In the quest for success, organizations are putting much more focus on the employee experience (EX). The goal is to improve both employee satisfaction AND engagement. According to Willis Towers Watson, employee engagement is “employees’ willingness and ability to contribute to company success.” Numerous metrics showcase the hard-dollar value of improved employee experience and engagement. The Gallup Organization found that when EX is better, profits go up 21% and absenteeism goes down 41%. The gains are so compelling that the question becomes how we improve EX, not should we do it.
To put it bluntly, organizations that deliver an engaging and positive employee experience will be successful, and those that don’t will always be under pressure. As digital systems become an increasingly important part of the employee experience, ensuring that they support an improved and more engaging employee experience is of critical importance.
“Traditionally, companies have focused on the physical well-being of their employees and viewed the other aspects as a bit taboo. But the pandemic has changed this,” said Donna Kimmel, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, Citrix. “Companies are now having more holistic conversations that cover the mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects of well-being because they realize that they must create a workspace that empowers their people to be well on all fronts.”
Citrix has undertaken recent groundbreaking research on the key principles that must be put in place to improve EX and employees’ resultant engagement. The insights and information from this effort provide clear direction for enhancing EX with systems designed, from the ground up, to support this goal.
The Three Dimensions of Employee Experience
The Citrix research study found that EX is driven by three dimensions: culture, digital space, and physical space.
Culture is an elusive element to nail down, but the study showed that there are some important factors that are generally perceived by employees to contribute to a positive culture. According to the survey, 40% of all employees value a flexible work environment, 40% want opportunities for growth, 30% cite having the right technology to do the job, 27% name being connected to their team, and 27% cite being inspired by leadership. These five factors lay the foundation for a positive employee experience.
The digital space is only becoming more important, as evidenced by its inclusion in two of the five data points above. Technology solutions can either enhance or detract from EX. When the technology fails, the employee experience will always follow it downward. Technology solutions can increase the sense of personal empowerment and the opportunity for growth. This not only attracts employees, but it also helps to retain them.
Physical space has much more impact than is generally believed. At a basic level, physical space should augment how employees work together and reduce friction. However, COVID-19 changed things. Physical spaces now must be safe and reassure employees that they can work safely at the same site. Overt demonstration of steps taken to keep them safe is necessary.
The Three Pillars for Transforming EX
The research identified three key pillars that act as the foundation for transforming EX:
- Empowering individual progress: Organizations challenged by a lot of talent poaching and high turnover often think that they need to add fun to the job to retain their workers. But wine tastings and ukulele-making classes aren’t actually very effective. What employees really want is to make progress. The Citrix research identified two ways employees perceive progress: the ability to move up within the organization, and the ability to advance in their careers. This shows that at its heart, progress is highly personal, and experiences need to reflect that. The research found that 55% of firms that are rated as “advanced” on employee experience tailor EX daily.
- Deepening empathy from human insights: Listening to employees, understanding their issues, and building empathy do not come from doing more surveys. Building empathy comes from a scientific approach to improving it. The starting point is to develop numerous data feeds from “signals” coming from the employees. Some firms have started this process for digital systems by looking at help desk tickets. This is a start, but it provides a limited and biased perspective. More information is necessary. Gaining information from “journey mapping” of daily activities completed with digital systems is another valuable data source, along with employee journeys that define the entire EX. Firms can also use multiple devices and applications to measure EX based on daily activity and interactions with those applications. And of course, understanding the different needs, goals, and activities of different employee personas provides much better context for building empathy.
- Partnering to foster shared EX ownership: Among the most common management refrains today is “break down the silos.” This is laudable, but the important thing is to break down silos where it has the greatest impact. When focusing on EX, partnering to break down silos demands that HR, IT, and real estate teams work much more closely to improve EX. The Citrix research found that 64% of firms with advanced status for EX had shared goals, metrics, or KPIs across these three teams. The reason that teamwork among these three teams is so essential is that each brings expertise in the three primary dimensions that shape CX (culture, digital space, and physical space) noted above.
Did you know that 74% of executives anticipate a significant return on investment (ROI) from an improved employee experience? However, data from the Citrix Work 2035 report reveals a sharp disconnect between how business leaders and employees view their roles in the future, and the safety of those roles as technology matures. A solid EX approach presents an opportunity to proactively combat the disconnect, today and beyond.
“Those that are seeing the greatest success have turned to employee experience (EX). Even prior to the pandemic, the benefits of a strong EX reduced employee turnover and improved customer experiences were apparent. Now it’s a ubiquitous “must” — weaving EX into the way your company operates offers a way to unlock potential within your workforce and paves a clear path towards a more effective hybrid-work strategy,” highlighted Chris Voce, Citrix Customer Engagement Strategist, in a recent blog post. “Not giving EX special attention right now can set an organization back, perhaps permanently.”