Are your employees “engaged” at work? Employee engagement has been a hot topic in the HR profession for the last decade, with numerous studies showing what a significant impact employee engagement has on productivity and retention. As the field has advanced, however, the focus has shifted from employee engagement to employee experience. Where employee engagement focused on specific moments and activities that could make employees feel more invested in a company, employee experience is a 360-degree view of employees’ perception of the experience of working at a company.

A focus on employee experience has several advantages over the old employee engagement model. Employee engagement tactics – company outings, contests and perks – tended to address individual points in time and may or may not have been able to reach every employee. In contrast, employee experience is the expression of the company’s core values throughout every single employee touchpoint. When done right, it’s felt at all times and reaches every employee. And when employees feel a deep understanding and alignment with a company’s core values, productivity increases.

Interested in shifting to an employee experience-focused approach? Start by re-examining these areas:

  1. Recruitment
    Even if a strong employer brand precedes you, an employee’s first true touchpoint with your company typically occurs during the recruitment process. Start by making sure that your recruitment team understands your company’s core values and is only seeking candidates who embody these values. Secondly, look at every interaction – from the initial interview to the final offer – as an opportunity to showcase these values. If high energy and dynamism are core values of yours, make sure your interviewers walk into the room with a 1000 watt smile and a spring in their step.
  2. Onboarding
    There’s nothing worse than showing up at work on the first day of a new job to find that your boss is too busy to see you and your computer hasn’t arrived yet. An employee’s impressions during the first few days at a new company set the tone for the rest of their tenure, so make sure employees feel the love as soon as they walk through the door. At Lucas Group, one of our core values is teamwork. From the moment new hires step in the door on their first day, our mission is to help them feel included and valued. New hires have meet-and-greets with everyone on their new team and personal phone calls with the CEO and the CMO. We also know the onboarding process doesn’t end on day one.
  3. Tools and processes
    Do the tools and processes your employees use or follow each day reflect your core values? This is one area where well-intentioned companies fall short. There’s the company that lists agility and innovation as core values but their employees are working on ancient computers. Then there’s the company that publically claims to value entrepreneurial self-starters but forces employees to navigate cumbersome bureaucratic procedures to get new projects approved. Getting this right can involve significant investments in hardware, software and process innovation. But in a tight labor market where competition for top talent is fierce, you want your people to feel that they have access to the tools they need to be productive and successful.
  4. Employee benefits
    To shift to an employee experience mindset, you may need to change your approach to employee benefits. This means thinking beyond diversionary amenities like a foosball table or perks like free Friday lunches. What benefits can your company offer that align with your mission? For example, Patagonia’s mission statement includes the phrase use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” As an expression of this value, Patagonia offers employees paid time off for volunteering or activism related to the environment. The alignment with Patagonia’s core values is what takes this from being a “perk” to being a part of the larger employee experience.
  5. Physical environment
    At Lucas Group, we have a number of offices in different cities around the country. From Atlanta to Chicago to San Diego, each office has the same color palette, layout, and overall look and feel. No matter where you are, when you step into a Lucas Group office it will be instantly recognizable and familiar. It’s a core tenant of marketing that a brand is the promise of a repeatable experience, and your employee-facing brand should be no exception. Your office’s physical environment should also be a reflection of your company’s core values. For example, some of our core values at Lucas Group are openness and a non-hierarchical, communicative culture. Those values are reflected in our open floor plan and the open doors of our executive’s offices.

How do you know if your employee experience is improving? The simplest approach is best: just ask. Check in frequently with employees, whether it’s through a five-minute web survey or a longer one-on-one discussion. Ask the employee what they’re loving, what their pain points are, and what they’d like to change or improve. Chances are they’ll be happy to tell you.

What have you done to improve employee experience at your company? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

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