What’s the difference between a bad job, a good job, and a brilliant job? The employee experience.
We all need to work. Work is an essential part of life. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a grind. Work can be enriching and rewarding. And it’s up to employers to ensure that their employees actually want to work. Otherwise, work will just be another obligation, something that employees only do because they have to.
That’s what we mean when we talk about employee experience. It’s all about employee wellbeing. Companies who prioritise it will do all they can to meet their employees’ practical, emotional, and physical needs. Get it right, and you can expect improved relationships across your teams, with better employee turnover and huge boosts to productivity.
A recent analysis found that companies who prioritise employee engagement enjoy four times higher profits, two times higher revenues, and a 40% lower staff turnover.
In this post, we’ll show you which areas you should address to make the working experience better for your entire team.
What is the Employee Experience?
The term “employee experience” refers to everything an employee might experience as part of their job. From the dress code to their holiday allowance, from their working environment to the tools you provide for them to do their work.
But if we were to list absolutely every aspect of employee experience, we’d be here all day. Instead, it’s best to try and understand it as being made up of three distinct areas: Company culture, technology and equipment, and the physical environment.
Let’s explore each of those in turn.
Beyond your products and your services, just what is your organisation? It’s your people, their values, and their behaviour. We call this company culture. And every company, no matter how big or small, has its own unique company culture.
A good company culture values employee wellbeing. It makes people feel safe and valued in their role and empowered to speak their minds. So in this way, a good company culture makes good ideas thrive.
By contrast, bad company culture will make your employees feel stressed and overworked. It will stifle creativity, and ensure that only the loudest and most aggressive will be able to succeed in your business.
So what aspects of a company culture affect the employee experience? Here are some key things to consider:
- Meaningful work – including trust, autonomy, and adequate rewards.
- Supportive management – with clear goals, a shared vision, and lots of potential for both personal and professional growth.
- A positive work environment – one that’s fair, inclusive, diverse, and flexible. Want to know more about fostering a positive company culture in your business? You can read our detailed guide to company culture here.
Technology and Equipment
Every job requires different equipment. So providing employees with the right tools for the job is an essential part of the employee experience.
For some roles, failing to provide the right tools can be dangerous, even fatal. Think of roles that require sophisticated safety equipment, for example. But even office workers have critical technological requirements. If an employee’s job depends on specialist software and fast and reliable internet connections, it’s up to you to provide them with the very latest technology. Otherwise, you’ll cause a lot of unnecessary stress and frustration, and productivity will suffer.
Technology is central to the employee experience because it can determine whether an employee can do a job to the best of their abilities. But its relationships with technology goes beyond ensuring that employees can get their jobs done. Technology can actively work to boost employee wellbeing across your entire business.
The Physical Environment
The physical environment, or everything your employees can see, feel, hear, smell, touch, and taste as part of their work.
This is perhaps the easiest part to fix. It’s a challenge to keep up to date with technological advancements, and it can take years to transform a company culture into something more positive. But to address the physical environment is comparatively simple.
People prefer natural light to artificial light, and plants can make any interior feel more vibrant and welcoming. Even a fresh coat of paint can make a huge difference. And if your employees are going to spend their days sitting at desks, make sure you give them chairs that offer proper support.
The challenge here will be in ensuring that any improvements you make to the physical environment work for everyone. You might paint your walls a soothing blue, but what if your staff prefer an earthy green? And you will probably never get everyone to agree on the correct temperature for the workplace. The important thing is that you consult everyone – ask your people what changes to the physical environment would make the experience better for employees.
You might also struggle to transform your available space with your available resources. But with some creative thinking, even the smallest office can be transformed on a limited budget. Want some inspiration for what sort of physical environment can boost employee wellbeing? Take a look at our list of some of the best employee wellness programs in the world.
Three Benefits of a Positive Employee Experience
Work on the experience, and you’ll work to ensure that your people actively look forward to coming to work. This will benefit your business in more ways than you can imagine. But let’s take a look at some of the core benefits you can expect:
1. Happier and more productive employees
In many ways, improving the experience means addressing the common sources of job stress. Stressed employees are unhappy and unproductive. But happier employees get more done. They’re less likely to take time off and less likely to leave should things get tough. So as well as boosts to productivity, you could also expect to spend less on recruitment, while also enjoying improved relationships across your teams.
2. Attract the top talent your company needs to grow
Prioritise employee experience, and the word will spread: You’ll develop a reputation for being a company that takes care of its employers. People will think of your business as a great place to work. So when it’s time to grow, you’ll find it easier to attract and retain the talented individuals your business needs to grow.
3. Stand out from the competition
This good reputation will raise your standing among your customers, too. We’re increasingly conscientious buyers. People may prefer to buy from a company that takes care of its employees, over a company that takes its people for granted.
How to Improve the Employee Experience Across Your Organisation
Don’t go in without a plan, and don’t simply assume you know what’s best for your employees. Instead, ask them for their views, and look for insights in your available data.
1. Start with Face-to-Face Interviews
Conduct one-to-one discussions with as many members of your team as you can. If you have a big team, delegate some managers to talk to those you cannot reach.
Your aim is to hear every voice. Let people know that everything they say is completely confidential and that nothing is off the table. And most important of all, make it clear that you’ll act on their recommendations – even if that’s to simply consider them.
Essentially, you need to ask people to talk about their jobs – what they like, what they dislike, what they’d like to change, and what they’d like to stay the same.
Your employee understands their jobs better than you do. So be prepared to listen!
2. Data Tells Hidden Stories
We said above that improving the employee experience often involves addressing common sources of stress in the workplace. And in many ways, supporting stressed workers starts with better insights.
Talking to your employees face-to-face about their work is an invaluable exercise that you should do regularly as a matter of course. But no matter how open people are about their experiences, they will never be able to tell the whole story.
Simple reporting technology can help you to identify sources of stress and harmful behavioral patterns that might once have remained invisible. And once you’ve identified these issues, you can address them long before they become problems. For an example of how this might work, take a look at how simple absence data can help you locate sources of stress, and improve the employee experience for everyone.
3. Put Employee Experience the Heart of Your Business Strategy
Improving employee experience is a long-term goal. It’s not something you’ll achieve overnight. But no matter how much time, energy, and money you invest in improving the experience for employees, it’s almost certain to pay off in the long term.
Some aspects are simple to manage, even though they might be pricey. You should know that, if you want to improve the physical environment, you need to approach workplace renovators, designers, and outfitters. Similarly, you’ll know what sort of suppliers you need to talk to if you want to meet your employees’ technology and equipment needs.
For this, you’ll have to think more broadly about employee wellbeing. Don’t just address those common sources of stress and frustration that make life difficult for your team. Instead, think of your employees’ overall physical and mental health, and consider what you can do to promote wellbeing in the workplace.
Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.