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Employee experience is essentially the concept of creating an environment for employees that mirrors that of a company’s customer experience.  The term has been thrown around a great deal over the past few years, but what exactly does it mean? According to Jason Carney, HR director of indianapolis, Ind.-based 
WorkSmart Systems
it has many meanings and implications for enterprises. It starts, however, with recruitment and retaining top talent by facilitating a holistic working experience for employees that caters to their personal, professional and social values. 

To create a successful employee experience, Carney said, enterprises need to focus on three main areas.

Putting your people first - The first and probably most important step to facilitating an employee experience that will increase your team’s loyalty to your company is creating a human-centered workplace. This is something that obviously won’t happen overnight —  instead, it develops over time as the mentality of upper management shifts. Invest more in continuing education options for your employees. Create more opportunities to hand out rewards and look for advancement opportunities. Make it a priority to earn your employees’ trust in company leadership through transparency, honesty and inspiration.

Providing digital technologies - Another important component of creating an employee experience that will help your team feel more connected to your company is incorporating the right digital technology tools into their workflow. The key to remember here is that the tools should focus more heavily on catering to employee needs as opposed to purely fulfilling business requirements. That said, there are apps and platforms that are mutually beneficial to employees and their employer alike. Productivity and organizational tools like Basecamp, Slack and Trello work well for this.

Building meaningful workspaces - It’s not just digital workspaces that need to be built, the physical workplace needs to be built as well. Creating a meaningful work experience for employees goes a long way in terms of how they perceive their relationship to your company. Be mindful about providing employees with opportunities to work autonomously so they can learn by doing, to take on responsibilities that will push them to grow, and to work on teams that will give them mentorship and empowerment to contribute. These options show you value a working experience for your employees that goes beyond a heads-down mentality of churning out results.

Creating a physical workspace that caters to employee needs goes together with providing them with meaningful work assignments. Make your office environment inviting with art on the walls, access to multiple workspaces and amenities like complimentary snacks and beverages, according to Carney.

While it may seem like a simple concept, the employee experience trend is about more than whether an employee is happy at work. Applying a “customer experience” mentality to employees shows you care about your employees’ overall well-being and their relationship to your company, Carney added. “While it may take some time and effort to make this shift, being mindful and taking steps toward a more positive employee experience pays off big time for everyone involved,” he said.

Related Article: 9 Employee Engagement Survey Questions to Ask

Strong Employee Vision

Marco Castelán is managing partner and co-founder of The Navio Group, a HR and business consulting firm in Minneapolis. He said that the most important and overlooked engagement strategy that strong internal communicators employ is setting a clear vision for employees which provides an understanding of why a team’s work is valuable. Furthermore, they set clear goals to help individuals focus on work — and have autonomy — in pursuit of the company’s vision.

Reinforcing the vision and goals through regular communication, both as a team and one-to-one, helps employees remember how their work furthers the organizations mission and increases engagement by making the work feel meaningful. Communicating a clear vision and goals to employees allows them to understand how their work fits into a bigger picture and that they’re making tangible progress along the way.

Communicate Effectively

Poor communications impact employee engagement by making team members feel removed from decisions and devoid of any sense of ownership. In many ways’ poor communication — or a lack of communication — is worse than conflict itself because it signals to someone that they’re not valued enough to be included. Poor communication can lead to role ambiguity as well as heightened stress or anxiety because of a lack of feedback which ultimately leads to talent drain or other symptoms of low employee engagement.

“With an extremely competitive job market, employees, more than ever, have options if they are not engaged at work and seeking new opportunities,” Castelán said.

Related Article: Tips for Improving Employee Engagement

Get Hiring and Onboarding Right

For an organization to provide a positive employee experience, they must get the hiring process right, according to Nick Glassett of the UK-based Origin Leadership Group.  It’s impossible to have an engaged workforce if you’re not recruiting people that have natural ambitions and motivations that fit the role and/or company well. “There's all sorts of tactics for improving the employee experience, but if the values of the employees don’t match that of the organization, all the work-perks in the world would be wasted on a group that’s simply not motivated,” he said.

So, to ensure that an organization provides that “positive employee experience”, they need to have an interview process that focuses more on attitude vs aptitude. Find people that are self-motivated to do the work that you need them to do, and then you can focus resources on creating a culture and career for them to thrive in.

Emotional Engagement

To keep workers engaged they need to be emotionally engaged with the company. First, employees must feel emotionally safe and secure to contribute their best self to work. This is why companies are including things like autonomy and small, empowered teams in their experience plans, Matt Dunne, hiring manager at UK-based Africa Travel said.

The second factor comes down to company macro and micro economics. At a macro level, leaders need to meet business objectives and growth targets to avoid layoffs. At a micro level, high-performing employees can command 10-20% increases in salaries as they gain experience, a number that can be difficult for HR and Finance teams to swallow. "Faltering in either of these financial areas or creating an environment that doesn't inspire people to produce their best work are the two main things for companies to focus on,” he said.

Enabling Work

Creating a positive and fluid employee experience goes so above and beyond purchasing a coffee machine and a pool table for your employees. The most important aspect of a positive employee experience is ensuring each member of staff can do their best work. This involves investing in the best technology, the easiest and most up-to-date programs and applications for your team to use.

Providing your employees with the tools to do the highest standard of work is highly beneficial for many reasons. When staff can produce their best work their mood and motivation levels are high because they are proud of what they are accomplishing. This spurs them on to do even more and even better, next time. “Giving your team the best tools to do their best work means that they can complete it much quicker. Buying an Xbox or ping pong table for your employees to enjoy is a waste of money if they are too stressed and overworked to be able to actually use them,” Dunne said. “If you streamline their work by providing them with the means to do the best job possible, it means they will have more free time to unwind at work and talk to their colleagues. This will work to boost their morale and encourage a harmonious workforce.”

Own the Whole Employee Journey

The employee experience begins with the experience had by a candidate all the way through post-employment, Lisa Barrington, a coach, workplace and employee engagement strategist based in Phoenix, Ariz. The way the hiring manager treats the candidate and stays connected through day 1, the onboarding experience, the employment experience, the departure experience, and the post-employment experience all make up the total employee experience for an individual.