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The Problem With Employee Experience Today

February 25, 2022 Employee Experience
Mark Feffer
By Mark Feffer

For many years, human capital management technology vendors have been working to improve the user experience.

In 2019, for example, SAP SuccessFactors went all-in with the idea of “experience-as-foundation” when it introduced its concept of “human experience management,” or HXM. At the time, then-CEO Greg Tomb said that the biggest movement SAP was seeing in the HR world was a focus on the employee experience. More recently, HR software firm UKG unveiled the idea of “life-work technology” as its product strategy to help employees balance their work and personal lives.

Life-work technology combines an understanding of people, their work histories and their aspirations with data about individual work patterns, efficiencies and behaviors. The idea is to create “a more human-centered work environment and experience, supporting employee’s individual life/work journeys,” said vice president of products and innovation Cecile Alper-Leroux in a statement on the company's website.

As the pandemic dragged on — and employers faced emerging challenges ranging from inflation to the Great Resignation to supply-chain disruption — the concept of experience became more entrenched.

For HR leaders, providing a positive experience has become a key tactic in their efforts to retain employees and attract candidates. To be successful, they'll have to bridge the divide between how employers' view employee experience and the point of view of workers.

The Problem With Employee Experience Today

There's no doubt the industry’s emphasis has been shifting toward improving the employee experience. Some analysts expect this focus to be increasingly directed to easy-to-use apps that can be integrated with existing solutions.

According to Willis Towers Watson's 2021 Employee Experience Survey, 92 percent of employers globally said they’d prioritize enhancing their employee experience in the coming years. Before the pandemic, that number was 52 percent.

Yet, despite all the buzz and attention, employees aren’t necessarily feeling the love. A study by Eagle Hill Consulting found some interesting data on that:

  • Just 38 percent of workers in the US believe their organization assigns a great deal of importance to employee experience and satisfaction.
  • Meanwhile, 64 percent believe employee experience directly impacts their ability to serve customers.
  • Seven out of 10 say experience affects their productivity, and 69 percent believe it impacts their ability to do meaningful work.

“The pandemic exposed shortfalls in the employee experience at many organizations,” said Andy Walker, managing director at Willis Towers Watson, in a press release. “Enhancing the employee experience has therefore become an imperative for employers, and it’s one that will take time and present challenges many are not currently prepared to meet.”

Related Article: 5 Small Ways to Improve the Employee Experience

The Disconnect Between Employer and Employees

Just how committed are employers to providing a positive employee experience? The Willis Towers Watson survey revealed that, while 78 percent recognize that new realities in the labor market will require a hybrid approach for many roles, only 52 percent are flexible about where or when work gets done.  

A survey by WorkForce Software found significant gaps between what organizations believed they were providing and what employees experienced. That, the company said, suggests employers haven’t identified the solutions employees truly seek to fully connect with the world of work, now and in the future.

More specifically, 81 percent of employers said their company effectively adapted to pandemic-related scheduling issues, while only 64 percent of employees felt their organization had successfully adapted its approach — and more than half of the workers said they’d prefer to work for a company that offered more flexibility in scheduling. In other words, employees are still not getting what they need from their employers.

Related Article: How Should You Measure Employee Engagement in Remote and Hybrid Work?

Be Flexible in Your Approach to Overcome EX Challenges

Tanya Barkalov, CEO of software company HelloTeam, said COVID changed how employers approach their employees’ experience. “People are trying to figure out 'how do I retain my employees? How do I become the choice of a workplace?'” she said. “Because it’s so much harder to hire people today when they’re trying to do everything and stay competitive and make sure that their people are number one. Otherwise, they will leave and find a different employer.” 

While engagement was a "nice to have" pre-pandemic, she said it's since become mission-critical. “It’s the number one thing that every leader – not just HR, but every leader — thinks about,” Barkalov said.

Experience, however, can be very personal. While some employees prioritize scheduling flexibility, others want a hybrid-work situation, and others seek more up-to-date tools.

“I think what we’re seeing is nobody really has the perfect definition of what work is going to look like next year, the year after, post-pandemic or even beyond,” said Aaron Smith, senior vice president of product development at ADP in Alpharetta, Georgia. 

Smith said employers must be open to new ways of approaching old challenges. “I think taking a different view of it — from the talent that’s on the ground doing the physical work — is a way that we’ve identified patterns and the ability to shift left and shift right in how work is getting done and how you’re operating within a team,” he said.

That brings about workplace change at a much more organic pace than responding to shifts in work patterns that might be caused by an external event. Smith says companies should make sure they listen to talent and have the ability to interpret and pivot based on feedback.

“That’s giving us that fluidity that we’re looking for in much of what is probably still a yet-to-be defined set of work patterns,” he said.


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