Why You Need to Prioritize Employee Experience
Because it can’t be fixed with the push of a button
Employee experience (EX) may well determine the difference between profiting from and just surviving 2022. While a recent blog post mentioned EX as it pertains to remote infrastructure and IT responsibility, the reality is that it goes far beyond technology implementation. In fact, establishing a solid EX strategy and executing it efficiently is likely (and I kid you not) more sophisticated than implementing any technology overhaul.
Understanding the Complex Reality of Employee Experience
Before we go further, we should define EX (if it sounds like a broad term, that is because it is.) According to Gartner, EX is “the way in which employees internalize and interpret the interactions they have with their organization, as well as the context that underlies those interactions.” So basically, every interaction and responsibility from interviews and onboarding to the last day of employment is included.
What complicates EX further is the subjectivity of people. It may sound simple to say but companies often forget that no two people are alike. Let’s say, for example, that a company wants to buy its employees pizza every Friday. This may be incredible for employee A (who loves pizza), but awful for Employee B (who hates pizza). Lactose-intolerant Employee C may even feel discriminated against.
There are other variables as well: Size of the company, the culture of its employees (gender, race, age, etc.), the culture of its location (rural vs. big city), as well as the industry of the organization (and its legal requirements). As a result, many experts, including those at the Harvard Business Review, have determined that a one-size-fits-all approach to EX will not benefit anyone.
Why Money May Be the Root of the Problem
To be very, completely, concretely clear right now: This section does not, in any way, say that companies should not prioritize paying their employees fairly or competitively. Paying employees fairly should always be a top priority for any organization. That said, payment is not EX and, more importantly, EX cannot be solved just by throwing money at the problem.
For starters, money is not a constant. If an organization pays to take its employees to Disney World one year because they made a lot of money and the economy was terrific and everyone worked very hard—but can only buy them cake the next year because it’s a recession and there was a cyberattack and a million other things went wrong, but everyone still worked very hard—those employees will suddenly, very likely have different things to say about their experience.
As is often said about life, it’s the little things. Most employees don’t need a diamond ring every month to believe their company values them. Financial reward is too often tied to factors beyond the employee, or even the employer’s control. As such, while it is totally fine for a company to spend on its employees, this cannot and should not be the crux of determining successful EX.
Employee Experience in a Hybrid Work Environment
To be clear, EX was already a hot-button issue before the accelerated shift toward hybrid working. This new environment has merely created new challenges. Many managers and executives fret about the loss of “company culture” in remote environments, believing that it was only the brick-and-mortar proximity that created cohesiveness in their organizations.
However, data has consistently shown otherwise. Research done by Keypoint Intelligence in its 2021 Future of Office survey showed that not only are employees happier when allowed to be hybrid, they also in general feel more productive. In simpler terms, their overall experience has improved.
That said, hybrid is a new communication landscape and that can be a challenge to navigate. It is important to give employees the right tools so that they feel connected without forcing them to return to a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy that many do not want. This can require getting creative—but a good starting point is to ask employees what they value and try to create non-logistically bound experiences that they will find engaging and beneficial.
Why 2022 Is the Year for Employee Engagement
With the pandemic potentially nearing endemic stage, one thing is clear: COVID will likely never fully disappear completely, and we who have experienced the pandemic will be living with its impact forever. At Keypoint Intelligence, we do not believe that companies should base their approach to EX by infection numbers or wave/lull status, as these factors (like available income) are too fluid and outside organizational control.
Instead, the organizations that start to pull ahead in 2022 will likely do so by adapting to the realities of their employees’ expectations and tailoring their EX accordingly. Determining the ideal EX is not easy, and there really is no uniform strategy that can be applied anywhere and still be successful. It is not enough just to ask colleagues “what do you want?” and leave it there. The process, if done correctly, will be thorough and create measurable standards for EX level and perception.
Too many companies lack this insight and it is a contributing factor to the Great Resignation. No company will ever retain all its workers indefinitely, but the successful ones (the industry leaders) will create an environment where employees feel heard, valued, and appreciated. In short: a place where people want to work.
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