As the battle for talent wages on, many companies are searching for new ways to stand out as top employers. In the past, as long as you had a competitive compensation package and benefits, most candidates were eager to sign up. Unfortunately, qualified candidates aren’t lining up like they used to. This is mainly due to a low unemployment rate, competition, and the skills gap.
In a market where many organizations are vying for the same talent, the companies that consistently come out on top differentiate themselves above and beyond their compensation and benefits packages. How? They are consumerizing the employee experience.
The process of focusing on creating a favorable impression of your organization through the talent management process (recruiting, onboarding, performance, and development) is known as the employee experience — and it’s getting a lot of attention.
A Deloitte report revealed that nearly 80 percent of executives rated employee experience as important. However, only 22 percent said that their companies were excellent at building differentiated employee experiences.
In a nutshell, a great employee experience is one where the company has thoughtfully and deliberately curated a combination of human, technology, and environmental touchpoints that optimize employee performance and growth while creating a strong sense of inclusion, community and belonging.
Few people know this better than Deena Fox. Fox is the founder and CEO of Brightfox, a startup that specializes in tech-enabling the employee journey.
Before launching Brightfox, Fox witnessed the power of a great employee experience as an HR executive at Amazon and Jet.com. In the time Fox worked for Jet.com, she helped grow the workforce from just under 100 when she started, to over 3,000 in 18 months. She attributed the rapid growth to the success her team had in building great employee experiences.
I caught up with Fox to learn a little bit more about the importance of the employee experience, and the steps organizations can take to start addressing it now. Here were her three tips:
1. Work on making it tangible.
Although the concept of employee experience is becoming more widely understood and accepted, people still have a hard time articulating it. In Fox’s words, “it’s because the term is often used superficially, aspirationally, and without clear alignment or definition among company leaders and employees.”
The best way to transform employee experience from something that merely exists to an actual program in the workplace, according to Fox, “is to invest in it, conduct a thoughtful organizational exercise in evaluating and defining it, and create a degree of alignment in what people perceive and experience. If you haven’t done that, then it isn’t being optimized, and there is absolutely room for improvement.”
For example, my organization has a formal onboarding program for new employees. Everyone goes through it. Although all we really need is their paperwork, we see onboarding as a strategic way to assimilate employees and reduce the time it takes for them to be productive, contributing members to the team. Having this clear direction allows us to survey and measure the employee’s experience to ensure that we stay on track.
2. Communicate it.
Once you’ve done the heavy lifting and defined the desired experience, it’s essential to clue key stakeholders in. Fox suggests that you, “design and implement a communication campaign to build awareness and alignment about your talent experience program among the company’s executives, talent acquisition team, and employees.”
Speak it into reality. People can’t help you maintain the experience if they don’t know the endgame.
If you’re like me, communicating my plans to others also adds a layer of accountability and opens the door for future collaborations.
Piggybacking off of the example above, we’ve communicated the importance of onboarding as a means to enhance productivity, and leaders are now willingly offering up suggestions and their time to improve the employee experience.
3. Power it with the right technology.
The employee experience is no longer what a company says it is. It’s what employees tell each other it is. Thus, companies need to invest in the right technology that focuses and emphasizes the employee’s experience, not HRs.
“It’s critical to implement technology that seamlessly enables employees to take an active role in their own engagement, performance, growth, and development, as well as the ability to provide the company with valuable feedback and insights that shape company culture,” says Fox. Also, “companies that are not investing in employee facing technology (designed for employees, not for HR or recruiting), or are using a set of fragmented systems, are operating in the dark and creating a less than optimal, often frustrating and confusing experience for their people.”
Fox noted that most organizations use up to eight different solutions to build their HR technology stack. Examples include applicant tracking, employee data, onboarding, performance management, and learning systems. Unfortunately, most are mutually exclusive and designed for the HR representatives using them. The results are a disjointed experience.
It doesn’t matter how much time you’ve invested in creating great employee experiences if the technology you choose doesn’t put the user first. The wrong technology choice can ruin a great plan.
Follow these steps, and you’ll ensure that your employees and executives know what to say when they’re asked why they like working for your organization.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.