Why your organisation must prioritise employee experience

To mark the release of the EX50 report, Zone, Cognizant Digital Experience, People Management Insight and Management Today came together on a collaborative webinar to discuss the billion dollar question: How do you give your people what they want?

The so-called ‘Great Resignation’ has made employee’s freedom of expression all the more important.

Indeed, competition for new talent has intensified – voluntary resignations were 45% higher between April and December 2021 than the same period in 2019. And businesses also face an uphill battle retaining existing employees, with research indicating that 60% of employees suffer from workplace-induced anxiety. So, maintaining good relations with employees needs to be a priority.

Zone’s recent webinar ‘Employee Experience: How to give your people what they want’ – hosted in collaboration with People Management Insight and Management Today – examined what constitutes outstanding Employee Experience (EX). The webinar featured contributions from industry leaders – some of whom were recently acknowledged in the EX50 report, a celebration of champions of EX – trying to shed light on how businesses can effectively nurture EX in the workplace.

The discussion was led by Suzanne Bidlake, Contributing Editor at People Management Insight, alongside: Amy Grieves, Head of Organisational Development and EVP at GSK; Stuart Branch, Chief People & Digital Officer at Weetabix; Tim Pointer, Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer at CAA-GBG; and Patti Alderman, AVP at Zone and Cognizant Digital Experience.

The foundation for improvements across EX is built upon six core areas: vision, values, incentives, innovation, diversity & inclusion, and flexibility.

The benefits of a holistic approach

Bidlake was succinct in summarising the current business landscape. “Job vacancies are on the rise, and there are skill shortages across many industries. Employee experience has never been more important – both in terms of retaining staff and attracting new talent.”

Prospective talent has become more attuned to workplace culture - 62% of jobseekers cite wellbeing benefits as a key factor when deliberating about accepting a new position. It is the businesses boasting a track record of providing positive EX that can capitalise on this newfound mindset.

The road to improving EX starts with a vision. But this alone will not promote meaningful change.

Grieves voiced the need for clarity. “Businesses need to establish what they are trying to achieve – this starts by identifying what the North Star is and what the organisation is going to look and feel like following investment in EX.”

Adhering to a holistic approach provides businesses with a platform from which to spring. Constructing an overarching plan – and further developing the vision – acts as a gateway to values. Organisations that define their brands in this way are better equipped to forge connections with their employees.

Alderman argued that perseverance was key in the pursuit of improved EX. “Investing in change – particularly cultural change – is relentless. Businesses need to continue to work on this through the ups-and-downs.”

A vision can act as a rallying point for businesses – but momentum has to be generated if the EX initiative is to be sustained. Incentivising the C-suite and employees alike can ensure that motivation to further develop EX is not lost.

The power of conversations

There is no clear-cut solution that can be deployed across all sectors to immediately improve employee experience – the process takes time.

Branch maintained that workplace dialogue is an important tool in an organisation’s arsenal. “Inclusion, not diversity, helps to stimulate conversations between employees irrespective of seniority and length of tenure. This allows people to be themselves at work without having to change.”

Innovation and experimentation cannot be discounted when seeking to satisfy employees. Financial investment alone will not suffice in building better experiences, nor will isolated wellbeing programs. The catalyst for change is the employees themselves. Transparent discussions between colleagues helps uncover areas in dire need of improvement – some of which the business will have been blind to.

Pointer advocated that leadership teams must shoulder greater responsibility. “First and foremost, it is about the working experience – ensuring that all components are there to set someone up to be successful in their role. And the calibre of leadership is key to this.”

Leaders that ignore the role of EX face costly consequences, the average cost of replacing an employee is £80,875. Businesses must adopt a mindset that focuses on employee retention. Regular discourse offers a chance for colleagues to voice concerns and provides ample time to take relevant action.

EX initiatives have to be purpose-led, but with a level of flexibility that allows them to evolve and adapt. Employees are attuned to fairness. If they can see that energy is being regularly devoted towards fostering improved EX, this has the knock-on effect of revitalising a previously fading work ethic.

The importance of persistence

Patti rounded off the conversation. “Businesses need to be brave. There is an element of risk – you need to lean into this. The journey is complex, so a willingness to persevere, and following listening with actioning, will help drive positive results closer to home.”

With the UK’s employee engagement rate sitting at 11% (the world’s lowest), investing the necessary resources – both financial and energy-related – into improving EX now will offer lucrative rewards further down the line.

The benefits of investing in employee experience are huge and have a direct impact on an organisation's bottom-line. Cognizant recently commissioned a study by Forrester which shows that the efficiencies created through enhanced EX allows staff to focus their energies on better serving customers, with 64% realising or expecting increased revenue.

The webinar’ panel acknowledged that there isn’t a ‘one-size fits all’ approach for businesses trying to improve employee experience. Conversations with employees must be ongoing – this dialogue can provide employees with an opportunity to take the mask off and share feedback about their personal experiences. Setting an EX strategy is far from straightforward, but organisations that define their vision now can get a headstart on the rest of the competition. If you’re not providing a great experience for your workforce, somebody else will.

To watch the discussion in full, click here.