Why 2018 Is The Year Of Employee Experience

For the last several years, Customer Experience (CX) has been top of mind for B2C (and, increasingly, B2B) marketers, with smart companies devoting time and energy to deeply understanding how to optimize each engagement a potential buyer has with their brand and create a seamless experience from first touch to last that exceeds expectations. Those same smart companies are now turning their attention inward, realizing that they can’t effectively serve their target market with a workforce that’s disorganized, disaffected, or overwhelmed. We’re entering the age of Employee Experience (EX) and if this new priority isn’t already shaking up your team and your organization, it’s only a matter of time until it does.

But what does a great EX look like? Every leader wants to helm a team that’s living up to its productivity potential, but not every leader knows how to get there. In fact, where most leaders and companies get things wrong is by misunderstanding what motivates their workers. They put too much emphasis on flashy perks or dive headfirst into new management fads (holacracy, anyone?) that fizzle out. They make employee engagement into a complex riddle to be solved instead of applying a little common sense to the issue at hand.

In reality, a good employee experience is a simple one. Research from Siegal + Gale found that employees at “simple” workplaces, which they define as having clear communications about vision and values and giving all employees a sense of how they can contribute to the same, were 31% more likely to share new ideas and 22% more likely to look for opportunities to improve their work and the company as a whole than those who work for more complex organizations.

A good employee experience is also a streamlined, goal-centered one. One of the key causes of the downward trajectory of employee morale in the US is that employers aren’t focused on removing barriers to effective, efficient work. We thrive when we feel like we’re making daily, incremental progress to toward our goals (why else would diet and fitness tracking apps be so popular?), but, too often, our workplaces and workflows aren’t set up in a way that facilitates this outcome.

As EX gains greater visibility, more organizations will start moving away from trying to motivate and manage through the use of perks and programs and will begin looking at how they can clear a path for their employees to access the resources they need to work productively, with a big piece of this puzzle being figuring out how to increase opportunities for meaningful cross-functional collaboration. This means looking at everything from seat plans and office layouts to project management tech stacks and hiring policies.

What can you as a leader do to move toward a better EX for your team members?

It starts with an open-ended conversation to uncover what’s working and what isn’t. Ask team members where they’re spending the majority of their time. Do they feel as if their workdays are set up in such a way that they’re able to deeply focus on their core responsibilities for sustained periods of time? When they need information or resources from another part of the organization, how easy is the access? How do they feel about their meeting load? Are they being scheduled to death or do they feel out of the loop on critical business decisions? End these conversations by asking each team member to name one improvement you could implement that would make it easier for them to make more progress in their daily work. Their answers may surprise you, but odds are that they’ll be focused on creating a more productive, simplified context.

The age of Employee Experience is dawning. Just like the demands of outstanding Customer Experience, wrapping your mind around its requirements and executing them at a high level won’t necessarily be easy. But, just like CX, EX done right has the power to radically transform your team and your business.