What Can You Do To Improve The Employee Experience?

One of the most common questions workplace leaders ask themselves, especially in the post-pandemic landscape we find ourselves in, is, "can I improve the employee experience in my organization?" The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on workplace culture, with a shift for many to suddenly working from home, while mental health and employee wellness overall plunged to new lows. HR Professionals and employers are seeking to combat employee turnover, increase employee morale, and find new ways to encourage employees.

First, what is the employee experience? Employee experience encompasses company culture, opportunities for professional development, and even their physical work environment. Not to be interchanged with employee engagement, an employee's experience is best defined as "a worker's perceptions about his or her journey through all the touchpoints at a particular company, starting with job candidacy through to the exit from the company." It includes how your employees perceive everything from the hiring process to the exit interview. We've talked about how to create a positive employee experience, but things have changed quite a bit in the last few years. If the goal in your organization is to improve employee experience, HR leaders need to prioritize mental and emotional wellness, a positive work environment, and actively engaging employees.

Facing the Lowest Employee Engagement Numbers in Over a Decade

Recent Gallup data shows that employee engagement is at the lowest it's been in a decade, so improving the employee experience is more critical than it has been in years. Their random sample of 57,022 full- and part-time employees showed that 34% were engaged, and 16% were actively disengaged in their work and workplace. This is down from 2020 research that showed 36% of employees were engaged. Business leaders are struggling with the effects of the ongoing Great Resignation, which has amounted to over 47 million employees in the United States voluntarily leaving their jobs. The highest amount of resignations occurred in retail, professional or business services, education, and health services, as well as leisure and hospitality.

Employees aren't necessarily leaving because of a poorly perceived employee experience; the answer isn't one-size-fits-all. This is why it's so important to seek employee feedback regularly and train your leaders to communicate with employees. You could start by conducting an employee engagement survey and asking what keeps employees motivated or what specifically makes employees feel valued.

Creating a Positive Employee Experience

A crucial element of improving the employee experience is developing a strong foundation with a positive employee relations strategy. This includes developing and maintaining an organizational culture of open communication, teamwork, and support to promote positive relations between managers and employees, as well as amongst employees. Internal communications can be the difference-maker in company culture. If there's a lack of communication, employees feel less connected, and there isn't a strong sense of belonging. Transparency and frequent communication make a huge impact on both employee experience and employee retention rates.

Recent Gallup research showed that only 7% of workers in the U.S. "strongly agree" that communication is accurate, timely, and open where they work. That's quite a dismal statistic, considering a "lack of verbal communication amongst the organization is the main driver for employee departures," says Kira Meinzer, chief people officer at Envoy Global. 

We've written at length about implementing and improving your internal communications processes, which you can read here.

workplace burnout SHRM

source: https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/0817/pages/infographic-the-problem-with-burnout.aspx

Work Burnout is a Major Hindrance to Employee Experience

Employee burnout is becoming a serious problem, more than ever before. Deloitte surveyed 1000 full-time U.S. workers; of those asked, 77% say they have experienced burnout at their current job. 91% say that "unmanageable stress or frustration" negatively impacts the quality of their work, and 83% say work burnout has a negative impact on their personal relationships. It's not even that these workers aren't feeling any sense of employee satisfaction because even those who feel passionate about their jobs -- 64% -- say they are frequently stressed from work.

What can HR professionals and leaders do to alleviate burnout? Jennifer Moss, award-winning journalist, syndicated radio columnist, and two-time author, shares that there are six root causes of burnout. They include:

  • Workload
  • Lack of fairness
  • Lack of agency
  • Lack of community
  • Mismatched skillsets
  • Chronic overqualification

If you're seeking to improve employee experience, it all boils back down to frequent communication and seeking employee feedback. Your leaders should be proactive in their approach to talking to employees to get a sense of their job satisfaction and their day-to-day tasks and address anything that could potentially lead to burnout or a poor employee experience. 

Employee Wellness

Dr. Bradford Cooper, the CEO of US Corporate Wellness, shares that employee wellness and wellbeing come from a workplace culture of wellness. It's not just about implementing wellness activities but supporting your employees as individuals and encouraging employees to make healthy choices. He says wellness isn't just about "food and fitness"; it's about improving lives. For example, if an employee's life can be improved by being able to leave work early to go to their kid's soccer game, workplaces should be flexible enough to accommodate them. Dr. Cooper says, "A wellness program is all about behavior change. If we're simply supporting what is already happening, that's great, but that's called a benefits program, not a wellness program." 

workplace wellbeing SEMOScloud

source: https://semoscloud.com/blog/employee-wellbeing/

Furthermore, workplace wellbeing can have a significant impact on employee productivity. It contributes to higher levels of motivation and employee performance, lower levels of absenteeism, and healthier workers. Of course, you can also implement rewards for employees who are going to the gym, and you can give gym memberships as a part of your employee experience strategy. 

Employee Recognition Programs can Improve Employee Experience

Gallup and Workhuman conducted a report on the impact of employee recognition on the employee experience, surveying more than 7500 workers surveyed across the U.S. and over 5500 from the U.K. and several other Western European countries. Many employees leave their jobs due to a lack of recognition, and employees feel a sense of belonging and higher job satisfaction when recognition is a priority. In fact, of the workers surveyed, 56% of them shared that they would be less likely to search for another job if their recognition needs were fulfilled. 

The survey, Transforming Workplaces Through Recognition, shared the following statistics around recognition:

Gallup employee recognition statistics

source: 2022 Transforming Workplaces Through Recognition Report

When you consider the impact that not just recognition, but the right kind of recognition, can have on the employee experience, company culture, employee connection, and even potential career development, it becomes clear that it should be embedded into your own workplace culture as a company-wide initiative. There are recognition programs available that human resources can work to improve employee experience, and you can conduct employee surveys to see which is right for your unique needs. This can provide employees with a way to be heard and feel that their contributions really matter to the overall business success. 


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Conduct Both Exit Interviews and Stay Interviews

Chris Coberly, CEO of People Element, shares that companies would be wise to conduct both exit interviews and stay interviews. While exit surveys are frequently used as a tool to gather feedback about specific people or policies at a company, stay interviews try to see what the potential roadblocks are during an employee's journey with a company. 

Stay interviews could be done annually, and their goals are to maintain engagement and take action on any issues that may be developing. They can prevent high levels of turnover, increase employee engagement, and identify anything that may specifically cause an issue during any point of an employee lifecycle. They ensure employees feel heard and improve internal communication between management/leaders and employees. It's a way to improve the employee experience for everyone and contribute to more meaningful work.

Don't Just Promote Diversity and Inclusion... Commit to It

Diversity and inclusion are becoming increasingly higher priorities among the working population. As Gen Z and Millennial employees seek jobs, they are making it clear that, as the Washington Post puts it, D&I aren't just preferences, "they're a requirement." They need to be baked into a company's mission and company culture. 

Recent research by Glassdoor shows that 76% of job seekers report that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. Furthermore, more than 50% of current employees surveyed felt that their company should be doing more to increase diversity. This rings especially true in under-represented and minority groups: 71% of Black employees and 72% of Hispanic employees feel that their employer should be doing more to increase the diversity of its workforce, with 58% of white employees feeling the same. In the Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial Survey, 15% of millennial workers who left their jobs indicated that it was due to a lack of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

So how does this tie into improving the employee experience? BCG shared that inclusive cultures lead to happier employees. Their recent research showed that of employees who reported they work in an inclusive culture, 81% also said they are happy in their jobs. This figure is three times higher than those who don't feel included. Happy employees are more engaged employees. Since higher employee engagement has been shown to have a positive impact on everything from reduced turnover to improved business outcomes, it's not hard to see why you should care about having a more diverse and inclusive organization.

Work to Improve Employee Experience

As you can see, your positive employee experience strategy encompasses so many different factors, from the onboarding process, throughout the entirety of the employee journey. According to Gallup, an employee's experience includes "every interaction that happens along the employee life cycle, plus the experiences that involve an employee's role, workspace, manager and wellbeing." It all boils down to communication and seeking employee feedback to tailor the employee experience to the individual.

Ultimately, employees aren't just workers. They're humans. They have unique aspirations, require different styles of communicating and being recognized and don't all have the same notions surrounding career growth and development. If you're wondering where to start, it's there. Conduct employee surveys, ask new hires what values they hold closest, and remember that a positive employee experience is an essential piece of the workplace culture puzzle.

About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is IRI's Director of Digital Solutions and founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.