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By understanding the employee experience, business leaders can gain actionable insights into what it takes to make the employee journey a positive, fulfilling experience, and ensure that their business will be successful in attracting and retaining top talent.

Greater Employee Retention

Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1996) now make up 50% of the workforce, and Generation Z is not far behind them. According to a Gallup report entitled How Millennials Want to Work and Live, 21% of millennials report switching jobs in the last year, and only 29% feel engaged in their workplace. Employee experience has become a critical competitive advantage for businesses, so being better equipped to retain the talent they have worked so hard to employ is more important than ever.

Josh Bersin is an author and Global Industry Analyst for the Josh Bersin Academy, a development academy for HR, Learning and Leadership. We asked him about millennials and Gen Z employees and their concerns. “Gen Z and millennials are particularly stressed by the workplace today. These are people early in their career with tremendous desire for growth, earnings improvements, and keeping up with the standard of living. They want jobs and managers that help them succeed — so creating a great experience at work is particularly important to them.”

Employee Experience Studies Can Help

Conducting an employee experience study can provide leaders with the actionable insights they need to provide the personal fulfillment that drives millennials. These studies help leaders gain a greater understanding of what their employees go through in their daily work vs. what they need to feel fulfilled. It may be that they want to see a continued learning path in the workplace, or that they feel their bosses are coaches who will guide them up the ladder within the company and value their contributions. Lora Zotter, VP of employee experience at MentorcliQ, stated that, “It's a mistake to think that craft beer and ping pong is enough to keep millennials happy (or Gen Z, for that matter). What millennials want is thoughtful onboarding, mentorship, and opportunities for growth and advancement.”

By studying the employee journey, and learning the daily experiences of employees, leaders are better equipped to provide the necessities that create loyalty for the millennials, Gen Zs and everyone else.

Increased Job Satisfaction

Two of the most important aspects of the workplace that lead to job satisfaction for employees are communication between themselves and senior management, and the relationships they have with their immediate supervisors. Employee experience studies allow business leaders to better understand the connection and level of communications between employees and their immediate supervisors — or the lack thereof, and provides actionable insights.

Leaders who are immersed in employee experience are more apt to care about and empathize with their employees, and realize that they are people, not numbers. This allows for a greater connection with those who work for them, more effective communications and stronger relationships.

Employees want to be recognized as individuals, and they want to feel a sense of trust and connection with those they work for. Being able to better understand one’s employees and the employee journey is vital to building the sense of trust and connection that breeds job satisfaction. According to Zotter, it’s even more important for Gen Z and millennial employees, as they are looking for “a company culture that allows them to participate in strategic conversations, informed decision-making, and understand the link between their work and the overall mission and impact of the company.”

More Effective Communication Between Leadership and Employees

Do the employees in your business routinely check their emails? Are they communicating primarily via text messages? Do they check the company intranet for new notices? How do they primarily communicate with each other? Are they using the company-provided communication mechanisms available to them? By understanding the employees that work for them and learning how they communicate, executives, team leaders and managers are better equipped to more effectively communicate with them.

Leadership needs to implement a transparent, open communication policy, and they need to encourage team leaders and managers to make connections with their employees. The typical bureaucratic walls that stop progress within the organization need to come down. As Bersin put it, “The biggest issue most employees tell me is bureaucracy. Bigger companies often have too many approvals and processes, they send out too many emails, and there are too many meetings. People want clear goals, they want to know what they’re responsible for, and they want managers to support them and help them succeed. If these elements are in place, employees can find jobs they love and the experience can be meaningful.”

Greater Connection and Empathy for Employees

By understanding the employee journey, knowing what they go through on a daily basis, leadership is better able to empathize with employees and be more compassionate. Empathy has a direct impact on the productivity, loyalty and engagement of the employees in your organization.

According to a 2019 report by BusinessSolver, State of Workplace Empathy, “82% of employees would consider leaving their job for a more empathetic organization.” Additionally, “78% of employees would work longer hours for a more empathetic employer.” Clearly, gaining a greater connection to the employees in your business by being able to empathize with them not only makes you a better leader, it affects your bottom line.

So how does a business leader demonstrate empathy to employees? Empathy is a characteristic that is generally difficult to display without a specific situation presenting itself, but specific behaviors, benefits and programs tend to be the best ways to show empathy, and employees will recognize them for what they are — compassionate empathy towards the well-being of the employees that work in an organization.

Additionally, diversity in leadership creates the feeling of empathy by the employees that work for them. The BusinessSolver report stressed that “85% of employees said that empathy results from leadership implementing strategies to increase diversity and inclusion.” Zotter said diversity in the workplace is one of the keys to running a successful company. “Every person brings a different lens, background and set of experiences, and having a diverse team makes the employee experience and the team culture stronger, more effective and more engaging.”

Empathy and Relationships Are Fine, But What About ROI?

It’s understood that businesses are developed with a stated purpose of making money — they are not generally created with the intention of building better relationships or a greater sense of empathy. But those goals are not mutually exclusive, in fact, as employee experience studies have shown, they are inextricably tied together.

As we’ve previously discussed, greater employee retention is one of the benefits of an employee experience program. The cost of replacing an employee can be extraordinarily high for an entry-level salary, and even higher for an executive level position.

By avoiding one of the biggest mistakes of employee experience studies — failing to actually listen to what employees say and thus taking no action to remedy problems — businesses are able to ensure that the employee experience is more positive, and that they retain the employees they have worked so hard to employ.

By actively listening to the needs and desires expressed by employees, and intimately knowing what their daily journey entails, you are able to employ a strategy that will keep them moving up the ladder within your organization.

In this context, being able to keep your employees more engaged at work, which has been a real problem not just when it comes to millennials and Gen Zs, but for the entire intergenerational workforce, also means an increase in productivity.

According to the latest Gallup reports, employee engagement, which they define as “employees who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace” is up 6% over the last decade, with over 34% reportedly feeling engaged at work. That’s a great statistic, but it also means conversely that there are 64% who are not feeling quite so engaged at work.

It’s easy to see why providing employees with ongoing literacy programs, encouraging a digital culture within your organization, and fostering a transparent and open communication policy is vital to the success (and ROI) of your organization. “Both [job] candidates and employees have more choices than ever before, so companies must differentiate themselves through quick communication, thoughtful onboarding and training, and meaningful benefits/perks,” said Zotter.

Along with the other benefits that have been mentioned, the personal satisfaction of employees goes up when an employee experience study has delivered actionable insights and leadership has taken advantage of those insights, which then translates to greater customer satisfaction levels. When employees are content, they pass it on to their customers, and those customers leave feeling comfortable about supporting such a business, which increases their loyalty towards that company.

Conclusion

The bottom line is to actively listen to what your employees tell you about their expectations, needs and desires. Any business that fails to do so can expect their ROI to decrease, and their employees to vacate to other jobs. Bersin stated it well, reminding us that the “No. 1 goal is to make employees more productive and happier at work, which in turn improves retention, performance and overall company financial returns.” It’s clear that organizations with an active employee experience program are in a better position for growth and evolution in an industry that continues to blossom.