• employee experience

Employee Engagement to Employee Experience (EX)

What does it mean to be engaged? If we use the analogy of a couple planning a wedding, engagement means that they are in a committed relationship, and both parties derive value from it. It furthermore implies that there is a level of emotional commitment and an investment in a future together. It means that there is a match!

If you then think of engagement in the context of an organisation, it is not that dissimilar. Employees will give their best and commit themselves emotionally if they consider the employer, or at least their leader, to be committed to the relationship. It seems a fair exchange of expectations.

I often get asked by leaders, “what should we do about this problem we have”, and my answer is usually on repeat mode – “ask your employees”. It works the same in relationships. To solve problems or progress we need to talk to each other, with the purpose of understanding our partner’s perspective.

One of the mechanisms through which we can “talk” to employees is through an Employee Engagement survey. It provides a tool or channel through which employees can share real and honest views and feedback. Employee Engagement surveys used to be an annual event, but in many organisations, it has become just another HR tick list item – sadly so. We need to find a way to revitalise the purpose and strength of Employee Engagement surveys.

Some organisations have progressed further and conducts pulse surveys and / or use technology in very smart ways to obtain regular feedback.

In Africa People Advisory Group’s recent “New Ways of Working” study we were quite surprised to find that only 58% of participants across Africa indicated that their organisations conduct an objective Employee Engagement survey – the “New Ways of Working” study consolidated responses from across Africa. Furthermore, only 65% of respondents reported that line managers are rated on their role in employee engagement. This, for me, is a concern as the field of employee engagement has already transitioned to a new phenomenon – Employee Experience, or EX for short. Line managers play a critical role in EX.

There are ample definitions out there that capture the essence of employee experience, allow me to provide my own. Employee Experience, for me, captures the experiences employees of an organisation have during their tenure. It captures the good, the bad and the ugly. It informs the emotional view an employee forms in then deciding if they will promote your employer brand to others or not. More importantly, if they stay “engaged” or if they disengage and exit, or even worse, if they disengage and stay.

One of the best explanations I have come across in the context of EX refers to the “moments that matter”. It includes my experience when I was recruited, when I was promoted, the way I felt when I had my last performance review, how I felt when I received an annual increase, and many more.

Employee experience pervades more than just the field of Human Resources and includes the physical space employees occupy when at work as well as the equipment and technology they use, to name a few.

What has been the take-up from organisation in Africa?

According to the Africa People Advisory Group recent “New Ways of Working” study, only 27% of HR functions have formally adopted the concepts and principles of EX in their own organisations, and only 29% of HR functions have this accountability allocated to a member of the HR team.

So where does one start?

  • Identify which are the “moments that matter” – this is where the experience is shaped. As noted, the best way to do this is to ask employees. Asking could mean an actual conversation with employees at that point in time or it could be through a quick snap survey. Running a short survey for new employees 2-3 months after they started will give great insight into the onboarding experience. Similarly, doing a quick check on the quality of performance and development conversations will give valuable data to work with to enhance the process and quality of conversations.
  • Find the right partners – working alongside internal partners such as finance and the technology function will go a long way in securing the right support for your EX-efforts.
  • Co-creation is king – to build processes and solutions that add value and break barriers, we need to involve the users of the process. They typically have the best insights to share. The most critical part of co-creation is to act on the feedback you receive.
  • Remove bureaucracy – as a business owner, I am well aware that the more time I spend resolving admin issues, the less time I have with clients, the same applies to EX. Very few people, if any, really enjoy working through red tape and administrative and process complexity. Make it your mission to reduce red tape whilst still managing risks.

Introducing EX in your organisation is going to be a journey, it doesn’t matter where you start, just start!