Employee Experience

Understanding employee experience: what it is and why it matters

Employee experience is essential to attracting and retaining talent – but how do you define it, let alone improve it? OpenBlend explains how to create an employee experience strategy with conversation at its core.

Understanding employee experience: what it is and why it matters

What is employee experience?

Employee experience is essential to attracting and retaining talent – but how do you define it, let alone improve it? OpenBlend explains how to create an employee experience strategy with conversation at its core. 

How do your employees perceive your business?

When they walk through the door or log on remotely, what goes through their mind? Is it stress, satisfaction, a feeling of alienation or acceptance, enthusiasm or just plain indifference?

The experience your employees have with your organisation is important. It’s the difference between having an engaged, productive workforce, and a disengaged, poorly performing team that doesn’t care about their employer – often because they feel their employer doesn’t care about them.  

We’re constantly hearing about talent shortages and the impact they are having on companies and will continue to have as the skills drain worsens in years to come. In a candidate-driven employment market, being able to offer a positive, happy and healthy employee experience is going to be essential to attracting and retaining the talent you need to drive commercial growth – but how do you do it?

What one employee defines as a good experience could be wildly different from the next – think about the different priorities likely to be held by a working parent compared to a recent graduate – so how do you create an experience that works for everyone? 

Employee experience is deeply personal, which is why so many corporate initiatives – happy hour Fridays, work retreats, open-plan offices, etc – fail to work. However, there are some fundamental things you can do to address employee experience in your organisation, and it starts by understanding the key components of what it takes to create a happy, productive and engaged workforce. 

Key components of employee experience

When it comes to employee experience, there are a few essential components that can't be overlooked. A positive company culture, a comfortable work environment, access to useful tools and resources, attractive benefits and perks, and strong management all play a critical role in shaping an employee's overall experience. These factors work together to create an environment that not only attracts top talent but also fosters employee engagement, and loyalty. After all, when employees feel valued, supported, and appreciated, they're more likely to give their all to their work and stick around for the long haul.

Here we take a look at what we see as the most important components of employee experience: 

1. Company culture 

The culture you create in your company goes deeper than creating a vibe in the office and introducing team outings. It’s about how your employees actually feel about their position and their work. Company culture is influenced by how you bring people together as a team, but it’s also about how communications are handled, how stress and workload are managed, how complaints and suggestions are tackled and how the business’s core purpose is reflected across the organisation. Your culture reflects the thoughts and feelings of your employees, but it also needs to be formed and promoted by ideas and philosophies at leadership level. You can’t enforce a culture, but you can encourage it by instigating open conversations and building mutual trust between colleagues, managers and leaders.   

2. Work environment 

How does your environment reflect the needs of a diverse team? This isn’t just the office itself: it’s how you facilitate remote working, how you cater to the needs of people who are disabled or neurodivergent, and how you consider the comfort of everyone in the business. Work environment covers everything from making sure that desks are ergonomically optimised to ensuring access to quiet places when needed.  Yet it also involves social and cultural elements such as the overall organisational culture, the style of communication within the workplace, the quality of relationships between colleagues and supervisors, as well as the degree of support and recognition that employees receive.

3. Tools and resources 

If your employees don’t have access to the tools and resources they need, they can’t thrive – and they won’t enjoy their experience with your organisation. Feeling impeded in your role by practical challenges, like poor wi-fi or technology that isn’t fit for purpose – is frustrating and can ultimately drive talent away from your organisation.  HR tech specifically has a big role to play, from wellbeing platforms to all-round performance management systems, tools that enable your workforce to feel in control, understood, listened to and appreciated can empower your workforce to take ownership of their careers and feel valued for their contributions.

4. Benefits and perks 

What benefits are there to working for your organisation? Are salaries competitive, are there additions like pensions and private healthcare? When it comes to additional perks, be wary of introducing blanket benefits without consulting team members on what they want. Introducing subsidised gym memberships for instance might seem like a perk, but can be alienating for those who don’t have the time to take up the offer due to conflicting priorities or work stresses. Think about perks that reflect individuals and have a balance throughout the business.   

5. Management 

Managers are the bridge between your organisation and your employees, but they are an often-overlooked part of the employee experience. Well-trained managers who are able to coach their employees and have the learning resources available to help them thrive will have a significant impact on employee experience – and can influence all of the other components listed above.  

The benefits of a positive employee experience

A strong employee experience has the power to improve employee engagement and, as a result, productivity. According to Gallup, businesses with highly engaged workforces have increased profitability by 21%, and experience 17% high productivity than those with a disengaged workforce.   

Your experience is also essential to attracting talent and retaining valuable staff members. The Gallup study also found that engaged companies achieve 59% less employee turnover than those with disengaged teams. Happy employees are also more likely to recommend your organisation to friends and former colleagues, increasing your talent pool: employees engaged by their employer’s experience are 23 times more likely to refer their company as a good place to work. Not only does this boost talent attraction, but also the image and reputation of your organisation. With the rise in social media, employees that are vocal about their positive employee experience online will bring both talent and reputational benefits.  

Whilst the benefits are undisputed, companies that struggle to make heads or tails of what their experience really looks like may struggle to achieve their goals and could risk losing their most valuable asset - their employees. 

How to develop your employee experience strategy 

Now that you know what employee experience is, how can you improve it? Here are two key steps to consider when developing an employee experience strategy. Taking heed of this advice will help you to better understand the current state of your workplace culture, your employee's engagement levels, and their overall satisfaction - before taking action to improve it. 

1. Identify your goals and objectives 

What do your employees really want from you? Listen to direct feedback and go beyond employee satisfaction surveys: use managers as a sounding board for how individuals are really feeling and what can be done to improve engagement, productivity and overall satisfaction at work. Honest, open conversations beat superficial surveys any day (although you can use both). 

Once you understand what your employees need and want from you as their employer, you can start making a plan to move forward. Your employee experience strategy needs to reflect exactly what it is that you need to work on to improve the experience you offer to your people, tailored to the realities of what’s going on across your organisation. While it's important to aim for positive changes and improvements, it's crucial to set goals that are achievable and realistic, rather than aiming for an unattainable utopia. In other words, it's important to consider the practicalities of what is achievable in the context of the resources and capabilities you have available, as well as the broader economic and social factors that may well be affecting the employee experience.

For instance, if stress and overwork are negative contributing factors in lots of different areas of the business, part of your strategy could be to create tangible ways to continually check in on and review schedules, objectives, targets, workloads and allocations. Importantly, don’t pay lip service to the feedback you receive. Your top performers will see right through it.   

Whether the goals you set include training and development programs, wellbeing schemes, or flexible work arrangements, if they facilitate initiatives that meet the needs of your workforce, you’ll be on course to retain and motivate your employees and drive your business forward. 

2. Understand your employees’ needs, motivators and drivers

This one's important and part of the very fabric of what we believe at OpenBlend. Employee experience is not a tick-box exercise – it’s a continuous journey. As with any people strategy set, you need to first make sure that you listen to your employees' needs, individual drivers, preferences and pain points. Make them part of your strategy from the start and at regular check-in points along your journey. For growth and talent retention, this part is vital.  

Effective 1:1 conversations between managers and employees will help you shape your strategy. Through conversation, you can paint a full picture of what your employees value, what motivates them, what challenges they face and what their experience really looks like.  

Why managers are key

Employee experience is defined in every interaction an employee has with your organisation, from the onboarding stage through to enablement. Managers play a critical role in shaping employee experience in each of these stages and impact the engagement, job satisfaction, performance and productivity of every employee. Great managers will make a significant difference in how your employee experience is brought to life, but they need to have the authority to act and drive forward positive change. Here are some of the ways you can go about ensuring your managers are equipped to do so: 

1. Encourage open, honest 1:1 conversations 

Employee-manager 1:1s are the most valuable experience tool. Managers need to have a framework that coaches them through the process of interacting with their teams, enabling them to unlock engagement, drive performance forward and help employees to thrive.  

Make sure you facilitate time for your managers to hold these conversations with their teams. They should take place regularly (bi-monthly at minimum), the agenda should be contributed to by both the manager and the employee, and outcomes and objectives set, tracked and measured. 

2. Prioritise feedback 

As with the above, making sure that employees are communicated consistently and given fair, constructive 360 feedback is critical to the way they perceive their roles (and thus, their experience as a whole). With regular feedback, they will be able to reflect on their performance and be more motivated to meet their goals and overcome their challenges. 

Support managers with coaching prompts and guidance that help them to communicate clearly, concisely and equitably. Feedback needs to be time-bound, specific, objective, and actionable. 

4. Make space for progression and development  

When managers understand what each employee wants from their future with your organisation and their careers as a whole, they can help take steps to facilitate it. By enabling and supporting your managers to introduce clear employee development and progression pathways, you can identify training and learning opportunities that will drive engagement, fulfilment and performance.   

5. Use and leverage technology  

Employee experience shouldn’t be a vague or undefined thing: it should have a clear structure that every manager and department can replicate. Platforms like OpenBlend can help you measure and improve employee experience with clear metrics and well-defined employee journeys. 

Any organisation can improve their employee experience if they have the right mindset. As we’ve discovered, great conversations are the foundation of employee experience – and a platform that enables and supports both the employee and their manager to come together to discuss what matters is a powerful way of impacting the employee experience from the bottom up. 

Improve employee experience with conversation

Prioritising experience is the first step: the next is taking action to change it. Importantly, listen to your employees to create experiences that are influenced by your teams, not enforced from the top down. It’s by listening and engaging in honest 1:1s that your team will thrive – and the experience you offer will engage your teams and attract new talent to grow your business.  

If you’re interested in understanding more about how the OpenBlend platform works to enhance and improve employee experiences and performance all through effective 1:1 conversation, we've got you covered. Book a demo to see the value that OpenBlend can bring to your business.  

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