First came UX, then CX; now EX (employee experience) is the latest concept for organisations to wrap their heads around. From the tech industry to hospitality, everyone seems to be talking about it, so much so that Forbes recently declared 2018 the ‘year of EX’. But what is it? And, more importantly, why is it so important?
What is Employee Experience?
Ask 10 people what EX means to them and, chances are, you’ll receive 10 wildly contrasting or even contradictory answers. This isn’t unusual with new concepts in business—just look at how long its taken us to settle on what terms like digital transformation and DevOps actually encompass. Nonetheless, in the interests of avoiding confusion, let’s begin with what EX isn’t:
- Perks: We all love those little things that are aimed at generating a ‘feelgood factor’, such as free gym membership, fast food Fridays and social clubs, but they are just that—measures aimed at fun and enjoyment. Employee enjoyment can be a facet of EX, but its goal is far broader.
- HR initiatives: While HR shapes some of the most important aspects of EX (recruitment, planning, and onboarding), it goes much further than HR, incorporating aspects of IT, comms, and procurement.
- Employee engagement: This is the end rather than the means; EX aims to improve employee engagement but the two are not the same thing.
Now we’ve established what EX isn’t, how do we define it correctly? Well, a 2016 study by IBM and Globoforce defines EX thus:
“A set of perceptions that employees have about their experiences at work in response to their interactions with the organization.”
To take that a step further, EX is everything an employee experiences throughout his or her connection to an organisation—from
Why Is It So Important?
A number of key factors have elevated EX to its current importance, most notably the shift in the balance of power between employees and employers.
In the past two decades, the employee-employer social contract has pivoted towards empowering the employee. No longer can employers rely upon the old model of paying their staff a good wage and providing 4 weeks paid holiday. Employees expect more and tend to vote with their feet if they don’t get it.
This means that employers are under more pressure than ever before to provide staff with the very best tools to do their jobs, opportunities for continuous development, and an employee-centric environment. Those that don’t, risk high personnel churn and being left behind by more accommodating competitors.
The same logic applies to attracting talent. Securing the brightest and best is the most competitive it’s ever been. Sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn make it easy for prospective employees to gauge the EX at a company they’re interested in joining. Add in the fact that many OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) members, including the UK, are experiencing a skills shortage, and the ball is well and truly in the job seeker’s court.
Finally, part of the reason EX has climbed the agendas of business leaders in recent years is
- Were included 11.5 times as often in Glassdoor’s ‘Best Places to Work’
- Were listed 2.1 times as often on the Forbes list of the ‘World’s Most Innovative Companies’
- Twice as often found in the American Customer Satisfaction Index
Most interestingly of all, the research also finds organisations that invest in EX generate 4 times the average profit and more than double the average revenue. They were also 25% smaller than the average, suggesting these companies actually punch above their weight through higher levels of productivity and innovation.
The Role of Technology in EX
In today’s workplace, powerful, user-friendly technology is the cornerstone of EX. Your employees are also consumers, which means they’re accustomed to user-friendly technology in almost every other aspect of their lives, whether that’s connecting with friends on the other side of the world, sharing information, or buying groceries.
Consumer technology is designed to be customer-centric, and, in the same way, the technology your organisation uses should be equally employee-centric. It should materially improve the ability of your employees to do their jobs to the best of their capacity and be something they struggle to work without.
To identify what needs to change within your organisation, it’s worth asking some of the questions you’d ordinarily apply to CX. For example, what are the major pain points for your employees as they go about their daily tasks? Could your employees be better connected? Is it easy for employees to find all the information they need?
Like CX, this can be achieved by using customer journey mapping techniques, but just as important is that you simply listen to your staff. If your employees consistently complain about a clunky interchange between internal platforms, fix it. If they consistently report issues with knowledge management, consider an enterprise content management system to alleviate the issue. And, if employees feel the technology you provide them isn’t conducive to collaboration, upgrade.
These are just examples, and how to go about improving EX will differ from organisation to organisation. However, the basic theme is the same in all of them: it’s often the seemingly innocuous things that can make a huge difference to EX.
By providing your employees with technology that focuses on the employee first and on not just meeting, but exceeding, their needs, you’ll become recognised as an employer that invests in improving the working lives of its staff. As a result, existing employees will invest in you, new talent will be all the more likely to consider your organisation, and productivity is likely to increase.
Can you really afford not to?
Determining where your organisation can improve EX demands many of the same techniques as improving CX. Chief among these is customer journey mapping, so a great way to start is by downloading our introduction to the subject.