Employees are the heart and soul of a company – without them, businesses wouldn’t be able to grow and develop. As workforces evolve in today’s world, more and more companies are beginning to realise the value of their employees, and how their employee experiences affect performance at work.
Many elements impact the employee experience and determine how employees feel about their work. Factors involved in creating a positive experience for workers include, but aren’t limited to, the quality of interactions with their boss, the software used, team culture and flexibility.
The entry of Millenials and Gen Z’s into the workforce in particular has seen a shift in the way that companies relate to their employees. These generations appreciate their time and experiences, and desire workplaces that reflect these values. As a result, businesses are adopting policies and arrangements that improve their employee experience.
Importance of the employee experience
A study undertaken by Deloitte found that nearly 80% of company executives rated employee experience as important to their business model. This isn’t surprising when you consider the impact that a positive employee experience has on a workplace as a whole.
“So many factors are affected by the employee experience, including hiring, retention, engagement, and culture, but at the end of the day, it impacts the productivity and profitability of an organisation,” says Jodi Penny from Atlassian, “in a competitive market, a genuinely positive employee experience goes well beyond employer branding and recruitment marketing.”
When you break it down, employee experience is all about human interaction. Many businesses place a strong focus on customer experience, providing their clients with meaningful, positive interactions. This approach can, and should, also be taken when looking at the experience of their employees. It is all about ensuring that the interactions and environment are positive. What’s more, a positive employee experience translates to a positive client experience. As Jamie Hermes, HR Business Partner from ELMO, says, ‘‘Happy employees mean happy customers. Engaged employees are more likely to provide a better customer experience.”
Jennifer Klingmann, People and Culture Specialist from Mantel Group, shares how her company is taking action to better their own employee experience; “One of our principles is “love what you do and be awesome at it”. We want to make sure that our people are enjoying what they are doing on a daily basis. That they love coming to the office, being surrounded by like-minded people and getting all the support that they need to be awesome at what they do.”
Changes to the workplace in the last decade
Many aspects of businesses have undergone dramatic changes in the last decade, primarily to benefit workers and positively impact employee experiences: These include the areas of technology, culture and the work environment.
Advancements in technology have dramatically improved the what, the where and the how of business operations. There is a constant stream of new technology that assists daily operations that were previously done manually or with outdated processes. Cloud software, data management systems and remote technology have made it possible to work from anywhere, providing employees with flexible options. This is great for employee morale: being able to work from home and/or flexible hours helps to maintain a good work/life balance, with employees who work from home at least once a month 24% more likely to feel happy and productive at work than those who do not. Klingmann notes that technology has also allowed “teams to work together from all over the world, personally connecting employees to colleagues and their company from anywhere.”
Culture has become a big factor in employee experience – it is often the make or break element for modern workers. “Today, companies have a much better idea of what their own culture actually is and whether a prospective candidate will fit into that or not,” says David Connet, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Optus. The culture of a business revolves around the attitudes and vibes of the work environment. This can be established in a few ways, like open-plan offices to encourage collaboration, but ultimately it comes down to effective communication and treating everyone well. The key thing to remember is that the workplace culture affects employee experience in an emotional way.
Physically, workplaces are changing dramatically as well. More offices are adopting open plan designs, with features like sofas or standing desks to break up the day for employees. Other businesses don’t even have a physical, communal office anymore. Instead, they are working remotely and having meetings in coffee shops or other public spaces. “A great company environment is more than table tennis, pool, or other games in a common area,” says Jayne Bachelor, Learning and Development Manager at ELMO, “it is about creating an environment where employees understand synergies they share as well as challenges faced in other parts of the business.”
Soft Skills Are Enriching The Employee Experience
Employers, within the tech industry in particular, are slowly recognising the increasing importance of soft skills and moving away from hiring people based on years of experience or specific qualifications. Soft skills refer to interpersonal communication skills such as self-awareness in handling constructive feedback, as well as self-motivation and resilience in the face of change, obstacles and failure. The World Economic Forum Future Jobs Report suggested that by 2020, soft skills would be among the most important skills required in the workplace, as these skills are more critical than ever.
Modern businesses who invest in soft skill training for employees are growing in revenue and leading their industries, so it is no secret that employers are on the hunt for candidates who demonstrate these undervalued soft skills. Penny states that “successful candidates are the ones who can partner their credentials with real-world examples including work experience, extracurricular activities and internships, as this is more likely to highlight their ability to take initiative and have an aptitude for achievement that isn’t limited to education”.
Penny is of the opinion that “to make an impact or a difference in an organisation is not about being the smartest person in the room anymore, or having years and years of experience. A diverse group working efficiently together will always beat out the one ‘brilliant jerk’ – a person who is technically-talented, but perhaps at the expense of others.”
The positive results that managers can see from soft skill training are endless. When a company commits to developing employees skills on a deeper level, it significantly boosts a firm’s productivity, makes complex tasks more efficient and improves employee attendance. Employees will also feel valued, which creates a higher level of employee engagement and enhances their employee experience.
It is increasingly apparent that in order to be successful, businesses need to be mindful of their employee experience and to care about making it as enjoyable as possible. Though it can seem trivial compared to the more technical elements of business, the evidence is clear that companies that strive to create positive employee experiences will ultimately see favourable change and progression in the workplace.
For more on this topic, check out our article 21 Incredible Perks Tech Companies Offer Their Employees to see what some other businesses are doing to better their employees’ experience.