The pandemic has elevated the importance of having engaged and loyal employees. In fact, employee experience (EX) is touted as a top priority by most CX leaders and their organisations in 2022. But like CX, doing EX well and successfully can face a series of significant challenges. Even if organisations are placing EX on the top of their list of priorities, the question remains – how well are they doing it?
Across the globe for 2020, during the height of the pandemic, employee engagement at most major organisations averaged 20%, according to Gallup Research. Research from Qualtrics highlighted how organisations in New Zealand and Australia experience the highest level of employee attrition globally. The 2020 employee experience trends study revealed 23% of workers in NZ and Australia intend to stay with their current employer for less than a year. 40% expect to change jobs within 2 years
Clearly, there is plenty of room for improvement. Ryan McGrory, founder of EX consultancy EXsona, believes most organisations have a limited appreciation of EX. He says, “Employee experience or engagement has been seen as a solution or an intervention for workforces where the work is deemed to be mundane. It’s seen almost as a quick fix to add a bit of fun or engagement to what’s considered a dull job. I don’t think it’s being utilised as effectively as it could be to improve performance and make the culture better within an organisation.”
EX is not just a solution to fix a problem you may have with your CX or contact centre team. It needs to be viewed as a strategy for improving workplace culture and productivity across the entire business, as McGrory advises, “If businesses are serious not just about growth, but about being there in the future of work and having a high performing culture, then, I believe, EX needs to be a top 5 priority for the entire organisation.”
Employees expect it
Employees now expect more from brands and are demanding better employee experiences. According to Seek, half of Australians now expect more from their employer than they did before the COVID outbreak, research for SEEK reveals. People are now keenly aware of whether businesses are truly committed to offering flexibility and work-life balance.
McGrory says, “At the moment, people are being very vocal about their expectations as employees. They’re speaking by handing in their notices. They’re speaking very loudly in their decisions and in the changes they are making in their lives and careers”.
“Employee experience is an area that has been somewhat neglected over the years, but the pandemic has been a slap in the face. At the beginning of the pandemic businesses were faced with the basic challenge of surviving and were forced to look at questions around performance and how do we keep the business moving forward. Businesses need people to perform. Executives have been forced to consider this.”
The benefits and challenges
The benefits of EX have been extensively documented. They include:
- Engaged and motivated employees improve productivity
- Better EX leads to employee loyalty thereby reducing recruitment and HR costs
- Investment in EX improves CX which can be turned into a significant point of different
- The ability for businesses to attract and retain highly sort after talent
Even though the benefits companies hope for are clear and obvious, the ability to make it happen faces some significant challenges, including:
- Lack of executive and stakeholder buy-in
- Organisational silos preventing collaboration and cross-functional conversations.
- Systems and processes are designed around the needs of the brand and not the employee.
- The literature, practical experience, and strategy to make it happen are still relatively thin on the ground as compared to CX.
To address these challenges we have started to see, in recent years, the emergence of EX job titles in corporate and company structures.
The Employee Experience Manager is born
For some time now we’ve had customer experience managers or heads of customer experience. The same is now happening with EX. Unfortunately, many executives remain unclear about the precise roles EX managers play within the organisation and the goals they need to work towards.
Some of the job responsibilities of an employee experience manager, according to Study.com, may include managing performance appraisals and assisting with new employee training. Additionally, employee experience managers will collaborate with the company’s internal stakeholders so that organisational policies are effective and are correctly carried out.
In some situations, the Head of EX is an HR manager by another name. In other situations, the Head of EX essentially acts as an office manager, McGrory observes, “The head of EX or the EX Manager should have a good voice at the executive table and close to those who make decisions about culture like the CEO. However, the role and the priority EX has within an organisation, is often relegated to a function under HR.”
“It’s quite disappointing that the role of EX Manager can also be little more than an office manager. They’re a person that keeps the vibe strong in the office but then also does a lot of the office admin”.
As with CX, EX leaders need to fundamentally understand the employee, and what their expectations are and be able to communicate this to the rest of the organisation to initiate positive change. The job of EX managers evolves all aspects of the employee life cycle. It involves building strategies to improve the employee experience and workplace culture.
McGrory believes that the role of EX manager is to address three fundamental things for the business:
- How well does the company attract people?
- How well do they engage people?
- How well do they keep people and retain them?
Collaboration is key to success
As with CX, organisational silos can be a major challenge to EX. CX and EX operate in silos, owned and managed by separate teams. Marketing or a dedicated CX team may be the architect of CX whereas HR is the architect of EX. This can lead to misaligned goals as well as poor access to the data and insights necessary to drive improvements across all functional areas of the business.
“For an EX manager to be successful in their role collaboration is essential. The EX Manager or Head of EX needs to be able to wear a variety of hats and be able to communicate with a range of people from marketing to HR to IT to senior executives and so on. They need to interweave the values of the brand into the workplace culture and the daily experiences of employees across the entire organisation.”
In the coming years, EX is expected to play a more significant role in the future of work. By welding the needs of the brand with the needs and expectations of its people, businesses that make EX one of their top priorities will have a significant competitive advantage.