The term 'employee engagement' is on the way out.  As ‘human resources’ gives way to 'people' and 'culture' teams, we are entering a new era; where people are encouraged to bring their whole selves to work, and the whole experience counts. We are now in the era of employee experience.

Throughout my career, one of the most common questions I hear is ‘can you get people to engage with X’.  But I think this is the wrong question.

There will always be a change programme, an IT roll-out or strategy you want to ‘engage’ people with. But fundamentally, what you really want is for people to believe in your business, to want to be part of its success story. And one path to belief is through experience. After all, are you likely to believe a restaurant’s claim that they serve the world’s best burger unless you try one?

So, how can you create employee experiences that ignite belief in your business, make your employees want to stay and bring their whole selves to work?

Here are my 3 Ps of standout employee experience:

  • Purpose – it starts with a clear articulation of who you are and why you exist in the world so that your people have an opportunity to experience meaning and fulfilment in their day-to-day work. Your purpose statement should be easy enough to remember and explain to friends and family and embedded and brought to life through all your internal communications. You know you’ve nailed it when it gets your people bounding out of bed in the morning!  Are your people selling clothes or dressing people for success? Are you implementing software or pioneering a world of new opportunities?  
  • Policy – Even with the most meaningful purpose statement, employee experiences can often be derailed when the HR infrastructure isn’t right. These invisible HR policies can determine many of the core employee experiences in the people cycle.  Performance management is a great example and is rarely viewed through the lens of employee experience. When a business is in a state of fast growth, annual performance management processes can lead to a frustrating experience for employees trying to retrofit their hard work into obsolete objectives.  Similarly, what’s the experience for an employee within a team that shares work equally but knowing that they are on a grade below everyone else and entitled to less annual leave or bonus.  Do your policies give your people a great experience?
  • People – We all differentiate a great job from a good job by the people we work with. Whether its a manager who extended great trust, or a close-knit team who had everyone’s backs and accomplished great things together; it’s the people who truly make an experience.  This is why a smart, culture-centric talent strategy is so important.  Hiring for the role is no longer good enough. When a manager can account for up to 70% variance in employee engagement, we can’t afford not to hire for culture as well.  Which candidate embodies your values?  Which candidate shows the right characteristics and behaviours?  And once you’ve found them, don’t treat onboarding as an afterthought.  Give them an experience to excite them, inspire loyalty, show the very best of who you are. 

How does your organisation give great employee experiences?  Where do you see opportunities?

I know of one company so confident in their hiring process, which consists of at least six interviews, tests and meetings with both leadership and peers, that they have done away with probationary periods.  How’s that for a statement of belief in the individual they choose, and how much belief in the business do you think they foster in return?

RY is all about belief in business. One way to achieve this is by starting with employees.  When they believe in their business, they help customers believe too.  We help businesses give employees the experiences that ignite belief and change behaviours. 

Esther Smith is an employee experience consultant at Radley Yeldar.

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