Engaged employees perform far better and deliver greater profit to the business than their disengaged counterparts1.As we strive to build compelling employee experiences there are a number of inescapable trends we must consider.
As we strive to build compelling employee experiences there are a number of inescapable trends we must consider.
The age profile of employees has changed forever, with up to five distinct generations now working together in close proximity2, each owning very different role expectations. In addition, those most recently joining the workforce increasingly place a high value on the societal impact they are able to make with any given company.
The working age population in developed worlds is expected to shrink by five percent between 2010 and 2030, in part fuelling a war for talent while also highlighting an opportunity for increased diversity – particularly for more women to join the workforce. The ability of technology in the workplace to drive flexibility, connectivity and to maintain a consistent pulse of the workforce provides a crucial, positive framework, but requires careful activation. For example, balancing the flexibility of remote working and the globally connected workforce with the ability to monitor services and interactions without being overly invasive.
Writing in a recent HBR article Jacob Morgan, renowned author of ‘The Employee Experience Advantage’ describes the benefits gained by ‘experiential organisations’, those attending to the cultural, technological and physical needs of their employees, as having:
“…more than four times the average profit and more than two times the average revenue. They were also almost 25% smaller, which suggests higher levels of productivity and innovation.”
Given the apparent advantages, why then is it so difficult to build and maintain authentic connections with employees and how should we overcome this?
In order to deepen understanding, we spoke with a number of professionals, actively involved in building compelling employee experiences, about the challenges. Their feedback revealed the following key issues:
Ownership – a lack of clarity about who is ultimately responsible for employee engagement. Sitting somewhere between marketing and HR where, of course, shared ownership invites more competitive and closed ownership.
Priority – engaging employees is one of the first items dropped when other demands inevitably arise.
Alignment – aligning the changing needs of people with those of the organisation and its corporate strategy.
Diversity – while largely recognised as beneficial – requires active acknowledgement that one size does not fit all.
Focus – choosing to satisfy the c-suite over those in the wider business we need to engage.
Creating a human centred organisation
On the surface, the answer seems clear: place the needs of the people at the centre of the organisation, as opposed to the executive team’s, who are rarely as close to the coalface as the individuals they wish to engage.
If the workforce were static, this approach would be reasonable. However, as we’ve seen, this is far from the case, suggesting a more progressive response is necessary.
Representatives of the more progressive companies we spoke to, those explicitly considering the culture, technology and physical environments affecting their employees, proposed the following five considerations:
1. Involve your sponsors but don’t fixate on them. Agree KPIs with the initiative sponsors but model engagement on the employees. Build employee personas and agree clear accountability.
2. Make it fun – bring a sense of playfulness, comfort and ‘consumer-like’ services to our busy business lives.
3. A journey, not an event – gimmicks will be poorly received, provoking negative reactions that last far longer than the event. Campaigns lasting several weeks or months are far more likely to make a real difference.
4. Big data – liberate the constant flow of data to demonstrate positive ways in which people consume and respond to information.
5. Shake it up – experiment with a variety of approaches, measure and evaluate the impact and adapt (TLO).
To attract, influence and affect the decisions humans make in life, we must better understand, better target and better serve those decisions. Human-centred means just that. We must unapologetically place employees’ needs front and centre of our engagement plans, before diligently measuring the business outcome, rather than cascade top down initiatives hoping that they hit the mark.
1 Business Psychology in Action: Grant, with Afridi, Sternemann & Wilson, ABP 2016
2 Peter Cheese Chief Executive CIPD