Employee satisfaction, employee engagement and employee experience are all ideas that have been used for a very long time to drive and influence a positive and performance-oriented organizational culture. This progression from one idea to the other was fuelled largely by research in the field of behavioural economics and lent itself to organizations investing where it truly mattered.
The last decade or so found itself transitioning from the idea of employee satisfaction to employee engagement . What this meant was, researchers, scholar's and practitioners realised that rational elements of an employee’s journey had limited impact on their performance. Elements like pay, benefits, perquisites etc. largely considered to be hygiene factors, played a small role in determining the kind of ownership that employees had or demonstrated towards the organization that they belonged to.
Increased research on the application of the principles of behavioural economics brought forth the idea of employee engagement. Employee engagement refers to an employee’s emotional connect at work. Data from around the world suggested that emotional attachment was a lead indicator of key business metrics such as productivity, profitability, customer engagement etc to name a few. In short, engaged employees displayed “discretionary effort”, that resulted in significantly higher performance as compared to their not so engaged counterparts.
Employee engagement and employee experience are closely interconnected when it comes to an overall journey that individuals undertake in an organization. To put it simplistically, employee experience refers to all the critical touchpoints that influence an employees association with an organization. This association could well begin even before an employee joins a company, for example, by way of the perception that individuals have of a brand through social media, friends and / or acquaintances etc. The experience then transcends through critical touchpoints starting with recruitment ,on-boarding , performance, development, engagement and finally, exit. Engagement is a relationship oriented idea that plays an important role in influencing the experience of an employee. However, there is more to experience than just engagement.
As we navigate through this unchartered territory precipitated by this pandemic, where many things have changed, employee experience is no different. As a matter of fact employee experience was always a human metric and now in times of uncertainty and change, it has become even more grey. As individuals struggle with both personal and environmental challenges, organisations are faced with meeting emotional needs that may not have been the focus of their attention in the past as much as they are now.
Starting from how organisations attract/ recruit talent, the big shift now is that geographical boundaries have lost their meaning. Many jobs can now be both industry and geography agnostic giving individuals with new-age skills an option to be associated with any organization of their choice. In such a situation, the employee value proposition offered by organizations assumes a whole new meaning. Organizations are now focused on using the power of social media to create a persona that young talent can associate with and wants to be a part of.
Further, the value proposition offered by organizations goes beyond prospective employees. Different relationships including suppliers, knowledge partners, dealers, customers, stakeholders etc are more and more a part of an organization's ecosystem than ever before. Therefore the idea of inclusion and equity impacts an organization's brand in more ways than one and on more fronts than one. The bottom line probably is whether an organization is able to elicit a feeling of pride and respect in its stakeholders. It is this pride that ultimately defines the kind of talent an organization attracts and nurtures.
Engagement, performance and development are touchpoints that probably impact an employee the most in the course of their career journey. Within each of these, there had been trends even before the start of the pandemic that were redefining a good experience. The pandemic of course, has made some of those trends more pronounced and given newer dimensions to the way companies think about employee experience.
Some best practices that one has seen in these 3 areas include:
- Being able to ace the nuances of a hybrid workspace has been key in defining employee experience. Right from infrastructure, work life balance, emotional well-being, to redefining purpose and performance amidst a volatile environment have been critical factors that have influenced employee experience in these times. Organizations that display agility and nimbleness in their policies and processes are likely to create a better overall experience for their employees.
- Lines between personal and professional lives have blurred. Organizations that have realised different ways in which they can help their employees cope with grief and stress have probably impacted the experience element for a long time to come. From having a family member in a frontline position, layoffs, loss of loved ones etc - an individual’s source of stress have been many. It is in times of distress that organizations have come through as a source of support - experience is a mere by-product of what employees get when an organization stands with them in their tough times.
- Performance development too has been humanised in a manner that while business is still at the realm of things, organisations are empathetic towards giving employees space, patience, and bandwidth to be able to get to the end outcome in the best way they are able. Flexible goals, frequent feedback, forward looking conversations have all played a role in making performance development more inspirational in these times.
The thread that ties all of this together is technology. While we have learnt how to leverage technology more out of compulsion than choice, the fact is that technology will be at the centrefold of workplaces of the future. Right from recruitment to exit, organizations are increasingly talking of Zero touch / 100% digital / paperless workspaces. While all these are definitely a step in the right direction, let’s not forget that at the end of the day physical distancing should not translate into emotional distancing. Empathy, and compassion should find their way, even if it’s through a wave to that exhausted colleague on that umpteenth video call of the day!
Know more about what’s new in employee experience at the People Matters Employee Experience India Conference on 10th June, 2021. Register Now!