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The Positive Employee Experience: A Moving Target


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Companies have always been invested in providing a positive employee experience, understanding that happy employees lead to lower turnover and higher productivity. But many companies are revisiting what it takes to provide a truly positive employee experience, spurred by experiences and employee feedback during the past year and a half.
Many factors can lead to an employee’s happiness or unhappiness at work. One of the biggest factors is an employee’s boss. A survey from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) on the subject confirms this, noting that 85% of U.S. workers say poorly trained managers create unnecessary work and stress.
“The day-to-day interaction with managers creates most of the work world for employees, so if the manager and employee don’t see eye-to-eye, it’s a great predictor that the employee may not be happy and may leave,” said John Dooney, HR knowledge advisor at SHRM. Companies that support career development and allow employees to move within the company can largely prevent these issues, he added.
Factors that tend to lead to happy employees include an accepting environment, a sense of belonging, flexibility, work inspiration, recognition for jobs well done, and an opportunity for growth. Yet companies don’t always do enough. An employee engagement survey from the HR Research Institute found that just over 60% of employees agree or strongly agree that they have both a sense of belonging and are inspired by their work. And HR professionals agree; nearly half say employee experiences are good or excellent in their organizations.
The Pandemic Changed Employee Expectations
While HR teams spent the first few months of the pandemic addressing compliance issues, new regulations for paid sick leave and childcare emergencies, they soon turned their attention to the inevitable results of forced working from home: stress. As a result, many companies began increasing mental health benefits and employee assistance programs, and continue to shore up other areas permanently, like access to telemedicine and holistic wellness. Much of this wasn’t just a courtesy on the part of HR; it was a direct result of employee comments and concerns.
Surveys back up the need for a greater emphasis on holistic wellness, mental health, and work-life integration. A new employee experience benchmarking report from Sequoia Consulting Group, for example, noted a 50% growth in the number of companies strategically focused on employee emotional health in the past year. Interestingly, many more companies are now offering fertility benefits.
One thing that’s not on at the top of employee’s requirements for satisfaction these days? “Cool” workplaces like those in Silicon Valley with ping-pong tables, music rooms, and gourmet food in the cafeterias. Employees today are much more likely to respond to more days working from home and childcare subsidies.
Taking the Temperature
While companies have been using surveys to measure employee satisfaction for many years, more are doing so than ever before. Not only are surveys less expensive to conduct today, but companies realize the value they can get from both general and targeted surveys. These days, surveys are likely to ask employees how they feel about returning to work, what might make them uncomfortable in an office environment, and how they feel about the hybrid work scenario.
In addition to surveys, companies are using other metrics to evaluate employee satisfaction. One of the biggest is retention rates, but there are other important metrics as well.
“If you look at what type of person is leaving the organization and see that most are in their first year with the company, that might mean that the company oversold them or that their recruiting practices need work,” Dooney explained. If the results skew heavily in the direction of one division or department, it might indicate the need to address managerial issues there.
In addition to understanding what’s important to employees, companies today must remain as flexible as possible, Dooney said. “If the company line is that employees should work from the office three days a week and you see an overwhelming preference to lower that to two, you should consider meeting that request.”