Despite employee engagement having been a fixture on business priority lists for ages now, nothing much is changing. Engagement levels are stagnant and productivity remains very poor in the UK versus other developed nations. It was particularly concerned to read in Deloitte’s study that 32 percent of employees are not stimulated by their work.
The need therefore for a shift of approach and/or mind-set to bring about improvement seems obvious. And I believe that one fundamental change to prioritise is how organisations think about and approach engagement and the broader employee experience they offer. Doing this promises real and demonstrable benefits for both the employee and organisation.
How to make work wonderful every day
So, what can Sweden’s finest export (sorry, Abba) teach us about employee experience? Ikea’s ‘wonderful, everyday’ slogan is about “finding lots of little ways to make the everyday better.” They explain that all these small things together make for a better life.
Now, granted they’re probably talking about stuff like LACK tables, a KALLAX shelf or MALM bed… but the sentiment can just as well be applied to how we think about the employee experience.
You see, a great employee experience isn’t about grand gestures and large-scale campaigns. Rather it’s about getting the basics right; engaging employees with a mission or common goal, enabling and empowering them to do their jobs well, rewarding them fairly, making them feel valued and creating an environment in which they can thrive.
Where are things currently going wrong?
Everyone, and by that I mean all business leaders, now ‘gets’ the importance of having an engaged workforce. The majority run some form of employee research programme and, there’s an ever-growing number of survey providers, apps and other new tech to help capture employees’ views. So, just to recap, there’s now the drive to improve engagement and a myriad of ways to measure it. Excellent. Why is it still stagnant then?
I’ve heard employee engagement referred to in terms that implies it is something which can be ‘done’ to employees. This is spectacularly wrong and it misses the point entirely. There also remains too much of a fixation on ‘the engagement score’ and things like response rates to the detriment of where attention should really be diverted: “what are our employees telling us, and where must we take action to improve things for them and our business?”
And lastly, the issue for many organisations that have been surveying employees but seeing little change is that they’ve probably either failed to ask the right questions or are not doing enough (or anything) with the results. This has to change, for starters.
Getting employees’ views
Let’s acknowledge that relying just on an annual engagement survey is highly likely to be sufficient for today’s organisations. That’s not to say that an in-depth survey doesn’t still have an important part to play. It does. There remains no parallel for providing the kind of detailed employee insights available in a traditional ‘full census’ survey. But it is imperative to also establish more open lines of communication with employees day-to-day and throughout the year. ‘Having a voice’ is hugely important for the generations now making up the lion’s share of the workforce.
Perhaps the optimal approach to employee research, therefore, is to supplement a large annual survey with more regular check-ins – both formal and informal. The watch-out here is that organisations must have in place a plan and the resources to process employee feedback, act and report back on it in a timely way. Naturally, the more of it you capture, the bigger this task becomes.
Nailing the basics
I alluded earlier to some of the components that I believe contribute towards how an employee experiences working for a particular organisation – the basics. But how are most companies faring against these measures right now and are there any obvious areas to focus on for improvement?
To find out, I consulted our extensive survey benchmark database and pulled put the following view. As you can see, there’s plenty of room for improvement on a number of these areas.
*All scores represent percentage favourable – a.k.a. the proportion of employees agreeing with the statement.
Going beyond engagement
So, circling back to Ikea, how do we make the everyday better for our employees? Improving on some of the ‘basics’ mentioned above, for sure. And perhaps in particular as I alluded to up front, organisations need to fundamentally reframe how they think about employee engagement.
By broadening their focus to consider engagement as part of the employee experience (alongside enablement and empowerment) they will get a far better reflection of how employees really feel and where strengths and development areas are. And, by then addressing problem areas effectively, you’ll have a demonstrable impact on key performance indicators.
If it helps, treat the three things as a tripod – if one is significantly lower, it’ll fall over. You see, it simply isn’t possible to offer a great employee experience without all three being high.
You can learn more about how to transition to measuring the employee experience, and further evidence supporting the business case for doing so in our latest white paper ‘From employee engagement to employee experience’.