You press print and get up from your desk to collect your papers. While passing your manager’s door, they bark an order: ‘I need that report on my desk by five. No deadline extensions.’ Darting into the other room, you spy the printer making some questionable sounds. Looks like a job for IT, but they’re already snowed under setting up the new payroll system.
When you return to your desk, you spot a meeting booked for 5 pm tomorrow. It’s non-optional. Yesterday, you mentioned to your senior that you were picking your child up from school and wouldn’t be available. So much for that idea. It’s going to be one of those days.
Except, it’s one of those days every day.
There’s a big difference between a bad day and a bad employee experience. For instance, could the right technology save your sanity in times of pressure? Could an emotionally supportive boss make you feel more confident about your work? Is it really a series of minor inconveniences, or an example of how the business is failing to deliver a good employee experience? Is it enough to make you quit?
Jobs are changing, and people are too. An increase in specialised roles and niche professionals means there’s not only competition between potential recruits – employers also battle it out to secure the best brains for their business. Plenty of jobs offer a healthy paycheck, but not all of them provide the flexibility to pick up your kids from school.
The lines between work and personal life are blurred, which makes it even more important for employers to provide an employee experience that makes their team feel supported and connected with their collective mission.
And with many of us spending more time working, it’s only natural we want those hours to be enjoyable. The benefits go both ways; miserable employees are keen to clock off at five on the dot. Fulfilled and engaged employees are willing to contribute ideas and eager to be involved with the next big project.
So how do we create a tantalising workplace that stimulates high engagement? Excellent employee experience, of course.
Put simply, employee experience is the sum of all interactions an individual has with their employer. And we’re not just talking human to human – every interaction an employee has with their physical environment. From the workplace culture, office floor plan, and the tech and devices they use in their day-to-day role.
Our feelings towards work are heavily influenced by small, daily interactions. This is why a glitchy printer is more than just a nuisance – it’s a contributing factor to poor employee experience. When HR is tasked with improving employee experience, what they’re really being asked to do is make employees’ roles more manageable, physically, operationally, and emotionally.
To understand the kind of experience employees are receiving, leaders need to be able to place themselves in the position of their team. For example, does the office layout lend itself towards uninterrupted periods of deep work? Is using Slack really the best way for teams to communicate effectively? And do the standard 9-5 hours work for everyone in the office, or would employees benefit from a flexible structure?
Individuals who have great employee experiences tend to be more engaged. And it makes perfect sense – when the tech keeps pace with your team, communication is open and honest, and achievements are recognised and celebrated, work doesn’t feel so much like… Well, work.
For fear of sounding like a broken record, you can blame the pandemic for this newfound focus on employee experience. The way teams interact with each other has changed significantly over the past year. Communications have shifted to the remote space, and many employers can no longer rely on the physical infrastructure of an office to provide that feeling of togetherness and camaraderie.
When you strip away the office perks, in-house tech, and seating plan that puts employees next to their ‘work bestie’, all that’s left is the emotional relationships we have with our colleagues. Many brands are beginning to recognise that employee experience is less physical and more intangible. Whether it’s the platform businesses choose to interact with employees through, how files are shared and saved, or the frequency of Zoom meetings, all these micro-decisions that impact employees, also impact their emotional perception of work.
What might feel like an enabler to management, may translate as an obstacle for teams to overcome. Plenty of businesses handle internal comms through instant messenger platforms, but have you considered how irritating the message notification can be when you’re trying to focus?
The topic of employee experience was gaining traction long before the virus outbreak, though. As our lives become more closely entwined with technology, our expectations of work are beginning to mirror our personal desires. We can book flights, reserve a restaurant, and video calls international friends at the touch of a button. So why can’t workplace systems be equally agile?
It comes as no surprise that personalisation is growing across multiple industries, from healthcare to retail, and even banking. As consumers, we want individual experiences from companies. We want something that feels special, and unique to us. It figures that our expectations of the workplace are aligning with this idea.
If people are your business, then employee experience dictates how functional your company truly is. To keep a business moving, you need productive employees. If your people aren’t satisfied with their jobs, they’re less likely to produce their best work. Happy, emotionally fulfilled workers are more productive. And happy, productive employees are far more likely to stick with the company. It’s no wonder 92% of HR professionals are now placing employee experience at the top of their agenda.
In real terms, every business has the end goal of making a profit. Good employee experience is great for your team and even better for your bottom line. To maintain productivity in the longer term, you’ll need to hold onto those brilliant employees. But when the initial offering is upheld throughout the employee lifecycle (and not just for onboarding), not only will you retain top-quality talent – you’ll attract even more of it.
People are the greatest investment a business makes. So it goes without saying, they deserve more maintenance and support than the office printer. Employees who feel engaged in their work are 22% more profitable, yet only 33% of employees feel truly engaged.
The world of work continues to shift beyond recognition, but employee experience is more than just a trend. If employers can shift their focus from ‘how can I make them do a better job?’ Towards ‘How can I make this job better for them?’ Their very best investment will help them deliver their absolute best return.