Workers on a factory line in 1939 at Bristol Corporation.
What will your organization do in 2018 to improve the employee experience? PHOTO: Paul Townsend

Business leaders at the highest levels are starting to recognize the importance of offering superior employee experiences. In 2017, Deloitte reported nearly 80 percent of executives rated employee experience as very important (42 percent) or important (38 percent). The report also noted only 22 percent of those same executives said their organizations were “excellent at building a differentiated employee experience.”

The onus to give employees good experiences falls in many cases on the emerging role of the employee experience officer. As we begin 2018, we spoke with two employee experience officers to get their tips on employee experience:

Measure Success With Data

Data is not only a marketer’s friend. It’s also a big help in the employee experience arena, according to Kim Dawson, director of employee experience at Austin, Texas-based HR tech company YouEarnedIt. This year, she said her priorities will be in the areas of onboarding, performance enablement, management growth and training, change management and diversity. 

Headshot of Kim Dawson, an employee experience officer who offered tips to make workplaces better through experience officer roles.
Kim Dawson

To measure success of her team’s employee experience efforts, she deploys surveys, retention rates, employee satisfaction scores, employee productivity, time to hire (recruiting), onboarding process, eNPS and Glassdoor scores.

“Employee experience encompasses all that employees experience at work,” she told CMSWire. “It has a great deal to do with performance management as well as everything from hiring to onboarding to retention.” 

Be Business-Minded, Empathetic

What kind of energy should employee experience officers bring? For someone in an employee experience role, it's best to be both “business-minded and empathetic,” Dawson said. “As the director of employee experience at YouEarnedIt, my role has to look at the business and the employees and think of the best outcome for both sides."

Don’t run a business "down and across." “It can't be an us-and-them mentality with someone in an employee experience role,” Dawson added. “You have to be focused on the big picture while trying to do the right thing for employees.”

Know When to Step Back

Sam Crumley, vice president of employee experience at Seattle-based video platform provider Panopto, told CMSWire the constant struggle in an employee experience role is how much to provide as a service and how much people managers must take on for themselves. Ideally, he said, experience officers “should provide the structure, tools and training for managers to be comfortable taking on their responsibilities managing their employees and then only step in when situations require stronger support.”  

Reward Employees for Strong Recommendations

Headshot of Sam Crumley, an employee experience officer who offered tips to make workplaces better through experience officer roles.
Sam Crumley

In terms of recruiting, Crumley said this year his teams plan to operate a “very lean approach and leverage third parties to supplement our sourcing and screening capacity.” They will focus on an employee referral program for sourcing. “We'd much rather give a reward to an employee who spreads the word about our great place to work and connects with qualified candidates that may be a great fit for us,” Crumley said.

Be ‘Willing to Change’ 

Employee experience officers must be willing to change, listen effectively and be open to new technologies. “In employee experience, you have to understand the changes that occur within workforces over time,” Dawson said. “You need to be diplomatic and honest simultaneously. And, mostly, you have to care. There is no way to be successful in employee experience unless you are invested in the success of both the people and the business.”

Keep Focus on Experience

Where should employee experience officers place focus in order to keep retention rates strong? “When you focus on the overarching employee experience rather than administrative and data-driven tasks the effects on retention are measurably positive,” Dawson said. “We have a robust interviewing process so we can hire people that will be a good fit for our needs, their needs and their team’s needs."

Deploy a continuous feedback culture to give both positive and constructive feedback early and often, Dawson said, to let employees know where they stand. She also recommends asking a lot of questions to understand how employees are feeling about the company. 

Be Realistic with Goals

Crumley said that career development, particularly for a small company, is always a struggle. Since it lacks the scale to build a comprehensive framework with career lattices or pathing, his team will focus this year on capability areas that “span the most roles and have a proven impact on performance to make investments there.” This includes, he added, project management, sales effectiveness and emerging leaders programs that his teams build internally and rely on third-party content providers where needed.

Fight for Executive Seat

Dawson has seen human resources departments report into the CFO because it’s viewed as a cost center. She believes all HR functions should report directly to the CEO. 

“The HR paradigm has shifted in that more HR leaders do have a seat at the table,” Dawson said. “We are now better able to measure success, have quantifiable KPIs and show good ROI for the business." HR having a voice means the overall employee experience improves, she said, adding, "Companies that realize the employee experience should be elevated have more engaged, more productive, more successful employees." 

Implement Collaborative Tool Selection Effort

Tool selection should be a collaborative effort between the employee experience function, IT and people managers, according to Crumley, who reports to the COO. “Any investment in the business must be supported with a compelling use case and return on investment,” Crumley said. “For employee experience, that ROI includes measures that don't show up clearly in the financial statements and take a bit more effort and assumptions to stack against other investments in infrastructure, marketing, etc.” 

Ensure investments’ impact to productivity, manager lift, engagement and retention. Currently Panopto uses two main tools internally in addition to its underlying productivity systems. These, Crumley said, are continually reevaluated for adoption, fit for use and usability across teams.