Employee experience (EX) refers to a worker's holistic experience with each facet of their company — from their first exposure to the brand through to their eventual departure. Not to be confused with employee engagement, the concept encapsulates everything a worker thinks and feels, rather than just their feelings about their job and their company at large.
EX has come a long way since the cramped, thankless working conditions of the early 20th century. Yet, while 80% of executives now rate the experience of their employees as a top priority, only 22% of companies have committed to building a strategy, according to research from Deloitte.
If you're interested in learning more about the concept, you've come to the right place. Here, we break down the term, its stages, and myriad benefits, before laying out six practical ways you can improve EX within your company.
What is Employee Experience?
Employee experience, or EX for short, is everything a worker sees, thinks, and feels throughout their duration at a company. Its typically broken down into the cultural, physical, and technological, and refers to any experience, big or small – from minor daily interactions to a staffer's wider sense of purpose and meaning within a company.
There are a number of different steps companies can take to improve the experience of their workers, including focusing on diversity and inclusion, offering pathways to progression, and safeguarding their physical and mental health. Companies can't improve their EX without listening, though. Without getting to know your staff and connecting to them on a human level, being able to improve their subjective experience will be impossible.
Employee Experience vs Employee Engagement: What's the Difference?
‘Employee engagement' describes the level of dedication and enthusiasm workers have towards their jobs. There is an overlap between this and EX, but while employee engagement is directly linked to productivity, employee experience is more worker-centric and encompasses every interaction an individual has with their company, its workers, and the physical and virtual workspace.
Employee engagement does fall within the wider employee experience umbrella, and both concepts ultimately are focused on building enthusiasm, motivation, and a sense of meaning at work.
What are the 7 Stages of Employee Experience?
With 'employee experience' being such a catch-all term, trying to measure and improve the employee experience of your workers might seem like a mammoth task. The employee lifecycle model helps to sidestep this hurdle, by breaking the concept up into seven distinct phases: brand attraction, recruitment, onboarding, development, retention, exit, and advocacy.
We detail what these stages mean below:
- Brand attraction – The attraction phase is when prospective workers first become aware of your company. With three-quarters of candidates prioritizing companies with a strong employer brand, your HR strategy has a massive influence on the quantity and quality of talent you're able to attract.
- Recruitment – This aspect includes everything to do with your recruitment effort, from your initial job posting right through to the job offer. Communicating the values of your company is critical during this stage, alongside taking steps to tackle recruitment bias and make the process as accessible as possible.
- Onboarding – During the onboarding phase, workers get a preliminary taste of your company, its values, and what's expected of them. To make sure new recruits sail through this stage smoothly, it's important to ensure they have access to adequate training and personal, social, and professional support where necessary.
- Development – The development stage refers to how able an employee is to grow within your company. Every worker will develop at a different rate, but to give every individual the best shot at growing it's important to make promotions, training opportunities, and other forms of professional progress as accessible as possible.
- Retention – Aside from being a core attribute of EX, staff retention has a major impact on a company's culture and bottom line – with the average employee resignation costing a company $4,129. There's no one-size-fits-all blueprint when it comes to keeping hold of workers, but fostering a positive company culture and investing in your staff are two failsafe ways to keep staff retention high.
- Exit – Every worker will move on from your company at some point. Whether their departure is due to life circumstances, limited opportunities, or retirement, exit interviews can be a powerful way to gain insight into their experience and your company's wider attrition rate. Maintaining friendly relations throughout this stage is vital as it tends to be the most memorable state of an employee's lifecycle.
- Advocacy – Employee experience doesn't end when a worker is off your payroll. Keeping former employees happy benefits a company by protecting its name recognition and the morale of current teams. Individuals that have left on positive terms are almost three times more likely to recommend your company too, making it easier for you to attract top talent.
What Impact Does Employee Experience Have on My Business?
Investing in your staff brings myriad benefits to your workforce, culture, and bottom line. We discuss the impact launching a successful employee experience strategy can have on your business:
An effective EX strategy aims to make the workspace a positive and supportive place for workers, and the impact of this far surpasses the individual. Happy workers are more dedicated, productive, and collaborative, making looking after their wellbeing a no-brainer for any company.
As concepts like quiet quitting and resenteeism make massive waves, disengagement continues to be one of the biggest issues plaguing the US workforce. Research from Gallup found only 32% of American workers are currently engaged with their role and company, down 4% from 2022.
Creating a holistic employee-centric strategy is one of the best ways to tackle disengagement at its source. And with engaged workers bringing an average of 23% more profits to their business, this isn't a trick many business leaders can afford to miss.
Better team morale
When individual workers feel more engaged, satisfied, and valued, they're more likely to interact positively with their team. Healthier team morale has a massive impact on company culture, and it also fosters healthier collaboration. In a time when 26% of business leaders struggle with collaboration, this has never been more important.
Lower churn rates
If you don't value the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of your employees, they'll find another company that will. As younger generations step onto and move their way up the career ladder, workers are prioritizing EX over factors like salary more than ever. So, to keep hold of top workers, it's important to listen to their needs so you can improve their experiences for the better.
As inflation rates and the cost of supplies continue to inflate astronomically, business owners need to keep a hawkish eye on profits. Due to its positive influence on innovation, employee engagement, collaboration, and productivity, investing in EX is one of the best ways to expand your bottom line.
And its impact isn't minor, either. Harvard research found that companies that rank well for employee experience rake in on average four times more than companies that don't.
How Employee Experience Has Changed Over Time
These days, employee experience is a major priority for employers and HR professionals – but this hasn't always been the case.
In the 20th century, the relationship between employee and employer was utility-based, with workers exchanging their skilled or professional labor in return for a wage and little else. In the decades that followed, more focus was given to the emotional and physical well-being of employees. However, this was primarily driven by employers' desires to maximize productivity over genuine concerns for worker wellbeing.
While decent progress has been made throughout the 21st century, it isn't until recent years that the holistic experience of employees has been taken seriously. Due to shifting priorities among younger generations, economic challenges, and major world events like the Covid-19 pandemic, improving workplace conditions is now a major concern for companies across sectors. And if generational trends are anything to go by, the prioritization of EX isn't likely to subside anytime soon.
How to Improve Employee Experience: 6 Tips
Understanding employee experience is one thing, but launching a winning strategy is another. If you're serious about improving your workers' journeys through your company, here are some best practices to follow:
1. Prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
Your EX efforts mean nothing if they aren't accessible to all.
Diversity in tech, and in other white-collar industries, is still a long way behind where it needs to be today. This creates hurdles for those that have been historically underrepresented, from overcoming recruitment biases to accessing adequate support and progression pathways.
To make sure your EX strategy is representative of your whole company, not just certain demographics, you have to make DEI a priority. These efforts should be mindful of the unique challenges faced by marginalized groups and, if necessary, provide extra support to those who require it.
2. Acknowledge and celebrate successes
However busy your day-to-day may be, failing to recognize the success of your workers is a sure-fire way to jeopardize staff morale and engagement.
Being called out for successes, big or small, makes workers feel seen, and their hard work recognized. It's one of the simplest ways to drive up levels of engagement and job satisfaction, and it's an instant morale booster for the team, too.
While success is subjective, we recommend shouting out anything from work anniversaries and important milestones to hitting targets and implementing big wins.
3. Give workers something to care about
Pursuing a meaningful career has never been more important to workers. Research from Harvard shows that nine out of 10 people are willing to cut their pay to do more meaningful work, and this sentiment is even stronger among younger generations.
According to Deloitte, the best way to provide meaningful work is to let your employees shape their environment in a way that works best for them. Granting them more autonomy and giving them the authority to make important decisions is a great way to show them their opinions are valued. It also encourages them to perform their best, which is a huge impetus for employers.
4. Take mental health seriously
Thankfully, in most workplaces, the topic of mental health is no longer taboo. Yet, while strides are being taken in the right direction, there's still a lot more employers can do to support the wellbeing of their staff.
In fact, as the boundary between work and personal lives continues to blur, prioritizing mental health as a part of your EX strategy has never been more important. This means having tried-and-tested measures in place to address worker burnout, rolling out mental health training for managers, offering employee perks when possible, and building a culture where discussions around the topic are welcomed.
5. Listen, and ask for feedback
The only way you're going to implement an EX strategy that works is by listening to your workforce. This may sound obvious, but the majority of companies don't request feedback from their employees, limiting the success of programs before they've even begun.
Opening up the floor to opinions, requests, and criticism is the only way to gauge the temperature of your company. This bottom-up strategy is the only way your efforts will successfully be able to respond to the real-world experiences of your workers. You're not limited to traditional surveys either – Q&A sessions, suggestion boxes, and exit interviews are other viable ways to collect feedback.
6. Provide opportunities for growth
Over 60% of workers who left their job in 2021 did so because they weren't offered a clear path for progression. To prevent your workers from doing the same, creating and maintaining clear growth pathways is a must.
If your company doesn't have the scope to offer continual promotions, creating individual development plans is a good course of action. Investing in your employees' skills through courses and training programs is another effective method for supporting growth.
Next Steps: Moving Forward With a EX Strategy
However, elevating the experience of your workforce is no easy feat. To move forward with an employee experience strategy that sticks, you need to take the following considerations into account:
- Prioritize DEI
- Celebrate successes
- Create meaning
- Support mental health
- Ask for feedback
- Provide growth opportunities
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