Designing employee experience to enhance engagement and productivity

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Companies have long obsessed about customer experience. Rightly so too as the leading companies in their respective fields, tend to also be the ones that enjoy the highest customer satisfaction ratings.

A similar focus is now belatedly being applied to employee experience. This is in part due to increasing recognition of the impact it has on engagement and productivity, but also because of a number of other factors.

These include:

  • Attracting and retaining talent: The need for organisations to differentiate in order to attract and retain the best talent as competition and scarcity intensify,
  • Changing Employee mindset – Employees (not just millennials as is so often lazily opined) adopting the consumer mindset of rating, sharing opinions and providing feedback, and;
  • Link between employee and customer experience – An increasing awareness that positive employee experience is a significant driver of great customer experience.

The power of feedback

As Josh Bersin so impeccably called it in his ‘Feedback is the Killer App’ article in Forbes from August 2015:

“Just as customer feedback has transformed the customer experience, employee feedback is transforming the employee experience”.

As consumers we love rating the products we buy and the services we use. Learning from the pioneer that is eBay, companies like Uber and Airbnb allow consumers to rate drivers and hosts whilst they in turn can rate passengers and guests. In the case of Airbnb, this has even enabled guests to use the ratings collected from hosts as references when renting an apartment long-term.

We are only at the early stage when it comes to realising the full potential of employee feedback, but most readers will recognise the power of the likes of Glassdoor in influencing potential new recruits whether to join a company.

A trend that is already playing out is the revolution in the employee survey market where the traditional annual survey is being augmented (and even supplanted) with pulse and continual listening programmes. A flood of new entrants such as Kanjoya, Culture Amp and Organization View (founded by HR Tech World stalwart Andrew Marritt) have entered this market and established survey providers have designed and launched new solutions e.g. IBM with their Employee Voice platform.

The extent of change that is afoot is significant and rapid – Josh Bersin declared at HR Tech World in Paris (see Key Takeaways) that this new market is set to surpass $1 billion over the next few years.

So, how do you foster great employee experience?

A recently published study by the IBM Institute for Business Value ‘Designing Employee Experience’ provides some illuminating findings. First, employee experience is created by a blend of three interconnecting spheres: employees’ physical environment, their social connections and the actual work that needs to be done.

The study also found that companies are deploying five main strategies to create more effective employee experiences:

  • Personalisation – creating a fit between the needs of the employee and the needs of the organisation.
  • Transparency – improving visibility across the organisation for both employee and employer.
  • Simplicity – the removal of non-value-added activities and information to streamline experiences.
  • Authenticity – aligning employee experience to organisational culture and values.
  • Responsiveness – enabling both employee and employer to share information and feedback, and to modify actions accordingly.

For further reading on this subject, I’d recommend getting hold of a copy of The Best Place To Work by Ron Friedman.

How to design employee experience in your organisation

The IIBV study then provides four recommendations for those looking to nurture employee experience within their organisations. Please download the white paper for full details, but in summary these recommendations are:

  • Leverage analytics – The level of data and analysis that is typically applied to the customer experience should also be the core foundation of understanding and enhancing employee experience. Traditional employee HR information, semi-structured engagement surveys and unstructured comments from internal and external social platforms can provide invaluable insights into potential solutions to boost employee experience.
  • Understand the key differentiation touchpoints – Identify and focus on the key areas of the employee lifecycle where employee experience has the greatest impact.
  • Build a crossfunctional experience coalition – Responsibility for employee experience should not just lie with HR. IT, Facilities, Marketing and especially line of business leadership also need to be part of a multi-functional approach across the blend of physical, social and task spheres highlighted earlier.
  • Apply rapid, iterative design principles – Learning again from the world of customer experience, it is agile design principles and the rapid deployment of iterative parts of the puzzle that will likely prove more successful than creating one larger solution that may take years to implement.

Final thoughts

The majority of organisations are still in the dark on the linkage between improved employee experience and the impact it has on productivity and customer experience. Most organisations are still using traditional and primitive analytics to evaluate employee experience. This will change and it will change rapidly. The employee experience equivalent of Net Promoter (NPS) will soon be as omnipresent as it is in the world of customer experience.

Need further inspiration?

Some organisations are already enjoying the fruits of deploying sophisticated employee experience programmes. Here are three examples to whet the appetite:


About the Author

David is part of the HR Tech World Blog Squad and is a respected influencer, writer and speaker on people analytics and the future of work. He was recognised as Best Writer at the 2015 HR Tech Writers’ Awards, and was awarded one of ten LinkedIn Power Profiles for HR in January 2016.  David’s role as Global Director, People Analytics Solutions at IBM enables him to help clients apply an analytical, insight led and business outcome focused approach to their talent strategies and people decisions. Connect with David on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter.

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