Measuring the Employee Experience

There are many tools on the market that purport to accurately measure the customer experience.  They focus on such topics as action management, customer segmentation, feedback management, sentiment analysis and trend analysis, just to name a few.  Then there are whole CRM systems whose goal it is to manage a company’s interaction with current and future customers. The CRM approach tries to analyze data about customers’ history with a company, in order to better improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on retaining customers, in order to drive sales growth.  If we want to understand the employee experience, we have to pursue it with the same gusto and metrics that we do our customer experiences. In general, great experiences don’t just happen, they have to be consciously designed.

We need to start with the belief that a strong correlation exists between the quality of the employee experience and work productivity, which ultimately drives engagement and, hopefully, the delivery of more value to your end customer.  However, there are challenges around measuring workforce experience because no single person, department or function owns the whole experience. Organizations use many tools to understand the experiences, positive or negative, their employees are having — pulse surveys like Waggl, annual employee surveys, quarterly or annual performance reviews incorporating self-reviews, weekly management meetings, talent and succession planning, town hall meetings and so on. The issue is that these tools and the feedback received from them can offer a fragmented and often misleading view of how good the employee experience is.

Forrester has a Workforce Experience Model that is worth reviewing.  It is built around Engagement, Productivity and Impact.  The only issue I would take with their assumptions is that I believe productivity actually drives engagement and not the other way around.  

Productivity

Being able to measure productivity assumes that you have done studies to understand what acceptable levels of productivity are by function.  It isn’t the measuring piece that is difficult, it is understanding and creating the “what” to measure and the scale that makes it challenging

Engagement

An engaged workforce willingly invests time and energy in the success of the business and the degree of engagement will impact business results. Everyone has discretionary engagement that they may choose to deploy at their job or elsewhere. Your mission is to ensure that it is deployed at the job to the benefit of the customers.  To my point, Daniel Pink’s secret to high performance and satisfaction  – the deeply human need to direct our own lives (autonomy), the desire to get better at something that matters (mastery) and the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves (purpose).

Impact

The positive business outcome of productive, engaged employees is a loyal customer. Customer-facing employees, customer service, for example, have the greatest potential direct impact on the customer experience and satisfaction. What about those employees that don’t usually engage with customers directly, like Accounting, Finance or HR, where the potential for positive impact on customer experience is harder to quantify? They know how the processes really work in your organization and may be the best ones to identify and rectify problems for customers quickly.

The conventional eNPS  (Employee Net Promoter Score)  is a standardized tool that you could benchmark your organization against year over year and,  benchmark your ratings against other companies of your size or in your industry. The issue is that it is one question and for most of us, does not really provide value when wanting to delve into the specifics.  There are also multiple surveys you can conduct through Fortune, OC Register or other organizations, but they are quite expensive and questions can be tailored so they do not provide an apples to apples comparison across organizations.  Eventually, it would be great to have an industry accepted employee engagement scale that could be used to drive the employee experience and, ultimately the customer experience.

Workplace Certifications

We recently embarked on a fact-finding mission around workplace certifications.  I felt strongly that we had done an amazing job internally creating a world class work environment for our employees who are spread out over 10 states and 19 different locations, but few outside of the company were aware of that.  In today’s competitive global job market, being a well-known organization or having a famous consumer brand name is not enough to attract and retain top talent. Organizations need to build an agile and connected workplace, create amazing employee experiences, nurture feedback and dialogue, actively focus on innovation, and embed their businesses into the future.

Types of certifications

Great Place to Work

This is a certification connected to Fortune. The survey is actually conducted by their research partner, Great Place TO work.  The survey is made up of about 60 questions and an additional lengthy questionnaire needs to be completed by Human Resources.  They tell you 4 hours, but we easily spent 5-10X that. Should be fortune- ate (😊) enough to be certified, this opens up the door for you to participate throughout the year in a number of other certifications including:  Top 100 Companies, Best workplaces for Diversity, Best Workplaces for Parents, Small & Medium companies, People’s Companies that Care Best workplaces for Millennials, just to name a few.

Aon Best Employers

The program salutes the achievements made by organizations that create sustainable competitive advantage through their people. Aon Best Employers program looks into the health of your organization from the inside, using the most objective measure possible – your employees’ opinion. Backed by more than 18 years’ worth of data on employee experience, Aon Best Employers program measures and recognizes extraordinary employers. It differentiates on people factors which are the key to success: high employee engagement, profound agility, engaging leadership and maniacal talent focus. Aon looks at 4 key areas:  Engagement, Agility, Engaging Leadership, and Talent Focus. They offer both a ready to use on-line survey, as well as a tailored engagement survey that you can customize.

Glassdoor Best Places to Work

Although considered a necessary evil by many to whom I have spoken, there is no arguing that prospective employees turn to Glassdoor to see what others are saying on the inside.  Glassdoor automatically selects those employers that obtain the highest average number of stars given in the reviews by their own employees.  I am proud to say we are at a 4.6, but 1/10th lower than we needed to be to win a Best Small & Medium Places to Work for 2018.  

Next time we will talk about the reasons why, both internally and externally it makes sense to participate in Work Place certifications.

Consciously Created Culture

Often times the task of “creating” the culture falls to the HR team.  The team struggles with not only how to architect the culture, but have a difficult time envisioning what that will look like in the context of their own organizations and what day to day actions to take to reinforce and embrace that culture. Should they focus on defining values, creating wrap around programs or instituting perks?  The answer is, as in many situations, it depends.

Perhaps the first place to start is understanding your external branding.  It is important that your internal branding around culture flow directly from your external branding.  It is difficult to create an internal brand exclusive of a complete understanding of an external brand.  Start here with your marketing team to fully understand what the differentiators are in the market and how they brand the company externally.  

Next, think about what is important to your workforce and the culture you want your employees to talk about when describing your company.

Comparably, is a platform to provide anonymous and comprehensive data on compensation, and insights into work culture. They give employees the knowledge they need to take control of their experience at work, to build awareness about workplace transparency, and to make work better.  Some of the categories they focus on are:

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are important for every organization.  Diverse companies are more innovative. having employees from diverse backgrounds brings different ideas to the table, preventing “groupthink” and promoting innovation. A diverse workforce ensures that some employees will be analytical, while others will have more creative propensities. Diverse approaches to the same problem generate new insights and enhance efficiency. 80 percent of people in a recent Universum https://universumglobal.com/about/ survey (including 85 percent of women) felt it was important that an employer “engages in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Professional Development

Employees today have an expectation of their careers providing not only a paycheck but an opportunity for growth and development as well.  A goal to shoot for “Training is always available, and you have the opportunity to work on projects outside your day to day role and grow your skill set. This is especially highlighted with career progression”.  Companies should shoot for at least 20% of their positions being filled from within as employee promotions. A lofty goal would be 50%.

Work-Life Balance

Flexible schedules, telecommuting and PTO can all contribute to a healthy work life balance.  However, employees need to see that the management team is modeling these behaviors before they are likely comfortable taking advantage of them themselves. Some other ideas include sponsoring events where employees family members are encouraged to join in, offering part time or job share positions.

Perks and Benefits

No conversation on culture would be complete without discussing perks and benefits.  Some of the usual benefits are on the list like company provided health insurance with affordable employee contributions and PTO ( but not unlimited).  Studies routinely show that employees do not like unlimited PTO because very few actually feel like they can use it. Wellness initiatives are another popular perk in 2019.  Most of these platforms provide gamification opportunities for bringing teams and workforces together in fun competition.

The most important aspect of consciously creating a culture is that you create one that is unique to your company and the employees you serve.  

Defensiveness

sherrie-suski-defensivenessDefensiveness is defined as the quality of being anxious to avoid criticism and/or the behavior intended to defend or protect.  Some have even defined it as reacting with a war mentality to a non-war issue. While none of us relishes criticism, it is a necessary part of growth.  To be able to see ourselves as others see us is a gift that allows us to leave old habits behind and adopt new, healthier ways of having relationships with others.  

An Open Heart

Changing defensive behavior stars with being able to listen with an open heart to what is being said.  Assume the person has your best interests in mind and is sharing something that you need to hear. Try and clear you mind so that you are truly listening and not rehearsing your next defensive statement in your mind while they are speaking.

Express Your Feelings

Being able to openly express your feelings is requisite to becoming less defensive.  Letting people know in a calm manner when they have upset you is not being defensive.  Lashing out with an inflammatory statement is. 

Building Trust

Working through conflict builds trust in any relationship.  It assures both partners that they can trust each other; they can be honest and acknowledge that any relationship is a work in progress, not fixed or defined on just one person’s terms or one moment in time.

Toxic Comments

Bottom line: if we don’t learn how to deal with our grievances head on, inevitably we deal with them indirectly, most often in more toxic forms: by teasing or making snide comments, holding grudges, or by growing more indifferent over time. 

Of course, it’s difficult to give and receive healthy criticism if we’re clinging to a defensive attitude. If you feel yourself become defensive, try to see if you can simply acknowledge it, and work through the conflict as honestly and generously as possible.

Self- esteem

Temperament, history, and, most importantly self-esteem can impact how we respond to criticism.  Some people have so much negative self talk occurring in their heads that they feel they just can’t accept any more from someone else.  Realizing that just because someone is criticizing one issue, does not mean you are a bad person overall is key to building better relationships

People who are more prone to defensiveness may perceive an attack in certain situations in which people with resilient and calm temperaments would perceive none. Experiment with viewing the situation from different vantage points.

Overall, defensiveness in life will hold you back from building better relationships and from growing as an individual

On-Brand Behavior

sherrie-suski-officePotential candidates are interested not only in what they may bring to a future employer, but in what that future employer may bring to them.  With the majority of millennials believing its management’s responsibility to offer development opportunities, this demographic is looking for employers that will invest in their future. But they’re not alone; training is a top priority for all workers, particularly those who will need to enhance their skills in light of digital disruption. While many companies have training or Learning and Development programs, not enough have specific training that is meant to drive on- brand behavior.

Programs that address this topic are a win-win.  Effectively communicating a brand requires multiple touchpoints and Learning & Development programs are the perfect opportunity to drive this behavior. Learning and development is the clear internal expression of an organization’s external employer brand. These programs should be representative of and demonstrate the company’s value system.

According to Paul Hagen, senior principal at West Monroe Partners San Francisco, customer facing employees represent the company brand with every interaction they have. Yet, most receive little or no training or development to help them understand the actions and mindset that will have the most positive impact on customers’ perceptions of the brand. Good companies understand the drivers of customer and employee experiences and ensure L&D initiatives include guidance on how employees can help deliver on the promises made by an employer’s branding, he explained; “Great companies take it a step further. They understand that happy employees make happy customers.”

Ultimately, it is about connecting your internal culture to your external brand in a way that is meaningful to both your employees and your customers alike.  It should be the natural progression of doing what is right for your employees and having them understand and do what it right for your customers.

2019 Human Resources Initiatives

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Ushering in 2019 means pondering what the new year means in terms of HR initiatives.  Which were successfully put to rest last year, which will continue and carry forward and which are perhaps new initiatives this year based on the economic climate.

Top of the list is the tight labor market and lower retention many companies are experiencing.  We experienced the beginning of this challenge last year as companies struggled to find the talent they needed to fill positions to fuel their growth.  Companies will need to consider:

Flexibility in the workplace– More companies are finding ways to attract and retain workers with key skill sets by offering a combination of flexible work schedules.   Late starts, work from home, shorter in the office hours are all opportunities that will attract a different segment of the population than those able to work from 8:00-5:00p or more likely 7:00am-6:00pm.

Learning opportunities that span the entire workforce- Succession Planning programs are giving way to Talent Planning programs which encompass the whole organization.  Employee are looking for both lattice and ladder training opportunities. IDP’s (Individualized Development Plans) are becoming popular.  Instead of unleashing a plethora of online and webinar-based training opportunities, organizations are spending the time to develop individual training plans for each employee.  These are likely developed around core competencies that have already been established in the organization.

On-Boarding programs– not to be confused with the 1-3 day orientation programs, on-boarding programs will usually span 3-6 months and focus on quickly getting the new employee up to seed and integrated into the organization effectively.  Research links effective onboarding to reduced turnover and increased retention. In one study, employees were 60% more likely to remain with the organization for more than three years when there is a structured onboarding program.

Holistic Wellness Programs– wellness in no longer associated with simply the absence of disease, but has become a term that we associate with multiple forms of wellness.  Is your workforce physically, emotionally, socially and financially well and what can you do to support their efforts? Employee are looking less for balance between personal and work lives and more for integration.  One should not be exclusive of the other. Employees want time and training devoted to helping them learn how to meditate, eat healthy foods, manage their finances and generally live happy lives which, in turn, yield happy and more productive employees.  

Artificial Intelligence– no discussion would be complete without including AI.  HR technology companies are developing and promoting more and more Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities. Some of the technologies being developed can help HR professionals track and reveal troubling patterns in real-time to address such issues as employee engagement, turnover, and absenteeism (to name a few).  Automating repetitive tasks and improving workforce productivity are two of the top potential outcomes from implementing AI technology.

Each year brings its own set of challenges and opportunities to the HR profession.  This last year of the decade is no exception!

Human Resources Strategy

Once you have assessed your Organizational Culture and understand where you stand, you can move on to HR Strategy in support of that strategy.

The journey toward assessing and implementing your HR strategy may follow the same below five stages.

Functional

Minimal overarching strategies direct the HR team’s efforts. The HR team is largely reactive to the business stakeholders with respect to independent processes (talent acquisition, training, succession, compliance, compensation, etc.) The scope of HR’s roles and structure hold the function back from understanding the business and the employees. Several HR systems may still be manual. The team is focused on the day to day activities without understanding their impact on the organization.

Cross- functional

Strategies regarding critical HR functions (talent acquisition, management development and performance management) are project managed and process-driven, but they are not integrated. There may also be differing degrees of maturity. All functions within HR begin to engage more proactively with the business to ensure alignment, but efforts are not consistent, and change tends to happen slowly.  There are no launch plans and programs introduced, while valuable, may seem disjointed.

Building

Key HR processes start to become integrated as the organization recognizes the need for greater adaptability. Better alignment between the HR strategies and the business strategies is starting to take place. The cascading of organizational goals as a way to guide individual and team objectives and development begins to become pervasive.  Employees start to see the alignment between HR programs from various functions.

Enhancing

HR Programs such as talent acquisition, management development, succession, engagement and incentives are connected to one another in order to heighten the output of the organization. The business strategies are routinely translated into HR strategies, so the HR team remains in-step with the company.  There is a path that HR is capable of walking the organization down. An understanding of how each program introduced flows into and builds upon the one before.

Optimized

Sophisticated and integrated near and long-term HR strategies exist, usually in the 3-year range. Strategic objectives, which are typically cross-organizational, require HR leaders to collaborate cross functionally, creating shared goals and actions. Collectively these behaviors drive successful business outcomes. The strategy is continually reviewed to ensure it is on track with the business and averting unnecessary risk. When necessary, the strategy is rapidly altered based on data-driven inputs to stay on course.  Automation and data based decision making are key at this advanced stage.

Not every organization will achieve the optimized state, but it is, nevertheless, a worthy goal.  HR gains their seat at the table by being able to positively impact the business and align their processes to business outcomes.

Tech and Analytics Set Top HR Departments Apart

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According to recent research from The Hackett Group, an IT service management firm, “World-class HR organizations” achieve more than other HR operations by spending 26% less, relying on 32% fewer staff and embracing digital transformation.  The adoption of digital technology could help HR departments reach world-class status in fewer than five years and see progress in less than two years. To be honest, HR departments who fully embrace the use of tech and analytics can see progress in as little as 6 months.  

The study went on to find that top tier HR organizations are better at developing people and moving them into new roles; two-thirds of open managerial positions at these organizations were filled by internal candidates. The Hackett Group said world-class HR departments contain an estimated 33% fewer transactional employees and 34% fewer staff dedicated to employee lifecycle activities.  The old rule of thumb of having 1 HR person per 100 employees is falling by the wayside with the introduction of technology. Technology not only makes the bottom line look better, but offers opportunities to employees, previously solely devoted to administrative work, an option to focus on more meaningful activities and the opportunity for real growth and career path.

Among the study’s takeaways, authors found that world-class organizations use digital technology to improve the customer experience, develop analytics capabilities, transfer resources from low- to high-value initiatives, and provide expertise and insights to business leaders. Use cases include recruiting, compliance, staffing services and outsourcing.  

Imagine:

  • Being able to predict turnover down to the individual level
  • Having zero errors in your administration because all of it is automated
  • Guiding each of your employees through their own personal benefit enrollment process focusing on only the items important to them
  • Creating a flawless candidate experience where each candidate gets a “red carpet” treatment

World-class HR leaders understand the need to provide other business leaders with HR data and insight affecting their individual operations. This technology-based capability demonstrates HR executives’ knowledge of the business and financial sides of an organization, which can seat them alongside other C-suite executives and shore up employee trust in HR program.  Top HR departments around the globe are moving to not only use but embrace these tools. Have you started?

The Candidate Experience

Every engaging employee experience actually starts with an engaging candidate experience.  Candidates start their experience with your company the first time they hear or see something that reflects your brand.  It could be an ad for employment, but it could also be a press release, a piece of gossip, a Google or Glassdoor review or a group of employees standing in front of your building.  Every interaction with your brand is an opportunity to delight or to disappoint.

One of the best ways to figure out how to be on the right side of that equation is to put yourself in their shoes. What would you want if you were a potential candidate?  You might want to work for a company that is stable and/or one that has good growth potential.  Maybe one where the application process is easy. When you are writing your ads, take advantage of the job profile that can be created using one of the many behavioral assessment tools.  

Employment Ads

I personally find Predictive Index to do an admirable job.  Each ad could be written to include not just the job responsibilities but using words that capture the essence of your company and this particular role.  

Instead of using:

Leader sought to manage the Accounting team focusing on deliverables

Use:

Dynamic leader sought to ramp up and manage Accounting team focusing on superior level of performance

Or Use:

Detailed oriented manager sought to manage Accounting team of professionals, ensuring the accuracy of all journal entries and reporting

These three sentences say basically the same thing but would attract very different types of candidates.  You want your candidates to feel they fit long before they ever walk in the door.

 

Ease of Application Process

Make sure your application process is easy. Applicants should be able to apply using their mobile device so it is imperative that all of your systems are created with responsive design in mind.  Your ATS should be programmed for multiple touchpoints with a candidate to ensure they know you received your resume and, ideally, although few systems are programmed to do this, allow them a self serve option to find out where they are in the process.  

 

A Personal Touch

Although technology saves all of us countless hours of times, a personal touch is still appreciated in this highly technological world.  Never allow more than 24 – 48 hours to pass before you have contacted a candidate to provide follow up feedback from an in-house interview. Even if the response is negative, candidates appreciate hearing honest feedback on what they can improve on and why their qualifications did not land them the position.

There are many ways to improve your candidates’ experience and be rewarded with the right candidates at the right time to scale your organization.

Workplace Anxiety

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The numbers of people who are affected by anxiety are on the rise.  Recent reports estimate that 40 million people are affected by anxiety, roughly 18 percent of the nation’s population. 

While it is hard to tell whether this rise is an actual increase in those affected by anxiety or simply an increase in those willing to report it, one thing is for sure, uncontrolled anxiety impacts a person’s quality of life both at home and at work.  

 

Strategies for coping with Anxiety

  • Ensure that you have a strong support system both at home and at work.  Spending time with family and friends is one of the best ways to ease the stress of the day.  People who develop strong emotional connections at work have built in safety nets for diffusing some of that stress before it becomes harmful.
  • Exercise before, during or after work.  Everyone has a time when they feel their best.  Some may prefer to get up early and for others it is the perfect release after the end of a long day.  Some are lucky enough to have company or company sponsored gyms that they can take advantage of during the workday
  • Take a different perspective, remembering that not everything is urgent. Learning to laugh a little at how busy things can get, automatically eases the stress level.  
  • Try looking at things a different way the next time you feel stressed.  For example: Instead of rolling your eyes when yet one more person walks into your office, think of it as how many opportunities you have to impact someone’s life in a positive way.  The more the better!
  • Do something to lighten your own mood.  Maybe it’s wearing a funny saying under your work shirt or leaving yourself inspirational messages.  Whatever breaks to constant stream of stress, even for a few minutes, will be helpful
  • Keep a journal of all the crazy, wacky, unbelievable things that happen.  Then, after a particularly stressful day, you will be able to review the past happenings and realize that today was no worse than some of the past days have been.  They passed and you got through them.
  • Fake it until you make it.  Pretend that you’re not anxious or bothered by what happens at work. Because of something known as cognitive dissonance, the mind can actually adapt to the way you act. If you act like a great, confident, happy employee every day even when you’re genuinely not, you can start to feel the very same positive emotions that you’re pretending to experience, and ultimately reduce your anxiety that way.

 

The way you handle the anxiety is not as important as finding the approach that works best for you.  Don’t be reluctant to reach out for professional help if you have tried numerous approached and nothing seems to be working.  Left untreated, anxiety has a negative impact on your quality of life and you deserve only the best!