If you have a positive experience at a restaurant, you might take to Yelp to leave a five-star rating. If you have a negative travel experience, you might be less likely to recommend a particular airline to a friend.
Our experiences, positive and negative, shape our daily lives and interactions, and this includes experiences as an employee.
What is employee experience?
Employee experience, often called EX, refers to how a team member feels about their role, expectations and interactions within an organization. It refers to an employee’s journey through their time at the company, and each stage of this journey is an important part of the experience, from the onboarding process all the way to an employee’s eventual exit from the company – and all the steps in between.
With shifting work set-ups over the past several years, employees might have different expectations or needs than they used to. Some have come to expect a fully remote set-up, while others still want to come into the office. While one person may prioritize the social aspect of work, others might want to maintain more flexibility, depending on their individual working style or responsibilities outside of work. There is a widening gap between organizations that are prioritizing employee experience, and those that are missing out on an opportunity to build a happier, more productive, more fulfilled workforce.
Employee experience has impacts on customer service, employee satisfaction, productivity and performance, and company culture.
Happier team members lead to happier customers. Low employee satisfaction or a toxic company culture can lead to reduced productivity and innovation, more absenteeism, and higher turnover (which can be costly). Making sure that a good employee experience is the norm at an organization is a major key for employee retention, which pays dividends for the goals and success of the company. When employees have a good experience within the company, they have less reason to look elsewhere for different employment, and when they’re satisfied with their jobs and have opportunities to grow, they’re more likely to feel fulfilled and invested in the organization as a whole. All of this considered, you can see that it’s worth it to make sure employees have a positive experience.
Let’s go over some signs of a poor employee experience so you can identify it and change course if you find there are ways that the experiences of team members can be improved.
8 Signs You Have a Poor Employee Experience
1. Complicated recruitment or application process
You can’t construct a solid building on a flimsy foundation. A good employee experience starts at the very beginning, before an employee is even hired and long before they step foot into the office for their first day. When on the job hunt, applicants are searching for openings that catch their eye: a company with a good reputation, a thorough and accurate job description, and a smooth application process. The steps should be clear: What is required as part of the application? When can the applicant expect an update on the status of their application? What are the next steps?
When the process is smooth and employees have a sense of transparency from the company, it demonstrates effective communication and sets the potential new team member up for a positive experience with the company.
2. Ineffective onboarding
So, a great candidate has been selected and they’re ready to become a part of the team. That’s where onboarding comes in. Along with the recruitment and application process, onboarding is a crucial factor in employee experience. It is often the first glimpse an employee has into what it’s like to work at an organization. It can include necessary logistics like training and paperwork, but it also includes the intangible things that make a new employee feel welcome, equipped for success, and like they are truly part of a team. This includes giving them a thorough welcome and letting them know how valued they are. If no effort is put into making onboarding a smooth, effective and exciting process, conditions are ripe for a poor employee experience.
3. Poor wellbeing
It’s important for an organization to cultivate an environment of healthy work-life balance for employees. No matter how passionate one might be about his or her role, we all need time off the clock to recharge, spend time with loved ones, take care of our health, and engage in hobbies. If employees can’t prioritize their wellbeing, they’re unlikely to have a good experience at a company.
According to Gallup, there are five areas of wellbeing: career, social, financial, physical and community. All of these areas are important to feeling like a happy and well-rounded individual. For example, if an employee is working so much that they can’t ever see their friends, their career area might be thriving while their social sector suffers. That sure doesn’t sound like a great experience.
It’s important for companies to support employees in maintaining their wellbeing, whether that’s with adequate PTO policies, exercise and wellness programs through work, enough time off the clock, or fair and competitive salaries. Employees should feel appreciated and valued throughout their entire time at a company, and that includes giving them an environment that encourages a well-rounded and healthy lifestyle.
4. Bad communication
If the rumor mill is running rampant, it could be because employees don’t feel adequately informed about what’s going on. A surefire way to lower company morale is to let murmurs spread through the office unchecked. For example, how could employees put in a good day’s work and give their best effort if whispers of layoffs were spreading through the office? Not everyone at a company has to be privy to every single behind-the-scenes thing, but if employees don’t feel like they have a good sense of what’s going on at the organization, they can feel unstable and unable to focus. Keeping all team members informed in a timely, clear, thorough and appropriate way is key to maintaining a good employee experience.
5. Technology issues
It’s 2023, and most of our working lives are bound to technology in some form or fashion, if not entirely dependent on it. We’ve all been there: You have something important to submit, and your internet connection goes out. This occurrence can send a great day into “bad day” territory pretty fast. While you often can’t predict a power outage or a slow wifi connection, a workplace that is continually plagued by technology issues could mean detrimental impacts on the employee experience. How can an individual perform his or her job well if they can’t even log in to do it? This downtime can have negative and costly impacts on a company’s performance and productivity.
Furthermore, a complicated IT process can make things difficult on the employee and be a contributor to their negative experience. Having to enter information multiple times in different ways, not knowing where to find information or assistance, or a complicated process that takes valuable time away from the work day all make for a frustrating technology experience. If team members don’t have the tools to do their jobs well, and they can’t efficiently seek help when an issue comes up, they’re likely to report a poor employee experience.
Throughout our working lives, there may be times when we start to feel more burnout than others. Maybe we just finished an intensive project, or we haven’t had a lot of opportunities to innovate or be creative. But if employees are consistently experiencing burnout, they may experience lower job satisfaction, decreased productivity, and resentment toward their role or the company. Managing employee burnout and making sure it doesn’t go unchecked is important for maintaining a positive atmosphere and healthy company culture. Watch out for these burnout signs so you can get ahead of it before it leads to a poor employee experience.
Signs of employee burnout
- Statements that they’re stressed or worried about their workload
- Physical exhaustion (i.e. falling asleep at the desk)
- Isolating oneself from the team
- Drop in performance or productivity
- Calling out sick more often or not showing up to meetings or events
Which leads us to…
Are employees suddenly calling out sick or taking a lot more PTO than usual? These could be indicators that they’re having a poor employee experience. Team members who aren’t engaged or happy will be less productive when they’re at work, and sometimes they’ll avoid it altogether. Absenteeism can cause overall productivity, company finances and morale to plummet.
8. No teamwork
Look around. Do employees seem happy to be there? Are they smiling and laughing as they interact with each other? Or do they look more like the “Sadness” character in Inside Out? When employees feel like they’re on an island by themselves rather than being part of a team, they’re not likely to be having a great experience at the company. It’s important to foster team spirit and make everyone feel like they’re a valuable piece of the puzzle. It can be difficult to build this in a remote work environment, but even when employees aren’t seeing each other in person, it’s crucial to still maintain a sense of community, belonging and teamwork. This may be even more important in a remote environment.
The goals, practices and attitude of an organization make up its company culture. A positive company culture is generally one in which collaboration is encouraged, communication is open, innovation and new ideas are encouraged, and all team members feel valued and appreciated. That’s a team anyone would want to be on.
Improving employee experience
Now that we’ve gone over the signs and effects of poor employee experience, you might be wondering how to avoid these pitfalls. Fortunately, there are several ways to boost employee experience to make sure that all team members have a rewarding, positive and fulfilling journey through their entire time at a company.
Ways to create a positive employee experience
- Gather employee feedback from the team through surveys or discussions.
- Look into hiring an onboarding specialist if you don’t already have one.
- Promote work-life balance and wellness to help support employees in all ways.
- Invest in learning and development opportunities.
- Show the team you appreciate them.
Employee experience is about all the factors that make up a team member’s time with the company. Poor employee experience is costly for a company, so it’s worth it to invest time, energy and resources into all the different components that go into it in order to cultivate a happy, productive and fulfilled workforce.