Did you know that the average person will spend upward of 81,000 hours in their lifetime working? When you take this colossal number into consideration, it should be a no-brainer for leaders to foster a positive work environment for all their employees.
Extending far beyond pizza lunches and casual Fridays, the employee experience (EX) encompasses every touchpoint in the employee lifecycle, from the time a person applies for a job, to even after they part ways with an organization. Employee engagement is considered one of the top factors when assessing whether your company offers a healthy employee experience. It measures how people feel about their physical environment, co-workers, managers, and more.
Studies confirm that creating an exceptional employee experience enables exceptional employees. According to Gallup, companies that foster great employee experience and support employee engagement see 59% less employee turnover than companies with an actively disengaged workforce. Focusing on employee experience results in better work performance, higher employee retention levels, and remarkably higher levels of discretionary effort.
But the 10 million-dollar question remains: what makes a great employee experience?
14 Factors of a great employee experience
Knowing how to improve the employee experience requires understanding the key factors that affect the employee life cycle at your organization. Simply focusing on one or two of these factors isn't enough, and any employee experience strategy worth its salt will require a holistic view of how employees perceive and experience their work environment and their interactions within it.
1. Celebrating employee efforts
In a fast-paced work environment, taking the time to acknowledge your employees' work can sometimes fall by the wayside. According to Officevibe data, 72% of employees say that they receive kudos less than once a week, it may be high time to rethink your employee recognition strategies.
Recognition leads to retention
It's important to note that recognition goes beyond a pat on the back for a job well done after making a sale or nailing a big presentation. Recognition should be given regularly and should highlight strong efforts in a genuine way. Showing appreciation and gratitude can go a long way in keeping your employees engaged and adds to a more authentic employee experience.
🌟Read on for more ways to increase recognition in the workplace.
2. Fostering healthy employee-manager relationships
One of the most important bonds in the workplace is between an employee and their manager. If nurtured, employees can feel more empowered, motivated, and creative. But according to Officevibe data, 70% of employees surveyed wished they could spend more time with their managers. Make time to get to know your team members individually and discuss with them things like their preferred communication styles and check-in methods. Holding regular one-on-one meetings is a great way to connect with your people at get to the heart of what matters most to them.
💪 Start building better relationships with your employees with these four simple but effective steps.
3. Building strong relationships with peers
According to Officevibe's data report, 96% of employees believe they collaborate well with peers, but remote work has made the hiring process and developing strong workplace relationships more challenging.
Manager relationships are central to employees' experience
Since strong interpersonal relationships are the cornerstone of effective collaboration, managers should encourage more open channels of communication and make time for team building regardless of location. Some ways managers can build connections across their remote teams include:
- Scheduling time for casual conversation
- Assigning a buddy or mentor
- Set communication norms and boundaries
- Organize in-person activities (if possible)
4. Receiving meaningful feedback
According to Gallup, employees that receive frequent feedback — at least once a week — are more likely to be engaged and motivated than those that receive irregular feedback.
Employee feedback is fundamental for a number of reasons; not only does it helps identify and remove blockers to reach broader targets and objectives, but it enables ongoing development opportunities and makes employees feel supported in their roles.
Provide frequent feedback
Instead of waiting "for the right time" in a performance management meeting, managers should focus on providing meaningful and timely feedback when necessary as part of an ongoing dialogue. By offering constructive feedback in a timely manner, employees can more easily and efficiently integrate these comments into their daily tasks to boost productivity and performance.
🤝 An employee feedback system describes a setup that helps you take the pulse of employee sentiment to gauge factors such as employee engagement and job satisfaction. Read on to learn why and how you should implement an employee feedback system into your employee engagement strategies.
5. Feeling respected
Respect is the cornerstone of any relationship and those in the workplace are no different. Managers should seek to actively incorporate empathy, kindness, and compassion into their leadership styles and employee engagement strategies. One of the most important ways to show your employees you care about them is by listening to and acknowledging their thoughts, opinions, and concerns.
However, employee feedback only works if a team feels that managers respect their views. Employees will only give their genuine opinion if they see that the company puts them and their experiences first. Paying lip service and ignoring employee feedback can backfire dramatically and completely derail any employee experience strategy. If a manager has asked for employee feedback, it's paramount that they respond to these comments in a professional and respectful manner regardless of whether the feedback is negative or constructive.
Not sure where to start gathering your employees' thoughts? Try these five ways to collect honest employee feedback (and don't forget to respond!).
6. Focusing on psychological safety
Companies that encourage collaboration and honest communication between business leaders, employees, and managers must create a safe psychological space. This means creating environments where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas, owning up to mistakes, and asking for help without fear of repercussion or rejection.
Understand how and why your employees feel the way they do
Hostile work environments can increase employee stress, affect happiness, and create antagonistic relationships between teams and even between employees themselves, all of which affect productivity and performance. By creating psychologically safe spaces, an organization can make employees feel valued, respected, and comfortable enough to pursue creative ideas and learn from mistakes.
7. Improving diversity and inclusion
It's undeniable that a diverse workforce strengthens the fabric of any organization and contributes to a healthy employee experience. However, diversity and inclusion must be embodied fully by the corporate culture and company values to be truly considered inclusive.
Many organizations are actively revising their recruitment strategies to attract a more diverse workforce, but it’s the experience created for employees that will ultimately drive their success. Creating a safe space for employees of all backgrounds to share their thoughts, feelings, and creative ideas without fear will foster a better employee journey for all.
8. Offering continuous training and learning
A creatively engaged and motivated employee may begin to feel restless if they no longer feel challenged in their role. To foster employee engagement and create a more positive experience for remote workers, leaders should periodically check in with their employees to see if there are certain skills they would like to sharpen or develop. Offering workshops, language courses, and professional development classes all go a long way in keeping your employees ahead of the curve on the latest industry trends.
9. Create opportunities for career development
Employees want to have a clear idea of their professional journeys and want to know that they can grow within their organization. Managers who are in tune with their employees' aspirations and goals can help identify prospective career paths and help them develop strategic plans to achieve their long-term goals.
The career development talk may not always be the easiest to approach. Use this free template to get the discussion going on how you can help your team members grow.
10. Aligning values with organizational mission and purpose
Organizations with a clear mission and purpose are more likely to attract employees whose values align with that mission. But company and team alignment extends beyond bottom-line objectives; employees must all be on the same wavelength when it comes to achieving and building sustainable business practices.
But according to Officevibe data, only 73% of respondents feel like the leaders of their organization have communicated a vision that motivates them. Managers must ensure that their employees are kept in the loop and relay executive communications in a clear and accessible fashion. Employees that believe in what they're doing are more likely to work harder to achieve organizational goals, resulting in better business performance and outcomes across the board.
11. Promoting autonomy
Autonomy can mean different things to different employees; it can range from letting a person do their job with minimal managerial intervention to respecting an employee's creative decisions on projects.
Autonomy is important for a positive experience because it gives the employee control and decision-making over their tasks. This control is often a powerful motivator and can improve performance and engagement, as employees feel they own their decisions (and consequences).
💪 Check out these seven tips to master employee autonomy in the workplace.
12. Prioritizing work-life balance
While the employee experience focuses on what happens at work, it's important to understand how employees feel outside of the physical work environment will affect their work experience. A healthy and stable work-life balance provides opportunities for employees to address external factors, leading to a more positive employee experience in the workplace. It also gives team members time to de-stress and return to work with a renewed focus on their tasks. According to recent studies, happier employees also perform better (by 12% to be exact!)
And with only 72% of Officevibe respondents agreeing that they have a manageable workload, leaders need to invest in different wellness programs and strategies to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Show your employees that you are investing in their well-being and open the channels of communication in team meetings and one-on-ones. If you’re unsure how to start the conversation, use a wellness survey to ask the right questions to get the core of what your people need from their leaders.
13. Promoting health and wellness
According to Officevibe data, a full quarter of employees feel that their organization doesn't care about their mental health and well-being. Wellness programs and a focus on maintaining a healthy work-life balance are key to creating a positive employee experience. Initiatives like these show employees that their organization genuinely cares for their health while also helping them deal with stress and health concerns. Incorporating holistic wellness programs into company culture will do wonders in increasing employee engagement and fostering a great employee experience.
Check out these wellness programs to start promoting health and well-being on your teams.
14. Developing an employee-focused company culture
People are the beating heart of any organization. Employees that feel they are part of a community are more likely to have a positive experience and feel strongly about their work. By creating mutually beneficial communities instead of rigid hierarchies, organizations will have invested employees who will offer support and collaborate in more meaningful ways.
Fostering this type of corporate culture and employee experience takes time, but the benefits and competitive advantage are well worth the effort.
A thriving, genuine culture is not something you can create. But with the right mindset — and help from your team — you can curate it and watch it become the best version of itself. Read the first edition of VIBE: Human-generated culture to foster and create a positive workplace culture worthy of raving about.
Building a positive employee experience action plan
Creating a great employee experience can give your organization a competitive edge, but knowing how to actually improve the employee experience can be significantly harder. In some companies, it may require a complete overhaul of how executives and managers interact with employees, while in others, it may require tweaking an already positive employee experience.
The best way forward is to define an employee experience strategy involving employees, HR professionals, leaders, and managers at every stage of the process. Doing so will provide a positive impression, increase employee and manager enthusiasm and buy-in, and create a better work environment for the entire organization.
Seek feedback on employee experience
It may seem obvious, but the best way to develop an employee experience plan is to ask employees what they think. The more information you gather about every part of the employee lifecycle, the more meaningful the changes will be to everyone involved.
We recommend using a variety of methods to collect feedback. Some employees may feel uncomfortable providing honest opinions or feel unqualified to comment on a particular topic. Using several different strategies will ensure you get a holistic view across all areas of the organization. Common feedback tools include:
- Employee experience surveys: These surveys will often be your primary source of employee experience data. They tend to be comprehensive, covering all of the factors we discussed above. If your organization has trouble with low survey response rates, be sure to inform team members about the purpose of the survey to increase participation rates. Also, be sure to highlight the fact that these surveys are anonymous, as this knowledge will have a significant impact on the quality and honesty of the feedback you get.
- Pulse surveys: Not all surveys need to be extensive and exhaustive. Pulse surveys are short (five questions or fewer), frequent surveys that gauge the current workplace mood and outlook. They're also perfect for tracking trends in the employee experience, especially after implementing a new initiative.
- Onboarding surveys: New hires can provide a valuable source of information about their onboarding experience and overall impressions of the company. Many organizations conduct these surveys as part of the hiring and onboarding process. However, you can also tie these surveys to aspects around company culture, hiring managers, and previously-identified trouble spots.
- Anonymous feedback: Employee feedback is essential to the functioning of any workplace experience. Some team members may feel totally comfortable expressing themselves directly to managers, others may prefer to provide comments more anonymously. Anonymous feedback encourages employees to bring up tough topics in a safe environment, allows people to share new ideas or convey anxieties in a judgment-free zone, and builds trust between team members.
- One-on-one meetings: These meetings can be part of a broader feedback scheme, but they should incorporate feedback from employees to their managers and employers. Formal meetings offer a more structured approach, but managers should also pursue less formal feedback during their interactions with their teams.
- Team meetings: Some employees may be reluctant to speak up in a one-on-one meeting but may feel more empowered in a team setting. Team meetings are ideal spaces to identify the department or organization-wide problems that affect multiple individuals. Having several employees share the same concern lends urgency to the problem and how it affects the employee experience.
- Exit interviews: These surveys are exceptionally useful for organizations with high employee turnover. An exit interview can provide valuable information about critical aspects of the employee experience. Remember that exit interviews may be emotionally fraught, and it's vital to distinguish between genuine complaints and ruffled feathers.
Understanding the correlation between employee satisfaction and financial gain can be a game-changer for your organization. Learn about the ROI of focusing on the employee experience
Identify areas of improvement
A large part of defining an employee experience strategy is analyzing feedback and identifying the most important areas of improvement. Some key things to look out for include:
- Recurring comments in employees’ responses
- Differing concerns between demographics
- Varying responses between departments and teams
Remember that changing the employee experience is a bottom-up process, where it's vital to take employee feedback seriously, which may include asking them to rate the most important changes they'd like to see. Analyzing your survey results will give you key insights into the current state of employee engagement within your organization. But the work doesn’t stop there!
After you've analyzed employee data and feedback, it's time to start implementing changes or doubling down on what is going well. It's also good practice to inform your team members of feedback and survey results. Start creating realistic action items and strategies based on discussions and data. From your own interpretation and your discussion with your team, decide on 1 to 3 key areas or metrics to prioritize setting goals for including employee satisfaction.
Measure employee engagement
Measuring the performance of your initiatives is key to creating a sustainable employee experience. If you have already run employee surveys before or have collected feedback on a certain topic, comparing the current results with previous answers can show you changes in important metrics. If certain strategies have not yielded desired results or even ended up creating more work for your team members, there is no shame in backtracking or adapting your methods. Remember: being adaptable is a key characteristic of a strong leader. At the end of the day, the initiatives you implement must serve your team members and contribute to the larger employee experience.
Working together to create a great employee experience
Creating a strong, positive, engaged employee experience has numerous benefits, both for business productivity and your employees' well-being. Engaged employees are more productive, contribute to workplace safety more, and have higher company loyalty.
Not all the benefits of a positive employee experience are obviously tangible, but they will still have a clear impact on your company’s success. A positive workplace experience will also affect your reputation and employer branding, making you more attractive to high-quality talent. Learn more about how an employee experience platform like Officevibe can help you foster a great employee experience for your entire team.