using sticky notes for a mapping exercise
PHOTO: You X Ventures

Disengaged employees cost US organizations an estimated $450 to $550 billion a year, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Survey. Many organizations try to improve employee engagement by throwing money at the problem — offering free food, free beer and other perks to improve employee satisfaction scores.

But employee engagement is not about pool tables at the office or ice cream breaks in the afternoon — and it’s not just an HR issue.

Employee experience focuses on understanding the entirety of your employees’ daily journeys so you can improve every aspect of their job, including meeting their basic psychological needs which builds engagement. What’s hurting their productivity? Is technology helping or hindering them? 

Consider your business users who are struggling with data entry into legacy applications and systems. They can’t pull a data report and derive meaningful results without involving a data analyst or engineer, which means they can’t set goals or see how they’re progressing against those goals. Will donuts or flex time help in this situation? Probably not.

To truly improve employee experience, HR, IT, operations and customer experience must work together. Why customer experience? Because your CX team can apply their skills to help solve your EX problems. Whether it’s persona creation, journey mapping, experience design or measurement, CX professionals can fill the gaps in EX strategies.

Employee Journey Mapping: Map the Moments that Matter

When you’re embarking on a digital transformation initiative, a key audience is often left behind: your internal customers, your employees. There’s often a lack of communication or explanation of how existing employees will fit into the plan and drive change. This leaves current employees without direction and purpose, wondering where they fit, and if they matter.

Take a CX perspective to this problem and identify the personas — and experiences — that matter most. Some key experiences to consider are the ones that tend to make people annoyed, such as onboarding, internal job changes, the birth of a child (including managing benefits, navigating parental leave and returning to work), relocation, and just about anything related to payroll.

According to Gartner, 16% of HR functions are experimenting with this “moments that matter” approach and 56% of HR leaders are interested in identifying the moments that matter for their organization. But identifying the moments that matter is just the first step. The next is design thinking, or understanding the people for whom you’re designing the process. In this step, empathy is key. Talk to employees to understand what about the process bothers them and makes work difficult. You can survey them or interview them, but whatever you do, make sure they know that their input is key to change.

Once you’ve talked with employees, look across these scenarios to see if there are similarities. Is there cross-departmental coordination that’s causing processes to lag? Are employees filling out the same information in multiple systems because you have internal silos?

Work with a cross-functional team that includes groups such as finance, HR, IT and, of course, customer experience, to develop the desired experience and identify gaps. What can you automate? Where can you eliminate paper forms? How can you simplify processes and improve communication? What really needs to happen to make employee experiences personal, relevant, intuitive, and accessible on demand?

Related Article: Why You Need to Map the Employee Journey

Measure Employee Loyalty and Satisfaction

Thirty-three percent of employees surveyed by Weber Shandwick reported posting messages, pictures or videos in social media without any encouragement from their employer. Do you know which of your employees are the most engaged and most likely to recommend you as a good place to work? Which ones are likely to share praise about you on social media? Or, on the flip side, do you know how those metrics are changing over time?

CX teams live and breathe by customer engagement metrics, whether it’s net promoter scores (NPS), customer satisfaction (CSAT), customer churn or customer journey metrics. We can bring that mindset to employee experience.

You can survey NPS for employees too, asking how likely they are to recommend your company to colleagues as a good place to work. The higher your organization’s score, the happier and more committed employees are. And don’t forget employee engagement surveys, which help you pinpoint if employees feel involved and valued. To get true insight from your survey, consider asking questions about your remote work, maternity leave, flex time and other policies; the user experience of your business software; if they feel their job is important to your company’s mission and vision; and if they enjoy their day-to-day work. All of these questions provide key insight into where you are — and aren’t — succeeding, from management to communication to technology. 

Analytics are a good way to measure whether your employee experience activities are actually working. The key is listening to feedback and a willingness to show your front line that you’re changing based on the comments they’ve shared.

Related Article: Is the Employee Net Promoter Score the Best Engagement Metric? 

Where Technology Can Improve the Employee Experience

No matter our role, we’re likely investing in technology to improve the customer experience — whether it’s to make better use of marketing data, identify buying signals, or connect information across touchpoints to provide a seamless support experience, regardless of channel. We know technology is crucial to providing a quality customer experience, and we’re willing to invest in it. Why wouldn’t we do the same for employees?

A Forrester survey on 14,000 global information workers showed the significant influence tech has on EX. Six of the eight drivers in Forrester's Employee Experience Index relate to technology. Yet we rarely use technology intentionally to improve the employee experience. If you’re looking to improve employee engagement, consider:

  • Recognizing and rewarding knowledge sharing and collaboration. As most companies have moved to fully virtual or a hybrid of work from home and in-office, knowledge management has become even more important. While you can’t replace in-person conversations in the hallway, you can encourage employees to collaborate. Consider how you can use technology tools like chat groups as well as platforms like enterprise content management to make knowledge accessible to all who should have it, rather than keeping it locked up on desktops or in one-on-one conversations.
  • Improving internal communication. According to Weber Shandwick, only four in 10 employees can describe to others what their employer does (42%) or what its goals are (37%). With customers, we likely use a mix of newsletters, webinars, podcasts, surveys, video, social media and recognition and rewards in our communication strategy. Use the same thoughtfulness (and technology!) when you’re developing your employee communication plan. Don’t have an employee communication plan? Well, that’s a good place to start.
  • Ensuring that technology works for employees, not against them. When we’re choosing business applications, it’s easy to pick applications that work for the business owners, not the employees who will be using them day-to-day. For our customers, we want them to have a frictionless experience that leaves them excited to work with us again — and you can take the same approach with employees. Step back and consider the experience you want employees to have: Do you want them annoyed and frustrated, and managing multiple systems? Or do you want the experience to be intuitive? Go back to your employee personas and figure out what works best for each role, then how you can make it happen.

Your employees have the same expectations as your customers: they want their experience with your organization to be intuitive, accessible, and, most important, user-friendly. Yet your employees are perhaps your most important customers — Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Survey recognized that happy employees are key to creating happy customers. So instead of putting your employees last when it comes to their experience and the technology that enables it, try putting them first. You might be surprised what happens.