5 Small Ways to Improve the Employee Experience
Providing incentives and perks that enhance the employee experience may have seemed easier when every member of the team worked under the same roof. After all, who didn't enjoy having access to great kitchen facilities or on-site restaurants, recreational rooms for a quick game of table tennis, or a place to catch a nap and recharge? Many such perks had become commonplace at several companies prior to the pandemic. They were considered great ways to boost team spirit, build a stronger culture and drive productivity.
But today, with a majority of people working remotely — and an increasing number of employees saying they would consider leaving their current employment if they were forced to go back to an on-site setting five days a week — these perks no longer work. At the very least, they're no longer sufficient in the current talent shortage climate. If companies are to meet pent-up demand, they must get creative in their strategy to attract and retain the talent that will get them there.
According to a study by MetLife, 69 percent of employees say they would be more loyal to their employer if given a greater selection of perks and incentives. The challenge here is that as priorities change and employees place more and more emphasis on work-life balance, overall wellbeing and purpose, the definition of what constitutes a perquisite — or incentive — also must change.
The companies that successfully set themselves apart in this new era are the ones that find innovative yet customizable ways to improve the employee experience, all without breaking the bank. Here are some tips.
What Is the Employee Experience, and Why Is It Important?
Benefits and perks are a critical component of any company's talent strategy, but in today's environment, employees are looking for more than a paycheck and a place to play foosball. They seek companies that know how to meaningfully interact with them and their community. That puts an emphasis on company culture, overall work environment, corporate mission, their sense of purpose at work, and both the personal and professional development opportunities afforded to them.
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Many organizations offer paid time off, health insurance and other such incentives to attract employees, but these benefits are increasingly considered part of a standard benefits package. With today's tight labor market, companies need to think outside the box if they want to improve their employee experience and set themselves up for success.
Ways to Improve the Employee Experience
Here's what some companies that provide remote work options do to improve their employee experience.
Provide a Monthly Stipend
With the pandemic forcing companies to pivot quickly, many remote employees have been using their personal computers to complete the work they would have otherwise done at the office with company equipment. This often means employees foot the bill for expenses they didn't before, such as higher internet speeds, cloud storage space, or more ergonomic workspaces.
Travis Lindemoen, managing director of recruitment at Kansas-based IT staffing company Nexus IT Group, said companies should consider offering their employees a stipend to cover internet and increased utility costs, and leaving it to their discretion how they choose to use it.
Some may prefer to use the stipend to sign up for a co-working space, especially if they have limited room in their home. Ultimately, a small gesture can help offset some of the costs of remote work and make a big difference in sharing the home office burden.
Send Gift Cards
Taking an employee out to lunch is a challenging feat when teams are working remotely across the country, but sending an impromptu gift card as a thank you for a job well done — or simply for being a member of the team — can go a long way. Companies that understand that small, personalized and thoughtful gestures make a difference are more likely to win the so-called talent war.
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Have Virtual Happy Hours
While the restaurant industry has re-opened, many individuals remain cautious about crowds and enclosed spaces. Even if your team is somewhat local, despite working remotely, organizing in-person happy hours may not be something some of your employees seek. Virtual happy hours were popular when the pandemic hit, and there is no reason to put an end to them now that business has re-opened.
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They are a great way to "close" the office for an hour and let your employees mingle and interact to further build team engagement and relax. Companies can put weekly virtual happy hours on the calendar to ensure everyone can attend, or some may prefer to let employees decide the frequency and time that best fits their schedule. Larger companies may consider smaller team gatherings to foster more participative communication.
Highlight Milestones and Celebrations
Birthdays, anniversaries, growing families, weddings ... life continues in a remote setting, and companies should celebrate the milestones and important celebrations and make time for employees to meet, even if virtually on these occasions.
“We celebrate job accomplishments, promotions, anniversaries and birthdays, as well as when someone purchases a home or adopts a child,” said Girish Redekar, co-founder of software security firm Sprinto.
There’s no need to go overboard with celebrations either, but a simple mention and kudos as part of a company-wide meeting can make a big difference in how that employee perceives the organization and its interest in its people.
Implement a Learning Budget
The fact that employees are working remotely doesn't mean they should not be included in development programs. Regardless of their location, employees are your most precious asset and developing them can benefit both them and the company.
“Because education is at our core, we have a company-wide learning budget of $300 per person to be used annually," said Doug Donovan, CEO of Austin, Texas-based Interplay Learning, a 3D simulation training company. Donovan said the company encourages employees to use this benefit for any learning opportunity they prefer and the feedback has been positive.
“Some examples of ways employees have used their learning budget include scuba lessons, cooking classes, as well as art and photography classes,” he said.
In the end, companies that succeed at employee experience take time to listen and understand what employees want and provide it as best they can. Today's EX goes beyond a fancy benefits package with all of the perks and focuses inward, on the culture and overall joy employees derive from working with their peers and accomplishing goals.
By establishing an authentic employer-employee bond where both parties benefit from the relationship, organizations can foster loyalty, increase employee engagement and set themselves up for success in this new era.