BE MINDFUL OF THE EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE
Five Defining Characteristics
Mindfulness and meditation have grown into a billion dollar business. It’s argued high stress companies with employees running on empty can use this alternative health tool to bolster productivity and net earnings. In his book about insurance behemoth, Atena, David Gelles reported that as mindfulness training ramped up in the company, employee health care costs fell 7% representing $6.3 million USD. An article published by Inc.com about mindfulness meditation being “a staple of employee development in several Fortune 500 companies” noted how millions of dollars were “going straight to the bottom line partly because of mindfulness training.” The operative word here folks is “partly.”
The band-aid on a gaping wound
Mindfulness meditation training is just a temporary panacea. It’s like giving a teaspoon of off-the-shelf kiddie medicine to a child complaining of a stomach ache, instead of asking questions and finding out that the real reason behind those belly aches is unsupervised binges on easily accessible junk food.
If so many employees are stressed why aren’t Atena and other companies riding the mindfulness-at-work-bandwagon, looking for and addressing the root issue?
Instead of teaching employees how to be mindful of their breath, doesn’t it make more sense to find out what employee experiences are contributing to the malaise?
In a witty opinion piece published by the Guardian, writer William Little recounted how when a couple of friends from Denmark were asked if they would ever move back to Britain, “they looked horrified saying they were infinitely happier in their jobs in Denmark than they ever were in the UK. I said they must be practicing mindfulness on repeat to be that content at work – yet they had never heard of it. Clearly in Denmark they treat the cause rather than the symptoms. Workers leave work at 4pm on the dot, get paid generously, and have less income inequality…”
Companies need to be mindful of the fact that employee experience is what makes the business world go round.
- It’s what attracts talent into an organization, especially these days when the demand is high and the talent pool is low. You know all those business review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed? These sites give people a voice to publicly express their employee experiences, and give prospective candidates a due-diligence glimpse at the companies they may (or may not) chose to join.
- Favorable employee experiences feed into favorable customer experiences which feed back into favorable employee experiences and so on.
- Ditto employee engagement: when an employee has a positive work experience they’re likely to become more engaged with their company and their job, and the more engaged they are, the more fulfilling the work experience. Say nothing of the retention value.
In sum, an engaging employee experience leads to more innovation, more efficiency, more productivity, greater market share and ultimately, more financial gain. What more could we want, right?
But there’s a real and evident conundrum.
What does employee experience mean, exactly?
What does it look like?
“Employee experience is the sum of everything an employee experiences throughout their connection to the organization – every employee interaction, from the first contact as a potential recruit to the last interaction after the end of employment… including interactions that are usually the domain of facilities, corporate communications and IT.”
A lot of books and articles have been written about the topic. Popular sentiment swings like a pendulum depending on the thought flavor-of-the-month. A distillation of these observations and opinions point to the following five characteristics that define and shape employee experience:
- Employee life cycle: most cite this as the foundational touchstone of a positive employee experience; making sure the employee is supported throughout the entire time with their employer. It begins the moment a person hears about a company or sees a job ad, submits an application, receives (or doesn’t – tsk tsk!) an acknowledgement of their interest, interviews, and learns of their acceptance or rejection. It continues through onboarding, training and development, professional growth/progression, personal life events and the eventual parting of ways. But it certainly isn’t the definition of employee experience in and of itself.
- Corporate culture: what people encounter and feel inside of their organization, the day-to-day experiences, the “vibe” they get, the organizational structure and leadership style, morale, the level of collaboration and transparency, sharing and acting on feedback, psychological safety, compensation, benefits, perks. And all the programs we’ve invested in over the years, like employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, leadership development, and performance management to name just a few. These are the cumulative culture elements that contribute to the employee experience
- Surroundings: the physical sensory environment that makes a workplace comfortable also shapes the employee experience. Things like great office spaces, comfy temperature levels, inspiring artworks, tasty food services, gym facilities, day care facilities, meditation rooms 😊 However let’s be mindful of the fact that the rising trend towards telecommuting is redefining the traditional notion of work space and place.
“Today’s workforce is increasingly distributed, with 80 % of employees deskless. Provide employees with the proper tools so they can connect with each other and stay updated with the latest company news in real-time, wherever they are.”
- Technology & the evolving nature of the workplace: the tools we need to do our jobs – every portal, mobile app, workflow and process management platform play an influential role.
Many thought leaders say a major part of the employee experience is simplifying the technology experience. All agree we’re in the throes of transformative change with huge employee experience implications.
Pedro Bados, CEO of Nextthink believes that in order to get a clear understanding of how our technology, tools, and applications affect our workforce, IT and HR need to work hand in hand to quantify the digital experience of every single employee in order to positively impact their technological encounters.
Rapid digital transformation signals the end of the work world as we’ve known it. Shifting from corporate-centric practices to a more humanistic approach will help to give employees the best possible experience.
Part of that experience, according to a Report by Deloitte is to acknowledge that the stability that once characterized the best employee-employer relationships is being disrupted by a growing tendency to change jobs more frequently. An employee-centric culture can create positive employee experiences that both engage and retain people by providing development more quickly, moving people more regularly, providing continuous cycles of promotion, and giving employees more tools to manage their own careers.
- Actively listening and responding – this starts with supervisors tuning into their teams on professional AND personal level.
Asking an employee about the well-being of a close family member battling cancer and whether the employee’s work/life balance is okay, if they’d prefer to work from home, if there’s anything colleagues, the team lead, or the organization at large can do – as you can imagine that conversation alone contributes to a positive employee experience.
Using feedback tools is another. Collecting, tracking and analyzing data every stage in the employee life cycle and inviting commentary about interactions with the company along the way, both good and not so great, provide the kinds of insights you need to fine tune and finesse the experiences of employees.
Survey every applicant, hired or not, about their application, interview and follow up experience.
Ask new hires for feedback on their onboarding experience.
Find out how people who have taken on a new-to-them role perceive their experience.
Invite employees moving on or retiring to share their feelings and observations about the handling of their departure.
Investigate the broader employee experience with an annual or bi-annual enterprise-wide engagement survey. To keep two-way dialogue flowing and positive experiences growing reach out every couple of months or weeks via pulse surveys. Get clarity on big-picture questions or department and topic-specific matters.
Only 43% of US employees think their employers care about their work-life balance. Instant messaging, cloud technology, and email have left employees feeling as though they’re unable to disconnect from work after hours.
- Are new technology tools impacting the employee experience in a good way? What’s working? What’s not? Is there an emerging technology the company should consider?
31% of surveyed US workers said that being unclear about expectations from supervisors is the most stressful element when experiencing change at work.
- How supportive is your manager? How can your experiences with management be improved?
During 2019, 80% of workers in the US were stressed as the result of ineffective company communication.
- Is communication effective and timely? Do you feel well informed? What can be improved?
Constant contact and employee consultation is critical to build trust, connection, and the best work experience possible. Survey, interview, empathize, collaborate, and ACT with transparency.
As HR guru Josh Bersin says: “There’s no way to improve the employee experience without employees being involved” – the perfect mantra for mindful leadership.
Check out our guides on workplace culture, employee engagement, and employee surveys. Learn about every aspect of a successful employee voice initiative!
Read great blog posts on workplace culture, employee engagement, employee surveys and other great workplace topics.