5 Ways to Evolve Your Employee Experience Strategy
Employee experience (EX) is the engine that drives any business’ success. An EX strategy can shape a wide range of factors, including retention levels, productivity, the caliber of talent the business attracts, employee happiness levels, absenteeism, customer satisfaction, and more.
But businesses face a common problem: EX can easily erode if business leaders aren’t actively improving their EX strategy. Read this guide to learn five ways to design, evolve, and implement an employee experience strategy that elevates the entire organization.
What is Employee Experience?
Employee experience (EX) is a collection of moments and interactions that shape work for employees. It stretches across every corner of the employee’s journey, from hiring and onboarding to engagement, retention, service levels, and everywhere in between.
However, with AI, advanced technology, remote work models, and other disruptions upending work, stagnant EX strategies are going stale faster than ever. And that can hold back critical parts of the business. Here are a few areas EX influences the most:
EX Impacts CX
According to Harvard Business Review research, businesses that focus on employee experiences achieve higher marks on customer experience metrics. If employees aren’t fully engaged and motivated, it can damage service—and turn away customers. At the same time, the more unified, mission-driven, motivated, and engaged employees are, the more likely they will be to pass on experiences customers love—and reward with loyalty.
EX Shapes Success in the Contact Center
Employee experience is magnified in the contact center. That’s because this workforce is directly interacting with customers. Too often poor contact center experiences will cause morale to erode and productivity to slide.
When employee experiences slip within the contact center, it can cause turnover to increase, absenteeism to grow, and employees to pass negative emotions on to customers. By improving EX within the contact center, businesses can increase productivity, deliver better service, retain more employees, and boost engagement.
EX Underpins the Entire Organization
Employee experience doesn’t just influence the contact center. It also impacts teams across an organization, including finance, marketing, sales, legal, and other departments.
If employee experiences aren’t actively pushing employees to reach their full potential, CX and productivity will suffer. No matter which part of the operation a business focuses on, elevating EX uplifts CX—and opens the company up to more growth opportunities.
What are the stages of EX?
Before a business launches an EX strategy, leaders need to identify which phase or stage of EX they’re going to focus on. Here’s a brief look at the most common stages of employee experience:
- Attracting talent
- Developing talent
- Optimizing day-to-day experiences
How to Evaluate Current Employee Experiences
Want to master EX? Start by evaluating the current workforce’s perspective, needs, challenges, and motivations. Here’s a look at some of the best strategies to help evaluate and improve employee experience:
1. Developing Effective Onboarding
Onboarding can set the tone for an employee’s experience throughout their career lifecycle. Here are some tips to help improve EX during onboarding:
- Lay out clear expectations.
- Give employees the tools they need to succeed up-front.
- Make it as easy as possible to access training resources.
- Pair individuals with talented managers or mentors.
2. Creating Clear Communication
It’s impossible to understand employee experiences if they hide their personal challenges and victories from business leaders. That’s why it’s important to encourage open communication and promote transparency. Here are a few strategies to improve communication:
- Encourage feedback sharing.
- Develop teams that promote active listening.
- Participate in team-building activities.
- Conduct cross-functional training to deepen employee relationships.
3. Establishing Work-Life Balance
More than ever, businesses need employees to strike a healthy work-life balance to avoid burnout. Recent studies have found burnout is reaching multi-year highs—hitting Gen Z and young Millennials especially hard. Too much workplace stress can lead to absenteeism, high quit rates, and low productivity.
Businesses can track work-life balance by gathering regular feedback. It’s also a good idea to examine flexible work options and PTO policies, and to ensure work expectations are always crystal clear.
4. Identifying and Encouraging Career Growth Opportunities
To keep employees engaged, motivate the workforce, and retain employees longer, leaders need to map out clear career pathways. That means identifying advancement opportunities for employees. Here are a few ways to help employees grow in their careers:
- Give employees consistent feedback and conduct evaluations.
- Encourage employee mentorships.
- Provide skill enhancement training sessions, seminars, or learning stipends.
5. Creating Recognition and Rewards
When employees receive credit for good work, they’re more motivated and more productive. Businesses can fast-track EX improvements by using technology—such as employee analytics—to spotlight employee wins.
Give employees opportunities to build trust, bond, and work together towards a goal. It’s important to encourage open communication and build a sense of belonging in order to deepen these team bonds. To improve EX, give employees projects where they can collaborate across teams, problem-solve together, and achieve common goals.
7. Incorporating Technology
Technology can automate repetitive tasks and increase productivity. It can also highlight employee needs, challenges, and opportunities. Here are a few examples of workplace technology that can improve EX:
- AI and machine learning
- Journey analytics
- Speech and text analytics
- Customer sentiment analysis
- Interaction analytics
- Workforce management (WFM)
- Robotics process automation (RPA)
8. Promoting Value Alignment
Value alignment occurs when leadership is able to rally employees around a common set of values or a shared culture. This ensures the whole team is pushing together in the same direction—and accomplishing the same goals.
How to Improve EX in the Era of Remote Work
The pandemic has triggered an avalanche of remote work. Business leaders are now learning that remote work models are disrupting company culture—and turning “business as usual” on its head. After conducting deep research on remote work models, our team has uncovered a few keys to improving EX in the future:
1. Employees and Companies Are Benefiting from Remote Work
Demand for remote work is likely to remain strong in the future. Several studies have found remote workers are more productive, and Andrew Reise’s internal studies discovered employees are benefitting as well. Here are a few pros and cons that remote workers called out:
Remote Work Pros
- Flexible schedules
- Limited or no commutes
- Casual dress
- More family time
- Less spending on gas and eating out
Remote Work Cons
- Lack of social interaction
- Lack of office space
- Trouble sticking to a routine
Going forward, businesses can improve their workplace cultures by emphasizing the advantages of remote work and limiting the downsides.
2. Hybrid Models Are the Future
In the future, business leaders will need to decide what type of work model helps employees and the operation thrive the most. In our research, hybrid models stand out as the clear winners. Internal studies found employees prefer hybrid work models, with 55 percent saying they want to work most of the week remotely. Also, 53 percent said they wanted to have office space available for collaboration and to use equipment.
3. Employees Still Want Face-to-Face Interactions
Even though employees enjoy the flexibility of remote work, businesses should note that they also crave in-person interactions. The majority of our survey respondents said they wanted an office where they could work with coworkers and access equipment. Businesses can benefit by providing some opportunities for in-person collaboration as they develop their future business models.
How to Create a Culture of Productivity and Improvement
A thriving workforce culture is invaluable. It can drive down turnover, grow engagement, increase productivity, and help draw in talent. According to Gallup, positive workplace cultures are also associated with an 85 percent net profit increase over five years. Here’s a quick look at a few strategies for businesses that want to craft a culture that unites and motivates the workforce:
1. Define and Communicate Core Values
Pinpoint the business’s values, mission, and purpose. Then communicate those guiding principles to employees early and often.
2. Build Feedback Loops
Use surveys and regular check-ins to gather employee feedback, implement changes based on that feedback, and collect more feedback after the company has made changes. Then wash, rinse, and repeat.
3. Create Transparent Communication
It’s important for leaders to be transparent when they communicate with employees. This builds trust and helps employees understand the rationale behind decisions. Share what leaders are seeing or discussing with employees and lay out what actions the team plans to take as a result.
4. Develop Recognition and Rewards
Employees who receive recognition and rewards achieve more. In fact, 90 percent of HR professionals say rewards and recognition spark results and 91 percent say they improve employee retention. That’s why it’s important to analyze employee performance through WFM systems, analytics, or other programs, and to use those insights to reward workers.
5. Create Empowerment and Autonomy
Employees who feel empowered are more productive, more engaged, and more likely to deliver positive customer experiences. That’s why it’s important to root the business’s strategy in employee empowerment.
6. Encourage Continuous Learning and Development
Employees value learning opportunities—especially those from younger generations. According to LinkedIn, 76 percent of Gen Z individuals say learning is important to having a successful career.
7. Promote Leadership Development
When leadership development is limited, talented employees often hit the exits. According to Pew Research, 63 percent of employees leave jobs because they lack advancement opportunities. Here are some strategies for promoting leadership development:
- Feature training, seminars, and education resources.
- Set up mentorship or coaching programs.
- Conduct self-appraisals and encourage regular feedback.
8. Build In Measuring and Reporting
KPIs and metrics reveal how much progress the business is making on cultural issues, and they unearth areas that need improvement. That’s why it’s important for businesses to use analytics to monitor reports and continuously improve.
Using Surveys to Take Employees’ Pulse
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to understand the employee experience without feedback. Employee feedback provides a window into the perspective of the workforce. However, it’s easy for business leaders to misinterpret or misuse employee surveys. Here are some best practices to keep in mind when using employee surveys to improve EX:
Craft a Culture That Embraces Feedback
Setting up effective employee surveys starts during the hiring process. To build a culture that embraces growth, ask pointed questions during the interview process that assess how open candidates are to improvement. Here are some examples of questions to ask during interviews:
- How do you handle feedback?
- Can you walk me through a time you received feedback and explain how you used it?
- How has feedback impacted your career?
A good way to identify growth-focused candidates is to look at the way they view failures. If they’re defensive when mistakes come up, they may not be ready to embrace a feedback-based culture. If they’re open to learning from the past, they may be a good fit for a positive feedback culture.
Build Spaces That Encourage Honest Feedback
In order to be comfortable enough to share feedback, employees need to feel safe. Here are a few ways for business leaders to create an environment where employees share open feedback:
- Encourage managers to actively listen to employees.
- Give employees opportunities to ask open-ended questions and share opinions.
- Allow managers to express vulnerabilities and admit to mistakes.
Perfect Timing and Delivery
Employees will shut down emotionally if feedback isn’t delivered at the right time and in the right way. Here are a few tips for managers who want to discuss survey results or feedback in the most productive way possible:
- Know what actions or behaviors to address before starting the conversation.
- Avoid generalizations and try to share specific, fact-based results.
- Avoid personal attacks and use concrete examples to explain viewpoints.
Encourage Transparency and Map Out Actionable Steps
One of the best ways to build trust during the survey process is to share feedback openly. That means discussing employee and stakeholder responses, as well as how leaders plan to address feedback. It’s also important to lay out a clear set of goals and to use metrics to monitor progress.
Take Action on Insights and Feedback
Leaders need to take ownership of feedback results and map out a plan to address those survey results right away. No matter how critical feedback might be, leaders should examine it, develop a plan to address it, and measure progress.
Steps to Designing Better EX
Employee experiences can shift without notice. For business leaders, it can feel as though the ground is constantly shifting beneath their feet.
By following a clear EX strategy and intentionally designing a better employee experience, business leaders can stay ahead of evolving employee needs—and stay locked on to the workforce’s perspective no matter how dramatically things change. Here are the steps to designing a solid employee experience strategy:
Establish a North Star
Start by pinning down a clear North Star vision—a shared mission that the entire team will work to fulfill. This will ensure the whole workforce is pushing together in the same direction. It also helps employees understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, which can keep them motivated.
Conduct Industry Research
The better business leaders know employee and customer experiences, the easier it is to improve them. That’s why it’s important to use analytics, surveys, interviews, and other research techniques to identify friction points, challenges, motivators, needs, and desires.
Map Out Employee Life Cycles
By drawing out employee life cycles, it’s easier to see processes, challenges, and opportunities at each moment of the employee’s work journey. This strategy will reveal gaps in the employee’s experience, as well as opportunities to improve.
Connect Employees to Customer Outcomes
Show employees how their day-to-day actions are impacting the customer experience. This helps them see that their job is making a difference, and it can help them develop a deeper sense of belonging.
Conduct Capability Assessments
Capability assessments analyze a business’ maturity level in different areas. This gives business leaders a clear, quantifiable measurement that can shed light on the business’s current strengths, weak spots, and opportunities to upgrade the employee’s workday.
Deploy Future State Mapping
Future state journey mapping is a tool businesses can use to identify and reach their ideal future state. One way to develop these maps is to focus on themes or goals that will help the business hit employee experience goals. For instance, the business may work to increase employee engagement, empower employees to deliver on specific brand promises, or target onboarding or training initiatives. Future state mapping targets the business’s deepest EX needs and places the business on a clear course to meet them.
Craft Initiative Framing
Initiative framing breaks the EX strategy down into tangible tactics. These initiatives zoom in on specific areas where the business can improve. Here are a few examples:
- Career pathing
- Change readiness
- Customer engagement
- Employee performance
- Training, education, and learning
How to Use Technology to Enhance EX
New technology is making it easy to track, understand, and improve employee experiences. Here’s a look at some EX technology that’s supercharging the workforce:
Employee experience surveys are an important technology for businesses that want to understand, analyze, and elevate the employee experience. This technology can pull in real-time feedback from employees and customers. It can also shed light on the challenges that are holding back employees, lowering morale, or damaging productivity—so leaders can step in and improve the workday.
Employee Analytics Programs
Analytics programs, such as speech or customer sentiment analysis, reveal the friction points and highlight the positive moments in an employee’s workday. With that information in hand, leaders can replicate positive instances, cut down inefficient workflows, and improve work for employees.
Businesses can use process automation to automate mundane or repetitive tasks. This frees up employees for more specialized or strategic work.
New and Emerging Technology
There are several emerging technologies that businesses are beginning to tap into. For instance, businesses can use virtual reality and augmented reality to conduct immersive training exercises and build employees’ confidence before they enter live interactions.
AI-powered chatbots are another promising technology. They can handle simple service requests and quickly route more complicated inquiries to the right employee. This technology can also handle repetitive processes—such as onboarding or enrollment—so that employees can focus on more meaningful work.
Quick Hits to Reach EX Maturity
Make no mistake—there is no one-size-fits-all employee experience strategy. EX strategies hinge on a company’s maturity. Young businesses may need to launch an EX strategy for the first time, while an enterprise with a more mature EX program may want to simply tweak, evolve, or enhance their existing initiative. In all cases, here are a few quick tips for achieving more EX maturity, faster:
Focus on Manager Performance
No matter the stage of the employee journey, managers have a significant impact on employee experiences. In addition to directly molding an employee’s strengths and skills, managers also help reinforce a worker’s value. That’s why developing excellent managers is a clear way to quickly boost EX maturity.
Clearly Define Roles
It’s common for employees to work with a hazy understanding of their role—and that can muddle their purpose, cause frustrations, and dampen motivations. To improve EX, make sure employees know exactly what the company expects from them, what their role is, and what they need to do to fulfill their daily duties.
Build Team Bonds
Employees are happier and more productive when they trust the people they work with. That’s why business leaders need to set aside time to form team bonds, build trust, and deepen employee relationships.
Create Productive Workspaces
Anyone who has tried to work in a noisy or distracting space knows how dramatically physical spaces affect work. To perform at their best, employees need to have an opportunity to work in an environment where they feel inspired and productive.
Start Elevating Employee Experience
Employee experience can impact every inch of a business. It can leak into customer experiences, sway productivity, determine turnover, and dictate performance. By evolving, upgrading, or launching their EX strategies, businesses of all sizes will be on a path to faster growth.
Ready to get started? Andrew Reise Consulting has experts regularly researching, developing, and deploying full EX strategies. We’ve helped more than 200 Fortune 500 companies hit their goals. Let's connect and learn how our consulting experts can help your business evolve EX, implement technology, manage transformation projects, improve CX, or accomplish your most pressing goals.