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15 Min Read

5 Ways To Improve Employee Experience

Baili Bigham
Baili Bigham

Because the job market is at an all-time high, employees now have the luxury of being choosy. Offering good compensation, while still important, is no longer enough to attract the best employees or to retain them. What people want is to feel passionate about their work, have access to cutting-edge technology, gain access to learning and development opportunities, and pave their own career path.

The sum of all these parts and everything in between is what makes up the overall employee experience. A subpar employee experience can have a ripple effect across the organization, shaping everything from how engaged people are to their enthusiasm for the company’s mission.

According to Gallup, only 32 percent of employees are actively engaged at work, meaning the vast majority of employees are not performing at their best because they are disengaged. Companies that seek employees who are already motivated and enthusiastic, sometimes forget their end of the deal. To keep employees committed, you must invest in them.

If you are looking to improve employee experience and reignite the spirit within your company culture, here are five ways to help you start today.

1. Take advantage of technology

Digital adoption within a company is seen as a competitive advantage to many modern job seekers. No one wants to show up on the first day at their dream job just to find out they’re not the forward-thinking company they signed up for. Without the right resources, doing any job becomes a massive headache.

To improve employee experience, begin by giving your employees the right tools they need to do their job well. It’s a common misconception that incorporating more technology into your employee’s day will be a productivity vacuum. But in reality, investing in ways to alleviate the pain points of your employee’s workload communicates that they are a true priority.

In the same vain, forcing technology down the throats of employees won’t be your ticket to success either. A study by Jamf surveyed 580 organizations across the globe and found a staggering correlation between allowing employees to choose what technology they use at work and their overall job satisfaction. 

Over half (68 percent) stated they were more productive, and 37 percent claimed to have improved creativity when given the choice to use their preferred device. Granting employees autonomy to pick which tools compliment their working styles translates into more loyal, dedicated employees.

With changing work environments, employees want a stronger sense of control. In another study by PwC with over 12,000 participants, they found that most leaders (90 percent) believe they are choosing tech options with their people in mind, but many employees (53 percent) don’t see it that way. Employees feel that the technology being chosen for them isn’t done so knowledgeably. And we all know that when a person can’t do their job efficiently, the employee experience inevitably takes a nosedive. 

Invest in what motivates your people. Today’s workforce is more open-minded than ever when it comes to technology at work, so be willing to adopt alongside with them.

2. Set the precedent of trust

Trust is a central part of all human relationships, both in our personal lives and professional. Without this security in the workplace, it can be difficult to build a strong connection with your employees, manager, or even the company as a whole.

To understand the principles of trust, Harvard Professor, Frances Frei gives an insightful TED Talk on what it is and how to build–or rebuild it. Frei believes that when people learn to trust more, there will be unprecedented human progress, because trust fuels productivity.

Trust has three moving parts; Authenticity, logic, and empathy. Each of these characteristics of trust must be intact in order for trust to be granted, but if one begins to shake then the foundation is unstable and trust is threatened.

Imagine a work culture where the employees have little trust in their leaders. Do you think people are able to show up each day ready to work and passionate about their company? This trust is a vital aspect to improve employee experience and can determine how productive your employees actually are.

It’s important to remember that trust is a two-way street. People expect managers to be honest in their feedback, strategic in their guidance, and true advocates for their employees. But while trust is often granted to higher-ups from the start, it’s sometimes unrequited to junior employees. By granting trust to your employees, you create space for growth and autonomy. 

With autonomy, employees feel empowered to focus on the specific areas where they can be most valuable. Leaders can then focus on the aspects of the business where they can add the most value, like raising funding or positioning the company to emerge into a new market.

More and more companies are embracing trust as a gateway to autonomy. With this independence, employees grow more confident in their role, find fulfillment in that mastery, and eventually own projects that bring value to the company. In those organizations executives expect leadership to come from everywhere, not just the top.

As Stephen M.R. Covey explains in his book, The Speed of Trust, trust is the great liberator of time and resources and an essential condition for growth. Covey shares that “when trust goes up, speed will also go up and cost will go down,” and that “when trust goes down, speed will go down and costs will go up.” The speed at which you can grow your business is directly proportional to the time that you invest in creating trusting relationships within your culture. 

Ready to learn best practices and philosophies that can help unlock the full potential of your business? Click here to subscribe to the Best-Self Management Podcast!

3. Make room for your employees to grow

Workplace learning and development looks vastly different than it did 30 years ago. Instead of sitting through lengthy mandatory lectures, employees are actively seeking learning opportunities that support their individual learning styles and goals.

Making personal and professional development a priority in your company can greatly improve employee experience, productivity, and retention. In LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report, they found that more executives than ever (82 percent) are championing employee engagement through professional development. L&D professionals are now proactively seeking skill gaps in various ways, such as conducting internal assessments and making room in meetings with senior executives.

As the progression of technology speeds up, new pathways for personal and professional development begin to take shape. Because of these opportunities, more dollars are being shifted to online learning solutions. Nothing can fully replace the value of face-to-face learning environments, but no one can deny the benefits of online learning tools. They are quicker, more personalized, and can be fit into any schedule.

While it’s refreshing to know many employees are seeking ways to improve themselves, in an Udemy survey, 84 percent of U.S. workers still believe there is a skills gap among employees in the workplace. So giving the opportunity to upskill is necessary for two reasons; the first being your company simply won’t keep up with its competitors, and lastly because employees are demanding it. At least 51 percent of people say they would quit a job that didn’t provide additional training. 

Upskilling isn’t just the act of completing a new certification, it’s promoting a growth-mindset and creating the right behaviors to match. Allowing employees to take charge of their own learning path can give a new sense of confidence and autonomy which can improve employee experience, but it’s important for managers to provide guidance so they know where to focus their development.

In your 1-on-1s with your employees, ask them specific questions regarding their interest in learning and development. “What hard skill, if improved, would make the biggest difference?” Knowing what drives your people can allow you the chance to connect with them. Through this connection, you can begin linking ways to incorporate their passions into their work to offer the chance to flex their strengths.

4. Create the right career path

Career development has changed significantly over the years, especially as Millennials take the job market by storm becoming the largest adult generation in the workplace. It used to be, when a new employee was hired, there was a standard career path to follow, you put in the same amount of time and did the same type of work as those before you, climbing the proverbial career ladder. The modern employee no longer wants to wait three years for a promotion, and they don’t have to.

The idea of working at one company for a lifetime is now unthinkable, and as the stigma of job-hopping has lessened, employees feel more comfortable doing it. A CareerBuilder survey noted that 45 percent of college grads will stay at a job two years or less, and that by age 35, a quarter of workers will have held five jobs or more. Valued employees who are dissatisfied with their career development can easily leave a company and land in a new job with a 15 percent salary increase. So what can a company do to keep employees around?

As people managers, you have to recognize that your employees are making career assessments all the time. It’s your job to provide guidance on the development process with information, feedback, and continued motivation. Career paths are no longer static, so instead of focusing employees on attaining a specific role, help them grow their skills by giving the right kind of feedback.

In a recent study of people management by The Predictive Index, their data uncovers that employees actually enjoy feedback. Unfortunately, 44 percent of managers are not giving much feedback if any. If you’re worried about giving too much, it turns out that that is still preferred over less. Don’t be afraid to share your insights with your employees if you feel it could be useful to them as they plan out their career path. 

Managers can effectively promote a positive environment and improve employee experience by helping to map out a personalized career plan with them in your 1-on-1s. Planning short-term and long-term growth plans shows your employees that the organization not only cares for them, but wants to see them excel.

5. Collaboration is key

Collaboration is, by definition, a cooperative arrangement in which two or more parties work jointly towards a common goal. It is mutually beneficial for every team member, and has proven time after time to be a huge catapult for success.

Before a company can focus on collaboration, it must first take a good, hard look at how its employees communicate with one another. When we aren’t intentional with the way we communicate, people have a tendency to show the worst sides of them. In a workplace, and really anywhere, gossip and negative speech can disintegrate any trust or motivation that may have once been granted.

The only way to combat this type of work environment is to learn how to communicate honestly and with tactful feedback. Relationships can determine the quality of our day-to-day lives, and allowing for honest feedback and open communication will strengthen the quality of these connections. It’s through these relationships which are built on trust that the groundwork for collaboration can be set. 

In a global survey conducted by Slack, they found that “good” collaboration is simply the ease of communication. Most companies, especially those growing rapidly, struggle with unclear communication, making joint cooperation towards a common goal seemingly impossible. In a negative environment, it’s not likely that this problem will be solved no matter how many seminars employees sit through.

Making the shift into a more enjoyable and productive workspace requires a collective effort from your team members, and a sense of psychological safety. Psychological safety is the foundation of strong professional relationships and is the belief that your environment is safe for interpersonal risk taking. When teams feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable with their teammates and communicate openly, collaboration becomes organic and employee experience is heightened.

When it comes down to it, people have the desire to collaborate, but often times they either don’t know how or don’t feel truly empowered. Managers, finding the solution begins with you. Have regular check-ins with your employees and find out what their challenges are, and if you see that working in silos is becoming a habit, work with them to break the cycle.

Without talented and dedicated people, a company won’t achieve what they set out to, no matter how great the idea. Businesses recognize that to stay competitive, they must find ways to bring out their employees’ best performance, and create a culture that brings a strong sense of belonging and purpose.

But this is quite a tall order, especially for companies stuck in a fixed mindset. Combatting a negative environment won’t be an easy fix, but it will be a worthwhile one. Allowing your employees to give honest feedback and applying action to those issues will be the start of your cultural uprising and a fast track to improve employee experience.

This piece originally appeared on G2.

Baili Bigham is Content Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, OKR tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360° reviews. When Baili isn’t writing, you can find her binge reading a new book or strategizing ways to pet every dog in San Francisco.

Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash