What Is Employee Experience?
By Tamara Sheehan
Director of Business Management
You want employees to be happy at work. The hope is they’ll come in with a smile on their faces, enjoy the work they do, and do the best job possible. It’s a natural sentiment for any business to have, but this want for happy employees is commonly confused with the concept of employee experience. Just because that’s what you want doesn’t mean that’s how things are.
So, what is employee experience? It’s the total interaction employees have with the workplace. More than ensuring they’re happy, it means giving them the tools, resources, and accommodations to assist them—regardless of mood.
If someone’s having a rough day, is there an area to take a break? If a co-worker is frantic about a meeting, does the workplace offer them a place to set up and prepare? How do employees feel about the amount of personal space they have? Every interaction employees have with the workplace shapes their cumulative experience with it. Achieving that happy, positive experience means taking into account the total needs of employees and providing solutions for them.
The expectation equation
For data-driven companies, employee experience is hard to quantify because human emotions are difficult to measure. How someone is feeling one day may affect their workplace experience. Employers don’t have control over external variables. What they do have control over is the workplace itself.
The best way to quantify employee experience is through the “expectations equation.”
Employee expectations + An organization’s efforts to meet those expectations = Employee experience
To understand how to improve employee experience, you need to break down the equation. It’s an algebraic one in many ways. Before you can solve it, you need to understand the variables. Namely, you need to know employee expectations before attempting to meet them. This breaks down into three pillars: Space, technology, and culture.
Pillar I: The physical space
Physical space is the largest contributing factor to employee experience, and comes with the highest employee expectations. Regardless of the company, industry, or size of the workplace, employees can reasonably expect several things:
- Workspace that enables them to do their job
- A mix of both public and private spaces
- Enough space to move freely and not feel cramped
But these are baseline expectations. Many employees (rightfully) expect more from their workplace. They want to feel safe and welcome. They want accessibility and furniture accommodations. Depending on the industry or location, expectations may include things like a view or access to food.
Before you can improve the employee experience, you first need to create the right workplace. Understanding employee expectations is the first step. There are a few ways to figure these out:
- Use surveys to gain direct feedback from employees about the workplace
- Look at facility analytics to understand how your current workplace is used
- Understand how competitors shaped their workplaces
When a company understands the expectations and needs of its employees, it can shape its facilities around them. The natural result is a workplace that’s accommodating and a workforce that feels its needs are met.
Pillar II: Workplace technology
Technology makes the world go ‘round. Case in point: many employee experience examples are centered on technology.
This pillar of employee expectations is the most diverse. It ranges from providing a reliable Wi-Fi connection to enabling remote access to sensitive files via cloud collaboration. Here again, understanding what employees need to do their best work plays a big role in their experience.
If you expect employees to collaborate, then provide cloud-based infrastructure. If they’re working remotely, offer robust communication tools like video conferencing and messaging apps. If they’re going out into the field and returning to a central workplace, give them mobile tech. Pay close attention to each aspect of how employees work, then supplement that effort with modern technologies to facilitate it.
Pillar III: Company culture
Toxic culture can dissuade even the most dedicated employees and hinder your goals. Conversely, a positive, inclusive culture can attract, retain, and enable talent—furthering your company’s mission and goals.
Building distinct culture comes from recognizing the values of your workforce. What’s important to them and how can your business incorporate those values into its identity? Are they concerned about climate change and environmental stewardship? LGBTQ rights? Military service? Understand what drives your employees and you’ll unlock the key drivers of your business.
However, creating company culture isn’t as simple as picking up on your employees’ values. It means making a concerted effort to act on them, This could mean adopting charitable causes, changing your hiring practices, or incorporating new marketing language. In the expectation equation, expectations need to be met with action to shape experience.
Take control of the experience
Every company needs to build its own employee experience model. Your workers are different from every other company and their expectations are just as diverse. Unique expectations demand unique action, which shapes the genuine experience employees have.
As you take steps to improve the workplace, technology, and culture of your company, benchmark yourself against similar companies in the Employee Experience Index. It’s not a true measure of employee experience, but does provide insight into how your efforts stack up against some of the best-rated companies today. It may show how you can do more to shape the experience you want your employees to have.
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