Being a manager or company leader in today’s job market is no easy feat. Finding and attracting top talent is difficult enough, but retaining those employees takes it to another level of “hard.” The workplace landscape is rapidly changing and leaders are trying to adapt to new technologies and needs, as well as navigating the increase of remote work. If a company wants to succeed then it must continually evolve to meet employee and customer demands and strive to create a positive, diverse, and supportive environment. All of this boils down to prioritizing the employee experience and investing in ways to improve it.
What is Employee Experience?
Employee experience is a holistic way of looking at every piece that goes into an employee's time at an organization - from start to finish. Rather than looking at one specific aspect like engagement or productivity, employee experience takes a “big picture” route instead. Most companies have always used some form of a customer experience model to identify what things are working for their customers and what areas they need to change or improve. This was used as a way to gain an advantage over competitors and strengthen brand image. Customer experience is overall about creating a strong and positive experience for consumers when they interact with a business. The term “employee experience” was born out of that same concept but with the focus shifted to the employees. Companies have realized that when employees enjoy their jobs and have a positive experience overall, they have higher levels of engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction.
For a long time, businesses put much of their focus on productivity. How could they make their employees engage in their work faster, better, and have higher levels of productivity? They put an immense amount of energy into creating a system that took as much as they possibly could from their employees in order to create a better business. A shift came when they realized happy employees = better business, and so creating higher levels of workplace engagement took center stage. Interestingly enough, despite all of the investments made, surveys and engagement scores didn’t show much improvement. From this grew the understanding of employee experience and why it is important. Looking at the employee lifecycle shows that all employees will go through 6 stages throughout their time at a company: Attraction, recruitment, onboarding, development, engagement, and exit.
Each of these steps is a crucial part of the employee experience. Together they cover everything and create a long, extensive list. Here are a few examples of what the employee life cycle contains:
- The way people are drawn to a company
- The ease of the application and hiring process
- How supported new hires feel in their integration into the company
- The number of opportunities provided for growth and development
- The type of technology used throughout the organization
- The physical aspects of the work environment
- Relationships with management
- The exit process
If a company prioritizes the employee experience as a whole then both sides will win; employees are more satisfied, engaged, and likely to remain at a company - and the business has higher profits, less turnover, and a better brand image.
5 Consequences of Poor Employee Experience
According to Forbes, 92% of HR leaders claim that employee experience is one of their top priorities yet we are still seeing massive amounts of workers leaving their jobs during what is coined the “great resignation,” causing employee retention rates to plummet. If this sounds like your organization then your employee experience management might be to blame. It may seem like a daunting task to take on, but if adjustments are not made toward investing in a greater employee experience the organization will pay for it - in more ways than one. Here are 5 consequences of poor employee experience that you might encounter:
- Poor Engagement
A study from Gallup shows that less than 30% of U.S. workers report feeling engaged at work. Low engagement levels in a company cause workers to feel emotionally disconnected from their job which leaves the company to suffer as a result. They are more likely to quit, unable to access creativity and innovation, and less likely to recommend their company to others around them.
- Low Retention Rates
Every company is invested in talent acquisition and has the desire to retain those workers. Turnover is costly and will negatively affect the employees still at the company, as well as make it harder to recruit new ones. When a company struggles to retain its employees and faces high turnover rates, the burden often falls on the shoulders of the other employees. This will only further the negative cycle and hurt the employee experience even more.
- Less Productivity
Engagement in a workplace is linked directly to the organization's performance and productivity. When workers have a negative employee experience they are unable to fully feel engaged or want to invest their time and effort into a company that they don’t feel cares about them. As a result, they will be less productive and unlikely to go out of their way to help build a better experience for the company or its customers.
When employees are subject to an environment with heavy workloads, minimal support, and a lack of care for a healthy work-life balance, resulting chronic stress can result in emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. This state is called burnout and it is becoming a widespread problem in various industries all across the country, with healthcare positions being one of the more susceptible industries overall. According to surveys from Indeed and Gallup, 52% of employees say they are burned out in their jobs currently, 76% say they experience it sometimes, and 36% say it occurs on a regular basis. Harvard Business Review estimates that burnout is costing businesses up to 190 billion per year and not enough companies are taking the steps to prevent it. Burnout can look like any, or all, of the following:
- Physical exhaustion that doesn’t improve from naps or more sleep at night
- Loss of motivation and enthusiasm
- Inability to focus
- Increased anger or irritability
- Cynicism and hopelessness
- Increase of mistakes
- Physical symptoms such as teeth grinding, chest pain, headaches, or an increase in illness.
Burnout is unsurprisingly dangerous for not only the life of the company but the actual life of the employee as well. This list of symptoms above can create a devastating headspace for any employee and lead to poor mental health, which opens the door to a more serious conversation than just stress at work. In healthcare positions specifically, suicide rates among caregivers are 40% higher for men and 130% higher for women. Burnout can literally mean life or death and is not a consequence of negative employee experience that should be taken lightly.
- Negative Company Culture
Company culture is what people see when they look at your organization. It is built from a shared sense of goals, attitudes, values, and beliefs from those within the company and it has a direct tie to the employee experience. The way employees perceive their experience will shape how they view the company, which will impact the way they share their experience with those outside of the organization. When done right, it can help retain skilled employees, increase engagement and excitement, and boost productivity. When there is a negative employee experience, however, company culture takes a huge hit. A negative or toxic workplace most commonly results in the following:
- Decreased productivity and motivation
- Employees feeling a lack of sense of purpose
- Increased mistakes and lower quality of work
- High turnover rates
- Low employee morale
- Low levels of camaraderie
- Lack of trust in management
- Increased absenteeism
- Damage to company reputation
If any of the 5 consequences on that list have you sweating a little bit, that is a good sign! It means you care about your company and want it to succeed. Employee experience is something that needs to be taken seriously, but the good news is you don’t have to figure it out on your own. Let’s take a look below at who is in charge of managing the employee experience.
Who Manages the Employee Experience?
Who owns the employee experience? Who is responsible for managing it within a company? The answer to these questions varies depending on the size of a company and how it is set up. Within a smaller company, a CEO might take on the responsibility and delegate tasks when needed. A larger company, though, often needs a specific department to take the lead. Often the HR department is asked to organize and implement the support of employees throughout their time in the workplace and communicate to those higher up when changes need to be made.
Recently companies have created roles like a Chief People Officer (CPO), or Director/Vice President of Employee Experience to take some of the burdens off of HR's shoulders. The role allows for more focused attention to employees and their journey through the company. Though the responsibilities of this role vary, we’ve compiled a list of what a VP of employee experience would commonly be in charge of.
10 Responsibilities of a VP of Employee Experience
- Possess a clear understanding of the employee experience lifecycle and how it applies to each area of the employee experience. They will use this to design strategies to help employees feel valued, appreciated, and satisfied in their jobs.
- They lead the process of onboarding new employees (both in-person and virtual) and making them feel a part of the team. This happens through an array of things like potentially hiring an onboarding specialist to give specialized attention, or implementing thoughtful ways to welcome new hires.
- Strengthen internal communication.
- Conduct employee surveys and gather employee feedback to understand the company’s strengths and weaknesses regarding the employee experience.
- Design and implement initiatives for more successful performance, branding, trust, and a sense of meaning at work. Once these programs have been created, the VP will create ways to educate employees about their existence and how they can engage with them.
- Partner closely with the HR director or HR team.
- Help design benefits and compensation packages.
- Prioritize DEI and implement (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives.
- Help to improve relationships and communication among the employees and their coworkers.
- Find ways to improve workplace appreciation and foster engagement.
5 Signs You Need a Vice President of Employee Experience
Do you need a VP of employee experience? Not every company does or can even afford one. In fact, it is not recommended to rush out and hire for that position without thoroughly researching whether it is right for your company. It is important to take the time to be sure you have the means to support that position and have enough work to keep someone employed. Here are 3 signs your company needs, or is ready for, a VP of Employee Experience:
- You have a clear image of employee experience and what it means for your company specifically. You understand the crucial nature of it in the success of your organization and you are ready (and able!) to invest in ways to improve it. The last thing you want to do is hire someone for this position and then force them to waste a large chunk of their time convincing other management that it is important.
- You are trying to utilize surveys and feedback but no matter how hard you try you are still receiving negative feedback. Often a VP of employee experience can uncover valuable ways to address these issues and move things in a better direction.
- You value employees' well-being and have a strong desire to invest in ways to empower them. If building a business that prioritizes its employees’ growth, development, and happiness is just as important to you as creating successful profits, then you might be ready to invest in a VP of employee experience to help you achieve that.
- You want to have effective communication in your company but are struggling to make it happen. A lack of communication among employees and management can lead to unnecessary frustration and confusion and a VP of employee experience can help to improve that.
- You have a lack of company-wide DEI. If your organization is struggling to build an environment that is inclusive and welcoming to all types of employees then you are likely missing out on skilled individuals from other backgrounds and more diverse innovation. A VP of employee experience will be able to spend the time and energy necessary to create a better environment for your current employees, as well as those you hope to attract in the future.
Managing any part of the employee experience in today's job market can be stressful and requires a lot of adaptability and skill. While this responsibility falls on the entire organization at times, it can be helpful to hire someone like a director or VP of employee experience to give specialized attention to this area. This role might be the puzzle piece your organization is missing in building a company that people want to work for and feel motivated to help create a culture that improves employees’ quality of life alongside the success of the company.