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Employee Journey Mapping: How to Get Started

November 03, 2022 Employee Experience
Michelle Hawley Freelance Editor and Writer
By Michelle Hawley LinkedIn

You’ve probably heard of customer journey maps. These visualizations look at every interaction a customer has with a brand.

Employee journey mapping is similar, outlining all the stages employees go through during their time with an organization. The employee experience starts the moment a person hears about a company or sees a job listing, and lasts until they leave their position — or in some cases, beyond.

Employee journey maps allow brands to meet staff expectations and ensure they feel engaged and happy at work. According to McKinsey research, people who have positive employee experiences are 16 times more engaged than employees with negative experiences — and they’re eight times more likely to stick around.

These maps also help organizations ease friction points, clarify roles and responsibilities, allocate funding and resources, and identify opportunities to foster an inclusive company culture.

Stages of the Employee Journey Mapping

You can generally break down the employee journey into seven stages:

  1. Attract: Seek out and recruit top talent.
  2. Hire: Select the most worthy candidates.
  3. Onboard: Get your new hires trained and settled.
  4. Engage: Build on employee strengths and drive purpose.
  5. Perform: Continually communicate expectations.
  6. Develop: Lean into learning and growth opportunities.
  7. Depart: Achieve a positive exit experience.

It’s during these stages that organizations have the most influence on how their employees perceive them. Onboarding is an especially critical stage, as it's typically during the first few months that a person establishes an opinion of your company culture.

Jay Greaves, a business consultant with more than 20 years of experience, creates and utilizes employee experience maps to improve internal operations, starting with finding and hiring the right talent. He said the mapping process is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, it’s important to remember that the employee journey and its stages might look different depending on your organization and what you’re hoping to achieve.

Related Article: What Is Employee Experience? Lifecycle Stages, Benefits and Strategy

Tips for Mapping the Employee Experience

If you want to map employee journeys in your organization, there are a few different angles from which you can approach it.

Use Maps to Improve Hiring and Onboarding

Greaves said he uses employee journey maps when working with organizations to ensure they’re hiring the right employees with the right levels of experience. Maps also make the onboarding process more efficient, allowing the new hire to get to a time of productivity as quickly as possible.

On the flip side, a map lets the employee know what to expect once they start.

Effective onboarding, according to Jeff Fryer, senior consultant at Epsilon and professor of business and organizational leadership at Valencia College, is one major benefit of employee experience mapping. All brands want to attract top talent, said Fryer, “but what are we doing to nurture that top talent once they get in the door?”

It’s more than flowers on the desk and a laptop ready to go, he said. It’s also making sure the employee has access to everything, that they know where to find things, that they can sit down and start working and feel in control immediately.

“You want them to know who their points of contact are for things. You want them to know information that they can access about the products and services. You want them to be able to have 24/7 support, whatever that looks like.”

According to a Gallup report, employees with an excellent onboarding experience are 2.6 times more likely to be extremely satisfied with their place of work. Yet, only 12% of employees strongly agree their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees.

When the experience is mapped out, said Fryer, then employees know what the expectations of them are, so there’s never disappointment. “And if there’s disappointment, there’s miscommunication.”

Related Article: Using AI to Onboard New Recruits May Be a Bad Idea

Use Maps as Diagnostic Tools

According to Greaves, employee experience mapping is most powerful when used as a diagnostic tool.

He used Amazon as an example, citing that only one-third of the online retailer’s new hires stayed with the company for more than 90 days. In this instance, the question Amazon might ask is: Why are we losing so many employees? That’s when you start drawing the map of what their experience is, said Greaves.

It all comes down to what you’re trying to accomplish. And the tighter the scope, Greaves explained, the better the results.

Let’s go back to the high turnover question to illustrate this. You want to know why employees are leaving. But a better question would be: Why are we losing people in this role, at this location, with this leader? “That’s a very specific scope that’ll likely garner better results,” said Greaves.

To break it down: “Ask why, define the scope and then conduct research,” Greaves explained. From there, you identify friction points, determine which ones you want to prioritize and come up with potential interventions or improvements.

Greaves cautioned, however, that leaders can’t create employee experience maps in a vacuum. Instead, they must be created “in conjunction and collaboration with those employees.”

One way to do this? Through surveys that go out to employees, something that can be managed through automation, according to Qualtrics. The right software will allow you to automatically send a request for feedback when an employee hits a certain milestone, such as completing a training course or interviewing for a promotion. Greaves also recommended live engagement and speaking with other workers whose experiences might align with the role you’re analyzing.

From there, you can identify friction points, determine which ones you want to prioritize and come up with potential interventions or improvements.

The employee experience map is “an incredibly powerful tool when used correctly,” said Greaves. “But when it is leveraged without purpose, without specificity, it loses its value.”

Related Article: Employee Feedback Is Critical to a Great Employee Experience

Use Maps Beyond the Onboarding Experience

Many organizations, said Greaves, stop their employee maps at onboarding. However, the further you go on the journey, the more powerful it is.

He recommended taking the strategy to the extreme and looking at all key milestones in an employee’s experience. “For example, communicating to them what’s expected of them in their first 30, 60, 90 days.”

Greaves said organizations should be able to answer questions like:

  • How are employees going to have conversations with departments and management, and how often?
  • How often are performance reviews, what does that meeting look like and what are the potential outcomes from it?
  • If someone has been in a role for a while, are there opportunities to move into a new position, take on a bigger challenge or make more money?

He also pointed to the importance of the exit experience — whether the employee leaves of their own volition or due to the company’s decision.

“Something I hear is, if I resign and move on, am I going to be walked out of the property?” said Greaves. “Am I going to be asked to work through my two weeks? Are they potentially going to come back and say we really don’t want you to leave, we’re going to give you a raise?”

If you’re transparent about what that experience will look like, said Greaves, and employees know what to expect, then they stay in control. It reduces their fear and anxiety, and they can make intelligent decisions.

And then, what’s the employee’s experience after they leave? “Does that employee experience result in them having a negative opinion?” he asked. “And they leave and they are a detractor for your organization, and they’re out telling their friends don’t ever go work for that company or even be customers.”

Or on the opposite spectrum, do they become advocates for your company?

Having a well-defined and validated map that you keep current helps both sides have clear expectations, and anticipate and make decisions based on that transparency.

And when it comes to offering that transparency, Greaves suggested communicating before someone even accepts the job — either in the job description or within the employee offer letter.

Related Article: Why Employers Should Focus More on Offboarding

Employee Journey Mapping: An Ongoing Process

One piece of advice from Greaves: “Don’t go through your organization and say we’re going to go through the employee experience journey map for every role.” Why? Because things continually change, and those maps will become stale fairly quickly. And even little changes, like changing pay frequency from once per month to every other week, can have a significant impact.

Plus, mapping out the experience for each position, especially ones with many similarities, will be time-consuming and likely ineffective. Instead, break down your employees into distinct groups, Qualtrics recommends. For example, customer-facing vs. back-of-house employees or in-house vs. remote workers. Stay away from creating groups that have significant differences between them.

Overall, keep in mind that employee experience maps are a tool that will allow you to better understand your employees' journeys and, in turn, improve them.

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