An article by Thiago Brant, Management 3.0 Facilitator from Brazil, looks into the trending topic of Employee Experience.
In this article you’ll learn about:
What is meant by Employee Experience (EX)?
Employee Experience, or simply EX, has been a hot topic in today’s business world. It is a theme that HRs and companies, in general, have borrowed from the product world, where UX (User Experience) and CX (Customer Experience) have been much addressed. It is the use of agile tools to deal with people.
There are many definitions for EX, and I’ll highlight one from my Strategic Human Resources Management professor:
EX is the sum of interactions between an organization and its employees that impact performance and how each person thinks and feels. It is the employee journey.
Why is it important?
In 2021 a WTW survey found that 92% of companies are likely to prioritize EX improvements in the next three years.
The Management 3.0 team asked leaders all over the world what topic they would most like to address at an upcoming conference, and the number one response was “The Great Employee Experience Awakening”.
Looking into this topic becomes urgent in a world where people are increasingly seeking meaning and purpose in their work, where all work relationships and working methods are changing, and everyone is searching for job satisfaction and work/life balance.
I believe in this, and my experience based on this quote, is that we are indeed facing this reality:
My philosophy has always been, if you can put staff first, your customers second, and shareholders third, effectively, in the end, the shareholders do well, the customers do better, and your staff remains happy.Richard Branson
I always ask my students which priority their managers have: customer focus or employee focus? In general people tend to think about the customer, but aren’t the employees the ones who make the customers happy?
I end up quoting a famous statement from the CEO of CI&T, a Brazilian software company that recently went public:
We develop people before we develop software.Cesar Gon, CEO of CI&T
What is a good Employee Experience?
It is difficult to define a good Employee Experience since each experience is very particular for a specific individual. This is good to consider when building your EX. A good starting point is to map the Employee Journey to gain insight on how they interact at each stage of their relationship with the company, and thus seek to grasp the ups and downs of each stage, for each employee or persona that represents employees.
Below are some examples of Journey Maps, inspired by the Customer Journey, that can help in this task:
See that it is common to map the emotion / satisfaction curve, barriers and enablers, needs and opportunities. And these are evaluated at each stage of the journey. There are a few journey mapping options, but each organization can build their own, and they look something like this:
- Attract ➞ Recruit➞ Onboard ➞ Engage ➞ Develop ➞ Perform ➞ Reward ➞ Exit (from Agile People)
- Instruct ➞ Inspire ➞ Inform ➞ Incent ➞ Involve (The five I’s of the Employee Journey)
- Recruitment ➞ Onboarding ➞ Development ➞ Retention ➞ Exit (The 5 stages of Employee Experience )
Employee Experience Design
Journeys are a good starting point to design your Employee Experience, or an EX Strategy. But since we are dealing with the Employee Experience here, it is the employee who should be at the center of it. A good approach can come from Design Thinking, with Human-Centered Design, which is to center your design on the human being.
In any case, the only way to map and improve this experience is by listening to the employee themself. We need to collect regular feedback throughout the employee’s lifecycle, and at every touchpoint mapped in their journey.
Engagement, onboarding and exit surveys, and even 360 and performance reviews are great sources about the Employee Experience . Building a good Employee Analytics strategy will also support your EX design.
The more traditional climate surveys can be important, but today we are also focusing on more frequent and shorter surveys, which end up being more specific on latent employee pains, so much so that it is commonly called a Pulse Survey. Some companies do this daily.
This data can be consolidated as a Happiness Index, and we can use this index to correlate with the stages and moments of the Employee Experience.
Cultural, Technological, and Physical
When working with your EX Design, keep in mind the three spheres of the Employee Experience: Cultural, Technological, and Physical.
The Cultural Sphere is how people feel when they experience interactions with people in the organization. According to the Management 3.0 Values and Culture module, you cannot change an organization’s culture. What you can change are the guideposts, transparency, and boundaries.
The Technological Sphere consists of the interactions with the tasks and tools in your organization. An example from the module Agile Product Development: Agile software development needs teams to be motivated. But repetitive tasks are boring, not motivating, so they should be automated. An even more important reason is, automated tasks are more reliable than when team members have to do those tasks.
The Physical Sphere consists of the interactions with the tangible surroundings. In the Management 3.0 Complexity Thinking module, A typical analyst/reductionist mistake is described as designing human systems instead of growing them. As an example: cubicles, traditional methods and frameworks.
Employee Experience and Employee Engagement – how do they relate?
Employee engagement is related to what the employee thinks and feels along their journey.
A good Employee Experience generates engagement and satisfaction.
The Motivation and Engagement module of Management 3.0 has something very interesting on this:
“Managers must seek ways for the CHAMPFROGS motivators to become systemic properties of the firm” and the idea of “setting up the right conditions that maximize the probability that it (make people feel motivated or engaged) will happen (even though success is never certain).?
CHAMPFROGS is a motivation model that combines intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and helps us better understand what motivates each individual. Linking this knowledge to the employee’s journey can (and will) greatly enrich the construction of an EX that enhances motivation and engagement.
Employee Experience Examples
Use your time to understand how to make the organization a system that engages people” (from Management 3.0 Motivation and Engagement Module)
This quote always comes to mind when I think of employee satisfaction and engagement, and then their experience. Improving EX will not happen magically through a big program or change. The Employee Experience depends on small interventions that happen along their journey.
I will list some examples of interventions, techniques and tools that have generated good results at each stage of the employee journey: Attract – Recruit – Onboard – Engage – Develop – Perform – Reward – Exit
Employee Experience: Attract Stage
When it comes to attracting the best people for our positions (yes, the Employee Experience starts before they join the company, when we’re still in the attraction phase) it is important to think about how people react to job ads. Management 3.0 (this time, the company!) recently published job positions with an unusual description focused on what people should accomplish in the job, rather than a list of qualifications they should have.
I did this same experiment at my company Agilers and got amazing results! In addition to better engaging the candidates, this initiative united all our current employees in the effort to search for a great professional with a fit to work with us. A humanized process with frequent contact with the people interested makes all the difference!
Employee Experience: Recruit Stage
I have seen some exceptional experiences at the recruitment stage! Still inspired by the Management 3.0 effort, we have been using candidate videos as a way of applying for vacancies, which enables the human relationship before even following the process. In the interview phase, the use of Personal Maps to get to know the candidates better (and to help ease the anxiety caused by this tense moment) brings an incredible experience both for the candidate and the interviewer.
Moving Motivators is also a great addition to the interview, as it helps the recruiter to better understand the candidate’s motivators. It also creates a deeper relationship and a great experience. My colleagues who combine these two techniques are getting great results, and people, when hired, enter the company much more motivated and engaged.
I really liked Personal Maps in my interview. It was the first time I came across the tool, and I still remember the experience every time someone mentions it.Miriam Santos, Agilers employee
Employee Experience: Onboard Stage
Onboarding is a very important step in the employee journey process. This crucial phase can determine whether the new employee will stay longer in the organization. I know three very good examples to improve the onboarding experience:
- Onboard yourself – A way for the employee to do their own onboarding. In Management 3.0 this is done in a Trello created for the new employee. Here at Agilers we do it with Clickup tasks that help the person to know all the company’s processes (and the other collaborators).
- Onboard site: In companies with more complex processes and programs, the use of a hot site that follows this journey, with periodic reminders is a good thing! I know of an example where this site follows the employee for one year!
- Onboard passport: there is a fintech company in Brazil that gives the employee a passport. He needs to visit areas and meet people, and at each step he completes, he gets a new stamp in his passport! A very creative way to onboard.
Employee Experience: Engage Stage
We can also count on Moving Motivators to engage employees. Thinking about how to work on each of the ten motivators that must be systematically incorporated in the organization.
A clear purpose tied to the use of OKRs is also a powerful engagement tool. People frequently ask me how to engage people and make them feel that they “own” the business. The formula is simple, but it requires a lot of dedication from management: purpose and good goal setting. Only when employees are involved and actively participate in shaping the organization’s strategy can they really feel ownership.
Employee Experience: Develop Stage
Daniel Pink tells us in his great book Drive that “high job performance and satisfaction are based on our need to do better by ourselves and our world” and this happens when there is purpose, mastery, and freedom.
When thinking about the employee’s experience, remember to give him autonomy to establish the paths for his development.
Ambev Tech is a great example of a company that puts the employee in charge of the training budget. They offer an annual budget in which they can choose which training to invest in.
Employee Experience: Perform Stage
When thinking about performance, we need to look at performance models that are more focused on the developmental experience of the employee than on performance appraisals based on numbers and grades.
Here are a couple of experiments I have done at this stage with great results:
- 360 Degree Dinner: I haven’t exactly been able to host a dinner, but the outcome is always positive when I gather the team for constructive feedback. Everyone leaves the room motivated and inspired by each other’s contribution, and willing to improve even more.
- Improvement Dialogues: I have been inspired to try this tool when I read about Ralph van Roosmalen’s experience of using it in performance meetings in his insightful book “Doing It“. A conversation where the employee himself finds his own improvement paths without my having to point or give opinions is a very positive outcome. There is nothing better than making something happen by deciding how to do it yourself.
Employee Experience: Reward Stage
Using Merit Money is one of the most amazing reward experiences I have had. I ended up opting for Bonus.ly, which works all Six Rules for Rewards, and the Employee Experience has been amazing. Everyone feels excited and energized about rewarding their colleagues (and of course, receiving rewards as well).
In addition to improving the Employee Experience, Merit Money systems can also be used to encourage expected behaviors. Here at Agilers everyone is rewarded when they learn new content (also encouraging the development of individuals).
Employee Experience: Exit Stage
The departure of an employee is also an experience and requires great care. Offering an Alumni structure, understanding the reasons for leaving, and treating the employee in a humanized way are some important aspects of this stage.
Something simple, and that can be a huge differential: a gratitude letter. When someone leaves our team here at Agilers, everyone gets together to write a letter of gratitude to this person, expressing all the positive things that happened in this relationship. It is a way to mark this closure in a very positive way.
Employee Experience Best Practices: Things You Should Include in Your Employee Experience Strategy
Thinking about all the examples and experiments I’ve mentioned so far, I see two main points that cannot be left aside when building a great EX strategy: humanization and positive psychology.
When we think about positive strategies in the employee journey, we also contribute to creating happier environments (and individuals).
Renata Rivetti, Chief Happiness Officer and TEDx speaker, has something very pertinent to say about the connection between EX and happiness:
So what is our role as a leader or as HR in team happiness? We have to work on wellness and mental health programs, we also have to look at the Employee Experience through Jacob Morgan’s equation: culture, technology, and physical spaces. However, when we talk about happiness we go a little further. There is no point in a mindfulness program if the person does not feel that it makes sense for him/her. There’s no point in the perfect employee journey if the person doesn’t feel like they belong or are recognized.Renata Rivetti, Chief Happiness Officer and TEDx speaker
And I also suggest that you read about the 12 Steps to Happiness suggested by Management 3.0 which I’m sure, when considered, greatly improves the Employee Experience.
There is no better way to close this article than to mention one of my favorite quotes about management and leadership:
Managing can be seen as taking place within a triangle where art, craft, and the use of science meet.Henry Mintzberg, Simply Managing
All the reflection and research on the topic of Employee Experience helped me to see how this truth also applies to it. To ensure a great Employee Experience, we must rely on scientific studies, we must experiment, and we must do it in a customized way for each situation. A truly handcrafted job. There are no ready-made formulas, or the so-called one-size-fits-all.
Google once decided to go deep and research what makes teams successful. Its conclusion, through the Aristotle project, was that the crucial factor is Psychological Safety. And this conclusion was the result of much research, experimentation and, of course, focus on the human being.
I hope all these insights are useful to you and I wish you much success in your journey to create the best journey for your employees!
Header Photo by Alireza Hatami via Unsplash