Employee Journey Mapping: How to Get Started
Employee journey mapping takes a page out of the customer experience playbook.
You’ve probably heard of customer journey mapping. It's a process that creates a visual representation of every interaction a customer has with a brand.
The employee journey mapping process is similar. It's part of a strategy to outline each stage of the employee journey, which makes up the entire employee experience.
The employee journey describes each interaction a person has with a company, starting the moment they hear about the organization or see a job listing. And it lasts well past when they leave their position, when they go on to become an advocate, detractor or neutral party.
Employee journey mapping, also called employee experience journey mapping, allows brands to meet staff expectations and ensure they feel engaged and happy at work.
And those efforts have real results. According to McKinsey, workers who have a positive employee experience are 16 times more engaged than employees with negative experiences — and they’re eight times more likely to stick around.
7 Stages of Employee Journey Mapping
Employee journey mapping provides insights into employee engagement levels, employee satisfaction and much more. Some companies might use multiple employee journey maps to pinpoint experiences that are unique to specific departments, locations or even individual workers.
The employee journey, which spans the entire employee experience, breaks down into seven stages:
It’s during these employee journey stages that organizations have the most influence on how their employees perceive them. Let's take a look at them further.
Stage 1 of the Employee Journey: Attract
Jay Greaves, a business consultant with more than 20 years of experience, creates and utilizes employee journey maps to improve internal operations, starting with finding the right talent.
Today's workers are more critical than ever of the organizations they work for. Companies can use journey maps to determine how, at this stage, to attract the right candidates and ensure positive EX starts off on the right foot. That might mean promoting company moments that matter, establishing employee personas, revising mission statements and values or rethinking offerings based on employee feedback.
Greaves added that 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.
Stage 2 of the Employee Journey: Hire
Stage two of the employee's journey is dedicated to the hiring process. It's a time when management needs to select the most worthy candidates and reach out with offers.
The hiring stage of the employee journey map deals with how to face bias — even unconscious bias — among hiring teams, understanding and managing future employee expectations and what follow-up should look like for candidates, including those who didn't get the job offer.
Stage 3 of the Employee Journey: Onboard
Stage three of employee journey mapping deals with the onboarding process. It's a time when leaders need to get new hires trained and settled, and prepared for the demands ahead.
Onboarding new employees is an especially critical stage of the employee journey, as it's typically during the first few months that a person establishes an opinion of company culture. It could be the stage that sets the tone for the rest of the employee experience.
Some experts recommend creating a sense of belonging during this stage, whether by giving new hires a "buddy" or mentor or by utilizing employee surveys that ask about personal likes and preferences.
Stage 4 of the Employee Journey: Engage
Stage four of the employee journey is all about employee engagement. It's a time to build on employee strengths and drive purpose.
Employee engagement goes beyond employee satisfaction or happiness. It looks at a person's involvement and enthusiasm for the workplace and the work they do. Engaged employees lead to:
- Reduced turnover
- Reduced absenteeism
- Higher sales
- Higher profits
- Improved customer experience
Stage 5 of the Employee Journey: Perform
The perform stage of the employee experience journey focuses on, you guessed it, performance management. It's a time when organizations must continually communicate expectations, offer feedback and provide the recognition employees crave.
Success here relies on leaders walking a tightrope between necessary frameworks and employee autonomy. Workers still need guidelines, policies and helpful criticism to work effectively. But they also need the freedom to make decisions and take action on their own.
Stage 6 of the Employee Journey: Develop
Companies should lean into learning and growth opportunities during the development stage of the employee journey.
Workers don't want to stand still, especially in their careers. They're thinking about ways they can grow and be better, starting from the moment they accept a job offer. They want opportunities within their own companies, but they're willing to look elsewhere if those opportunities don't arise.
Some companies collect employee feedback at this stage of the journey to assess if employees are content with the learning and growth options currently available and what they'd like to see in the future.
Stage 7 of the Employee Journey: Depart
Employees have to leave, eventually. Maybe they've left willingly — retirement, a better opportunity, relocation, change in life circumstances. Maybe the company has to terminate their employment due to performance, company revenue predictions, relocation, etc.
Leaving might be inevitable. But it doesn't have to be a bad experience. Companies can take steps to approach the exit experience with an employee experience lens.
Related Article: What Is Employee Experience? Lifecycle Stages, Benefits and Strategy
3 Employee Journey Mappings Tips
If you want to map employee journeys in your organization, there are a few different angles from which you can approach it.
Use Employee Journey Mapping for 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.”
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Use Employee Journey 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 Employee Journey Mapping Beyond Onboarding
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 employee 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 journey mapping is a tool that will allow you to better understand your employees' journeys and, in turn, improve them.
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.