Want to Improve Employee Experience? Identify the Moments That Matter
As we ease into a year that is likely to remain focused on retaining and engaging talent, questions linger for leaders around how to drive the type of culture they want for their workforce while providing the experience employees seek.
But what constitutes "employee experience" today? At Reworked, we cover a lot of the technology that can influence workplace experiences, but the technology itself isn’t employee experience.
Instead, I look at employee experience as the overall perception of the quality of all the experiences we collect at work. From the tasks to complete to the daily interactions with colleagues and leaders, all the way to factors such as how far away you have to park from the office, every aspect associated with work makes an impact on a person’s perceptions and attitudes.
Leaders who want to affect the employee experience might assume that you have to make holistic changes to everything about work, but not every part of the experience at work is equal.
Identifying the Defining Moments of Employee Experience
To understand why you don’t have to fix everything about work to improve the employee experience, you need to understand how people perceive the quality of their experiences at work.
Our perceptions about work aren’t monolithic. For example, when asked to describe their first day on the job, an employee is likely to recall specific moments and feelings. But when that person is asked to describe their 178th day on the job or what they remember from their workday on March 4, 2022, the answer may not come as clearly — or at all.
While our minds can store incredible amounts of information, it also does a pretty good job of sorting what is and isn’t important. The same is true for a person's perceptions about work. When a moment is memorable, for either good or bad reasons, it becomes a defining moment.
When we look at commonalities in employee experience, certain parts almost universally stick out: the first day on the job, getting a promotion, getting a poor performance review and the last day on the job are good examples. But there are also defining moments that might not be directly related to the job but may nevertheless affect how a person perceives it. For example, the organization might do a great job of supporting employees through the process of adopting a child or they might be incredibly strict about their bereavement policy when a parent dies.
Even everyday moments can become defining if there is repetition of a good or bad experience at play. For example, I’ll never forget one job I've had because of the awful, multi-hour commute I had to endure to get there.
Related Article: Technology Will Only Take You So Far With the Employee Experience
Discovering (and Improving) Your Organization’s Defining Moments
While there are commonalities in what parts of the employee experience are typically defining moments, that doesn’t help you determine what your organization’s defining moments are and, more importantly, whether you’re delivering on those defining moments in a positive or negative way.
To figure that out, you'll need to research.
When conducting experience research, it is best to start with qualitative interviews or focus groups because qualitative research allows you to ask open-ended questions about people’s experiences at work. What you will likely gather from that are starting points for deeper research, some early trends about employees' experience at work, both positive and negative. You might for instance discover that your onboarding process is stressful or that you have a great feedback culture.
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It's important at this stage to keep track of those trends, especially those that employees consider to be meeting or exceeding their expectations versus ones where the organization fell short.
The data that you collect from these conversations will inform the next step: a quantitative survey of employees. There's a plethora of surveys companies can send to their employees to gain a pulse on how they perceive the workplace. A quantitative survey helps get a more complete picture of the employee experience and might help identify anomalies that are specific to certain parts of the company, particularly in larger organizations.
Just like an engagement survey, an experience survey comes in a variety of complex or simple approaches depending on your needs. How deep into the data you go depends on how serious you consider employee experience to be for your organization.
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What You Choose to Improve Is Ultimately What Moves Your Culture
Collecting data is only the beginning. Simply knowing what’s great and what’s not isn’t enough to make a difference. You now need to analyze the information you've gathered and act on it. How you prioritize the feedback you get and where you invest resources to improve is a reflection of your organization.
For example, one company I know was situated in a rough part of town where employee vehicles were regularly prowled. Another company had a location out in the suburbs that was divisive — some people loved the location, others loathed it. The former ended up relocating while the latter chose to invest in other areas where they could improve the employee experience.
Improving employee experience rarely comes down to doing one single thing, and there is no right answer. Instead, this work often results in a list of priorities and considerations of how a company ultimately wants to be perceived and recognized by employees.
By choosing strategically where and how to invest in employee experience, you actively drive a significant part of the culture you want to create.
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About the Author
Lance Haun is a leadership and technology columnist for Reworked. He has spent nearly 20 years researching and writing about HR, work and technology. Connect with Lance Haun: