In a nutshell, employee experience refers to the totality of interactions employees have with their organization. It starts the moment a potential hire spots a company’s listing for an open position and ends with an employee’s retirement or departure. It includes every aspect of an employee’s professional life—from workplace culture, company mission, title, daily responsibilities and co-workers to workspaces, systems, company policies and interactions with human resources. Significant and consistent employee experiences—the good and the bad—shape the overall culture of an organization.

Customer experience, on the other hand, includes every interaction and touchpoint between a customer and a company. This experience includes everything from in-store and online interactions to seeking assistance from employees throughout the buying or customer-service journey. And like workplace culture, the customer experience is made better or worse by a positive or negative employee experience.

Glassdoor conducted a 10-year study on the correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. The study found that every 1-star increase in a company’s Glassdoor rating was linked to 2.05 points of higher customer satisfaction on a scale of 0 to 100, demonstrating that a happier, more engaged workforce translates into improved customer satisfaction.

A positive employee experience can provide plenty of other benefits too. When it comes to an organization attracting and retaining top talent, 77% of potential hires say that culture and company mission are major deciding factors. A fulfilling and positive employee experience also means workers are likely to feel more appreciated and have an overall healthier well-being. This sense of fulfillment and appreciation can reduce employee churn, boost morale in the work environment and increase productivity.

A recent Gallup meta-analysis of more than 450 research studies compared the business performance of companies with positive employee experiences to those with negative ones. The analysis observed that companies with positive employee experiences saw the following:

  • 81% less absenteeism
  • 66% greater employee well-being
  • 23% higher profit
  • 18% higher productivity
  • 10% greater customer loyalty and engagement

Strategies for improving the employee experience

Companies that foster a positive employee experience can obtain a clear competitive advantage over those that don’t. To improve the employee experience in your own company, you must first frame it across seven stages of the employee journey, also known as the employee lifecycle:

Stage 1: Recruitment

Recruitment is how a potential hire discovers your company’s open positions—be it a job posting on LinkedIn or through a recruiter. It’s how prospects can learn about job responsibilities, perks and culture.

Stage 2: Hiring process

This is the moment you and a potential hire have agreed to employment terms. At this point, the candidate has transitioned into a new hire.

Stage 3: Onboarding process

A new employee’s onboarding experience occurs during their training, which includes teaching them how to use all necessary processes and tools. The employee is also introduced to your company’s culture during this stage.

Stage 4: Employee engagement/talent management

Your employee has finished onboarding and is now contributing to the company’s efforts. This stage requires ongoing effort to make sure the employee feels valued and supported as they carry on in their daily tasks. As mentioned earlier, engaged employees are more productive and less likely to leave.

Stage 5: Performance management

To help the employee improve on weaknesses and build on their strengths, periodic performance reviews offer a chance to communicate what’s working, what needs improvement and how the company can help the employee succeed.

Stage 6: Development

This stage involves helping the employee explore other interests and opportunities for growth within the company.

Stage 7: Departure

This stage completes the employee experience lifecycle, and it occurs when the employee either retires or exits the company.

Each stage of the employee experience lifecycle offers opportunities to either reinforce a positive experience or learn about ways to improve. Once you understand how your current experience is performing across these seven stages, you can then develop an employee experience strategy. This is a method your company can use to assess and improve its employee experience at every stage of the lifecycle.

How to develop an employee experience plan and strategy

The first step in developing an employee experience strategy is to assess your current employee experience. The goal of this initial assessment is to identify points of friction as well as any positive elements. One way to assess the employee lifecycle is to ask employees to complete employee experience surveys. Encourage your workers to give open and honest employee feedback regarding culture, accommodations, benefits, growth opportunities, work-life balance and every other element of the employee experience. 

When your assessment is complete, HR team members, business leaders and other stakeholders can work together to draft a plan for improving any areas that are negatively impacting productivity, employee retention, engagement and overall job satisfaction.

These are some steps to include when drafting this plan (the employee experience strategy):

  • Defining strategy goals, top priorities and objectives for achieving desired business outcomes, such as reduced churn, improved morale or increased productivity.
  • Assessing each of the seven stages in the employee experience lifecycle to pinpoint which elements prevent you from reaching your goals.
  • Creating initiatives to take corrective action on the elements that need improvement.
  • Implementing these initiatives in milestones with clear key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure success.
  • Continuously monitoring the employee experience lifecycle to adjust tactics when necessary. Exit interviews are a useful method for HR leaders to continuously monitor the overall experience for potential issues.

There are several strategies you can use to create a great employee experience, such as the following:

  • Personalization: This means creating a fit between your employees’ needs and the needs of the organization. When you create personalized experiences for your employees, you provide them with tools and resources that improve their individual wellness and show that you support their growth and success. Offering remote work or hybrid work is one form of personalization.
  • Transparency: This improves visibility and accountability across the entire company, from employee to employer. One way to achieve transparency is to hold routine Q&A sessions.
  • Simplicity: This removes any redundant and unnecessary steps and information that can confuse employees or create needless friction.
  • Authenticity: This makes sure that the employee work experience reflects your company’s purported values and mission statement. When employees believe that the company they work for is authentic, they are more likely to feel that the company has integrity.
  • Responsiveness: Timely communication helps employees feel heard, and it offers an opportunity for you and them to share information and change course on behaviors. One such form of communication is a pulse survey, which is a method used to identify issues that can be addressed in real-time.

Employee experience and IBM

As emphasized earlier in this post, companies that foster a positive employee experience—start to finish—can achieve a clear competitive advantage over those who don’t.

The blog post “Rethinking Recruitment“ paraphrases advice from Angela Hood, founder and CEO of ThisWay Global, that provides good direction for any company looking to provide a better employee experience that goes beyond recruitment. When attempting to attract (and keep) top talent, Hood urges companies to be in a position to say two things to job candidates:

  • We use the best technology to identify you because you and your skills are unique, and we want you to come work for us.
  • When you get here, we’re going help you automate the parts of your job that you’ve never really enjoyed before, because we want you to dig into the areas you’re passionate about.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are two of the best technology solution types to help create employee experiences that boost satisfaction and productivity, especially as it relates to two of the seven strategies mentioned above:

  • Personalization: Provide tools that show you support your employees’ individual success. For example, enable them to hand off time-consuming tasks, such as pulling reports, to personalized digital workers.
  • Simplicity: Use intelligent automation to remove the friction and bottlenecks from business processes, reduce the number of tools employees have to manage to do their jobs and decrease the amount of time they spend searching for information.

IBM watsonx solutions can help improve employee experience by providing easy, conversational access to the information and task automations your employees need to better serve customers and get stuff done.

Unlock new levels of productivity with AI and automation
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