4 Ways You Can Use EX to Attract and Retain Talent
Award-winning Sr Communications Strategist
18 Jan 2024
Simon Rutter shares practical tips on how to use EX to attract and retain talent amid intensifying competition for excellent employees.
There are many benefits to creating a great employee experience (EX), including improvements in productivity, game-changing shifts in performance, and higher levels of belonging, inclusion, and wellbeing.
Another critical advantage is the ability to attract and retain the best people. Even in these tough economic times, many skills are in short supply, and talented candidates will always have multiple options available to them. A fantastic EX can be the differentiating factor.
In my previous blogs, I wrote about what EX is and why it’s important, as well as how to get started on it. In this piece, we’re going to look at four ways you can use EX to attract and retain talent amid ever-intensifying market competition.
For most companies, EX is still in its early stages. The focus is on fixing specific moments in the employee journey that matter most, and there is no more important of those than onboarding. In fact, according to a Glassdoor survey, onboarding improves a company’s retention rate by 82% if conducted properly. Yet despite this, just 12% of employees believe their organization has an effective onboarding process (Gallup), and 35% of companies admit to spending zero money on it (Enboarder). Onboarding doesn’t just need fixing; it needs re-thinking.
How can EX help?
- Create a short, standard presentation for new joiners that covers, for example
- Your company’s purpose, vision, mission, values, strategy, etc
- Support line managers with training with onboarding, for example
- A checklist to fill in, including a 1-1 with the new employee on Day 1
- A template to complete, connecting the new person’s job to the strategy
- Formalize and automate (where possible) the process – map it out, so that
- All parties (IT, HR, Facilities, the line manager, etc) know their roles and responsibilities, standards, channels of communication, deadlines, etc
- Listen to employees’ needs, and update as necessary
- EX is about understanding what your people want and need. Have onboarding as a standing topic for questions in employee focus groups, surveys, feedback sessions, etc
Onboarding is a critical moment where you can really start delivering on the promises made in your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
2. Performance reviews
“There’s no way to get better at something you only hear about once a year” – Daniel Pink, New York Times bestselling author.
While some companies have moved away from the traditional once-a-year process, many persist. According to SHRM, 71% of companies still conduct performance reviews on an annual basis. Yet regardless of the frequency, the view that performance systems are ineffective and counter-productive remains. Employees, managers, and HR leaders are all deeply unsatisfied, with major implications for attraction and retention.
How can EX help?
Provide managers with clear objective-setting templates and simple ‘how-tos’. Worryingly, fewer than 50% of employees know what’s expected of them at work, despite the fact that clarity on goals is one of the three main indicators of whether or not an employee will be successful. Get goal setting right and you go a long way towards setting your people up for success.
- Increase the frequency of reviews, and check-ins
- Look at making your review system quarterly, or monthly – and lighter touch on the admin
- Encourage even more frequent (weekly, daily) check-ins, with prompts and ideas for managers
- Look at including reviews from peers, customers, or clients in the process
- Make it visible – share examples of managers doing it well, create forums for others to learn from them
EX is really all about your culture, which is made up of behaviors, systems, and symbols that send clear messages about what your company values. In short, it is show, not tell. Performance management is a critical system, and organizations that provide regular feedback have 14.9% lower turnover rates than those who don’t provide feedback. So, when it comes to keeping your people, this is an area where EX can add massive value and ROI.
Being recognized for a job well done has long been understood as a powerful factor in employee engagement and motivation. However, it is also a strong driver of retention.
Organizations with formal employee recognition programs have 31% less voluntary turnover than organizations that don't have any programs.
Research also suggests that recognition remains a tough nut to crack, with no one (managers or employees) feeling they get enough. Just 35% of employees receive recognition monthly or weekly, and one in two would like more recognition for their work.
How can EX help?
- Have a formal recognition system in place that acknowledges all levels and areas of your business.
- Publicize recognition stories as widely as possible, for example via regular emails, intranet articles, case studies in town halls, etc.
- Make it easy for managers – for example, Hilton Hotels provides a customizable recognition calendar for managers that features 365 no or low-cost, super simple ideas to thank employees. At Workvivo we particularly liked the inclusion of important international dates as prompts.
- Encourage peer acknowledgment as well – some people find this more authentic and motivating than that from leaders, who may be more removed from the day-to-day reality of the job.
Appreciation is a deep-rooted human need. Within organizations, there is a massive opportunity to use EX to get better at recognizing contributions, acknowledging a job well done, and reinforcing the values and behaviors you want to see more of. In doing so, you will retain more talent, attract more of the right type of people, and elevate your business performance. Everyone wins when you recognize more – the sooner your organization recognizes this, the quicker you will start winning in the war for talent.
4. Showcase your culture
- It’s a noisy job market, and only getting louder. Candidates have more choice than ever, and employers are finding it tougher to stand out. The importance of culture to both sides cannot be overstated. 90% of employers believe it is very important to find a candidate who is the right cultural fit, and 73% of employees have left a job due to experiencing a poor cultural match.
As I wrote earlier, EX is a mirror of your culture. That culture is one of your few, potentially only, distinguishing features, so use it to your best advantage.
How can EX help?
- Put your culture front and center of your Employee Value Proposition
- Listen and reflect your employees’ views on who you are as an organization – your purpose, values etc
- Be explicit on what type of people you are looking for
- Highlight concrete examples of programs, activities, and achievements to back up any statements on the increasingly important areas (to candidates) of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Wellbeing/Mental Health, and Environmental, Social, Governance ESG)
- Help managers to be honest about your culture during the recruitment process, for example with key messages to use
- Regularly talk about your culture with employees
- Showcase examples of people and activities that exemplify your culture
- Create two-way dialogue channels, so employees can discuss company culture as it evolves
Use EX to attract and retain talent
In a crowded talent market, EX can help you get noticed for those characteristics of your culture that make you unique, and are most likely to attract and retain the type of people you want. By listening to your employees, being bold, and giving a clear message to candidates and employees, you will become a magnet for great people and an employer of choice – and so your virtuous circle of talent is created.
It may be in its nascent stages, and its potential benefits are not yet fully understood, but your EX can set you apart in a sea of sameness when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. Focusing on any of these four ways and associated activities listed above, many of which can be done at no or minimal cost, will make a massive difference. Good luck!