I do get a little weary of the vocabulary that is banded about when it comes to talking about the way people feel at work. I am a fierce advocate of inclusion and believe that building and fostering an environment where people are included and respected for who they are and what they bring, has a direct impact on the way people feel - and that leads to personal and organisational success.
But when I heard about "employee experience" I was a little sceptical - and when I was asked to speak about it at the World of Learning conference at the NEC in Birmingham a few weeks ago, more than a little nervous that I would come across as a credible believer.
But I have discovered it is not about jargon and replacing words like engagement and inclusion, indeed they stand tall as ever in the experience world but it is about trying a different approach - the 50 year old ex employment lawyer in me needs to stand back and look at things through a different lens. Possibly you do too?
Employees today are approaching the workplace with a consumer mindset - they want simple intuitive technology, the ability to rate opinions and direct access to decision makers. They don't just want this when they have scaled the greasy pole either - they want it throughout their "experience" with your organisation. Creating a positive (dare I say superlative) employee experience requires a holistic approach - looking at all the leadership, management, workplace, and HR practices that affect employees. So that's the practices that impacts the employee on the job - but also getting them to the job and, importantly, after the job has finished? It is about looking at the employee lifecycle at all the different phases of the employee's relationship with your organisation but from their point of view.
Employee experience is ultimately a personal and deeply human experience. But what we need is a little help to guide us as to what the main areas employees are looking at. This report by the IBM Smarter Workforce and Globoforce WorkHuman Research Institute takes us a long way forward. From studying the responses of 23,000 employees in 45 countries and territories, it appears we can divide it into 6 main areas:
- Organisational trust - well we know about that, don't we? Acting with integrity at all times and in all relationships has never been more important.
- Coworker relationships - authentic and supportive relationships at work directly impact the way we all perform. In the wake of the recent sexual harassment tsunami, we've seen what a difference it would have made to so many women in particular if their (male?) coworkers would have noticed, stepped forward, asked if they were OK , let alone challenged the unwanted behaviour.
- Meaningful work - in a way that fully utilises their skills. It's about (individual and corporate) purpose and how they align.
- Recognition, feedback and growth - well that's stating the obvious but then we all know building a feedback culture which is genuinely supportive and normal, and which reduces perception and expectation gaps, is something that can be very difficult to achieve in practice.
- Empowerment and voice - for years employers have known they need to seek out contributions but really hearing and valuing those contributions in a manner that the employees feel enabled to speak, is what is key.
- Work / life balance - nothing new here either but, as ever, embracing the mindset rather than just putting infrastructure in place with a flexible working policy, takes far more commitment and, I believe, requires us to look at things through a lens which is probably not your own.
The report introduces a new Employee Experience Index which measures these experiences against the above practices. Have look at the report - it is easy to read and really interesting. In world where you are requiring your people to do more with less, the result which I find most convincing is the link between positive employee experience and discretionary effort.