Brad Goldoor is Chief Employee Experience Officer and Co-founder at Phenom. Views are the author's own.
Companies are still reeling from the loss of talent over the last year as people reevaluated their work and left roles amid the "Great Resignation." A record 4.5 million U.S. employees left their jobs in November, and the number of U.S. workers remains below pre-pandemic levels. As organizations vie for talent in this wildly competitive market, employee experience will be central to attracting and retaining talent.
Companies are waking up to the reality that employees are not resources or assets but human beings. Employee experience focuses on the whole employee: physical and mental health and well-being, professional growth and development. Organizations should have emphasized employee experience all along. Now, it's been brought to the forefront by a job market where candidates ask for more than a high salary — they want a career with purpose and a company culture that supports them.
With nine out of 10 employers citing employee experience as a priority over the next three years, according to a 2021 report by Willis Towers Watson, the time to improve employee experience is now. That starts with identifying areas where, despite best efforts, an organization is actually creating a bland experience.
Onboarding and turnover rate
To evaluate employee experience, start by looking at your onboarding process and turnover rate. Successful onboarding is key to retention.
A high turnover rate for employees reaching the six-month mark and even the one-year mark might indicate you need to revamp your onboarding processes. Early turnover is also costly and time-consuming, so look for trends in who's leaving, and offer an exit survey. Losing a team member at that six-month mark is a failure. At any organization, it means new hires aren't receiving the resources they need.
The nature of onboarding changed fundamentally as organizations brought on new team members remotely to mitigate the health and safety risks posed by the pandemic. For many companies that meant taking the whole process virtual. Consider ways to keep that experience personal, including an onboarding buddy system and online sessions that include icebreaker activities and opportunities for connection, like games and polls. Ensure managers have resources to help manage remote workers. Onboarding, including job-specific onboarding, should evolve to meet the needs of a hybrid workforce.
Onboarding processes should also consider what it might look like to incorporate in-person elements again. In remote and hybrid work environments, onboarding must evolve beyond employee shadowing experienced team members — a norm of the traditional office. Offer employees the best possible introduction to their new roles. On Day 1, at Phenom, new hires open their email to find a video from their families, wishing them a good first day. Years later, they've shared how meaningful that video was for them, followed by job-specific training courses and courses on company fundamentals.
Using a skills database makes it easier to uncover career-pathing options that relate to employees' existing skills and provide visibility into exactly how they can move forward in their careers, and an approach that keeps the employee in mind changes the whole environment.
Learning and Development
Career development is the new job security. According to a recent Gallup study, more than half of U.S. workers want to upgrade their skills, and nearly one in every two people say they're willing to find a new job to pursue those skills. Not offering robust learning and development opportunities sends employees the message to find a new employer
Employees who find meaningful opportunities to grow and learn are nearly three times more likely to be engaged than those who don't, according to LinkedIn's State of the Manager Report. Consider offering a different role — even a lateral move — to employees looking for new challenges and a change of pace. And support those new roles with a mature learning and development program to help employees reach their goals.
A powerful employee experience encourages people to bring their full selves to work. More than half of workers surveyed by Gartner said flexible work options were key to whether they stayed in their current employment. For me, that flexibility means understanding the needs of each employee. How are the needs of new moms different from those with aging parents? Or young, single remote workers? Offer employees tools and technology to help them do their work from wherever makes sense for their whole selves. That includes developing a budget for home office needs and recalibrating the role of our physical office.
Consider reorganizing the office to highlight collaborative spaces in addition to individual workspaces. This supports collaborative work opportunities and serendipitous conversation, using the office's physical space for what's most meaningful to accomplish there.
Employee experience as competitive advantage
The employee experience isn't a one-off task. It's an evolving relationship with employees, based on their needs as a person in and out of the workplace. It's a work experience as their whole selves, equipped with resources they need as new hires and learning opportunities to support their career goals. Employees should have flexibility to live their lives while contributing to the company.
It sounds like common sense to think of the employee experience this way, but it's a competitive advantage. Employees are still quitting in record numbers, contributing to the trend of more open jobs in the U.S. than workers to fill them, according to January numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Every leader says their people are their greatest advantage. The time has come to put money, effort and intentionality behind those words.