The Employee Experience: Examples of Effective Employee Experiences (Part 4 of 6)

February 8, 2016by Gregg ApirianEmployee Engagement

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If you’ve read Part 1 through 3 of our series on the Employee Experience, you already understand the importance of how the employee experience drives your company’s culture and performance. You’ve also recognized the value of data-driven approaches to deliver personalized experiences and measure their effectiveness. And you are now armed to develop your messaging and creative strategies. For this 4th part of our series, we’re going to explore seven real-world examples that you can dissect and apply towards your efforts to create the right Employee Experience.

A company’s overall Employee Experience is the sum of many parts. The positive experiences add, the negative subtract, and what the company ends up with is based on how much effort they’ve put into understanding their employees and effectively addressing what they need to stay engaged and deliver performance back to the business.

Employees aren’t expecting Disneyland. They come in every day expecting to work hard. But they want to have an impact on both the business and themselves. They want to grow and prosper. Respect and use their intelligence. Enable them. From the first day on the job to the day they leave or retire, create experiences that enrich, motivate, and show employees that their time and effort is meaningful. And when recruiting and hiring top talent—even when compensation is unequal—the majority of candidates will choose the company that offers the best perks, opportunities, and perceived workplace environment.

Onboarding Is Your First Step Towards Employee Engagement

Imagine you start a new job. You show up to work excited and ready to learn. But when you get there, your boss provides a cursory explanation of your responsibilities, shows you to your desk or station, and then leaves you on your own to understand the company’s culture, find and figure out the necessary tools, processes, policies, and workflow to function efficiently and productively at the company.

Imagine that day, and the following weeks, frustration builds. Imagine coming home, exhausted and demoralized because you want to do a good job, but you’re tied down and bound by all of these unknowns that get in your way of forward progress. This isn’t the failure of the employee “getting it.” It’s the failure of the company for not engaging with the employee and arming the employee to succeed.

Onboarding is a critical task and tool, and essential for establishing the first right step between new employees and the employer. Onboarding material should accomplish a few things:

  1. Immerse the employee to the company’s employer brand and culture.
  2. Train employees to use general tools and understand processes. Where possible, customize this information based on their role and responsibility.
  3. Outline company policies and procedures, and provide easy access to all things benefits related.
  4. Direct employees where to go for additional resources or help.

Your company’s employer brand plays a significant role in making this process both productive and engaging to a new employee. Onboarding materials should be easy to access and digest, visually engaging, and feel authentic, helpful, and exciting.

This is a great opportunity to use storytelling techniques to keep new employees engaged and interested. Showcase success stories to personalize the experience. Explain what makes the company unique and introduce them to its culture. And remember, onboarding is not a “one and done” task—create an experience that is thoughtful, personal and extends beyond orientation.

Don’t Underestimate a Manager’s Influence

A manager has the greatest influence on an employee’s experience. For better or for worse, they are the personification of the company. If your managers are engaged, you will have engaged employees. If they are disengaged, expect that to trickle down to every one they lead.

Senior leadership wants engaged employees to improve efficiency and overall performance while grooming future leaders and increasing retention. But studies show that managers are not doing the best they can to engage employees. Barely 40% of managers personally communicate about larger company plans. And less than half of employees feel like they are well informed. Here’s how to prevent that:

  • Get senior leadership involved from the start. Their voice provides weight to messaging, and when employees hear their direct manager echo the same points, it drives home the importance of that communication.
  • Keep managers informed and engaged. Managers can’t communicate the company direction if they are not kept up-to-date on new policies and initiatives. Single, offsite meetings held once a year, don’t count. Engagement comes from a continuous stream, not a singular effort.
  • Set the expectation that managers should engage their direct reports in a regular dialogue about the company and its direction. Don’t confuse frequency with length: shorter, more frequent conversations have more impact in business communications than long diatribes.
  • Avoid speeches. Staff meetings should be about fostering dialogue and managers need to listen as much as they are talk. If your employees have a voice they know is heard, it will create a stronger connection between the employees, managers, and company.
  • Help your managers by providing them strategic narratives (i.e., talking points) that they can tailor for their respective teams. Not all managers have the same communication skills. Providing thought starters and conversation starters gives managers ‘Cliff’s Notes’ or ‘Coaching Guides’ to structure the conversation, which allows them to focus on engagement. And as a best practice, this also better aligns the organization, as managers and employees are less likely to go off script.

With a few simple adjustments, you can transform your managers to become a powerful force in creating and sustaining your employee experience.

Office Space & Amenities Are Key Drivers of the Employee Experience

Is your work environment a colorless and soulless field of cubicles that could be a set from the movie Office Space? Do your employees have a picture of a Hawaiian beach posted on their gray fabric wall? Is the fridge empty except for a few unclaimed tupperware pushed toward the back? Is the coffee fresh and delicious…or infamous?

Where your employees work and the amenities that are offered matters. Employees spend half of their week in a company’s graces. Show them that you appreciate that. Technology companies like Google and Facebook have set the stage with open floor plans, colorful/inspiring spaces where employees can meet, work, and play. And simple amenities such as free meals, snacks and drinks can go a long way toward bringing comfort and enthusiasm to their day-to-day.

While you may not have the resources to do exactly what these companies are doing, do what you must to ensure your company seems modern and innovative. What direction to go? Use your company’s values and culture as the guide—and where possible use employee feedback or data.

The better the office space, amenities and opportunities for advancement, the more competitive the employer is to both a candidate searching for employment and to employees. Great people with passion and talent are hard to find and retain. Don’t let your office space be the kink in your armor.

Modern Learning Experiences

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Everyone wants to advance their career, but how a company helps its employees advance is what can make or break an effective learning experience. Today’s modern learner has limited bandwidth and wants to learn on their terms, just like how consumers want to engage with brands on their terms. There’s a dual responsibility between company-provided learning and self-learning. Either way, if your employees are not active learners they will fall behind. Companies have a responsibility to not to let this happen.

In their most recent report about talent management, Bersin by Deloitte discusses the changing structure, availability, and requirements for employees to learn and advance their careers. The key takeaway is that through the Internet there are now tremendous resources (online courses, expert information, etc.) that grant employees the opportunity to learn any discipline––often at a reasonable cost—on a timetable that they can balance with life and work.

But that doesn’t mean companies are off the hook (far from it). There is too much information, and so companies must be active in introducing the right learning experiences. If the company is directing employees to outside learning experiences, curate them to keep employees up-to-date on new courses or information relevant for their advancement. If a company has its own Learning Management platform or system, does it enable experiences that meet how today’s employees learn? If not, it may be time to reinvest. We are a mobile, need-it-now culture drowning in a sea of data and distractions. Learning experiences need to work how and where employees’ learn, and cut through the noise so that they know what they must pay attention to.

Structured learning is still essential, but there are many other ways to advance how employees learn and grow. Take the best from here and there, and design a modern curriculum that recognizes how your employees learn, where and when they learn, and what they need to know to get to the next level. Be mindful of what experiences mean. When you design meaningful content through instructional design—in a way they can easily consume—you’ve got an experience.

Meeting Face to Face

Bringing people together is one of the most effective means of employee engagement. It makes the employees feel special, and when executed well, it becomes an organic rallying point behind the company, its mission, and how employees perceive their future with the company.

Events create a positive energy that your company can take advantage of. Employees are relaxed and leadership is accessible and personal. But it’s important that these gatherings serve a purpose and engage the employees. If they walk away saying “why did we do this?” it’s a lost opportunity to connect and align.

How to solve for that? Location and logistics planning, branding, pacing, relevant and meaningful content, employee participation, outside speakers/thought leadership, and most of all—put on a show! Elevate employee events to a special occasion. Mix it up between hosting on-site and off-site. Use technologies like DoubleDutch (a mobile application) for itinerary management and to create connections, celebrate employees, and deliver messages outside of the office that can cut through emails, voicemails, and meetings.

Another tip: make events employee-centric. So many company events are designed from a ‘top-down’ approach, which can feel too corporate and disengage employees. Turn it around. Host an employee insights program and encourage them to present. Engage them, don’t lecture them. Vacant stares and quiet coffee breaks will turn into wide-eyes, hands raised and valuable employee participation.

Leadership isn’t Limited to Executives

Leaders aren’t just executives. Employees are leaders too. They may vary across roles and responsibilities, have specific or general or skills, or span from minimal to deep experience. Companies must transform their thinking that leadership only stems from the top. Leaders can be found and recognized throughout the organization. Find your leaders. Empower them to influence others to lead—and before you know it—the employee experience will drive the train.

Showcase examples of leadership across various positions to motivate and inspire employees. Most employees don’t dream of becoming the CEO—it’s too far out of reach. But they can set their sights on becoming a supervisor or advancing to management. And from that achievement, they can set their sights on more. By exemplifying leadership up and down the chain, it reveals a company’s vision and culture. How do you want your company to be seen and known?

User Experience, Technology, & Workflow

Outside of the workplace employees have access to technology experiences that aren’t limited by corporate IT or technology budgets. Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, PlayStation, Amazon, Waze—and thousands of other consumer technology products and services—that feature best-in-class product design and user experiences that enable productivity and pleasure.

While it’s going to take a while for the workplace to catch up with many of these technologies, be mindful of this gap so that your company recognizes how user experience, tools/technology, and workflow play an important role with your employee experience. Adopting technology and refining workflow isn’t just an operational advantage, it’s a hiring advantage. Today’s top talent is tech-savvy, and they expect simple to use interfaces, tools and technology to help them do their job.

For employees that are afraid of technology, just like with onboarding material, find a creative and helpful way to remove this fear and show them how it will improve their life. The way your company works could make or break the employee experience. There is always room for improvement. Find these better ways, align leaders and employees on these better ways, and continue to refine them to best serve the company, its employees, and its customers.

Conclusion

These seven examples of employee experiences aren’t the end-all, be-all, but a great series of steps toward transforming how your organization interacts with its employees to maximize their full potential. There are hundreds of other touchpoints that have an impact on the employee experience. Understand what your company is doing right, where it can improve, and use creative means to fill those gaps. The future success of your company depends on it.

Coming Soon, Part 5: Develop Your Employer Brand & Get Your Employees To Live It.

Gregg Apirian

As the Managing Director of Vignette, Gregg is responsible for agency-wide vision and strategy, operations and finance, business development and engagement management. With nearly 20 years in entrepreneurial and executive-level roles, Gregg has been an instrumental leader at many distinguished agencies. Prior to Vignette Gregg was EVP, Digital Marketing at Trailer Park, EVP at Schematic (now POSSIBLE), and began his agency career as co-founder and CEO of BLITZ. Over the years Gregg’s leadership and combined experience drove growth, profitability and delivery of innovative and effective solutions for brands like GE, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Target, Verizon, OWN, Sony Pictures, NBCUniversal, Johnson & Johnson, HSN, Ann Taylor & LOFT, Nike, and Reebok.