Today’s top talents have high expectations in the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, and some business leaders are struggling to adapt.
The traditional offer of juicy compensation packages and generous benefits isn’t the competitive advantage it once was.
Employees want more than money from where they work – they want purpose, comfort, and a personal connection to their workplace.
In other words, they want a fulfilling employee experience from their first interaction as a candidate all the way to their final day at a company.
Employers who crack the code and cultivate personalized experiences for employees have a lot to gain from a happier and more engaged workforce, but executing this goal is difficult.
We created this ultimate guide to help HR leaders infuse more humanity into every aspect of their employment strategy and enhance the wellbeing of their employees.
At TestGorilla, we know that while the employee experience may start with our skills-based hiring assessments, the hiring process is just one of many important touchpoints employers need to monitor to attract and retain the best employees.
Let’s consider them all and take a look at what a superior employee experience design looks like.
Table of contents
- What is employee experience (EX)?
- The phases of employee experience
- Why is employee experience gaining importance among workers?
- Why should employee experience matter to employers?
- 3 organizations with excellent employee experience
- How to improve employee experience: 10 best practices for building a happier, more productive workforce
- Win talent over with a great employee experience
✅ Use skills testing for better employee experience
What is employee experience (EX)?
Employee experience refers to the totality of interactions a worker has with a company over the timeframe they are employed. EX captures the full range of day-to-day experiences employees are likely to have, beginning with the hiring process and continuing through their exit from a company.
EX covers the overall experience an employee has as a result of interacting with a company’s:
- Physical and virtual work environments
A well-designed employee experience strategy shifts the perspective from managing one faceless block of employees to managing multiple individual relationships. It requires company practices that aim to help each employee thrive based on their own unique needs and working style.
Employee engagement vs. employee experience
Employee engagement (EG) is a separate management concept often confused with employee experience.
EG refers to the degree of connection and commitment a worker has to their employer and is closely tied to EX. However, the two are different in nature in a few key ways:
- Employee engagement is an output or result of other factors whereas employee experience is an input
- Employee engagement is a top-down management practice that considers the average behavior of a company’s workforce whereas employee experience focuses on the individual
- Employee engagement concentrates on productivity and professional outcomes whereas employee experience centers on personal outcomes
The good news? Employers that invest in an amazing employee experience are likely to see more engaged employees as a result. In order to stay in the loop of your employees’ engagement levels, consider implementing regular employee engagement surveys.
Now, let’s focus on what the work experience looks like to truly engage your employees.
The phases of employee experience
It’s alluring to think that a great employee experience can be crafted from one policy change or a single innovative human resources practice.
“Our company’s case study interview process creates amazing employee outcomes.”
“We have the best training and development program for new hires out of our entire industry.”
While these may be true and beneficial, nailing employee experience isn’t about mastering one pointed business strategy. Instead, it requires a holistic awareness of how every interaction an employee has with your company can create a positive or negative association.
In reality, employee experience begins before a worker is even hired. Perceptions about your company’s brand or employee feedback from websites like Glassdoor are more likely to mark the start of the employee experience than anything your HR team controls itself.
That’s why it’s important to consider how EX plays into every phase of an employee’s lifecycle, including:
- Recruiting: attracting, interviewing, and hiring employees
- Onboarding: providing new hires with the tools and feedback they need to ramp up and succeed
- Development: ongoing training and feedback to help employees gain new skills and progress
- Exit: the process of offboarding an employee for voluntary or involuntary reasons
Let’s look at a variety of factors that contribute to EX at each stage in more detail:
|Phase of the employee lifecycle||Questions that influence good or bad EX|
|Recruiting||Is the job description clear and enticing? How easy is it for candidates to navigate the application process? How long is the interview process? Did candidates receive prompt and helpful feedback on their performance?|
|Onboarding||Is your company providing the best employee onboarding experiences? Is there structured training or resources to support new hires? Are employees assigned a mentor to provide assistance? How much time are employees given to “ramp up” before being expected to contribute?|
|Development||What type of feedback do employees get from colleagues and managers? Do employees understand what opportunities they have for career progression and how to take advantage of them? Are employees encouraged to take additional certifications or given an ongoing education budget?|
|Exit||How are layoffs communicated and handled? Do employees get clear feedback before they are let go? Do employers have a practice of conducting exit interviews? Do employers provide exit benefits or services to help employees transition?|
Employee experience contemplates all of these interactions and more, and a successful strategy requires HR organizations to make investments and changes at each step along the journey.
Why is employee experience gaining importance among workers?
In essence, employee experience is about closing the gap between employee expectations and their actual experience of working at your company.
So, is the gap widening because employees are expecting more, or is it because employers are falling short on delivery?
The truth is a mixture of both. Trends in the labor market and broader economy are driving workers to care far more about their experience than before and making it difficult for employers to respond adequately.
Here are some reasons EX is rising in importance:
1. Hybrid and remote workplaces require more intention to build positive employee experiences.
While many employees appreciate the flexibility to work remotely, the lack of a physical office space where everybody congregates creates additional difficulties for HR organizations wanting a positive EX. In a remote setting, it’s easier for employees to get different levels of support or have varying distractions. Without the office water cooler, it’s also more difficult for employees to build natural relationships with colleagues or their managers, which is often an important part of healthy work culture and experience.
2. Younger generations of workers such as Millennials and Gen Z care more about social and personal causes in the workplace.
As younger employees make up an increasing percentage of the labor pool, employers need to continue adapting to changing preferences about what work means. While older generations may have been content collecting a paycheck and going home at the end of the day, newer generations desire more community and purpose from their employers.
3. It’s easier than ever for candidates to review an employer’s culture online or for disgruntled employees to air their grievances.
The power of the internet and company review sites like Glassdoor or Blind give candidates deep insights into the experiences that previous employees have had with an employer. Additionally, social media makes it simple for employees to express their true thoughts about their employers. The simple fact is that employees can “experience” your company long before they engage with you directly, often vicariously through others.
4. Cost-cutting and layoffs are leading many companies to drop the ball on employee experience.
In order to maximize business success, an EX strategy requires time and money, which certain employers are unable to provide in tighter economic times. Additionally, many employees question the promise of work being a “family” when they see employers make large headcount cuts. Workers want proof that they are going to be treated fairly and properly in the long run.
But not all is lost. Employers that care about creating a positive employee experience for their company can stand out from the crowd of companies letting their workforce down.
As your HR organization makes investments in an improved employee experience, your company becomes far more attractive to new hires and existing employees alike.
Why should employee experience matter to employers?
Caring about the human experience of each individual employee at your company isn’t just a feel-good exercise with no real business outcomes.
In fact, positive employee experiences lead directly to positive financial and strategic results for employers.
Here are some of the major reasons employers should care about employee experience from their own perspective:
- EX makes hiring great candidates easier
- EX lowers employee turnover
- EX improves employee productivity
- EX leads to better customer experience
Let’s explore each in more detail including some interesting studies to back up these claims.
EX makes hiring easier
One thing employers should keep in mind upfront is that employees care a lot about their experience at a company. This should ring alarm bells for many when research shows almost half of all employees are consistently underwhelmed.
When employers get it right, however, a positive experience can help them land talent that might have otherwise gone to a competitor.
Employers that create a pleasant candidate experience during the hiring process can strongly influence a jobseeker’s employment decision.
In one study, for instance, Deloitte found that 87% of candidates considered changing their minds about a company or role they previously doubted after a positive hiring experience.
In the war for talent, employee experience can be an effective arrow in an employer’s quiver.
EX lowers employee turnover
Employee retention is a major concern for employers.
Given the effort and costs to hire a new employee, employers want to make sure they hold onto their best talent in order to protect their bottom line.
We’ve written extensively on how employers can better manage turnover elsewhere, but one effective way to improve retention is to create positive employee experiences.
According to Gartner, employees that report a positive experience are 60% more likely to stay with their company and even more likely to be top performers.
So while EX may require some upfront investment, employers are likely to see a positive ROI from retaining their best employees.
EX improves employee productivity
It’s hard for a disengaged workforce to be productive. The worst thing employers can do is hire skilled people and then fail to get their full output.
Thankfully, a positive employee experience creates a workforce that is proud and capable of giving their all.
Gartner makes this connection clear in their 2022 employee experience survey, which found that workers who reported a positive employee experience showed 16 times the level of engagement versus peers who reported a negative experience.
This means employers that are willing to invest in employee experience can be confident in a return on their efforts in the form of greater productivity.
EX leads to better customer experience
Do you think happy and fulfilled workers are more or less likely to provide a positive customer experience?
Hopefully, the answer is obvious, but luckily the link between these two concepts has also been quantified by researchers.
A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that employees with a positive experience (as measured by tenure, experience, skills, and engagement) generated 50% more revenue from selling to customers than employees with a negative experience.
When employees feel committed to an organization’s goals, their optimism rubs off on the end customer.
In all these different ways, a good employee experience contributes to greater financial outcomes for companies.
3 organizations with excellent employee experience
So who is doing EX well? What companies can we look up to for inspiration and advice?
While there are many out there, we’ve condensed a short list of organizations with excellent employee experiences that your HR function might want to copy:
Let’s look at some of the specific practices that contribute to positive EX at each company.
Google is an excellent example of a company creating a positive employee experience by changing the physical workspace.
Google offers their employees on-site amenities like gyms, daycares, and catered food in order to make the office an inviting destination.
Employees benefit from a rewarding work environment while the company benefits from greater productivity. The employees have no need to worry about who’s watching their kids or what to have for lunch, so they can instead focus and engage with the work at hand.
Hey, that’s us! With all that we have to say about employee experience, it’s no surprise that we put our money where our mouth is.
TestGorilla is a good example of a company creating a positive employee experience through technology and flexible work policies.
We have a highly engaged workforce from around the globe thanks in part to our commitment to remote work and our investment in remote working technologies and processes.
We focus on hiring employees with valuable skills who can add to our culture regardless of where they’re located. This creates a merit-based and collaborative experience that employees appreciate.
Cisco Systems is a large company building positive employee experience through ongoing training and development.
One of Cisco’s most notable programs is its “Leadership Development Program” designed to identify future leaders and provide them with mentorship and coaching.
Another example of Cisco’s commitment to ongoing career development is its “Technical Academy” program which offers certification courses and advanced workshops for more technical roles.
Employees at Cisco benefit from ongoing support in their jobs and career advancement opportunities that contribute to an excellent employee experience.
How to improve employee experience: 10 best practices for building a happier, more productive workforce
Employee experience exists at every company, regardless of any specific culture, practice, or environment an employer has implemented.
Now that we’ve outlined the benefits of a positive employee experience, the question is how to create the best possible outcome for employees and, in turn, your business performance.
Before diving into some best practices companies can make to improve their own employee experience, let’s think about what great EX “sounds” like in general.
From our knowledge of helping employers, we find that a successful employee experience strategy involves vocabulary like:
Keep these in mind as we explore some targeted ideas to improve your employee experience.
Top tips for improving employee experience
|Tips for improving EX||How this can be practiced|
|Make sure EX is owned by everyone in the business, not just HR||Hire a chief experience officer (CXO) to lead EX initiatives and champion EX in C-suite decisions.|
|Listen and engage with your employees creatively||Conduct ongoing pulse surveys and focus groups to understand whether employees are satisfied or not.|
|Empower existing communities and employee network groups within your organization||Create diversity and inclusion goals and oversight committees.|
|Support ongoing training and development programs.||Provide credits for employees to receive continuing education.|
|Provide consistent feedback to employees||Institute forward-looking performance reviews that help employees understand how to improve and advance their career opportunities.|
|Focus on every stage of the employee journey||Create processes that target recruitment, onboarding, and offboarding.|
|Foster healthy coworker and manager relationships||Invest in team-building activities that improve teamwork and trust in the workplace.|
|Have the company lead with a clear mission and values||Codify your corporate purpose and help employees understand how they contribute to these goals.|
|Allow flexibility in work choices and work environments||Implement innovative policies like a 4-day work week or hybrid work schedule.|
|Become a skills-first organization and rely on skills-based hiring to attract the right kind of people||Use skills-based pre-employment tests to objectively assess capabilities and hire employees that want to contribute.|
1. Make EX the responsibility of all (not just HR)
Don’t get it wrong, HR plays an important role in driving a positive employee experience, but HR reps are not the only ones who should care about EX.
While core responsibilities like hiring and firing contribute to employee experience, there are many more touchpoints with an employee that HR doesn’t handle.
For example, once a candidate joins a company, they are far more likely to interact with their managers and colleagues daily than anyone in HR.
This means that EX needs to be considered by everyone at the company, from entry-level workers all the way to the executive suite.
In order to do this, some companies advocate for EX by creating a chief experience officer role to manage alignment throughout the company.
2. Listen and engage with your employees
One obvious way to improve EX is to simply ask your employees what they want and what they care about.
Conduct routine surveys to measure employee satisfaction or host focus groups to investigate a specific area of concern.
However you do it, make sure employees have a mechanism to provide feedback to the company.
3. Empower diverse communities within your company
A diverse workforce can transform your business and employee experience for the better.
Employees with diverse backgrounds want to be represented and respected at your company.
One way to do this is to champion employee resource groups (ERGs) and link them to the diversity and inclusion goals of your business.
Just remember that increasing diversity is a long-term investment that requires intention and iteration to get right.
4. Support ongoing learning and development
Employees who feel supported and guided in their career advancement are bound to have a positive experience.
However, many employers rely on quiet hiring and pile increasing levels of work on their best performers without adequate training.
A better option, and one that doesn’t lead to poor EX, consists in providing ongoing career development through in-house programs, continuing education courses, events, or mentorship programs.
5. Provide consistent feedback to employees
In order to cultivate a positive employee experience, feedback needs to be a two-way street.
Above, we talked about employers listening to their employees, but how can they provide productive feedback in return?
The answer is to incorporate review sessions with employees that are focused on filling gaps and making improvements, not on past mistakes. This strategy of performance management fosters continuous growth, regularly giving employees renewed satisfaction with their development.
6. Consider EX at each phase of the employee lifecycle
Earlier, we discussed the four generic stages of the employee journey: recruitment, the onboarding process, development, and exit.
A successful employee experience strategy needs to consider every step in order to create a great outcome for workers.
This might mean investing in proper processes even as an employee leaves. For example, conduct routine exit interviews to incorporate feedback and make improvements for future hires.
7. Foster healthy employee relationships
A positive employee experience requires workers to feel comfortable with their colleagues and managers.
Healthy relationships might form on their own, but employers have a responsibility to influence trust and team building within their organization.
Consider incorporating team-building events, offsites, conferences, and other natural opportunities for employees to work closely with their coworkers and leaders.
8. Lead with inclusive company values
Increasingly, employees care about the purpose and cause behind their work.
One way employers can provide this to employees is by committing to company values and getting senior leadership to “walk the walk.”
Inclusive leaders that uphold the values of the firm can help build cohesive company cultures and contribute to a positive EX.
9. Allow for flexible work choices and work environments
Younger employees especially are demanding more choice and flexibility from their employers.
Remote or hybrid work is a valuable perk in the minds of most candidates and allowing these options can create a positive employee experience as long as employers invest in the proper technologies and tools.
Consider incorporating flexible work schedules including 4-day weeks, job sharing, or job shadowing programs.
10. Become a skills-first organization
Skills-based hiring practices contribute to a positive employee experience by providing candidates with an objective application and interview process.
They also remove bias and are a better predictor of job success than other hiring methods, which means a fairer and more streamlined procedure for workers.
But most of all, being a skills-first organization leads to positive EX because it creates clarity and agreement regarding what employers are looking for in their employees.
That way, there is less confusion about who is and who isn’t a good fit. Employees know that they and everyone else earned their positions and were not just hiring flukes that fell through the cracks.
Win talent over with a great employee experience
Employee experience plays a pivotal role in attracting, hiring, and retaining the best talent.
Creating a workplace where employees can bring their whole selves to work requires innovation and investment but pays off in the form of an engaged and committed workforce.
While other employers fall behind, now is a great time for forward-thinking companies to improve their experience strategy at every step of the employee journey.
TestGorilla can help companies improve their EX in the hiring phase with skills-based assessments that create fairer outcomes for employees and employers alike.
For a quick case study, check out how Bain & Company improved their candidate experience with our help.
So, whether your company is looking to assess candidates for their leadership skills or their financial analysis, we have you covered.