6 steps to creating an employee experience (EX) strategy
Anyone in a leadership position since 2020 knows that expectations about work have undergone a revolution. Since then, interest in employee experience (or EX) has exploded.
Between December 2019 and July 2022, Google searches for ‘employee experience’ tripled. Yet 61% of businesses1 still only have either a basic or undefined employee experience strategy. What might be causing this? Not knowing where to start. Read our guide and learn the foundational steps to planning your strategy and why you need to make employee experience your first priority.
The evolution of employee experience
Employee experience is when organizations put the holistic experience of employees at the center of their decision-making. Once considered an HR trend, employee experience has become a mainstream business practice and is now seen as the responsibility of the entire organization.
Why should your organization prioritize employee experience?
The evidence is in favor of having an employee experience strategy: employees who report having a positive employee experience are 16 times more engaged and 8 times more likely to want to stay with an organization. Additionally, research shows productivity increases of 225% when an employee is inspired by the purpose of the organization where they work.
It's more than just free pizzas and fruit bowls
Employee experience is a series of actions, techniques and strategies which, taken together, help employees create deeper connections with their work, their colleagues and the organization itself. The end result is to foster a sense of belonging.
That, in turn, helps improve company-wide performance and productivity - because when people feel better at work, they do better at work.
Employee experience isn’t employee engagement. Where employee engagement is designed to change behavior, employee experience is designed to change culture. Instead it touches on all aspects of an employee’s tenure at organization and as a result, falls under the functions of numerous roles in the C-suite. From IT to Comms to HR and more.
Brynn Harrington, Vice-President, People Experience, Meta
Employee experience is everyone's responsibility
According to a recent study2, 40% of employee experience moments of truth sit outside HR. The map below provides a good visualization of this fact.
Setting up an employee experience strategy for success
All organizations are unique - in structure, culture and problems to solve - and as a result, there isn’t a one size fits all employee experience strategy.
Organizations must fully understand their unique issues before thinking about the solutions an employee experience strategy can solve.
Here are 6 steps to get started:
Setting up an employee experience function requires a significant change in how most organizations run. By this we mean that the various functions, such as HR, Comms, IT, Finance, etc. are siloed from each other by design. And as such, many organizations are not set up in the right way to succeed.
The main obstacles to success are twofold:
1. Not doing the deep internal research about your employees pain points - from onboarding throughout their tenure at the organization until they leave.
2. Understanding that employee experience doesn’t have a single owner. Instead, it must be a joint effort across all functions in the C-suite.
After understanding the context, it’s clear that solving employee experience is a joint effort for all teams, it’s not just an HR responsibility. As a next step, it’s important to start developing cross-functional relationships and building empathy with employees before people come to the table to discuss employee experience.
For employee experience to function properly, an organizational shift must occur. When it comes to solving employees’ problems, organizations mostly think about tactical processes and software. Instead, they need to shift to thinking of managing experiences that span multiple departments, systems and locations.
Take Onboarding, for example. How does your organization interact with employees over their tenure? In most businesses, it looks like the following:
- HR is responsible for recruitment & legal paperwork
- Payroll handles compensation logistics
- IT takes care of setting up phones and laptops
- Facilities provides badges and access
- Line manager welcomes them to the role.
The result for new hires is that they will provide their same information numerous times over different systems, creating a disjointed and complicated experience.
An employee experience strategy solves this by centering the employee, looking at the process as a whole and then offering a solution that spans multiple departments. An example of this could be providing an improved platform of resources for someone to do their job. A solution that spans HR, IT and Comms.
Now that there’s buy-in across the organization, roles need to be defined and a dedicated employee experience team put in place. It’s also important that incentives are in place to reward cross-functional working on employee experience. Everyone needs to believe in it.
The role of HR
While employee experience is a true cross-functional effort, HR is ultimately in the driving seat. HR leaders are responsible for bringing the right teams to the table, prioritizing focus areas and designing the overall program and policies for the duration of the employee lifecycle. The buck stops here.
The role of Comms
One of the biggest risks while establishing community within an organization is miscommunication, or even greater than that, absence of information altogether. Comms’ critical role is to create and manage the channels that enable the right information to flow freely to everyone, and allow community to flourish. This takes more than email. It will require investment and innovation so that employees can hold conversations, discover ideas, share their interests and more.
The role of IT
IT plays a key role in employee experience by enabling experiences through removing barriers and providing technology which amplifies an organization's goals. IT leaders support business goals through building connections, listening and enabling the workforce.
The role of Leadership
Leadership can make or break employee experience by loudly and publicly endorsing it as a business priority. CEOs need to embody new ways of working, building empathy and working cross-functionally that exemplifies the values they want to instill across the organization.
The role of User Experience Design & Product Management
Many companies don’t have either function or skill set and as a result that’s often where many fail at truly succeeding with their employee experience strategy. What do we mean by this? We’ll explain in the next step.
Once roles have been defined and there’s buy in across the organization, then the research starts. At Meta, we approach employee experience in the same way we approach our User Experience (UX) - by focusing on Design Thinking
What does that mean exactly?
Design thinking is a cycle of continuous improvement that starts with empathy and ends with testing and implementation — followed by more design thinking, it’s a process of continuous iteration.
Brynn Harrington, Vice-President, People Experience, Meta
Applying this approach to employee experience looks like:
First you need to learn all about your employees. There’s a whole toolkit to do this. From surveys to focus groups, but also key is direct observational research. Which is literally sitting down with your employees and watching them do their jobs.
Take this example:
Through surveys, HR learns that booking a holiday on a company Intranet is complicated because it's difficult to find the right information to make the request. They follow-up by observing their employees complete this task. However, something unexpected is observed: each employee searches for the name of a particular colleague in HR to locate the link that sends them to the correct Intranet spot to complete the task.
Once the problems facing employees are clear, you should also be able to determine what exactly is needed to fix this.
You’ll need to bring XFN stakeholders together for a working session to come up with the solutions.
Start building the solutions.
The idea at this phase is to start small, and trial the solution that’s fastest to implement.
To use that example again of the employees who couldn’t access the correct information from HR and instead were searching through their emails. An immediate solution would be to work with the colleague in HR to optimize her subject lines, so that they could find the solution fast, then follow-up with them.
Did it work? No, keep at it.
Once implemented, then the testing starts by measuring, getting feedback and iterating.
The evidence shows that having an employee experience strategy is key to improving employee productivity, retention and engagement. However, because employee experience has multiple touchpoints, you’ll have to measure each specific effort unique to your organization, before refining it and then starting the process again. Feedback must become a habit, creating a constant cycle of improvement and iteration.
The time for employee experience is now
It’s never too late to get started on prioritizing employee experience in your organization. Your employee experience strategy must be based on paying attention to your employees - listening, observing and getting actionable insights and that will inform what you need to do. Discover how Workplace can help you do this.
1: WTW Employee Experience Survey, 2021
2: TI People, ‘The State of Employee Experience’, 2019
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