Best Practices for Every Stage of Employee Experience: Stage 6, Develop
Employee experience, if broken down into a math equation, might look like this:
company + employee + all interactions & sentiments = employee experience
In short, the sum of the employee experience is every interaction, thought and perception a person has regarding their employer — including co-workers, managers, the company and their role within it.
You could say the employee experience is the impression an employee has of their employer, but it's more complex than that. This experience, whether positive or negative, has a direct influence on how a person behaves in the workplace and, as a result, the overall business performance.
“At the end of the day, companies run on employees,” said Christoper Lind, VP, chief learning officer at ChenMed, founder of Learning Sharks and host of the video series Learning Tech Talks.
“How good or bad their experience is sets a ceiling on their performance. If the employee experience is atrocious, regardless of how skilled the employee is, they will only be able to accomplish so much.”
7 Stages of the Employee Journey
The employee experience is a robust thing. It encompasses time, thoughts, actions, etc. That's why many people look at it through the lens of the employee journey, or employee lifecycle, which breaks down the entirety of the employee experience into seven stages:
Companies that want to learn more about employee experience (and how to improve it) often use employee journey mapping, the process of visualizing and analyzing various touch points and experiences workers have throughout their employment.
In this series, we're looking at each stage of the employee journey and getting the experts to chime in.
In past weeks, we've covered:
- Stage 1: Attract: Best practices for attracting top talent.
- Stage 2: Hire: Hiring candidates to promote the company's success.
- Stage 3: Onboard: Meeting employee expectations during onboarding.
- Stage 4: Engage: Maintaining employee engagement at the mid-point of the employee lifecycle.
- Stage 5: Perform: Experts tips on talent management and performance.
This week, we're taking an in-depth look at stage six of the employee journey: development.
Employee Experience Stage 6: Employee Development
Everybody wants to be successful, said Kevin Brady, head of learning experience design and talent development partnerships at Wayfair.
“Nobody wakes up and says, ‘I want to come to work and really stink today.’ They all want to be the best they can be, and that’s going to lead to other things that they want, like more money, a better career, a higher position, happiness in the job, fulfillment.”
But the onus isn't on the employee. This is a stage of the employee journey when organizations must be proactive.
Workers want to see a path forward in the organization. They want to gain new skills, work with new people, take on new responsibilities. But employers need to be the ones to offer — and advertise — those opportunities. If they don't, they could see very real consequences.
A 2023 LinkedIn report found that, ultimately, people who don't learn, develop and grow in their careers will leave. In fact, opportunities for career growth and opportunities for learning and professional development were two of the top five factors employees considered in new jobs.
On top of that, the skills employees need to succeed on the job are changing. That same report found employee skills have shifted around 25% over the past seven years, a number LinkedIn predicts will double by 2027. As a result, 80% of learning and development professionals say proactively building employee skills will be helpful for navigating the future of work.
Still, not many organizations are doing that. Reworked's 2022 State of the Digital Workplace found that only 11% of businesses listed learning and development within their top three priorities — down from 18% in 2021.
Employee Experience Stage 6: Best Practices
Talent development is crucial to a well-rounded employee experience. It's what gets employees to stick around and indicates to future employees what the workplace might look like, should they happen to join the team.
Ultimately, it can act as a competitive advantage, ensuring employees have the latest industry knowledge, boosting employee satisfaction and acting as a piece of the overall employee experience strategy.
Plus, talent development can be baked into already-present processes, like annual performance reviews. These reviews are an excellent time to assess where a person is at on their employee journey, what type of development or learning will be most helpful and which key performance indicators to watch post-development to ensure true progress.
When it comes to best practices during this stage of the employee experience, experts say:
Set Learning Objectives
Companies should set clear learning and development objectives, or desired outcomes for training, said Brady.
It’s not just outlining what the employee is going to learn, he explained. It also includes a goal around what they’ll be doing at the end of class and what they’ll be able to do on the job immediately after the session.
“I can set goals around it; I can test it,” he said. “Every time I’m thinking about a slide to add to the training presentation, I’m looking at that desired outcome… I’m going to look at that slide and say, ‘Is this going to help me get there?’”
Make Development Personal
Employees want development that is personalized to them and supported by their manager and organization, said Lind.
Oftentimes, companies use the “cast the widest net” approach but don’t end up catching anyone, he explained.
“What we need to do is help employees connect the dots between what they want to accomplish in their career and where the gaps exist in their skillset. That should be done through larger efforts and through their direct manager.”
Once you have that, he said, you have to guide them to the resources most relevant to their journey.
Make E-Learning Interactive
In the past, said Brady, some training had to be in person. Leadership development. How to make a presentation. But today, that’s not always possible.
“You’ve got to adjust,” said Brady. “You’ve got to figure out how to leverage technology to make it interactive, to be able to see each other’s faces, to be able to look into each other’s eyes and still build relationships, still create a cohort feel, where they feel part of a team…”
One suggestion he gave is to use gamification in talent development strategies.
He used the example of a QR code in a team video meeting which, when scanned, takes employees to a questionnaire. It might have fun questions — like general trivia — or questions on the presentation content. Answers can be anonymous or not. And afterward, there might be a “winner,” a person or team that got the most questions right.
“It’s interactive, it’s fun, and people feel like they’re in a room and they went to a party and they had a little fun while they learned,” said Brady.
Dig Into the Heart of Problems
“Just knowing how to be on time does not make a human being on time every time,” said Brady.
How to Future-Proof Your Employee Experience Strategy in 2023
A framework to navigate through economic uncertainty
The Essential Role of Communicators in Fostering Wellbeing in the Digital Workplace
Join us for practical insights on how digital communicators can support employees to thrive in the digital workplace
Addressing Employee Needs and Wants with a Digital Workplace
The workplace is getting more and more digital – both in how we work and where we work
Maintaining a Human-Centered Approach During Digital Transformation
When it comes to digital transformation - people drive change, not technology
The Evolution of Employee Recognition
Leveraging the power of appreciation to improve the employee experience
How to Build a More Innovative and Resilient Workplace Culture
What would happen if every member of your team came to work focused on finding solutions and creating better results?
There are other things at play. Maybe a person didn’t plan ahead or took on too many projects. While you can train somebody on time management, you might be missing the real root of the problem, he said.
At Wayfair, for example, someone suggested a career development program for the company’s level-four leaders, whose engagement levels were “in the tank.” Brady talked to those leaders and discovered the real issue: They didn't think they'd move up in their careers. Why? Because they didn’t know how to do their jobs.
“They didn’t know how to lead people, and they didn’t know how to solve problems that, in the past, their leaders solved,” he explained. “Now, they’re in the leader’s seat, and they don’t know how to do that.”
Brady put together a comprehensive program to help develop the group as leaders. And, even as layoffs occurred in the company, the group’s engagement score went from -20 to +19.
“You can show that business dial moving and really make a case for what you’re doing,” he said.
Create Awareness Around Opportunities
Brands can do more when it comes to alerting employees to opportunities available, said Lind.
“The problem often lies in the way we approach it,” he explained. “If we’re relying on traditional channels like generic email blasts, we’re probably missing the target.”
This is a time to take a queue from marketing, he said. Try to understand where your employees are, how to best reach them and how to personalize communications to make them relevant.
“Getting this right is what it takes,” said Lind.
Look at Four Levels of Evaluation
When it comes to evaluating the impact of training, Brady pointed to the Kirkpatrick Model, which includes four levels of evaluation for training and development established by Dr. Donald L. Kirkpatrick, former Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin.
This model is common when evaluating programs for onboarding, product launches, leadership development, diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) and more.
The four evaluation levels of the Kirkpatrick Model include:
- Reaction: How did employees receive the training? Did they like it? You might use a survey at the end of training to gauge thoughts on the training, materials, facility and more, said Brady.
- Learning: Did employees learn from the training? Did they take something positive away? Brady suggested a pre- and post-class questionnaire to test knowledge on the topic.
- Behavior: After the training, did employee behavior change? Are they performing better on the job or able to speak more knowledgeably on certain topics?
- Results: How is that specific training impacting the business overall? Is business profit going up? Are employee engagement scores increasing? Are retention levels higher?
Create an Environment of Learning
Employee training programs, classes and workshops are all important to talent development. But you also need to set workers up for learning on their own, said Brady.
“Encourage them and teach them how to Google search something, how to YouTube something. I never call a plumber anymore — I YouTube it,” he said, though he admitted not being the handiest person.
“How do we create a learning organization, a learning culture, where people are constantly seeking to understand and seeking to learn and seeking to improve and be better?” he asked.
The company values also need to promote that learning culture, he added. Think values like: adapt and grow or continuous improvement.
“Let’s tie our learning to that, and let's leverage that to build a culture where everybody wants to learn and grow. That’s so much better than any class you can offer anybody if you can get people thinking that way.”
Consider a Fellow Position for Experts
Some people don’t want traditional career growth. They don’t want to manage other people or move up within the company. So, what do you do with that person?
You can continue to reward them — and actually pay them more — if you consider them a fellow, said Brady.
“They’re a center of profound knowledge that you want to retain,” he explained. “Not everyone can be a fellow. There’s only one person that is the absolute expert at your company on designing code, or whatever it might be.”
Do fellows still get training? Yes, said Brady. They still need to know about the latest technology out there, new methods cropping up, what the future of their industry might look like. They still need to be prepared to adapt and excel.
“They want to stay a fellow. They don’t want someone else coming along that knows more...because they got stale in that area.”
Employee Experience Strategies Demand Development
Learning, development and opportunities for career growth are something employees demand within the employee journey. And when they get that, they're better workers in return.
We need to help organizations and leaders think about employee learning and talent development in terms of organizational performance and business sustainability, said Lind.
“This isn’t a squishy, ‘feel-good’ trend even though there are squishy, ‘feel-good’ aspects of it," he said. "At the end of the day, getting employee development and experience right is a critical variable in the overall performance of an organization.”
About the Author
Michelle Hawley is an experienced journalist who specializes in reporting on the impact of technology on society. As a senior editor at Simpler Media Group and a reporter for CMSWire and Reworked, she provides in-depth coverage of a range of important topics including employee experience, leadership, customer experience, marketing and more. With an MFA in creative writing and background in inbound marketing, she offers unique insights on the topics of leadership, customer experience, marketing and employee experience. Michelle previously contributed to publications like The Press Enterprise and The Ladders. She currently resides in Pennsylvania with her two dogs.