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Designing for EX: Ways to Put the Meaning Back in Meaningful Work

Designing for EX: Ways to Put the Meaning Back in Meaningful Work

Earlier this year, I represented Perceptyx at the International Performance Management Institute (IPMI) HR Management Institute in sunny Bonita Springs. The goal was clear: avoid a barrage of research statistics and instead, focus on topics that resonate deeply with everyone present.

I started the conversation by introducing myself but didn’t use my education or work credentials to set up the talk. Instead, I said, “I’m someone who is obsessed with experience.” I gave various non-work examples, such as my love for concerts, my preference for adventures over materialistic gifts, and even my time as a cheerleader. Given this lifelong need to create positive experiences, it was no surprise how — or why — I ended up in this industry. It is important to me to design for a positive work experience.  

Listening: The Foundation of Experience Design

Regardless of the context, the only way to truly design for a positive experience is by understanding what matters most to your stakeholders. How do you do that? You listen.

Listening applies to all aspects of life. But listening is only the first step. People not only want to be listened to, they want to feel heard. They want to see how things have changed and improved because of their input. To boil it down, people want to be involved in decisions affecting them. When they don’t feel heard or involved, they eventually stop sharing feedback, their experience suffers, and they may potentially leave (whether it’s work or any other scenario).

I have the privilege of working with a diverse portfolio of customers to consult on their listening journeys. No matter who the customer is, there’s always one theme that underlies all results. When employees feel involved, their experience is significantly higher compared to those who don’t feel heard or believe their feedback will be used to make improvements. I’m so passionate about this that I demonstrate these impacts in almost all presentations. Heck, it’s even the tagline of my LinkedIn profile: “Involve and empower your employees. See what happens!

During my session at IPMI, I wanted to spark some creativity around how to involve employees and utilize the employee voice in different ways, outside of the agreement-type surveys and questions we are accustomed to seeing. Some of those examples, along with others taken from our customers, are shared below.

Culture, Mission, and Values

Measuring Current vs. Ideal Culture

Organizations often ask for feedback on current culture but rarely on what the ideal or future state culture would look like to employees. Recently, a life sciences customer used both qualitative and quantitative methods to measure current and ideal cultures. This feedback highlighted gaps and informed steps to bridge them. Employees are not only shaping the existing culture but are involved in decisions to enhance it moving forward.

Another example comes from a manufacturing customer that utilized similar methods. They found significant differences between the current and desired states, leading to targeted initiatives that aligned organizational practices with employee aspirations. This company conducted workshops and brainstorming sessions to gather detailed feedback on the ideal cultural attributes employees wanted. As a result, they launched a series of programs aimed at bridging the gap, including leadership training, communication enhancements, and DEIB initiatives. These efforts not only boosted employee satisfaction but also increased overall productivity and engagement across the organization.

Informing Mission & Vision Statements

Involving employees in the development of mission and vision statements during mergers and acquisitions can align organizational goals with employee values. A technology firm we work with integrated employee feedback into their new mission and vision, ensuring that the statements resonated with staff at all levels. This process helped create a shared vision that was more meaningful and motivating. Employees participated in surveys and workshops where they could voice their expectations and aspirations for the company's future. This inclusive approach not only enhanced the mission and vision but also fostered a sense of ownership and alignment among employees, making the transition smoother and more effective.

Similarly, a financial services customer going through a merger used employee input to shape their unified mission and vision. This inclusive approach facilitated smoother integration and fostered a sense of ownership and commitment among employees. They held town hall meetings and focus groups to gather insights and ensure that the new mission and vision reflected the collective values of the merged entities. The result was a mission statement that resonated deeply with employees, helping to unify the workforce and drive commitment to the company's long-term goals.

Listening Strategies

Input into the Listening Strategy

While employee input into listening seems obvious, some partners have implemented very creative ways to actually use employee feedback in the development of their strategies.  One large Fortune 100 firm asked employees and managers to provide input into preferred length and frequency/cadence, alongside the importance and actionability of key topic areas.  After an evaluation period, that feedback was used to redesign a comprehensive listening strategy, moving from an annual survey to a monthly approach, measuring the moments that matter most, as defined by the respondents themselves.  Participants were able to explicitly connect the dots between their input and the final product.  

Another example involves a healthcare customer who faced workforce fatigue and disengagement. By deploying a comprehensive listening program, they gathered insights that informed strategic decisions, resulting in a significant reduction in voluntary turnover. The organization used Perceptyx's People Insights Platform to conduct regular pulse surveys and feedback sessions, allowing them to identify stress points and areas needing support. They implemented changes such as better scheduling practices, enhanced mental health support, and recognition programs. These actions led to improved employee morale and a substantial decrease in burnout rates.

Listening to Employee Voices

Bottoms-Up Approaches via Action Committees

Our research clearly demonstrates the importance of involving employees in decisions affecting them.  We also see significant differences in employee experience results when we bifurcate groups based on those who agree their feedback will be used to make improvements compared to those who do NOT respond favorably to this question.  While top-down, company-wide approaches to action planning are likely critical, more localized, bottom-up approaches allow employees to play a significant role in 1) aligning on focus areas and 2) participating in the solutions.

A multinational energy customer formed action committees to involve all of its employees in major decision-making processes. This bottom-up approach ensured that initiatives were relevant and had broad support across the organization. Employees reported feeling more invested in the outcomes, leading to higher engagement and satisfaction. These committees, composed of employees from various departments, worked on projects such as improving workplace safety, enhancing sustainability practices, and developing community outreach programs. The inclusive approach not only improved the quality of the initiatives but also fostered a strong sense of community and collaboration within the company.

In another case, a healthcare customer used employee-led committees to drive improvements in patient care processes. These committees leveraged frontline insights to implement changes that significantly enhanced service quality, safety, and employee morale. By involving nurses, doctors, and administrative staff in decision-making, the organization was able to identify and address critical issues more effectively. The result was improved patient experience, higher employee satisfaction, and a more cohesive work environment where employees felt their contributions were valued.

Linking Action to Behaviors

One of the common challenges we see across our customer base is the need to engage their managers in the action-taking process. For example, a large food services customer utilized Intelligent Nudges, part of Perceptyx’s Activate package, to cascade actions across the workforce and drive meaningful change. These nudges were aimed at embedding desired behaviors and encouraging managers to make their people a priority. The nudges included practical tips like drawing idea grids to solve tough problems, looking for the positive during brainstorming sessions, and changing meeting styles to be more consultative and coaching-focused. Managers were encouraged to engage with nearly every nudge, significantly increasing their effectiveness and maximizing team potential — with managers who engaged less frequently with the Intelligent Nudges being rated as needing support 2.5x more often than managers who engaged with them. 

Priorities and Objectives

Employee Experience as a Pillar of Organizational Success

When employees see their feedback represented as part of an organization’s strategic objectives, they will be more willing to continue sharing and speaking up about their experiences.  Not only this, but employees feel involved in the actions aligned to their feedback.  Organizations that include EX as one key piece of the puzzle informing go-forward strategies  (alongside market research, business needs, etc.) easily demonstrate that they care, and that employee voice matters.  

Partner organizations in various industries, such as manufacturing and healthcare, have launched initiatives focusing on skill development, leadership training, and innovative career development opportunities, based on employee feedback. These actions can significantly improve perceptions of advancement fairness and career opportunities. One of our largest manufacturing customers introduced a series of skill-building workshops and leadership training sessions as part of their “Future State 2025”  initiative. These programs were well-received, leading to measurable improvements in employee engagement and related metrics. The company also promoted “Forward to the Future Fridays,” dedicating time for employees to develop their skills and grow their careers, further enhancing their professional development opportunities.

In the healthcare sector, another customer implemented a comprehensive employee development program to address spiking workforce fatigue and disengagement. This included targeted training for leadership, new career pathways, and robust wellness programs. By focusing on these areas, they saw a significant increase in employee engagement and a reduction in both voluntary and involuntary turnover, highlighting the importance of continuous development and support for staff.

A Partnership Designed for Lasting EX Impact

Understanding and addressing the well-being of all your people is essential for involving and empowering them. Perceptyx offers consulting and professional services solutions and a purpose-built listening platform that can help organizations measure, analyze, and improve employee well-being and engagement initiatives. If you’re ready to launch your employee experience transformation journey,  schedule a meeting with a member of our team today.

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