A brand-building case for Employee Experience as a priority in 2020.
And the role of marketing to help tell the story.
The definition of Employee Experience (EX) cited most often includes the total sum of employee interactions across physical space, technology to get work done, well-being, and culture.
A definition that gets to the heart of employee experience is found in a McKinsey & Company Leadership & Organization article titled Employee experience: essential to compete. Authors Naina Dhingra, Jonathan Emmett, and Mahin Samadani states:
We define EX as companies and their people working together to create personalized, authentic experiences that ignite passion and tap into purpose to strengthen individual, team, and company performance.
Employee experience starts with a candidate’s first impression and extends to the point where they become alumni, and hopefully an ambassador. It also requires an enterprise view and leadership support.
The case for investing in employee experience is strong. Companies who offer enriching employee experiences differentiate their employer brand, retain employees longer, and attract top talent a lot easier.
- 84% of job seekers mentioned the reputation of a company as an employer is important for when they are in the decision of applying for a job. LinkedIn (source)
- 80% of talent acquisition managers believe that employer branding has a significant impact on the ability to hire great talent. LinkedIn (source)
- Businesses that invest in employer branding could benefit from a 2.5% increase in profit margin and a 3.5% revenue growth sale. Boston Consulting Group
Makes sense that 80% of executives see employee experience as important according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends Report. However, the same study found that only 22% say they are great at building a differentiated engaging employee experience.
Employees notice. A report from US-based ServiceNow titled The Employee Experience Imperative, shows that over half (52%) of employees do not believe employers are invested in improving the employee experience.
This disconnect means big opportunity for growing companies. 2020 is a great year to focus on the employee experience in a meaningful way in order to gain a competitive advantage in the war for talent.
Three great reasons to focus on employee experience
#1 - Retain talent longer when you understand employee’s shifting expectations
We all know how it feels when expectations are surpassed - or fall short. We trust and advocate for brands who deliver on their commitments (formal and informal). And we take our business (and talents) elsewhere when they don’t.
In the Argyle Journal, a blog by Argyle, a Fortune 1000 leadership forum, Warren Tomlin, Chief Innovation Officer at IBM says “The last best experience anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.” This carries over into the workplace.
97% of companies in Aon’s 2019 Benefits and Trends survey say employee’s expectations of their experience are changing.
It's a lot easier for employees to form an opinion the "best experience." Years ago it was hard to rate and benchmark your work experience. Word of mouth was all we had. Now it takes one click to see alternatives thanks to social media, review sites, and AI-powered job recommendations. The grass looks greener.
Employees welcome change and seek new work experiences. A Mental Health America, Workplace Health Survey, found that 70 percent of employees are either "actively looking for new job opportunities." Gallup’s Workplace Report found that more than half of U.S. employees were actively searching for a new job.
And a joint study by Accounting Principals and Ajilon found that 80% of employees in management / professional occupations are actively looking, or passively open to new jobs. The implications are massive. Turnover disrupts teams, leads to lost revenue, and erodes trust that clients have in your ability to deliver.
I heard a customer the other day say that a great employee left after less than a year, for less money. They saw limited potential for internal mobility. They told the employer that working for the company was, “an amazing project experience.” They never asked what the employee valued most. They assumed assumed it was money.
Employees shifting expectations are not always clear. Providing a great employee experience starts with listening to the voice (and whispers) of employees.
Good news. Employees are happy to stay when the experience meets their expectations. A 2018 SHRM / Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey found that 53% of respondents from organizations who offer a positive employee experience were less likely to leave. And Bridge found that 86% of millennials wouldn't leave their job if their employer had more career training and development.
How can we better link employees' value expectations with our commitment to the employee experience?
The concept of an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) has been around for a long time. Digital HR Tech defines EVP as the promise you make as an employer to your employees in return for their commitment. Progressive organizations are taking it beyond commitments primarily from HR. They are embedding it into all aspects of the business, from HR to IT.
An enterprise EVP aligns leadership around employee expectations, making them less ambiguous. It's also a helpful tool to hold leaders and managers accountable when they actions and behaviors go against the grain.
2020 is a great year to develop or refresh your EVP to consider the entire employee experience and how all operational aspects of your business can align to deliver on it.
#2 - Improve performance by focusing on your company’s purpose.
Employees want to work for a company where they can apply talents and develop skills in pursuit of a purpose. Findings from Building a Thriving Workforce for the Future, a report by Mercer, the a global HR consulting firm, shows that thriving employees are 3x more likely to work for a company with a strong sense of purpose.
Purpose at work is a critical piece of the employee experience, and a catalyst for growth. Caroline Castrillon states in her article Why Purpose is the New Competitive Advantage, that “fusing purpose and profit results in a winning formula that benefits companies, customers and employees—the perfect trifecta.”
If you're thinking, "it's hard for us to have a purpose beyond serving customers and making money," I encourage you to read he April 2019 HBR Ideacast from Nicholas Pearce, clinical associate professor at Kellogg School of Management. He's also the author of The Purpose Path: A Guide to Pursuing Your Authentic Life’s Work.
Pearce says, "An organization’s purpose should distinguish it from other organizations. It’s like the thumbprint or someone’s DNA, it is what distinguishes it from someone else. The best companies are ones that not only have a purpose for themselves but also attract and hire people whose individual senses of purpose align with the company’s purpose."
Yet even though employee performance and customer satisfaction are greater at companies with a strong sense of purpose, only 13% of companies surveyed by Mercer have an employee value proposition (EVP) that is differentiated by a purpose driven mission.
Add purpose to your employee experience if you want to build and protect your reputation as a great place to work.
#3 - Attract the right talent faster with employee experience stories
In today’s review economy turnover brings an increased likelihood of employees who are motivated to share their story with peers. There is a market for their opinions. I tracked over 30 employer review sites in 2019. Career Arc’s Future of Recruiting Report found that 32% of employees are likely to leave reviews of a current or prior employer. And candidates crave them.
For candidates reviews are a valuable piece of the job search. They provide transparency and visibility into what your organization is focused on and the state of culture.
Candidates trust a company's employees 3x more than the company to provide credible information on what it's like to work there. (LinkedIn) An Indeed survey indicates that 83 percent of job seekers are likely to rely on company reviews to decide if they should apply. And Career Arc research shows that 55% percent will abandon an application after seeing a negative review.
"Job candidates and employees are now empowered to provide instant feedback on employers, at any time, and they can rate a company's culture and management just as they rate a hotel, restaurant or movie," says Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, in The Future Of Work: Companies Use Marketing Tools To Create A Compelling Employee Experience.
No company is perfect, but often what they find is not the full story. We all lean a bit negative when it comes to the instinctual desire to speak out. As a result, not enough of the good stuff bubbles up.
In 2020 get help from employee storytellers to stand out. By investing in the employee experience your employees are more likely to feel appreciated, valued, and motivated to support the company.
The employee channel is there. A growing percentage of he workforce has the capacity and means to share your employer brand story. A 2017 Marketing Advisory Network survey showed that 81% of Millennials share information about their job, compared to 72% of Generation Z and a mere 47% of Baby Boomers.
Capture more examples of the small things people do to make an impact on your culture and brand. It can authenticate your commitment to EX and yield success stories that make it easier for recruiters to attract top talent.
Marketing can help tell your employee experience story
A great relationship between HR, recruiting and marketing is critical if you want to turn your focus on the employee experience into something that accelerates growth. Here are three ideas for marketing and recruiting working together.
#1 - Collect brand intelligence from employees, recruiting and customers.
Customer-facing employees are a close proxy to the voice of your customer. They are accessible, bring diverse perspectives, and interact with most of your stakeholders. They are also quick to tell you what clients and coworkers believe and where they are skeptical. Marketers can learn a lot from talking to them about how your employer and service brands are viewed.
Advice: Get help from marketing to ask employees questions about their employee experience and the impact it has on the customer experience. They will glean intelligence that helps recruiting and marketing at the same time.
Candidates do a lot of research before agreeing to an interview. Because of this, recruiters are often the first to see signs of brand strength and weakness from candidates who decline interviews and offers. If the employee experience is impacting employer brand perception it will show up in conversations with candidates. A partnership between marketing and recruiting ensures that this feedback is leveraged.
Advice: Schedule monthly debriefs to compare notes, offer questions recruiters can ask about their perceptions of your brand.
Customers can reveal a lot about the impact of your employee experience efforts. They are the ultimate beneficiaries of engaged employees. Encourage marketing to ask customers questions to discover how the employee experience is impacting the customer experience. Marketing can also help capture and promote success stories and testimonial stories to show the brand building benefits of your employee experience.
Advice: Ask marketing to capture more success stories that highlight your service brand and employee experience.
#2 - Develop a culture content strategy
Employees need to understand how employee experience initiatives benefit them. Employee experience needs a content strategy. Building a content strategy requires detailed knowledge of employee personas and how they evolve throughout the employee lifecycle. You must consider what forms of content are most effective at educating, driving adoption, reinforcing values, and inspiring passion - for each employee segment. Marketers have a lot of experience mapping customer personas to content marketing plans. HR and recruiting should leverage these skills as much as possible.
Advice: Ask marketing to apply customer persona best practices to develop an effective content strategy that helps you achieve employee experience goals.
#3 - Build a story seeking radar
As noted by PwC in The Employee Experience, “Managing for a great employee experience is about paying attention to the moments that truly matter in an employee’s day, year and career.”
This requires a deliberate effort to look for employee stories that reinforce purpose, values, and mission. Finding and promoting them internally and externally is one of the most powerful things you can do to reinforce your commitment to a thriving employee experience.
Why are they so valuable? Employee success stories are relatable, trusted and authentic - especially if they are not over produced. Your ability to find good work stories from employees at all levels shows you care about connecting employees’ efforts to something bigger.
A good content marketer and storyteller can interview employees and uncover examples of how your employee experience efforts are making a real impact. They are in a great position to ask employees story discovery questions they don’t always hear from managers. They look for story threads in every conversation.
Advice: Ask marketing to put in place a “story radar” to collect stories that highlight the employee experience. Invaluable content for engagement, recruiting, and marketing.
Authentic content from employees that reinforces employer and service brand claims is marketing gold. They humanize your brand. 2020 is a great year to become a story-rich workplace.
Written by Erik Ayers, CEO of GoodSeeker.
Former CMO who loves exploring ways to connect employee success stories to marketing and recruiting.