Employee experience, a quick guide to boost your people’s engagement and performance

With a resurgent drive to work from home, plethora of new tools being constantly introduced and the great resignation in full swing, employee experience (EX) is top on most if not all organisations’ agendas once more, and it will remain a priority in 2022 and likely beyond. 

Organisations face fresh challenges to hire the right talent and retain existing employees, and all that, while striving to provide great customer experience (CX) in parallel. 

During the health crisis, many were quick to engage customers through new channels – digital, remarkably; however, EX has proven to be more challenging and, by no means, a channel issue only. 

This is due to the fact that there are different drivers of what makes a great CX and an epic EX. But, ultimately, they’re closely connected. 

Think of a 4 x 100-meter relay race: if the runner in the first curve – we can call it EX – performs poorly, the sprinter in the second position – we can call it CX – will have a hard time reaching the rest. And the cause-effect chain continues until the end of the race. 

Poor, unplanned, inefficient EX affects CX and vice versa. Instead, create unique and even unusual employee experiences to create better business outcomes. 

How do employee experience and customer experience differ?

Let’s pay a visit to two concepts that are key to this article, customer experience and employee experience. 

Customer experience encompases perceiving and understanding the needs, wants, motivations and pain-points of your customers, and finding ways to fulfil them or solve them, respectively. It’s about instilling a customer-centric mindset through the whole organisation. The north star, ideally, should always be the customer. 

What employee experience does, in turn, is enable people to do their best work. It has to do with providing them with the right means and resources, the right work environment that can keep them motivated, and the autonomy to deliver great customer experiences. Notice that the north star doesn’t change, it is still the customer, but the employee’s role in achieving remarkable customer experience is acknowledged.  

Engaged employees engage customers, ultimately. 

Between employees and customers, there is a crucial difference in the intensity and duration of the experience with the brand (or the organisation). In truth, employees have a much deeper experience with the brand, whichever you want to think of. 

They usually work eight hours a day, week after week, for years on end, or even decades, until the end of their careers (the latter is becoming less and less usual, we must admit). 

On the other hand, customer interactions with a brand are usually limited to just a few minutes or hours over the whole lifespan. Employees depend on the employer for income and other benefits. Customers are free to switch to another brand at any moment. 

The key drivers of CX are:
Ease of use: how convenient is the product or service
Emotional connection: how do I feel about this brand
Desired outcome: is it worth the time and effort?

The key drivers of EX are:
Enablement: do employees have access to the right resources?
Motivation: are employees actively motivated to do their work?
Delegation: are employees trusted to make decisions on their own?

Competition for great employees is fierce

To deliver great customer experience, organisations need to keep attracting and retaining top talent. We all know that, we read it everywhere and here it is again once more! 

So what do employees want then? Increasinglyyes, you can give the COVID-19 crisis a bit of credit for this one too—they want to work for purpose-driven organisations. That is, employees want to feel that every role (job) is important and contributes to the greater good. They want the actions of their leadership team to be aligned with proclaimed values. And they want to have a say about what kind of customers an organisation works with. 

When these needs go unmet, employees are now much more likely to switch employers. And because reputation is fragile like porcelain and news spreads quickly, former employees can wound your brand, sometimes fatally. 

When employees leave,  organisations incur additional costs.  Studies estimate that “the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.” (Gallup, 2019). Then, it begs the question, why is employee experience not taken more seriously?

Challenges facing employee experience

First, let’s start with the obvious or, more precisely, the common situation. There is no clear EX leader or champion within the organisation, i.e someone who understands the transverse nature of EX, and creates strategies and creates bridges between teams so those strategies translate into tangible actions that positively impact EX. 

However, HR, IT, and Operations are departments that do try to drive EX initiatives. Unfortunately, it isn’t usually part of their duties to build an entire employee journey nor do they have the full capacity to do so. 

Often, even for those parts that they are responsible for, they struggle to have concrete data on what needs to be improved. This is usually done by means of annual employee satisfaction surveys, which tend to serve more than one purpose. Consequently, organisations end up implementing EX initiatives that don’t respond to real employee needs. 

One can say that EX as a transversal function will only exist if support functions have a clear scope of each one’s role. Otherwise, a holistic view of EX—increase employee retention, attract new talent, improve well-being, impact customer satisfaction, and build brand identityis missing. 

Consequently, there is no systematic effort to improve EX.

Quick guide: how to improve your employee experience

As with most initiatives, first identify the key business metrics that need to be improved. Then, deploy an extensive EX research that includes interviews, focus groups, persona designs, journey mapping, and a prioritised roadmap.

Step 1: Agree on the business metrics to improve

When thinking about where to start, here are our top three recommendations for EX-related metrics to monitor and improve:

  • Employee retention
  • Employee engagement
  • Employe productivity

Make sure that you have some rough idea of what kind of metrics are the most important for you before proceeding to the next step.

Step 2: Understand the current employee experience

Next, assess existing data on the state of employee experience. You can take advantage of the results of  annual satisfaction surveys and exit interviews. 

Then, establish hypotheses to test (e.g. the lack of employee empowerment leads client servicing requests being closed prematurely), and transform them into an interview protocol. For each hypothesis you want to test, make sure that you have one or more questions. 

Then, conduct primary research to understand the needs, wants, motivations and pain-points of your employees. Generate a representative sample of employees from across the organisation, and conduct interviews. Ask as many open questions as possible to allow interviewees to give you a bigger picture. 

Then, analyse the interviews to generate insights, grouping them under common topics, such as tools and resources, organisational and cultural matters, and process and operations. 

Ideally, you want to go deeper by conducting focus groups on the topic to uncover hidden needs and problems behind the problem. 

Then reframe it in a workshop, bringing diverse perspectives into play.

Step 3: Co-create the ideal employee experience

After you’ve uncovered the problem behind the problem, bring employees and leadership together for co-creation sessions to ideate on redefined problem statements. Go for a quantity of ideas before converging on a few ideas with greater quality. 

Then, take some time to together map ideal employee experience using the employee journey format. Take your best ideas and turn them into prototypes to test.

Step 4: Prototype your employee experience improvement initiative

Step back and look at all EX improvement initiatives that came out of the co-creation workshops. Keep moving forward by prioritising them. 

Then, seize the momentum to launch the ones you and your employees have prioritised by organising design sprints, aiming at producing rapid prototypes (mockups, a new process design, a new form of behaviour to exhibit).

Step 5: Deploy and scale

Test the prototype with the target audience and collect feedback. Iterate upon received feedback and improve. Deploy the prototype in BAU (business as usual) and then scale across the organisation. Be on the lookout for lessons learnt as you repeat the five step process next time.

Go beyond a single employee experience improvement initiative

While a single initiative can significantly improve your employee’s life, a broader and more sustained effort is needed to make a lasting change. We advise you to:

  • Develop a training kit and a knowledge transfer programme from CX professionals in your organization to EX professionals (or whoever is in charge of improving employee experience).
  • Appoint employee experience leaders or champions per department, in charge of maintaining employee journeys, launching and scaling improvement initiatives, data collection and reporting.
  • Create the employee experience day for colleagues to come together and share feedback on what is working well and what could be improved (in a safe environment).

We hope that this article will inspire you to start thinking about your employee experience and its importance to your success with clients.

What we think
Armin Prljaca, Strategy Design Manager at PwC Luxembourg
Armin Prljaca, Strategy Design Manager at PwC Luxembourg

While CX is expected to be a main driver of top-line growth in the 20s, EX has a potential to create productivity growth thus improving the bottom line. Organisations should realise that those two are closely interconnected as engaged employees engage customers.

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