Employee experience encompasses how an employee feels during all their interactions with their employer throughout their professional relationship with them and the impact those interactions have on their attitudes toward their job.
Employee experience plays a significant role in employee motivation and employee engagement. When the experience is positive, employees experience a better work-life balance, improved mental and physical well-being, and a greater sense of fulfillment that can increase their overall job satisfaction.
Organizations that offer a positive employee experience see many benefits. Offering a positive employee experience can help companies attract top talent, improve retention, increase productivity, achieve higher rates of innovation, and grow profits. Employee experience is also strongly linked to customer experience. When employees feel valued at work, they will better serve customers.
Organizations that want engaged team members who are committed to the mission and serving customers well are finding that the best way to achieve this is by creating a positive employee experience.
To create a positive employee experience that helps employees authentically connect, collaborate, grow, and unite around a shared purpose to produce exceptional work, organizations should:
- Maintain transparent, respectful communication
- Offer flexibility and autonomy
- Commit to the growth and development of team members
- Provide a psychologically safe work environment
- Focus on impact
- Build trust
This article will explore how leaders can implement these strategies to create a positive employee experience for their team members.
1. Maintain Transparent, Respectful Communication
Transparent, respectful communication can promote trust and provide clarity for employees, creating a culture of improvement through frequent feedback between employees and leadership. Establishing a system of recognition of employee contributions lets employees know they are valued, contributing to a positive employee experience.
Provide Job Clarity
When employees are unsure about what is expected of them in their roles, it creates a situation where they experience conflict on a daily basis about their duties and responsibilities, which can raise stress levels and erode confidence. In situations where job responsibilities and duties may shift regularly, clarity becomes even more important.
To feel confident in their roles and motivated to perform well, it’s essential for employees to know what is expected of them, have new duties and areas of responsibility clarified for them as situations change, and be made aware that the work they do is seen by leadership.
Clearly communicating expectations, through regular one-to-one conversations, for example, can be a great way to clarify job duties.
Give Regular Feedback
Good communication between employees and management is an essential component of a positive employee experience and builds engagement. Establishing a system of feedback in your organization is a good way to hone those communication skills.
One of the ways feedback supports a positive employee experience is that it builds trust between leadership and employees, creating a safe, cooperative environment where employees feel that their opinions are valued and help drive decision-making.
In organizations that emphasize feedback as an important part of their culture, employees receive regular, helpful feedback from direct supervisors and are empowered and encouraged to provide meaningful feedback to co-workers and leadership.
This helps both employees and management know when to course correct or where improvements can be made. This feedback habit can create a high-performance environment where employees have an improvement mindset and think about creative and innovative ways to help the company succeed.
A Gallup study revealed that only one in three workers in the US and Germany strongly agreed that they received praise or recognition in the past seven days for their performance. The workers who disagreed were twice as likely to say they’d quit over the course of the next year.
Recognition should always be part of the feedback leaders provide to employees because it meets a core human need for both the employee and the leader, and it can drastically improve the employee experience.
For recognition to be most effective, it should be genuine, and it should be specific and single out an employee’s efforts so employees know the work they do in their individual roles is seen and appreciated.
2. Offer Flexibility and Autonomy
According to a 2021 Jabra report on hybrid work, 59% of survey respondents said flexibility is more important to them than salary or other benefits, and 75% said they’d rather work for a company that gives them the flexibility to work from anywhere.
This reveals the progress of a trend that started before the pandemic: employees increasingly want flexibility in the form of autonomy. Autonomy has been identified as a major factor in the job-seeking habits of workers, with 42% of Millennials indicating they would choose a job that allows them to work independently on projects of their choice.
Offering flexibility (when possible) in work schedules is one good way to help employees achieve a healthy work/life balance, which is essential for a positive employee experience. It is also the first step to equipping employees with the tools they need to work with autonomy.
Allowing employees to work from home gives them the flexibility to take better care of their families and personal needs—employees are better able to do this when they aren’t having to spend hours every week making those long commutes to an office to do work they can do just as effectively from home.
Autonomy isn’t just about allowing (and trusting) employees to work remotely when possible. It is also about believing in and trusting employees to do the work well, independently or as a member of a team, and supporting an environment of accountability where employees can take ownership of their roles, identify their strengths and improve their weaknesses, and see the way their work impacts the organization as a whole.
3. Commit To the Growth and Development of Team Members
Growth and development opportunities can significantly impact the employee experience in a variety of ways. Employees need to feel that they are improving at something that is important to them.
When employees learn on the job, develop new skills, and move closer to their career goals, it enriches their work lives and gives their jobs more meaning. It can also have a positive effect on retention and performance.
Employees who feel they are growing in their jobs will be more likely to remain in those jobs because they know the organization is invested in their future and will perform better because they will have an improvement mindset.
Offering learning and development opportunities that help employees advance within the organization or within their field is a great way to boost the employee experience, and it’s also great for building your organization’s succession pipeline.
Whether it’s providing in-person or online training, tuition reimbursement, leadership development, career-pathing, or coaching, helping employees grow can yield tremendous results that benefit both the employee and employer.
Research compiled by LinkedIn has shown that when employees spend time learning on the job, they are 47% less likely to be stressed, 39% more likely to feel productive and successful, 23% more able to take on additional responsibilities, and 21% more likely to feel confident and happy.
4. Provide a Psychologically Safe Work Environment
It is not possible to provide a positive employee experience without providing an environment that is psychologically safe for employees.
Psychological safety refers to the belief that one will not be punished for asking questions, raising concerns, or voicing ideas. When a work environment is psychologically safe, employees are encouraged to contribute, participate in decision-making, and build authentic connections with each other.
When employees feel safe, it increases their sense of belonging in the group, making their collaborative efforts more successful. When even one member of a team lacks this sense of belonging with fellow members, it can hurt the outcome for the whole team. This is why it is crucial to provide the conditions that will enable every team member to thrive.
According to Business Leadership Today contributor Gregg Ward, employees thrive in environments of psychological safety, contributing to a positive employee experience for all team members.
“A psychologically safe culture is one where employees are comfortable taking interpersonal risks, such as voicing an unpopular opinion, without fear of retaliation or being labeled as ‘disruptive’ or ‘not a team player.’ When employees feel heard and understood, without the worry of self-protection, they can focus their energies on their work.”
Psychologically safe work environments benefit team members and leaders equally. A psychologically safe environment is an open and honest environment where innovation increases because risks are reduced and team members truly support one another.
5. Focus on Impact
Ward also says that a positive employee experience is one in which employees feel a sense of purpose and that they are making an impact, noting that an important role of the leader in shaping employee experience is ensuring that they are “walking the talk” when it comes to impact:
“Employees want to know that their work has a positive impact beyond just making money for themselves or their organization. Be wary of promoting lofty aspirations without backing them up with real action.”
Effective leaders set achievable goals that will grow the team’s impact. They use impact, rather than quotas or profits, as a measure of success, and help employees see the connection between their day-to-day activities and the larger mission and vision of the organization.
I recently sat down with Brandi Olson, author of Real Flow: Break the Burnout Cycle and Unlock High Performance in the New World of Work, to discuss why individual performance should be measured with impact instead of perceived productivity.
Showing employees the impact they make on a daily basis not only makes them more aware of the progress they’ve made on the journey to achieving the vision but also makes them more dedicated to the vision and motivated to continue working toward the vision.
Inspiring purpose in employees and creating an experience that is more than the sum of our team members’ output is necessary to achieve the long-term results we want in business.
6. Build Trust
To create a positive employee experience, leaders should build high-trust work environments. According to a team of researchers led by Paul J. Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, high-trust work environments have an overwhelmingly positive impact on employee performance, employee well-being, and a host of other factors.
Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies experience the following:
- 74% less stress
- 106% more energy at work
- 50% higher productivity
- 13% fewer sick days
- 76% more engagement
- 29% more satisfaction with their lives
- 40% less burnout
Trust improves communication, which, in turn, improves transparency, clarity of expectations, and performance, all of which help to reduce the anxiety that workers develop (and that can cause them to leave) when communication breaks down or during difficult times when they need to be reassured about where the company is headed and reminded of the vision.
A high level of mutual trust also eliminates the perceived need to micromanage employees. Some leaders may feel that in micromanaging employees, they are just making sure the work gets done on time, but it can be a costly style of management and have a significant negative impact on the employee experience. In fact, the impacts are so intense that it has been identified among the top three reasons employees resign from their jobs.
In high-trust environments, micromanagement is unnecessary because trust empowers employees by giving them a sense of autonomy, equipping them with the tools they need to achieve their goals without constant monitoring, and making them feel more capable of and confident in doing their jobs.
The Most Important Part of the Employee Experience
As you implement these strategies in your organization, remember: the most important part of the employee experience is an organization’s leadership. Since leaders impact culture more than any other factor, they impact the employee experience more than any other factor.
To create a positive employee experience that keeps employees engaged and motivated to do great work together, leaders support a culture that puts people over profits. Leaders set the tone by shaping culture in positive ways that help employees authentically connect, collaborate, grow, and unite around a shared purpose to produce exceptional work.
Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.
Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.
He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.