The pandemic has forced companies to rethink the customer experience globally, including in Singapore. Much as designing customer experience has dominated the thinking of companies competing in today’s digital environment, many organizations are now re-examining the employee experience. Companies are taking a more comprehensive view of influencing it, recognizing the impact experience has on employee engagement and productivity.
A good example is employee onboarding, or how fresh employees experience the whole process. Companies need to work with a broader set of players across the organization to get it right, ensuring the onboarding experience is memorable. An IBM recruit shared her experience as a new mom. She was apprehensive about joining IBM as she was still breastfeeding and was worried about balancing her need to nurture the baby – and her career. She was relieved at the onboarding when she was assured that IBM provided nursing facilities – as well as the sterilization utensils.
The traditional ways of assessing performance – by judging which businesses are worth learning from – were dramatically upended in 2020. The global pandemic and ensuing rolling lockdowns ravaged some industries (such as airlines and tourism) while boosting others (such as food deliveries and online access portals). The heavy impact of circumstantial factors meant that sometimes merely being in the right place was rewarded, and simply being in the wrong place was punished.
IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV) recently polled 3,000 CEOs and identified those who reported high revenue growth compared to their peers over the three years. About 20 percent of the respondents outperformed the rest, while another 20 percent reported below-par revenue growth over three years. When IBV compared the responses of the “outperformers” with the “underperformers”, dramatic differences emerged.
“We found that several factors shape employee experience, including the formation and development of work-based connections and relationships, the design and ongoing use of employees’ physical work environments, and the tools and social platforms employees use to accomplish work-related activities,” IBV reported. “Our research shows that organizations can enhance employee experiences through increased personalization, transparency, simplification, authenticity and organizational responsiveness.”
For companies that seek to improve the employee experience, adopting the employee’s perspective can provide an important starting point by using data and analytics to identify needs and measure impact on business outcomes. Understanding critical milestones in the employee journey can further refine insights into areas where experience may be lacking and what actions can be most effective.
Applying a holistic, iterative design approach to change can help employees see improvements relevant to their work and set their expectations for continuous reinvention. The HR function cannot bear sole responsibility for improving the employee experience; doing so requires a cadre of support from other functions such as marketing, IT and real estate/facilities, and leadership from line executives.
Organizations are now examining employee experience from many different perspectives. Some of these include linking the employee experience to the organization’s culture, fostering a collaborative community, and building purpose and value in work. For many companies, the enhanced focus on designing meaningful employee experiences has its roots in five significant trends:
- Differentiation: The ongoing war for talent is intensifying, particularly in emerging disciplines. Organizations across industries recognize that they need to differentiate themselves to attract and retain top talent. In addition to traditional competitors, companies in other sectors are also vying for employees with in-demand skills.
- Approach: Employees are approaching the workplace as consumers. Individuals want the same experiences in the workplace that they have as consumers, such as using simple, intuitive technology, the ability to rate and share opinions about products and services, and direct access to decision-makers.
- Environment: Organizations are recognizing the relationship between customer experience and employee experience. Many experts from companies we spoke with said that to provide unique, positive customer experiences, they need to create an environment where employees feel valued and perform their jobs effectively.
- Engagement: Research continues to show linkages between employee engagement and productivity. Numerous studies demonstrate that employees who are positively engaged in their work environments are likely to be more productive, achieve higher customer satisfaction scores, produce higher levels of quality, and have lower absenteeism and attrition rates.
The IBV research shows that employee experience is a crucial and complex issue, requiring companies to evaluate the close connection between employees’ physical, social and cultural environments and the tools and relationships they need to accomplish work daily.
IBM introduced the “Learn to Emb(race)” initiative, an action-oriented experience that provides a deeper look at race, ethnicity, and related topics. It also provides the right tools and training to support staff to have frank discussions about race and racism with vulnerability, honesty, respect, and trust.
Employees can share experiences on a specially-created channel for honest and continual dialogue with superiors and senior management. The bottom-line: If people felt great about working with IBM, our clients would too. This point is vital as we compete to recruit and retain the required talent as we go through business transitions and meet the market’s demand and needs.
The battle for the hearts and minds of employees is played out daily through their workplace experiences. Organizations that create environments conducive to a more engaged and productive workforce will win the battle for the hearts and minds of employees. At IBM, we are designing employee experiences that attract and retain crucial talent and optimize the individual and collective potential in the workplace. By optimizing expertise, we optimize our workforce productivity and business potential.