It has long been a maxim in business that the customer comes first. But research shows that companies also need to prioritize employees. Savvy business owners are now noting that “the employee experience drives the customer experience” and, once they acknowledge this, increased financial outcomes will follow.
So, what does it mean to put the employee first? Increasingly, it means more than just payroll. And while perks are great, that’s not necessarily what employees are craving either. Above all, employees want to feel valued and empowered. They want the autonomy to do their jobs in the way that works best for them. They want their job to be fulfilling.
In this article, we will explain what the employee experience is and how it impacts the customer experience. We will then provide tools to help employees feel enabled, empowered, and engaged.
The employee experience describes an employee’s perception of their work and role at a company, from the initial interview until the exit interview.
Often abbreviated as EX, employee experience is based on holistic factors. These factors include employees’ access to technology and other tools needed for their work, physical environment, opportunities for growth, and the overall workplace culture.
A positive employee experience translates to increased job satisfaction. And increased job satisfaction has a number of positive impacts on the employee and the company. Satisfied employees are more engaged, more productive, have better work quality, and exhibit lower absenteeism rates.
Recent studies have found a strong statistical link between engaged, happy employees and satisfied customers.
A 2020 study done in collaboration with Forbes Insights and Salesforce found that revenue growth is directly linked to employee experience. This is true even if customer experience was not prioritized. Companies that have both high employee experience and high customer experience are growing almost twice as fast as those without.
In another large study, researchers established a clear link between positive employee experience and increased revenue. It analyzed several metrics to get to employee satisfaction, including self-reported employee well-being, within-team diversity, formal training, and the use of appropriate technologies. It then found that if an average store with customer-facing employees could move from the bottom quarter to the top quarter in positive employee experience, revenue would increase by more than 50 per cent.
Because employee experience covers so many areas, it may be difficult to decide which avenues a business should prioritize. Below, we provide several strategies to increase your company’s overall employee experience.
The first step to knowing how to improve the employee experience is to give your team an employee experience survey. This will allow you to see where your company is already performing well and areas that could stand for some improvement.
During surveys and data collection, pinpoint your top priority as a company. For instance, are you seeing a high level of turnover? If so, you may want to focus your efforts on understanding data received from exit interviews and surveys.
After you have collected and analyzed the data, come up with a plan. See where satisfaction is lagging and make concerted efforts for improvement.
Workers crave the flexibility and autonomy of remote work, along with the lack of commuting time. A recent Morning Consult poll for Bloomberg found that 39 per cent of American adults would consider quitting their job if they no longer had the option to work remotely. For Millennials and Gen Z employees, that number was 49 per cent.
Offering flexible work hours — or working outside traditional 9-to-5 constraints — is also a major selling point for workers. Flexible hours give employees autonomy to decide which hours they work best. It also allows space for mental health, physical health, and family obligations. All of which can boost employee wellness and job satisfaction.
It turns out that offering remote options is not only good for employees, but it’s good for the company, too. Numerous studies have found that productivity is actually higher for remote and hybrid employees. Remote workers also tend to be more effective at their jobs.
However, in order to succeed in offering a remote work option, it’s important to make sure your employees are properly supported. They need access to technology, data, and other tools to do their jobs seamlessly. It’s also important to commit to building a strong workplace culture that is felt even from employees’ dispersed locations.
While flexible work arrangements can be a crucial step in feeding employee autonomy and satisfaction, they are not without drawbacks. One major drawback is that collaboration can be more difficult when employees are not located in one central office. This includes both formal collaboration and those informal “water cooler” conversations that help foster a sense of community and off-the-cuff brainstorming.
Technology can help make up for that loss of in-person community. Of course, post-Covid, we are all familiar with an array of video conference technology. But other tools can help foster collaboration as well. Shared documents, for example, allow for groups to live-edit content and leave comments on each other’s ideas. You can also consider using a group chat platform to mimic that casual water-cooler-type conversation. Have a “question of the day” for employees to respond to and learn about others. Or schedule a regular virtual coffee chat to decompress and connect.
As you add more virtual meetings that are not strictly work-related, be sure to give your employees the opportunity to opt out. Zoom fatigue is real, and sometimes employee satisfaction is best achieved by turning off the screen.
Clear communication is always key, no matter the size of your company. But particularly as employees are going remote or hybrid, it’s more important than ever to ensure clear and seamless lines of communication. These channels allow for employees to quickly get the knowledge they need to do their jobs effectively, receive and give mentorship, and build community.
Consider what types of communication are best for your employees. You may want to consider social networking tools to share news and ideas, daily updates from upper management, and digital signage for critical announcements. All of these will help ensure that communication is transparent and knowledge is easily transferred.
Most companies offer opportunities for professional growth. But what about personal growth? According to the Harvard Business Review, more than half of employees want opportunities for personal growth, too.
Personal growth can be found through a wide range of opportunities, from yoga, to language lessons, to understanding personal finance. You can offer a stipend to pursue personal growth. Or offer the opportunity for employees to teach other employees about what gives them personal fulfillment. For instance, one employee might lead a session on learning how to knit, while another leads the team through a guided meditation.
A study by the Kapor Center found that a negative workplace culture significantly affects the ability to retain underrepresented groups. In negative workplaces, underrepresented people are more likely to face microaggressions and to have their judgment questioned. Over time, frustrated by the lack of support received from their employers, people leave.
DE&I starts before the hiring process, with a recruitment strategy focused on diversity. But it does not stop there. It includes equal pay, promotion of qualified candidates from all backgrounds, a culture of inclusivity, and a true cultural transformation.
While DE&I is not easy work, it is necessary and transformative. A culture of inclusivity leads to an increase in innovation, problem solving, productivity, and overall satisfaction.
Clearly, the employee experience is crucial to hiring and retaining top talent. By investing in ways to increase autonomy and empowerment, you show your employees that they are valued. That sense of fulfillment is then reflected in your public-facing roles, as happy, supported employees create happy customers.