'It's about creating an environment where people are more likely to succeed than fail'
Employers serious about creating a good employee experience (EX) should take care not to misinterpret the data, according to one expert.
The consultancy Forrester recently conducted research into this growing field and for David Johnson, employee experience research lead, the results show that many companies are taking EX seriously.
“What’s changing is the way that companies are going about gathering data and turning that into insight to better understand what the employee experience looks and feels like, and become better places to work.”
“I was heartened by how many companies we spoke to that had begun serious employee experience initiatives in the last two, three years,” he says. “They recognized that either through their customer experience initiatives or their existing HR initiatives but there were still some really significant gaps.”
For some, it was a simple matter of reviewing Glassdoor review scores or understanding why employees were leaving, says Johnson in Richmond, Va.
“They all had thought that their employee experience was quite good until they started studying a little bit further and realizing that it really wasn’t.”
But how employers are making changes and using data to help guide those changes is the most exciting finding, he says.
“It’s as if the whole world is trying to compete to become a better place to work and that’s a really good value proposition for employees everywhere.”
Establishing a baseline
For HR, the first step is simply discovering what employees find important to their own EX, says Johnson.
“How they use, how they gather data, whether they’re using surveys or they’re gathering insights through passive means, activity tracking; feedback tools for employees to use or interviews, focus groups, employee-journey mapping exercises -- these things are all really important ways to get a better understanding of what the employee experience is like.”
Once that baseline has been established, it’s important to define the goal, which should include promoting positive worker achievement, says Johnson.
“It’s about creating an environment where people are more likely to succeed than fail. It doesn’t mean that they’re easy places to work but it means that they’re resource-rich environments that are really good at helping employees meet the unique demands of their jobs. You have to keep in mind that your overall goal should be employee success.”
“Employee experience peaks when people have a successful day at work and this is the work of scientists that have identified this and that’s not the way that most managers really understand it, they typically believe that other things are what really drives it but that’s not it: people want to succeed,” he says.
One recent survey found that EX will become even more important post-COVID, while on the other hand, some workers are feeling ever more detached from organizations, found another survey.
When the data has been gathered, the next step is to take action to address what things might be holding back that success, he says.
“It’s very likely to be something along manager development, training and coaching. It might be better technology environment, it might be fostering relationships between colleagues, changing their metrics so that people aren’t in competition with each other but instead are incentivized to help each other out.”
Various technological solutions exist, according to Johnson, which can identify what specific problems exist.
“If you have, for example, technology that allows you to see when technology is not performing adequately for people or you’re able to see that every time they go and do something, they’re coming up short or you can see how long it takes to search and find information they need, it can give you clues and insight into things that you couldn’t see before, that if you take action on can make significant improvements,” he says.
“Those are the kinds of things that are never going to make it to a help desk ticket. It’s just that we’re used to accepting them as being part of the way things are but it doesn’t have to be that way. It gives you an opportunity to be proactive in making improvements and targeting them better.”
HR should not try to own the EX problem, says Johnson because “they’re going to need support and buyin from CIOs, they’re going to need to partner with other people in the organization who are leading initiatives that are parallel or attitudes such as customer experience initiatives because they always have an employee experience component to them.”
“Changing the conversation and building those relationships with those other groups and those other leaders are one of the best things that an HR leader can do is to just signal the fact and signal that, ‘Hey, we know we don’t have everything that we need to do this entirely within HR, we need your help,’” he says.