Jon Ayres, head of workforce experience in the UK for Accenture’s Talent & Organization group, examines the business benefits of providing the workforce with an outstanding employee experience – and describes how tech startups and scaleups can emulate this.
We often hear people talk about the importance of a great employee experience, but what exactly is employee experience? Why does it matter? And how can your organisation use it to drive real benefits for your people and business?
Employee experience is about a fundamental shift towards putting the employee at the heart of everything an organisation does. In recent years, the mantra of ‘delighting our customers’ has been everywhere, as companies have transformed their customer experience to generate loyalty – which in turn boosts revenue.
Transforming the employee experience means taking the same approach for people working inside the business. After all, they’re consumers too, accustomed to amazing and convenient experiences as customers in their lives outside work and they expect the same quality of experience in the workplace.
The prize on offer
But, why should you invest in providing such an experience? Well, because improving employees’ wellbeing also boosts productivity. A 2015 study by Glassdoor found companies that focus on employee experience beat the return on the S&P 500 by as much as 122% between 2009 and 2014.
This enhanced performance reflects several benefits springing directly from the right employee experience, making it easier to attract and retain talent and reducing hiring costs while also widening the talent pool to include the best in the market.
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Making it happen
So, the benefits of the ideal employee experience are clear, but how do you go about designing and delivering it? The first step is to understand the ‘moments that matter’ – ranging from everyday experiences to the critical junctures in your employees’ lives that are important to them both personally and professionally.
At the day to day level this might include being able to undertake tasks quickly and easily in a digital workspace offering a consumer-type experience. Access to mobile-friendly workplace tools, and internal processes that don’t take two weeks to filter through multiple approval processes can have a significant impact on employees’ satisfaction with their work environment.
Further vital elements include having meaningful work that’s valued and has purpose, in a culture that empowers individuals to succeed. And being rewarded in ways that suit individual aspirations and values – like having time off for volunteering.
Other, less frequent ‘moments that matter’ are every bit as important. Such as how you respond to employees’ most meaningful life events like marriage, parenthood or the death of a loved one. Or how your business treats people whom you turn down for a job: provide quick, clear and open feedback, and they’ll speak well of your business and might well reapply one day as your future leadership.
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Together, all these elements help you build your brand both internally and externally. And the key to achieving this is ‘hyper-personalisation’, which involves segmenting the workforce into ‘employee personas’ sharing similar traits. These personas help build empathy and understanding of different needs and interests, in turn enabling the creation of experiences that suit different types of employee.
Getting this right often requires a fine balancing act. For example, how do you attract enough millennial talent to support your future data analytics needs, while also ensuring you don’t lose the organisational knowledge embedded in your more experienced workforce?
The answer lies in creating an experience that engages and inspires both groups of talent. Doing this will enable you to attract, retain and get the most from each, while fostering collaboration between them to support rising productivity.
Investment in all layers
So, how can organisations achieve all this? Harnessing the full power of employee experience is about taking the personas and moments that matter, and using these to analyse and enhance all layers of the organisation, across technology, process, culture and policy.
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Using HR transformation to guide these investments enables HR to have a hand in all the required changes, acting as the “gate-keepers” for setting the tone and getting the employee experience right.
Companies that get this right can turn their workforce experience into a powerful and sustainable source of competitive advantage.
The first thing you need to do is find out what experiences your people want from you.