What Is Employee Experience?
Employee experience is basically everything an employee encounters at a company – from their initial job search to their last day of work and beyond. Traditional HR practices are being transformed by intelligent technologies and people-first policies, changing from human capital management (HCM) to human experience management (HXM).
In what’s been referred to as the Great Resignation of 2021, millions of workers are quitting their jobs – and post-pandemic surveys report up to 95% of people saying they’re considering resigning from their current roles. Some don’t feel there are opportunities for growth at their companies, others don’t want to stay at jobs that don’t offer remote or hybrid work options, and still others are simply experiencing employee burnout. And the New York Times tells us that “companies post job openings in record numbers, but applicant activity is at record lows.” In the 2020s, employees are re-evaluating work/life balance and what they need from their employers. To attract and retain top talent, companies will need to go undergo a reevaluation process of their own, to better attune themselves to individual employee needs and expectations.
Why is employee experience so important today?
In today’s economy, businesses are facing heightened risk and increasingly complex customer and market demands. To succeed, companies need to seize upon every competitive edge – and to do that, they need the best people.
Well-designed employee experience strategies lead to more engaged employees, and engaged employees lead to a more productive, profitable company. A recent Gallup report found that companies in the “top quartile of engagement realize substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability.”
Conversely, not prioritizing the employee experience has very real downsides, including decreased employee retention rates. Apart from the destabilizing effect of high turnover, there are enormous costs associated with recruiting, onboarding, and training new hires. This online calculator shows that the cost of employee turnover is often about 50% of their annual wage, rising as high as 150% for highly skilled or senior employees.
Furthermore, with the prevalence of employer review sites like Glassdoor and the power of social media to influence opinion, dissatisfied employees can spread their views much farther and wider than they once could have done.
What is employee journey mapping?
Employee journey mapping helps to visualize the timeline of the entire employee experience, from the time a candidate starts exploring the company, to the day they retire, and beyond. It addresses all the key touchpoints and moments that matter most to the employee.
Employee experience software solutions that use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to gather, manage, and analyze employee journey mapping data can help provide relevant and meaningful support to the workforce. These tools can also support businesses by delivering insights and recommendations to make HR processes more efficient and resilient in the future.
Employee journey and lifecycle mapping can be broken down into several stages. Below are some of the key touchpoints along this journey:
- Job search and recruiting: Modern job seekers will check you out on news and social media as well as employer review sites. Smart technologies monitor digital media for trends, both positive and negative, giving HR teams a chance to respond and address concerns. To hang on to the best talent, it’s also important that your job application and recruitment apps are streamlined and easy to use and that your communication and interview processes are effective. This is also a great time to help pre-hires get involved with company culture. Do you have a community page for staff news and activities? Are your staff social media resources up-to-date and relevant?
- Onboarding: You need to pack a lot of information into a short time. Each new hire will have different orientation needs and unique learning styles. With engaging tools like virtual reality and natural language processing bots, you can help make new hires feel more engaged. Send them to their new workplace with useful insider and relevant knowledge, rather than just regurgitating the same dull information.
- Learning, training, and development: Digital solutions (especially those that make use of AI and machine learning) can enrich and individualize employee learning in phenomenal ways. Digital HR systems can help not only recommend the best ongoing training paths but help customize and deliver that learning in ways that are most relevant and engaging for each individual.
- Engagement and team involvement: With a growing remote and hybrid workforce, it’s more important than ever that the employee experience includes a sense of camaraderie and community. Supporting the employee lifecycle and journey means a commitment to creating and maintaining both on-site community engagement and ‘virtual water cooler’ opportunities for hybrid workers.
- Recognition and reviews: There’s no need to refer to a report or statistic here. Every human being knows that we feel more motivated when we are valued and appreciated. But knowing when and how to express recognition can be complicated and even biased. Digital employee mapping tools use event-based and other triggers to help employers maintain a strong culture of recognition and reward. Also, employee journey mapping works best when tools are in place to help managers ensure they are staying on schedule with all events and target-setting activities associated with performance review.
- Promotion and career advancement: By mapping employee journeys and accomplishments, businesses get a win/win. The employees can be sure that their successes and skills growth is noted and recorded, so they will not be overlooked when opportunities arise. Also, when a particular skill set is urgently needed, HR teams will have a much better idea of where all the talent is located across the whole business.
- Exit: Retirement or termination can be stressful for employees so understanding their unique pain points can help them transition. Companies can analyze data sets from departing employees to better understand what drives retention, loyalty, and satisfaction.
What is an employee experience platform (EXP)?
Today’s employee experience platforms evolved from the employee portals of several years ago, to online apps, and, finally, to today’s integrated, cloud-based EXPs. Modern EXP solutions combine engagement, well-being, productivity, collaboration, and communication tools. And the best systems have an employee-first design, allowing businesses to take complete control of the look, feel, and experience people have when using these tools – while retaining the power and functionality of the original, underlying HRMS system.
In other words, modern EXPs update the front end of strong applications and systems without disrupting or complicating the back-end functioning – creating a new experience layer on top of the existing structure to make it more modern, mobile-optimized, and easy to use.
How do employee experience platforms benefit your business?
By providing a unified work experience, EXPs deliver faster and easier communication.
- Onboarding tasks are streamlined and laid out for each new hire. This saves valuable time and reduces error and oversight – and helps new hires more quickly “find their flow.”
- Training and learning are improved. Through guided and experiential learning and training functions, employees learn and retain more of what they’re taught. This helps optimize training budgets and upskilling and reskilling efforts.
- Access-anywhere dashboards and centralized systems help to increase employee productivity and efficiency.
- EXPs support a more flexible and collaborative workplace, meaning employees can work together in real time, no matter where they find themselves in a hybrid workplace.
When HR teams are relieved from overwhelming and scattered admin tasks, they’re freed up to turn their attention to more innovative, value-added tasks. And when employees are allowed to interact with their work, colleagues, and environment in a personalized and self-guided way, they are able to stretch their wings, grow their careers, and attain a deeper level of engagement with their workplace.
The role of leadership in employee experience initiatives
The elephant in the room of many business transformation initiatives is that up to 70% do not succeed. But the fact is, they fail not because the ideas or technologies are wrong. They fail because of poor leadership and ineffective planning and communication. The following tips are a good checklist for team leaders and executives when launching employee experience initiatives:
- Buy-in is essential. Employee experience initiatives and platforms need to be launched with good change management and communication protocols – not sprung on staff as a done deal.
- Take the current temperature by reaching out to your teams, asking questions, surveying employees, and finding out where the biggest pain points – and opportunities – may currently be hiding.
- Be prepared to not just gather employee data and insights, but to act on them. Prepare resources and budgets for the possible need to upskill, reskill, and restructure teams.
- Cloud-based HR employee experience solutions can integrate with other business systems. Be sure to leverage this ability, gather data early on, and develop an ROI assessment structure so that you can demonstrate value of this important HR investment.
- Reach out to your software vendor for advice on how to best prepare your teams and systems for the integration of employee experience solutions.
Long-term outlook for employee experience and people-first HR practices
COVID-19 has changed the face of the modern workplace – possibly permanently. Modern businesses face increased competition on pricing, brand loyalty, shortened product lifecycles, and faster supply chains. Employee experience is one of the most powerful yet, until recently, overlooked areas for improved efficiency and profitability. To be successful in integrating HR into the greater business and profitability strategy, businesses will need to pay attention to a changing world of work – and realize that employee experience is no longer something that is “nice to have.” It has become a “must-have” for businesses that want to grow and compete in the 2020s.