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The Secret Sauce for Elevating the Employee Experience

Lisa Ardill

Content Editor at Workvivo

9 Mar 2023

What are the most important ingredients for elevating the employee experience? Here’s our recipe for success.

The digital employee experience has never been more important, and that’s true for all sorts of employees, whether they’re hybrid workers, fully onsite, or fully remote. In fact, employee disengagement and diminishing workplace culture are the number one concerns among CEOs today, and the top drivers for digital transformation.

Without the right tools in place, you risk leaving your people isolated, burnt out, disengaged, and unhappy. Here at Workvivo, we partner with hundreds of customers from SMBs to some of the world’s biggest brands to help them elevate their digital employee experience. 

How do we do it? By driving better communication and better engagement. To help others do the same, here’s what we’ve discovered are the most important factors that really move the needle. 

And as an additional treat, our Chief Marketing Officer, Gidi, and Customer Community Manager, Barbara, share some fantastic culinary EX advice from their own experiences.

Secret sauce recipe

  • Preparation time: The entire employee journey (but it’s worth it)
  • Serves: Every single person in your business, whether they’re hybrid, remote, desk-based, frontline, or something else. 

1. First things first, NO SECRETS!

On the topic of secrets, the employee experience you deliver should never be built on secrets. 

Have we made this confusing enough yet?

Traditionally, corporate communication took the form of a polished, heavily edited newsletter and employee comms experts acted as the buffer between the CEO and the rest of the company. 

Gidi says, “This is just less interesting and less engaging. People want to feel connected to other people in the most real and authentic way possible. This is exactly why social media succeeded so much; suddenly you could directly follow people that you wouldn’t normally have access to and also give them direct feedback. It’s much less polished, but it’s faster and it’s real. 

“Traditional corporate communication has always felt fake, and today’s employees hate that. Obviously, you can’t be 100% without filters as it is still a company and there are sensitivities and constraints. But the idea is to be as open and honest as possible; let people hear it from the horse’s mouth and give direct, immediate feedback as much as you can.”

The bottom line? Transparency, honesty, and authenticity are crucial. Honest leadership makes for a good employee experience. When more senior employees lead by example and bring their true selves to work, it empowers their colleagues to do the same.

Also, keeping your people informed of all of your employee experience plans reinforces just how much you value and respect them. It should also open up channels for a healthy ongoing dialogue on how to improve your employee experience; getting feedback from people is key. 

2. Be pre-emptive, not reactive

There have been some major global shake-ups over the past few years. The Great Recession, the pandemic, economic crises, and geopolitical turmoil are all examples. These have all impacted employee engagement.

Consistently investing in your company culture means that when external events make things more challenging, you’ll have already built a solid foundation that helps keep your teams feeling confident and secure. 

When times get tough, you’ll be glad you had the foresight to build a brilliant digital employee experience year-round instead of forcing yourself into a baptism by fire.

3. EX hinges on relational factors, not transactional factors

There’s a wealth of research that demonstrates how the biggest factors influencing an employee’s experience are relational, not transactional. 

What does this mean? In short, it means that money and tokenistic gestures – you’ll be familiar with our grudge against Ping-Pong tables by now – aren’t enough to deliver a positive employee experience. 

Instead, employees want to feel appreciated, to enjoy a sense of belonging, and to be openly communicated with at work. These are far more important to them than money and free lunches. 

4. EX goes far beyond technology, but having the right tools helps

An employee experience platform can be a powerful tool in your digital arsenal. A good platform will help facilitate employee engagement, communication, and recognition all in one place. 

Without an employee experience tool for your organization, leaders and comms professionals have to work much harder to keep a team informed, engaged, and connected. 

Moreover, the right employee experience platform should be able to provide helpful employee insights and data that might not otherwise be available. This will help inform your employee experience and internal comms strategy. 

“It’s important to know that technology doesn’t create an employee experience, but it can be used as a vehicle to accelerate and elevate it so everyone feels a part of something, wherever they work from,” Gidi explains.

Here are five things he recommends keeping in mind when choosing your employee experience technology:

– Everyone needs to be able to access feedback loops easily, which generate quick responses so they know they are being heard.

– Legacy HR engagement surveys frequently miss the mark. Employee voice or employee listening tools with advanced, engaging surveys and smart analytics, help analyze sentiments quicker to understand what’s going on and address it. These measurement tools used to be standalone tools, but they are much more effective as part of a more complete employee experience platform that helps you do the research and measurement, as well as run campaigns, communicate, and engage.

– Community is key: top-down corporate tools have failed miserably over the years, from intranets to corporate communication platforms and newsletters. What employees want most is a flatter, more democratized, and open communications approach based on community, where communication goes both ways.

– Having direct access to other people in the organization through instant messaging, for example, is also important, but in the absence of the other elements mentioned above, can become distracting and noisy.

– Forget corporate tools designed for IT. An employee experience platform or app must be consumer-grade, simple, delighting, intuitive, and mobile-first, so that everyone can use it right out of the gate and feel connected.

5. Great leaders aren’t powerful: they’re compassionate

Being someone who leads with compassion is like having a superpower. Being a leader is often associated with being in power or having the determination to succeed no matter the collateral damage.

But people don’t want to work for a leader without empathy and compassion. Although emotional toughness may have contributed to their overall rise and success in business, it can also make those more nuanced decisions, particularly around people and feelings (that’s right – we used the F word), less intuitive or even challenging.

“Emotionally intelligent leaders help set the tone,” Barbara says. “Leaders with a high EQ can more easily connect and relate with employees in a real and authentic way. Displaying genuine care and compassion for not only themselves but their people, partners, and even those outside of the company helps.”

“Employee expectations are changing big time,” Gidi adds. “Modern employees don’t respond well to orders, and hate to be treated as resources. 

“They are looking for meaning and involvement, which is why there is a change of paradigm happening from the supervisor-type leader that micromanages tasks to the mentor, a more compassionate and emotionally intelligent type that gets results through strong alignment of the team to the overall targets, values, and culture. This type of leader trusts and empowers people to grow and achieve.”

6. Your company goals, values, and mission matter more than you know

How can you get your team rowing in the same direction if they don’t know where they’re going? Clearly defined and well-communicated goals and values go a long way in terms of keeping your team aligned. 

Sharing company goals and updates can build trust and create a culture of transparency. Values help shape your company culture and should be threaded throughout the employee journey in onboarding, key communications, recognition, all-hands, and even 1:1 performance conversations. 

“Values and goals shouldn’t live in the employee handbook,” Gidi says. “Instead, they should be at an employee’s fingertips and alive in their day-to-day work and communication. 

“So make them present. Technology like Workvivo gives you amazing opportunities to do that.”

A clear and concise mission acts as your compass and should help steer decisions for leadership and your employees. By reinforcing these three things, you’re not only keeping your team aligned, but also connected and emotionally invested in the business.

7. Employee experience isn’t a HR initiative, but a business imperative

While most employee experience programs tend to fall under People teams, it should be a priority for your company’s leadership for the overall health of the business. We know happier teams have increased productivity, better customer relationships, and lower rates of turnover, all of which affect the bottom line. 

If your leadership team hasn’t seen the EX light, come armed with compelling data that will help advance the EX priorities that the entire company will benefit from.

8. Elevating the employee experience requires active listening

If you want to give your employees the best experience possible, listen to what they’re telling you. When it comes to your employee experience strategy, what works for one workplace may not work for another. Employee listening helps enable employee experience leaders to offer unique culture-enhancing programs and campaigns that will resonate with their one-of-a-kind team.

“Employees are full of ideas,” Barbara shares. “Tap into this invaluable (and free!) resource that’s already right at your fingertips. Explore different ways to capture their feedback and find out what works best. Pulse surveys, town halls with leadership, meaningful 1:1s, and team conversations are a great way to start.”

Gidi adds, “It’s important to do periodical surveys in order to understand employee satisfaction and engagement, and to benchmark it, but active listening goes far beyond these. 

“It’s even more important to create direct channels for feedback, even in simple conversations. For example, commenting on a post in the employee newsfeed; it shouldn’t feel overly planned in conversation, but should be part of the day-to-day communication – on a company level and on a team level.”