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Culture + EX

Understanding the Strategy Behind Employee Experience

Lisa Ardill

Content Editor at Workvivo

8 May 2023

Many HR leaders make the mistake of thinking that money is the biggest motivator for employees. The truth is that money is only part of the equation. 

People need to earn a comfortable living – and once those needs are met, they start looking at other factors that will make the employee experience (EX) even better.

In the modern competitive job market, you need to offer an attractive employee experience to attract – and retain – top talent.

Below, we’ll explore the employee experience in detail: what it is, its benefits, and what you can do to promote a better EX through each stage of employment.

Employee experience defined

According to Gartner, only 13% of employees are fully satisfied with their experience. And yet, a good employee experience (EX) is crucial to so many other things, like engagement and retention. Before you set out to improve your company’s EX, you’ll need to understand exactly what it means.

EX is a broad concept encompassing everything from when prospective employees first see your job opening to when they complete exit interviews and officially leave your company. It includes everything that an employee experiences, from the things they learn and the contributions they make to the things they see and do along the way. This goes for small day-to-day things, like the tasks that employees complete each day, and the bigger things, like pay raises and promotions.

To an extent, it even includes factors outside of work – like whether or not the job allows the employee to enjoy a good work-life balance or whether the job offers the flexibility for the employee to be able to take personal time to keep up with family responsibilities and appointments.

Since this is such a broad concept, an easy way to think of it is to consider EX as a large set of factors defining how each employee thinks and feels about their job. 

For example, suppose the employee experience generally comprises good things: tasks they enjoy, a pay scale they think is fair, good interactions with coworkers, and a competitive benefits package. In that case, employees will likely report a generally positive experience.

Benefits of employee experience

Boosting your company’s EX is about more than making people happy or improving company culture. It’s a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ situation – the more you can do to improve employee experiences, the greater the benefits you’ll reap. We’ll explore some of the biggest benefits below.

Attracts top talent

One look at recent news about Twitter will show you how the word of a bad work environment can spread. Amid layoffs and other chaos, people have been quitting in droves – and unless something drastic changes about Twitter’s reputation as a workplace, most will be reluctant at best to apply for a job there.

Twitter is an extreme example of how things can go sideways when a company develops a reputation for providing a poor employee experience. However, even companies without such a dire reputation can still struggle with hiring. Top talent tends to get snapped up quickly. Because of that, these workers often have their pick of employers – and they’re likely to choose the workplaces that offer the best experience possible.

Helps retain high-quality employees

Hiring top talent is only part of the challenge. Once you hire them, you want to keep them – and a positive employee experience helps immensely with employee retention. That’s because it gives you a competitive advantage in the employment marketplace. Why would people want to leave for greener pastures when your company is already meeting and surpassing their needs?

Leads to more engaged employees

In the wake of the pandemic, many companies are returning to the office while others scramble to fill positions as businesses reopen and consumer demand ramps up. With all of that, ‘quiet quitting‘ has become a new buzzword – one that’s often synonymous with poor employee engagement.

Disengaged employees (the quiet quitters) want to do the bare minimum. Meanwhile, engaged employees are more interested in their work, more inspired to do great things, and overall, much more productive.

So, what causes disengagement? One way or another, it comes down to a poor employee experience. Disengaged employees are also employees who, for one reason or many, aren’t satisfied with their current position.

Improves customer satisfaction

Have you ever encountered surly waitstaff in a restaurant? Or a customer service representative who seems like they’d rather do anything other than help you? Sometimes these problems are personal and may be chalked up to the person having a bad day.

But other times, the problem is a poor employee experience.

It’s easy to spot the difference between a bad day and a bad employee experience, too. A poor employee experience often manifests as a repeating pattern of bad customer or client interactions. These patterns form because employees are unsatisfied with their positions. That general dissatisfaction translates to less than positive attitudes and an unwillingness to go the extra mile to provide a great customer experience. Improve the overall experience you offer your employees, and you’ll enjoy higher customer satisfaction and better business outcomes.

Examples of employee experience

So what does it take to create a better employee experience? There are dozens of factors, from pay and benefits to vacation time, flexible hours, and perks. We’ll shine a light on some of the best examples below.

Positive work environment

Creating a positive work environment is a complex topic. However, at a basic level, it means doing everything possible to ensure employees can do their jobs efficiently in a safe and comfortable environment.

On a social level, that means encouraging positivity and teamwork while addressing negativity or toxicity before it can spread. To do this, conduct employee experience surveys and gather feedback – then apply that feedback to correct pain points that employees experience.

And on a professional level, creating a positive work environment means making sure that you’ve tended to employee needs in terms of the tools it takes to do their jobs. For example, poorly implemented productivity tools or remote work platforms can cause more headaches than they resolve. Similarly, employees who feel overburdened with more work than they can handle are 2.6 times more likely to look for another job due to their poor employee experience.

Growth and development opportunities

When it comes to perks, it’s not always all about the pay or the benefits package. Many also seek meaningful ways to build on their work experience and advance their careers. What this means for you as an employer is that any time you can offer education or skills development, you’ll create a better employee experience.

The same goes for promotions. No one wants to feel stuck in a dead-end position. Offer opportunities to succeed and advance within the company to create a better overall experience.

Work-life balance

Work, home, family, and friends, plus a little time for rest and relaxation; we all have a lot on our plates these days and need some time for ourselves, too. Make it a top priority to promote employee wellbeing by offering a great work-life balance.

This means not expecting employees to be available every minute of the day, and it also means ensuring that they have enough work to complete in a reasonable number of hours per day without veering into overtime.

For many employees, it also means offering flexible hours, too. For example, working parents need flex time to attend school functions, take the kids to appointments, and tend to the unexpected – like a sick child who needs to be picked up from school. Even employees without children need a little flex to their schedules so that they can manage their lives without worrying about potential repercussions from their employers.

Competitive compensation and benefits packages

We’ve mentioned that money and benefits aren’t everything – but they are important. A great employee experience means providing competitive pay and a benefits package to match. Employees may feel undervalued when their wages and benefits are lower than your industry average. As a result, your organization may experience higher turnover and lower employee engagement, leading to a less-than-stellar employee experience.

Rewards and recognition

If there is one thing that people universally enjoy, it’s recognition for their hard work. Giving out rewards and recognition for milestones and wins is a great way to boost employee satisfaction – and thus improve the employee experience.

To make the most of this perk, don’t wait for the yearly performance reviews. Rewards don’t have to be huge; recognition is as easy as giving kudos for a job well done. Offer rewards and recognition often to ensure that everyone feels valued and appreciated.

An employee experience platform like Workvivo can simplify the process, letting managers recognize team member achievements with baked in badges, shoutouts, and awards.

What’s the difference between employee experience and employee engagement?

Employee experience and employee engagement are similar concepts: both define how employees think and feel about their positions.

The major difference is that the employee experience encompasses everything an employee sees and does throughout the entire lifecycle. Employees may feel positively or negatively about what they experience, which translates to either a positive or negative employee experience.

By contrast, employee engagement measures how interested and engaged an employee is with their job. Highly engaged employees are very interested in what they’re doing and generally report more positive employee experiences.

Meanwhile, disengaged employees are those who are uninterested in the job. Often, that’s because they’re unhappy with one or several aspects of the position, which works to create a negative employee experience.

To put it another way, the employee experience encompasses the entire employee journey that an individual makes with your company. Their level of engagement with the position is part of the employee experience – and the positivity or negativity of the experience can greatly impact engagement.

The 5 core employee experience stages

One of the things that makes the employee experience interesting is that it’s fluid, evolving as each individual works through the entire employee lifecycle at your company. 

We can break that lifecycle down into five main stages.

1. Recruitment

This stage begins when prospective employees discover your job posting and ends when you make your hiring decision. It’s part of the employee experience because everything potential hires experience throughout this process affects their perception of your company.

For example, was the interview process quick and efficient? If so, you’ve provided a good experience. However, if candidates have to jump through excessive hoops to navigate the hiring process, that can make a bad impression right from the start.

2. Onboarding

Once you make a hiring decision, the onboarding stage of the employee experience begins. This isn’t just an employee’s first week on the job. Rather, it spans the entire time it takes for a new hire to learn the ropes – including company policies, day-to-day tasks, using your company’s software tools, and navigating daily workflows.

It’s an important touchpoint in the employee lifecycle because it affects a new employee’s initial perception of the position. Chaotic onboarding experiences will likely lead to a less-than-perfect employee experience overall.

3. Development

Ideally, the development stage isn’t so much a stage but rather an ongoing process that begins during onboarding and only ends when the employee leaves the company. Savvy business leaders understand that throughout this journey, creating a great employee experience means offering opportunities for employees to grow. As part of an employee experience strategy, it means offering the chance to learn new skills on the job, offering certifications or educational opportunities, or offering promotions and advancement in the company ranks.

4. Retention

Retention begins during onboarding, too – and like the development stage, it lasts throughout the employee lifecycle. In fact, in many ways, creating a better employee experience is synonymous with improving employee retention strategies because happy employees are more likely to stick around.

Retention is crucial because it directly affects business performance, profitability, and the bottom line. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, hiring a new employee costs an average of $4,683. Keeping retention high by providing an excellent employee experience means paying a lot less for recruitment and onboarding. 

5. Exit

Employees may exit your organization for any number of reasons: retiring, moving away, or changing career paths. But no matter what, employee experience is crucial here, too.

For starters, if you provide a smooth exit interview process, there’s a good chance that you’ll gather valuable candid employee feedback about what they liked or didn’t like. That is information you can use to elevate your employee experience.

This is also your last chance to elevate your reputation, too. Avoid ending things on a sour note: the last impression you offer is likely the one your former employee will remember when speaking about their experience with your company.

Improve your organization’s employee experience with Workvivo

Ready to improve the employee experience that your organization offers? There are many ways to approach this task – one of them is via an employee experience platform that helps you carry out your initiatives.

Workvivo is the EX solution you need. Our platform empowers your employees to feel heard and included, whether they work in the office, remotely, or frontline. It combines engagement, communications, and analytics tools into a centralized app that helps you bring your organization’s culture to life – and boost your EX along the way.To learn more about what Workvivo can do to improve your employee experience, sign up for a free demo.