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10 ingredients in a killer employee experience strategy

Improving the employee experience is a must for modern organizations and their HR teams, but where should you start? Here are 10 essentials you'll need.

Employee experience is a ubiquitous term in HR tech circles. But what does it actually mean?

In the simplest terms, employee experience -- often referred to as EX -- is a worker's feelings, observations and insights about their employment at a particular company. Physical workspace, work-life balance and technology all play a part in whether that experience is positive or negative. Because it is complicated and nebulous, a solid employee experience strategy is critical.

Borrowing heavily from the customer experience realm, organizations and their HR teams often use tools from that arena to create an employee experience strategy, as well as more traditional HR tools. Just as marketers have worked to understand and improve the customer experience, companies are doing the same with their employees as they attempt to address their needs and pain points. It's not easy.

Before attempting to create an employee experience strategy, you should understand 10 ingredients you'll need to incorporate.  

1. Effective employee retention processes

Employee retention is the goal of keeping talented workers and decreasing turnover. To do this, employers must foster a positive work environment that promotes competitive pay, engagement and a healthy work-life balance, in part, by using HR technology.

Frequent turnover leads to loss of institutional knowledge and damages to continuity, so it is in a company's best interest to offer employees rewards, benefits and a good workplace culture. Employee retention starts as early as the hiring and onboarding process and continues throughout the employee's career with the company.

2. Comprehensive analytics

People analytics, also known as human resource analytics, is a form of big data that applies math, statistics and modeling to employee-related data to perceive and predict patterns. HR can then use that information to make informed decisions, with the goal of improving business performance.

The technology is meant to give HR insight into issues affecting employees, which can help improve hiring, company culture and retention. For example, people analytics might improve HR by revealing training issues or turnover.

photo explaining the employee experience definition

3. A modern approach to talent acquisition

Talent acquisition is the ongoing process employers use for recruiting, tracking and interviewing candidates, as well as onboarding and training new employees. HR can use job boards, recruiting software or social media to find ideal candidates, though some offer more support than others.

Websites such as Monster and CareerBuilder now use algorithms so job seekers can find work better suited to their skill sets, while social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook job-match via connections and networking, then review skills and whether the candidate is right for the job.

4. Well-understood onboarding procedures

Onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee into the company. With the cost of recruitment, hiring and training, few companies can afford to lose employees, and HR considers onboarding to be one of the most important aspects of employee experience and retention.

New automation options are meant to make onboarding easier and more manageable for employers to handle, with better results. Done correctly, a new employee begins their job with positive feelings about the company. They should get an accurate representation of what the job entails, acclimate to the company culture and become productive within an efficient timeline. A new employee may quit if the onboarding is bad.

5. Positive treatment of job seekers

Candidate experience is a job seeker's perceptions about an organization's recruiting and hiring process. In today's competitive hiring market, creating a positive candidate experience is one of the top priorities for HR and should be part of the overall employee experience strategy. This is especially true because bad experiences can have an exponential effect, thanks to Glassdoor and other social media.

Candidate experience can have a direct effect on talent pipeline and retention. A bad experience will prevent a potentially ideal candidate from reapplying, and a current employee who was once treated poorly is more likely to take another job if the opportunity arrives. Some companies install HR chatbots to establish early communication and use automated interview scheduling to help curb bad candidate experiences.

image showing how to design an employee experience strategy

6. Lightweight feedback tools

Employee pulse surveys provide feedback on employee sentiment, typically on a more frequent basis than traditional employee feedback tools. Pulse surveys can be a tool to help kick-start an employee experience strategy. TINYpulse and Subcurrent are some examples of these tools, and typically, employees can complete them in a few minutes. HR can then turn results into graphs or statistics to indicate trends weekly, as opposed to yearly.

Some benefits of pulse surveys include higher response rates, because the surveys are quick and easy to navigate, and better company values. Some sample questions include the following:

  • Do you feel a sense of purpose in your job role?
  • What are some challenges you are currently facing?

7. Understanding of eNPS

An employee net promoter score (eNPS) is a formula employers use to measure company loyalty. In the simplest terms, the tool asks employees to rate on a scale of 0 to 10 how likely they'd be to recommend their workplace to others. The eNPS is an important tool when it comes to gauging employee experience, as it is easy to use and interpret, and it can help show trends. It is also an easy question for employees to understand, which can help yield a more accurate customer loyalty metric.

8.  Affiliation groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are clubs in the workplace based around a shared interest or identity. These groups give employees a chance to connect with others in similar situations and are often the foundation of employer diversity and inclusion efforts. Employees usually start ERGs because they are looking for support and community within their workplace.

Tools such as Espresa help automate employee programs and give HR a way to track and manage the groups. Employers that encourage ERGs contribute to a positive employee experience and higher retention rates, because employees may find an easier way to form bonds and a sense of community.

9. Team bonding tools

Collaboration tools can help improve employee communication no matter what department they are in or what area of the world. Normally, workers in different locations across the globe have trouble setting up convenient times for meetings and conversations. But, with tools such as Slack and Asana, teams can collaborate in real time. Employees can connect, chat and work together. These tools can also be used to request time off, share best practices and track assignments.

10. Creative approaches

Design thinking approaches problem-solving through varied knowledge and skills. In other words, people with different experiences and perspectives get together and brainstorm new ideas for a real-world problem. Organizations and their HR teams use design thinking to help create an employee experience strategy.

Design thinking goes beyond short-term perks -- which only offer temporary fixes -- to understand systemic issues and create deeper solutions. HR teams may also wish to research journey mapping, a popular tool in the employee experience realm, which can feed into strategy.

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What other employee experience terms do you think organizations should understand to create a better strategy?