By Lydia Abbot
According to the Global Talent Trends 2020 report, 94% of talent professionals believe employee experience (EX) will be very important to the future of recruiting and HR — and 77% say they’re increasingly focused on it as a means to increase retention.
Unfortunately, there may be a lot of work to do. While 68% of respondents report that EX has improved at their company over the last five years, only 52% say their company currently provides a positive EX — meaning almost half do not.
In a competitive talent market where the employee is in control, providing a positive EX isn’t optional — it’s an essential strategy for retaining your best people and helping them do their best work. This doesn’t mean you have to do a massive overhaul. By focusing on a few problem areas and taking action to fix them, you can show employees that you’re dedicated to improvement and build momentum for future change.
To help you pinpoint which areas to focus on, the table below shows seven parts of employee experience that talent professionals say their organizations need to fix:
Based on these results, here are seven steps you can take to improve EX at your company — and see better business outcomes.
- Improve compensation and benefits
When asked what aspects of EX needed fixing at their company, the top answer talent professionals gave was compensation and benefits. Nearly half (48%) of the respondents identified this as an opportunity area.
While pay is far from the only factor that influences EX, it’s importance should not be understated. If employees don’t feel like they’re being paid fairly, their satisfaction will drop and they may start looking for another job. On the flip side, companies rated highly on compensation and benefits see 56% lower attrition compared to companies that rated poorly on compensation, so improvements in this area can pay for themselves.
That’s not to say you should hike salaries well above the market average. Your company may not have the resources, and besides, that strategy can lead to diminishing returns. But adding zeros to everyone’s paychecks isn’t the only way to improve in this area.
One strategy that’s worth considering is adopting pay transparency. Whether you lay all your cards on the table or just disclose salary ranges, this can give employees confidence that they’re being paid fairly, at least in relation to their coworkers. For groups that are historically underpaid, like women and people of color, this can be an important step toward building trust.
You can also find out which benefits your employees want the most and consider rolling them out. This doesn’t have to cost a fortune — in fact, some of the most sought-after benefits, like flexible and remote work options, don’t have to cost a penny. Flexible work arrangements are even linked to higher productivity and retention, lower absenteeism, and 137% higher headcount growth, so everybody wins.
- Simplify administrative processes
Today, your employees can do everything from ordering a pizza to paying their bills in just a few clicks, straight from their phone or tablet. They don’t expect to jump through hoops or navigate clunky systems to access basic HR functions, like requesting sick leave — nor should they have to.
This is an aspect of EX that many companies could benefit from focusing on, as 40% of talent professionals report that their organization needs to simplify administrative processes. In many cases, these processes — and the tech that powers them (more on this below) — probably haven’t been updated in years or even decades. That can make the company feel stale and out of touch, which can seriously damage your employer brand.
Before you make any changes, find out where the real frustrations lie. You can do this by conducting a few in-person focus groups or by sending out a quick survey.
Whatever strategy you take, make sure you capture the sentiments of employees across the organization, including remote workers and those in other countries. Clunky systems, tedious paperwork, and inaccessible processes can prevent some employees from accessing HR information they vitally need, so creating and maintaining a seamless user experience is critical.
- Adopt intuitive tools and technologies
Just as employees expect a seamless experience when interacting with HR, they also want the tools and technologies they use at work to feel modern and intuitive. After all, they likely interact with these tools on a daily basis, so outdated or ineffective technology can quickly become a thorn in their side. That explains why 38% of talent professionals say their company needs to adopt more intuitive tools and technologies to improve EX.
You might not have the budget to provide cutting-edge technology to your entire workforce, but you can take steps to make their experience more straightforward and enjoyable. Ask employees to rate the tools you use on a regular basis, from your internal messaging platform to your project management software. If a tool receives overwhelmingly negative feedback, chances are there are a dozen other free and paid options available.
Elicit help from employees to evaluate and test out new tools before making a final decision. As the people who’ll be using these tools every day, they’ll be highly invested in finding the best possible solution — and grateful that their voices were heard.
After roll-out, be sure to provide thorough training materials and support. Employees’ level of comfort with the new tech can directly influence EX, so don’t stop checking in until you’re sure everyone is up to speed.
- Encourage open and effective management
More than one in three talent professionals (38%) say that open and effective management is something their company needs to work on to improve EX. And since one in two employees have left a job to get away from a bad manager, improvements in this area can have a huge effect on retention and growth. LinkedIn data reveals that companies rated highly on open and effective management enjoy 143% higher headcount growth than those rated poorly.
Focus on fostering a culture of continuous feedback. Nearly 60% of employees say they’d like feedback on a weekly or even daily basis, so ensure that managers are providing it regularly. To help employees get the most out of it, make sure that feedback is given in private and that it’s focused on developing the employee’s strengths, not criticizing their weaknesses.
Feedback should also be a two-way street. Encourage employees to provide feedback directly to their managers, and confirm that managers are comfortable with receiving and acting on it. If feedback falls on deaf ears or is met with hostility, employees will keep it to themselves — and EX will suffer for it.
- Create training opportunities
Many employees are already upskilling themselves to keep their skills relevant and advance their careers. For those who aren’t, employers will need to step up: 38% of talent professionals say their company has room for improvement when it comes to offering training opportunities.
Offering these opportunities signals to employees that you’ve invested in helping them grow their career at your organization — which is one reason why companies rated highly on employee training see 53% lower attrition. In fact, 94% of employees stated that they would stay at a company longer if they were offered learning opportunities.
If you don’t have a formal professional development program, you can start small and build your way up. Look for experts at your company who can serve as teachers and mentors, and work with them to create training materials that can be shared at scale. You can also give employees access to online courses like those available through LinkedIn Learning, empowering them to learn at their own pace and at a time that’s convenient for them.
- Build an inspiring company culture
An inspiring company culture makes employees proud of where they work and excited about the work they’re doing. But 38% of talent professionals admit that building this type of culture is something their organization needs to work on.
Start by clearly outlining your company’s mission, purpose, and core values and communicating them to employees. Companies that have a purposeful mission see 49% lower attrition, so it’s important to articulate what you stand for. And while it helps if your mission is all about changing the world, it doesn’t have to be to make employees feel inspired and motivated.
For an extra helping of inspiration, you can also make charitable acts part of your company culture. Whether you offer paid time off for volunteering or organize company-wide events to give back to your local community, these perks can help employees feel more connected to your company and make their experience at work feel more meaningful.
- Promote a healthy work-life balance
Work-life balance has such a major impact on EX that many employees are even willing to relocate to achieve a healthier balance. Sadly, many companies seem to be falling short in this area, with 37% of talent professionals reporting that their company needs to improve employees’ work-life balance.
This is another aspect of EX that can be boosted by offering flexible work options, though this far from the only strategy you can take. Encouraging employees to avoid working excessive hours and take more vacation time can go a long way, as can asking them to turn off email notifications after hours to avoid the temptation to respond.
Some companies are even experimenting with a four-day work week. This doesn’t work for everyone though, so it’s worth doing a trial run before rolling this out long-term.
When it comes to EX, every little bit helps
The vast majority of talent professionals agree that EX is becoming more important, but many struggle to find enough time and resources to make significant improvements. That’s okay — no one expects you to transform your company overnight. But that doesn’t mean you should do nothing.
Focus on making minor improvements that will have a meaningful impact, and continuously gather feedback from employees to learn where the next opportunity for improvement lies. Over time, this will add up to big changes. Employees will feel the difference — and you’ll see that reflected in your retention rates.