Employee experience is a fairly recent term and simply means every experience an employee has with your company from onboarding to retirement.

The fact is, whether you’re focused on employee experience or not, employees are having positive or negative experiences at work every day. This can either help or hurt your company—and your bottom line.

Learn what it takes to create the right employee experiences and retain top talent. In Episode 10 of the Employee Buzz podcast series, we discuss the importance and how to improve today.

 

Episode transcript: 

Alyssa Zeff:      
Hello everyone. We are here again on Employee Buzz. I am Alyssa Zeff, a former dweller of Nashville, a Scorpio to a T, I might add, and a sun worshipper. My guest today is Caroline Hey, a project director here at Davis & Company. Welcome Caroline.

Caroline Hey:   
Hello.

Alyssa Zeff:      
And can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Caroline Hey:   
I am a former journalist. I am a mom to Penny and Bruno, my two little Jack Russell terrorists, and I am an Amelia Earhart wannabe.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Really?

Caroline Hey:   
Yes, I am.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Have you flown a plane?

Caroline Hey:   
I have indeed flown a plane.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Oh, how exciting. So today we're going to talk about employee experience. Let's start right at the top. I think we need to start with a definition. When we say employee experience, what exactly does it mean?

Caroline Hey:   
Sure. Employee experience, it's really a fairly recent term that's come into fashion, but it builds on a lot of trends that we've seen over the years, things like employee engagement and the employee value proposition. Basically, at the most basic, it is every experience an employee has with your company beginning with onboarding, recruiting and all the way through to retirement.

Caroline Hey:   
Now, there are many experts out there who break it down in different ways. The one that I like is Jacob Morgan. The man literally wrote the book on the employee experience. It's called, The Employee Experience Advantage. He also has a lot of data. He's done a lot of research. He's analyzed a lot of companies, so he really has the data to back up his theories, and he breaks it down into three different areas: culture, technology and the physical environment.

Caroline Hey:   
When you talk about culture, employees want to work for a company that has an authentic reason for being, not just to make money or give value to shareholders, but something that you're going to serve society.

Caroline Hey:   
In terms of technology, they're looking for consumer great experience and in terms of the physical environment, they want something that is authentic and reflects the mission, the vision and the culture.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Yeah, that's very helpful to break it down. We've worked on a lot of different things together and we've been talking about the employee experience for a little while, but I think that nice breakdown of those three components really helps you visualize it and what it really means for employees. How is this something that you came to be so interested in? Why is it something that interests you specifically?

Caroline Hey:   
Well, you know at Davis & Company we've always spoken about employee-centric communication, and so in keeping up with my reading, and I started coming across The Employee Experience Advantage and it just made so much sense. It was like a little light bulb went on, because we focus on communicating with employees based on their needs and their preferences, and this really extends that out into all other areas of the company.

Caroline Hey:   
And we talk a lot about being authentic with employees, understanding employees, talking with employees. And in order to have a great employee experience, you have to do all of that too. So it all ties together.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Why do you think organizations should care about their employee experience?

Caroline Hey:   
Oh, there's a couple of reasons. One is it's tight talent market and everybody wants to attract and retain the best talent. It's only going to get tighter. And when you think of the money you spend recruiting employees, the best employees you can find. When you lose one, that costs a lot of money too. And Jacob Morgan, as I said, he did a lot of research. He's got a lot of data. He looked at 250 global organizations in terms of the employee experience and the business results, and what he found was that the companies with the best experiences had four times higher profit, two times higher revenue, and 40% lower turnover.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Wow. So yes, that's why organizations should care. Makes a lot of sense. So we're communicators at Davis & Company, we focus on employee communication. So what can communications do and what's the role that communication plays in the employee experience?

Caroline Hey:   
I would argue that communication is at the very foundation of the employee experience, because it's essential for good employee experience to understand employees needs and preferences. There's no better way to do that than to communicate them, to ask them, and then build your communication program around that so it answers those needs and preferences.

Caroline Hey:   
And also, in terms of the three areas, culture, technology, the physical environment, in order for your culture to be authentic, you have to speak with your employees about that so that they understand it. You can't just send out an email that says this is our values and our culture and expect it to be authentic.

Caroline Hey:   
It's not going work.

Alyssa Zeff:      
As we like to say, a culture is not a poster on the wall.

Caroline Hey:   
Exactly. Although having posters on the wall that are true to your culture, mission and vision…

Alyssa Zeff:      
Yes.

Caroline Hey:   
….is a great way to boost your employee experience in terms of the physical environment, which is one of our three areas.

Alyssa Zeff:      
I think one of the things we've talked about in some of the projects that we work on is that communication is like a lever for this.

Caroline Hey:   
Yes, exactly.

Alyssa Zeff:      
It really just helps dial up what you're trying to do, and initiative or culture is only as good as if their employees know about it and understand it.

Caroline Hey:   
Absolutely.

Alyssa Zeff:      
And that's, I think, where communication plays a big part.

Caroline Hey:   
Absolutely. And I would also say that companies that want to have a good employee experience really have to move away from this old newsroom broadcast model of communicating, where you just post an article on the intranet, where you just send out an email. In order for communication to really help build a great employee experience, it's got to be stellar. It can't be the same old, same old. It's more than just a 45-minute town hall of financial presentations and then five minutes at the end where nobody asks questions.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Well, and I think we talked about culture a little bit and I think employees want to contribute, so it has to be part of the increasing dialogue and having conversations and helping employees feel heard as much as them receiving information.

Caroline Hey:   
It's almost a continuous feedback loop where you bring out the communication, you look at the employees, you pulse them, you get feedback from them, and then you refine your communications again and you just keep going around and around and around.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Any good examples of how companies are bringing this to life, their employee experience to life?

Caroline Hey:   
Yeah. Again, we're going to go through the three different areas. So in terms of physical, it's somebody you're not going to be shocked by, Facebook.

Caroline Hey:   
They launch their values in the environment. So for example, one of their values is to be bold. Well, their offices all have really bold artwork on the walls. Two other values are move fast, be open. They've got an open floor plan that makes getting around the campus really easy. Another one of their values is surprise, surprise around being social. So they've got lots of collaboration areas. So that's how they're bringing their culture to life in the physical environment and really making for a great employee experience.

Caroline Hey:   
In terms of technology, believe it or not, the San Diego Zoo…

Alyssa Zeff:      
Wow.

Caroline Hey:   
…is a great example of giving employees a great experience in terms of technology. This 100-year-old nonprofit has a robust online learning program that employees can access anywhere, on-site, off-site, from home, doesn't matter; device, doesn't matter. They also have a Z-tech program which allows employees to buy the latest tech through payroll deductions for their own personal use, interest free.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Wow.

Caroline Hey:   
And then in terms of culture, another interesting one is KPMG, they launched a new purpose statement, "Inspire confidence and empower change." And people are like, "You're a consulting company, ….

Alyssa Zeff:      
Yeah, right!

Caroline Hey:   
…come on." Well, they backed it up, because what they did was they launched a series of communications showing examples of how KPMG positively impacted historical global events like certifying the election of Nelson Mandela.

Caroline Hey:   
And then they went a step further. They developed stories of individual employees and how they helped positively impact society.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Wow. So really humanizing it and bringing it to life. In a consulting kind of culture to be able to do that is very impressive.

Caroline Hey:   
Exactly.

Alyssa Zeff:      
And to deliver on the promise.

Caroline Hey:   
Exactly.

Alyssa Zeff:      
So what gets in the way? What obstacles do companies face and what can they do about it?

Caroline Hey:   
Well, I think two of the most common challenges is one, companies get distracted by the engagement. Engagement is a score on a survey, and it's very easy to artificially boost those scores. Maybe you do something like Jeans Friday because employees feel that the culture is too buttoned up. Well guess what? You'll get a quick bump on your engagement score, but after a while employees are going to take that for granted and then they are going to level down on the scores again because they expect it.

Caroline Hey:   
Employee experience is different. It's not short-term, it's long-term. And then the other thing is companies look for an out of the box, one size fits all solution. They want to look at best practices. The leader wants to install an app, but it's none of those things, because employee experience is unique to your company. You can certainly look around and see what other people are doing, but if it's not authentic to your company, it's not going to work.

Alyssa Zeff:      
That's such a great point about authenticity and owning that authenticity. To say we are a culture that supports risk, and then you never actually support risk and risk is devalued, for example, or taking chances and things like that. It's disingenuous and employees pick up on that very quickly.

Caroline Hey:   
Absolutely, and not a lot of companies are really that courageous to look inward.

Alyssa Zeff:      
Yes. Agreed. This has been a great discussion. So let's assume our listeners are really bought in and realize they need to focus on the employee experience. What advice would you give them to get started right away?

Caroline Hey:   
Right away, I'd say shift your attention away from engagement. Engagement is not going to drive experience, but if you focus on experience, engagement's going to come. You need to focus on how employees experience your organization every day, and the only way to do that is to start talking to them. So get some focus groups together and just start talking and asking, get feedback and incorporate that feedback into your communication plan at a bare minimum, and in other ways to get them involved in building your culture, in building your physical environment. Get their feedback on technology.

Alyssa Zeff:      
I think that's great advice, and I would build on it, and part of that feedback is understanding the differences between your employees. That it is not a one size fits all just because they all work for the same company. They have very different experiences depending on where they're located, or what their job is, and stuff like that.

Alyssa Zeff:      
So to understand the differences, to create and find out what connects them.

Caroline Hey:   
That's absolutely right. And the fact is, whether you're focused on employee experience or not, employees are having experiences at your company and those experiences are going to positively or negatively impact your company. So would you really want to leave that up to chance?

Alyssa Zeff:      
Absolutely. Well thank you so much for being here, Caroline.

Caroline Hey:   
Thank you.

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