What Is Employee Experience (Ex) and How Should It Impact Your Staff Retention Strategies?


Posted by Maren Fox - 08 March, 2018

With corporate spending on employee engagement edging toward $1 billion per year, it’s time to ask why just 29 percent of millennials report being engaged by their work—and why 60 percent of them are open to taking new jobs. The likely cause? Employers are leaning on short-term engagement efforts such as catered lunches and bonuses. However, these don’t influence the overall employee experience; top-down organizational change is required to achieve that.

Employee experience, author and futurist Jacob Morgan explains, entails “a complete redesign of the organization that puts employees at the center.” In other words, pay raises and bonuses are sorry substitutes for managers who don’t empower employees, or for organizational structures that don’t maximize employee talent and nurture professional development. Morgan identifies three key pillars of the employee experience: culture, technology, and physical workspace.

Your Corporate Culture Can Be Used as a Retention Tool 

MIllennials say they would give up an average of $7,600 in salary to work in a better corporate culture. But what, exactly, does “corporate culture” refer to? It’s all the invisible forces that set the tone and mood of a workplace. Management style, corporate structure, and organizational goals and values are just a few examples. Creating a positive culture should be a centerpiece of staff retention strategies.

Modernized Management

Millennials don’t appreciate authoritative leaders or autocratic management styles. Instead, they gravitate toward leaders that serve as mentors or coaches and offer plenty of opportunities for professional development. They also gravitate toward transparent, authentic leaders who have personal integrity, research indicates. Positive leadership and servant leadership are a couple of examples of leadership styles that appeal to millennials.

Organizational Structure

Millennials don’t find rigid organizational hierarchies effective—and the vast majority of executives agree. Deloitte has found that structuring staffs into small, networked teams that each have areas of speciality is the most effective approach in today’s unpredictable and often disrupted business environments. The team-based approach makes individual members more engaged, and it makes organizations more adaptable and responsive to changing conditions.

Corporate Values

Millennials seek purpose and meaning in their work. Working for companies that advance their personal beliefs and values inspires a sense of loyalty, research shows. Author Richard J. Leider writes in The Power of Purpose that the shift toward an accelerated, global, technology-driven world in the 21st century is driving a “purpose movement.” These transformational periods, Leider writes, “spotlight what does not change—what remains constant and non negotiable in our lives. Purpose is one of those constants.”

It’s hard for people to “connect” with a company’s profit-driven goals, but corporate values that reflect the individual’s values can help forge that connection. Leider has developed Calling Cards, an interactive card deck, that can help forge that connection. It’s exercises are designed to help users uncover their skills, talents—and purpose.

Competitive pay and benefits will always be important factors in employee retention. However, they’re not the only factors. People want to look forward to going to work. They want to find purpose in their work. By incorporating modernized management styles, a team-based organizational structure, and corporate values, you can help your employees achieve that. You can boost engagement and productivity in the process, too.

Technology Impacts the Employee Experience More Than You Think

For millennials, having access to the right tools and technology isn’t a luxury—it’s a way of life. In fact, 59 percent of millennials said that the technology a potential employer uses is an important factor when considering a job offer in a PwC study. So, having the right technology in place—and using it effectively—should be an important part of your recruitment and retention strategies.

Technology speaks millennials’ language.

Nearly half of millennials prefer to communicate electronically than face-to-face, the PwC study found. Sure, managers can send brief text messages and emails to check in and provide feedback—but it goes much deeper than that. Forbes reports that high-skill employees spend 19 percent of the average workweek collecting information about projects. Investing in “thought trail” technology that gathers and archives data from conference calls, video conference recordings, texts, and emails in searchable databases enables employees to work more efficiently—and in a way that comes natural to them.

Technology offers flexibility.

Millennials like to blend their personal and professional lives, and technology helps. Eighty-nine percent of millennials check their email after work hours, and 77 percent say that being able to work outside of the “9 to 5” workday makes them more productive, according to a Bentley University study. In The Millennial Myth, author Crystal Kadakia writes that millennials’ desire to work “when, where, and how they want” has fed into the false notion that they’re lazy. In reality, however, they’ve redefined long-standing perceptions of what “hard work” means. By embracing that, business leaders can increase employee retention and productivity.

Technology enables professional development.

Millennials are hungry for professional development, and technology can be part of the solution. “Smart learning systems” that enable employees to access training materials and courses any time are more effective and less expensive than classroom-based training, according to a study by Accenture. Mobile technology that allows materials to be accessed via smartphone or tablet, social media platforms that offer peer-to-peer interactions, and “micro learning” applications that provide brief, timely instruction instead of full courses have emerged as great supplements to online courses, the study found.

Technology shapes how millennials live—and they expect it to shape how they work, too. By using technology to modernize organizational communications, daily workflow, and professional development, business leaders can help improve the overall employee experience.

The Physical Workplace’s Role in the Employee Experience

Cubicles have been the punchlines of comic strips and pop culture references for decades. Given that 70 percent of U.S. workplaces have transitioned to an open floor plan, it’s clear that business leaders are getting the message. Making additional changes to the physical workplace can help boost engagement, and the overall employee experience.

Create a third space.

A third space is a communal area where employees can gather for informal meetings. Often modeled after a cafe or living room, these areas have proved effective in helping both introverts and extroverts share ideas and collaborate—which helps to boost engagement and innovation.

Consider ditching assigned seating.

Companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, and CBRE have ended assigned seating and opted instead for “free-address” workspaces, Forbes reports. The idea is that unassigned seats enhance collaboration and group-based work. This model also better reflects the movement toward remote workers, contractors, freelancers, and part-time employees.

There are lots of pop culture depictions of modern workspaces featuring things like table tennis, bean bag chairs, and nap rooms. However, it’s important to remember that work-life balance, work flexibility, and salary and benefits round out the most important workplace factors for millennials. They’d rather have the ability to work remotely than table tennis in the office. It’s most important that the physical workspace encourage collaboration and flexibility.

The Final Word on Employe Experience and Staff Retention

In its simplest terms, employee experience refers to how happy and satisfied employees are with their work. When people don’t feel valued, or they don’t find purpose in their work, employee engagement and retention efforts will almost always fall flat. By fostering a corporate culture that helps employees grow and find value in their work, businesses can boost engagement. Businesses can boost productivity by leveraging technology to better meet the challenges of today’s fast-paced marketplaces and non-traditional working hours. By modernizing the physical workspace to reflect these realities, businesses can bolster collaboration and teamwork. When it comes to retaining today’s top talent, the solution is to offer culture, technology, and workspaces that reflect their values and preferences.

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