Employee Experience - Where is the smart money being spent?

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Employee experience matters. That’s becoming explicitly clear to a growing number of HR and business leaders, with many organisations now planning to increase their investment in this area. In fact, according to research we recently conducted into employee experience (EX), 75% of HR leaders plan to invest more in EX over the next 12 months, and 85% say that they would invest more if it were up to them.

“Investing in a great EX will help you to attract and recruit the right people with the right talents and experience,” comments Damon Bowles, head of strategic internal communications & content at W&P. “It will then help to drive connections, build trust, and encourage employees to stay and do their best work, developing their careers while also growing your business and brand. By not investing in your EX, you hand competitors a natural advantage.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, our research revealed that employee satisfaction surveys top the list of EX investments, with 61% of HR leaders investing in this area. This was followed by:

  • Rewards and benefits (55%)
  • Technology/software (52%)
  • HR skills (51%)
  • Staff/talent (43%)
  • Diversity and inclusion (35%)
  • Culture (27%)
  • Physical workplace environment (16%)
  • Improved manual processes (11%)

“It’s promising to see a spread of different focus areas, particularly with an emphasis on listening to employees and their needs and offering incentives and support,” remarks Damon Bowles. “I suspect, however, that many of these things are being done in isolation rather than part of a bigger co-ordinated effort, and that’s a concern. EX is essentially about ‘what it feels like to work here’, which makes it much bigger than HR.”

He also feels that staff surveys are not always the most effective approach. “The employee satisfaction survey has been with us for a century and isn’t really up to the job since it looks backwards at what people feel about things done to them in the past, whereas EX is all about involving people in creating new experiences. That means asking open-ended questions to find out what’s important to them.”

Tina Rahman, founder of HR Habitat, would expect satisfaction surveys to take the lead, from an HR perspective, but warns that whilst they may measure how happy or motivated staff are with certain aspects of the business, they do not seek to find out why, who they are, where they sit in the company, or tenure.

“These are all vital facts that allow a business to see a holistic image of EX, to make an informed judgement on EX spend. We would argue that the majority of spend is not applied on conducting satisfaction surveys and feedback programmes, but more on implementing the ideas produced by staff. The whole purpose of EX is what employees encounter and observe in their time at the company – so, to obtain feedback and not actually action or respond to these dampens the employee experience.”

It’s encouraging to see that over half of HR leaders in our survey are investing in technology to improve EX, as this plays a vital role in creating better experiences for employees.

“App-based internal communication channels, for example, enable people to find out what’s going on through mobile devices, feel connected, share their voice and engage in the life of the business,” says Damon Bowles. “This feeds the psychological need for belonging and to be part of something bigger, while also showing people that the organisation cares what they think. And with these technological channels comes the ability to capture, interpret and act on data about colleague behaviours and preferences.”

So where do experts predict the smart money will be spent on EX over the next 12 months?

Given the challenges of the last two years with the global pandemic, Tina Rahman believes that now is the time for employers to focus on rewards and perks. “With the rise in vacancies, job seekers get the pick of the bunch. We have seen an increase of job offers being declined by job seekers due to ‘work-life balance’ fears, which indicates that organisations need to invest in becoming an employer of choice to be able to attract and retain the best talent.”

She also advises organisations to invest in leadership skills. “Employers should invest in developing leadership teams that know how to manage, encourage and empower staff. Great managers improve EX by a staggering figure, and in our view, this is one of the most valuable investments an organisation can make.”

Damon Bowles agrees. “Smart companies will be supporting their leaders and managers. There will be a focus on giving leaders greater visibility and better equipping them to engage and inspire colleagues. Much of this is about soft communication skills – showing compassionate leadership while still getting hard things done.”

He also predicts that forward-thinking businesses will be investing in more meaningful measurement of EX. “Improving EX is about creating a more ‘consumer-like’ experience for employees, which means learning lessons from the measurement of the customer experience. Businesses could introduce metrics such as the employee Net Promoter Score, which measures how likely colleagues are to recommend their place of work, and so on.”

Finally, he advises businesses to invest in their employee value proposition (EVP). “Every organisation already has an EVP on show – the sum total of what it’s like to work there. That can be good, bad or merely mediocre. Commissioning research into this will help to map out those experiences and design better ones in support of the brand.”

To learn more about employee experience, download our report here.