Employee Experience in a Changing Society
Employee experience is now fundamental. Every company and organisation benefits by considering their strategy regarding the people and culture of their business.
Historically, companies have addressed the experience and well-being of their employees with isolated periodic employee engagement initiatives, such as surveys and team-building exercises that were almost unrelated to the daily professional practice of employees.
More recently employee experience has become a topic of strategic interest. This has been instigated by technological changes, and more recently by societal changes like the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This week IgniteSAP is going to look at the increasing importance of employee experience and employee well-being, and what some employers are doing to change the culture and social environment of their enterprises: to the mutual benefit of employees, productivity and profits.
Defining Experience, Engagement, and Well-Being
There are various aspects to this process, and the terms associated are used loosely in different contexts so there is some overlap between them. Any discussion of this subject gains clarity if we set a working definition of each of the areas in consideration.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these concepts, and how they are connected.
This consists of what situations employees find themselves in: what happens to them, and what they observe in the course of their daily professional practice. From the moment someone looks at a job vacancy, through everything the worker learns, sees and feels: it is important to establish what matters most to them, and use that information to make positive changes to the interaction between a corporation and it’s workforce.
This is the process of developing shared values, and a shared identity with a professional social group: becoming one of the team.
It is directly related to their experience of, and interactions with, the business or organisation for whom they work, along with their relationships with their colleagues. It is also a term that refers to analysis of the relationship between employee and employer. One measure of engagement is whether employees still care about work issues and think about them outside of their working week.
Well-being in this definition includes measurements of their physical and mental health. How employees feel about their work during the course of the day, and during their time off, contributes to the sustainability of their career within an organisation.
The Royal Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in the UK is a registered charity that champions better work and working lives for employees. They state that stress, depression and anxiety accounted for over half of the 32.5 million working days lost to ill health in the UK for the period 2019/2020. This illustrates the effect that employee’s mental well-being has on a business’s productivity and profit margins.
“In line with wider evidence, our research shows that the main risks to employee health are now psychological, with mental ill health and stress being two of the top three causes of long-term absences. Organisations should take a holistic approach and provide good work for people that helps to prevent ill health. We define ‘good work’ as work that is fairly rewarded, providing people with the means to securely make a living; it gives opportunities to develop skills and a career, and ideally provides a sense of fulfilment.”
These overlapping concepts are best considered by organisations as a selection of lenses through which to observe and understand the feelings and opinions of the workforce. They can also be used to guide the formulation of a business’s strategy, so that employees are not only satisfied with their interactions at work, but are enthusiastic to the extent that they want to talk about their work experiences with their friends and family.
Best practices for a positive employee experience
If you have responsibility for the oversight of employee well-being within your organisation, or you want to know what provision to expect from your employer as a member of a team, here are some general guidelines for best practice. The theme that is common to all of these guidelines is that communication at all levels of an organisation should be encouraged so that problems do not persist if they occur.
Employers should emphasise the cohesiveness of the organisation, and regularly highlight the value of each member of the team. Do this by referring regularly to the values and goals of the organisation. In this way each team member understands how they are contributing to something bigger than their own needs, and can relate that to their own values and needs. This also means that they can celebrate and participate in their organisation’s successes, leading to a greater sense of fulfilment.
Employers should listen to their team members regardless of their position in the company. There is still a place for regular surveys of employee satisfaction, but employers should ensure there are channels for communication to occur continuously. Some larger companies assign a role in their HR team to facilitate clear, two-way communication between co-workers, and between management and employees.
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Enabling employees to support their peers, and be connected in smaller groups with whom they can identify. It can contribute to a shared identity within that group, and it fosters support networks that help individuals feel included and valued.
Employers should understand an individual’s needs for professional development and growth. People do not work just to earn a salary. They require continued professional development and acquisition of skills in order to bring meaning to their careers. A sense of forward momentum and attainment can add to job satisfaction as much as increasing income, so reviews every six months of professional development and opportunities for further training of employees will benefit both the company and the employee.
Provide training to managers to help them to support their teams effectively. Mid-tier management often plays a role as the first step in addressing problems as they occur. This means they need adequate training to deal with emotional and social issues as well as organisational problems.
Employers should ensure all points of communication between levels of an organisation are comprehensive and consistent with each other. If employees are clear about their role at work then they are less likely to spend time and energy worrying about their job security and status. Inconsistent messaging about goals and values in an organisation can lead to stress in the workforce.
Here are some examples of methods companies for whom employee well-being and positive employee experience are central to their culture.
The approach to well-being at Deloitte aims to be flexible and support their workforce so that they can thrive in their work life. Their employee well-being program seeks to promote a healthy and engaged state of mind by offering a counselling service so that team members can address any emotional or social issues that arise inside or outside of work.
Deloitte encourages their people to participate in physical activity on a regular basis to promote resilience and endurance, so physical problems do not impact their positive state of mind. They offer Deloitte employees free online fitness sessions with qualified instructors.
A sense of purpose is seen as fundamentally important to a positive employee experience at Deloitte, so they encourage employees to act with intention in their work life rather than passively following routines. This can take the form of creative activity or engaging with community activities outside of work hours to positively impact their social environment.
The vision for well-being at PwC emphasises the creation of a workplace where people can be themselves. This is particularly insightful as many people have a “work me” and a “home me”. This attitude which can result in tension between the two. PwC want their employees to feel at their best so they can perform their professional duties at their best.
This plan for creating a healthy workplace aims to: make changes toward a health-promoting culture, influence everyday behaviours in individuals to be more healthy and balanced, make leaders accountable and visibly committed to employee well-being, embed well-being into working practice across all business areas, and lastly measure the social and business impact of well-being activities.
The working environment at PwC locations encourages flexible working hours, creates innovative and flexible working spaces for the use of employees, and allows people to wear whatever they feel is most comfortable and appropriate for their work commitments for each day.
As well as ensuring their team members are able to be fit and healthy, and providing mental health training to people in key roles, PwC provides career coaches and professional advice.
Capgemini have an award-winning workplace well-being policy. This includes: training and equipping 115 mental health champions in the organisation, providing employees with a National Health Service approved well-being app to help them recognise and deal with stress and anxiety, raising awareness of mental health issues and invisible disabilities in the workforce, and the promotion of communications and open conversations on well-being at a senior leadership level.
Capgemini are an accessible and inclusive organisation and provide support at all levels to employees with a disability, mental health condition, or caring responsibility. They have created a space to meet and discuss these issues with others at Capgemini to share advice, questions and experiences.
During the pandemic the TCS HR team made calls to more than 450,000 of the TCS associates to enquire about their well-being, and this simple contact reassured large numbers of people that even though they were socially isolated, they were part of a much larger social group.
The TCS leadership prefers to use the term “associate” rather than “employee” because this points out that the relationship between TCS and the TCS team members is one of collaboration.
TCS seek to promote health and well-being because when people are in a state of well-being at work they are motivated to realise their potential, and build positive working relationships.
TCS have started initiatives to address physical health, and also under the name OneTCS have used multi-channel employee engagement tools such as a weekly digital bulletin, an “infotainment” channel, and radio programs.
TCS has made great efforts to reduce the stigma of mental health issues at work like interactive sessions to help associates deal with stress and anxiety, as well as professional counselling, self-help resources, and peer-group counselling.
TCS believes that by addressing these concerns within the organisation they are better equipped to share this experience and change the culture of the IT industry.
Culture: Communication, Technology and Space
The culture of a social environment is difficult to define but it is necessary for businesses to pay attention to how this is expressed in a work place as it impacts employee experience at a fundamental level.
Each employee must feel that the culture of the business they work for is aligned with their own mindset: that they share goals and values with their employer, and that they are motivated to make a sustained contribution to these common goals.
The social environment of the business can be experienced by employees through the formal and informal interactions and communications with management and co-workers.
The technological environment can be considered as a channel of communication, but also as a space which employees inhabit, and so this must also be something which provides stress-free experience. This can be achieved by ensuring each employee is given a chance to be familiar with the software that is used in their department, and the messaging systems, so it does not itself become an obstacle to communication.
The office spaces and other locations of a business, including the home-working environment can have a strong influence on employee’s experiences and sense of well-being. An office which is conducive to happy, productive workers is one which has flexible working hours, facilities like canteens and outside spaces, and plenty of natural light and air.
Annual surveys of employee satisfaction are not regular enough to make the changes to employee experience when it matters, so open feedback forums, suggestion boxes and meetings to discuss matters related to well-being should be regular events.
Candidate interviews, engagement surveys, performance reviews and exit interviews are all valuable opportunities to gather information about employee experience and well-being. The employee experience strategy can be informed and adjusted according to the interpretation of these results, with a view to constant improvement.
As an employer it is essential to think about the experience and well-being of your workforce as this has a direct and indirect influence on your productivity and profits. As an employee it is good to be familiar with the evolution of the landscape of employee experience. If you do not feel that the physical, technical and social environment of your working life is allowing you to thrive then you should consider if your employer is the right one for you.
If you would like help navigating the evolving landscape of IT services to find the working environment that provides for your needs and brings more meaning to your life, then please contact IgniteSAP.