at Tydy:

1. Don’t ignore employee data: Like we said before, employee data is the foundation of a great employee experience. Start compiling, cleaning up, and learning from the data sooner rather than later.'

Kalifa Oliver on employee data

2. Never miss the small things for bigger dreams: Small, incremental changes matter. For new hires, not having to wait forever to receive a new laptop matters. For all employees, receiving their salary on time matters. For new managers, relevant training and handholding matters. Don’t brush the small inefficiencies in the work systems under the carpet for larger plans. Oftentimes, it is these small things that genuinely make a difference to employees’ experiences.

3. Keep an eye on the business goal: Employee experience isn’t just a good-to-have thing within the organization. It is an imperative. This can be established and demonstrated only when the employee experience strategy is aligned with the business goal.

Hi! We’re Tydy. Tydy is an employee data platform that enables enterprises and SMBs alike to leverage employee data to build personalized employee experiences. To see our solution in action, sign up for a free demo.

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