The Employee Experience: 8 Moments That Matter

By Lauren Beechly, PhD - September 07, 2020

Over the past several decades, there has been increasing focus on employee engagement—and with that focus, a growing appreciation of the importance of the employee experience. The two are inexorably linked. Without a positive employee experience, engagement is impossible; engagement is the outcome of a good experience.

Throughout both the employee and business life cycles there are important events with the potential for either positive or negative impact on the employee experience. The primary work of people analytics is to measure those impacts, using surveys and continuous listening strategies, with the goal of moving them in a positive direction. Improvements in the employee experience at these pivotal moments translate into higher productivity, lower turnover, and ultimately, higher profits for the business.

From this perspective, the moments that matter in the employee experience are also moments that matter in the organization’s life cycle. Even though the experience of one individual employee out of thousands may not register at the executive level, collectively these individual experiences have a major impact on the health and success of the business. For this reason, it’s important to ask for feedback at pivotal points in the individual’s employee journey. While many of those pivotal points are related to the employee’s current stage in his or her journey with the organization, others may be related to changes that affect the entire organization, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

In this article, we’ll look at the moments most important in shaping the employee’s experience with the organization, the tools used to measure employee perceptions in those moments, and how to improve the employee experience.

Engagement is the product of a good employee experience. Learn how to improve the experience at every stage of the employee journey with our free guide, The Employee Experience Playbook.

What is the employee experience?

The definition for “employee experience” is the notion that all aspects of the work experience—onboarding, manager and peer relationships, teamwork, recognition, training and development, the company culture, and more—affect the employee’s perceptions of the company and their job.

Monitoring Important Moments In The Employee Experience

A number of surveys can capture employee perceptions and opinions about significant milestones on the employee journey. The following types of surveys can be used to continuously listen, measure, track—and improve—the employee experience from start to finish:

  1. Candidate experience surveys measure employees’ first experience with the organization. Surveying new employees—or all applicants—about the ease of application, their understanding of the organization and the job position, enjoyment of the interview process, and likelihood of recommending the company to others offers insights into the company’s hiring experience. This is helpful not only for identifying possible improvements, but also for building advocates for the company brand and retaining applicants who were not hired as customers.

    The selection process should be smooth and enjoyable for the applicant; social media and sites like Glassdoor make it all too easy for applicants to share a negative selection experience. The focus should be on what’s going on in the minds of applicants. There is a lot of anxiety now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and speed of communication and transparency in the hiring process are crucial in reducing applicant anxiety.

  2. Onboarding surveys, typically given shortly after the new hire begins the job and then again 45, 60, and/or 90 days later, capture information about the new hire experience and the frame of mind of new employees.

    Onboarding surveys reveal how well a new hire was set up for success in the first weeks of work, with resources, information, and manager and team relationships. Some organizations will follow up with an additional onboarding survey 45 to 90 days after hiring to gauge higher-level topics, such as the employee’s understanding of his place in the organization and the company’s direction and mission. These are helpful, as new employees’ perceptions can change over time.

    It’s also important to gauge the employee’s perception of how the job measures up to their expectations; a mismatch may be a predictor of early turnover. Onboarding surveys may also be administered to employees who have been promoted, started new positions, have a new manager, or have joined a new team, to measure their engagement and experiences in their new circumstances.

    In the context of COVID-19, measuring new employees’ sense of connectedness to their coworkers and the organization is even more important to capture. How has the experience changed for those working remotely? Do they feel valued, like they are contributing? Remote work poses new challenges for maintaining new hires’ excitement and for retaining them.

  3. Performance review surveys allow employees to give feedback about the review process and their perceptions of its fairness; they can also gauge the impact of the performance review on employee engagement. These can be administered annually, biannually, or quarterly, according to the cadence of the company’s performance review process.

    Because performance review can impact pay, bonuses, and promotion opportunities, it can provoke anxiety in employees; the consequences of the review also have an impact on the employee’s personal life. As a result, many organizations are revamping their performance reviews; surveying can be a good way to gauge employee perceptions about the current review process and seek feedback for ways to improve the process to make it more beneficial to all.

  4. Training or career development surveys can gauge the effectiveness of training or career development programs and their impact on employee engagement. While measuring affective reactions to training can be helpful, capturing behavioral and cognitive changes from the training can provide even more value into whether the training had the intended benefits. This can be accomplished through pre/post measures of the trainees or by comparing survey responses from trainees to a non-trained group.

    Career development represents a big investment for the organization, so it makes sense to measure whether it was beneficial. The trainee’s manager can also be surveyed to see if they noticed a change in employee behaviors or skills after training. Was it easy for trainees to use those new skills? Was there a change in productivity or communication? Have others on the team perceived those changes?

    Employee ratings on census surveys can be tracked to gauge the effectiveness of manager training, to see if the training produced improvements. A positive effect of engagement training for managers—to help them understand how they can improve engagement on their team—will be revealed by a bump in scores on employee census responses.

  5. Anniversary surveys can be used to measure engagement and gather information about the employee’s vision for his or her future. By surveying employees during these critical personal milestones, the organization communicates that they value their employees’ feedback and opinions. These may be administered at the one, two, three, five, or other year mark. Analysis of attrition by job role, location, or department can suggest the most appropriate cadence for anniversary surveys; they can be targeted to points in the employee’s tenure where turnover is most likely. Anniversary surveys can be used as a way of measuring employee awareness of the growth opportunities available with the organization, while at the same time providing insight into the employee’s perceptions about their job and the organization.

    In addition to surveying, it’s also important for managers and teams to celebrate anniversaries. Anniversary recognitions can be personalized if the employee has been asked on a previous survey, such as an onboarding survey, how they would like to be recognized. Tailoring recognition to the individual employee is helpful in making the employee feel seen and valued.

  6. Transition surveys may be given to employees who have recently returned to work after parental, medical, sabbatical or other leave to check in on how well the employee is transitioning back into their role, measure their stress level and engagement, and assess their perceptions of support and connectedness to the organization and their coworkers.

    Return-to-work surveys are likely to be important for many organizations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. As employees who have been working remotely return to the physical workplace, transition surveys give them a way to be heard and may help to allay employee anxiety. These surveys offer employees the opportunity to express their concerns; open-ended questions can provide specific feedback and ideas about needed improvements and where things are not going well.

  7. Exit surveys capture information at a critical point in the employee experience, when the employee has elected to leave the organization. Employees who are leaving are likely to be candid in describing how they feel about the organization, their manager, and other experiences within the company. Information about the reasons employees choose to leave can inform actions to improve the experience for other employees and reduce future attrition. Asking actionable questions is crucial if exit survey data will be used to try to reduce voluntary attrition.

    Using exit survey data, attrition dashboards can be designed, showing relationships between exit survey data and other survey data. How were experiences different for those who left than for those who stayed? Zeroing in on those differences—and taking action to improve the areas of the experience indicated as lacking by exiting employees—is the key to lowering attrition.

  8. Organizational change surveys monitor employees’ perceptions about major organizational changes such as mergers and acquisitions, new leadership, or other big changes affecting the entire organization—including external events like the COVID-19 pandemic. If changes impact only a small portion of the organization such as a specific job family or department, targeted pulse surveys provide a great way to assess relevant perceptions from the people impacted the most.

    While leaders are sometimes hesitant to survey during periods of change, asking employees for feedback is even more important when changes are underway, in order for leaders to obtain relevant, timely feedback to guide quick action or assess the effectiveness of actions already taken.

    Allowing employees to share their opinions helps alleviate anxiety by giving employees more of a sense of control while everything around them in the workplace may be changing. It also allows leaders to see where employees are struggling, enabling interventions to help employees transition through the change more effectively.

    The most important factors in monitoring organizational change are having timely feedback and specific information focused on the issue at hand.

Measuring The Employee Experience Through Census Surveys

Annual census surveys are not themselves pivotal events for employees, but they do offer rich data about the overall experience. Census surveys collect employee perceptions and opinions about a comprehensive range of themes and topics, including engagement. In addition to allowing all employees the opportunity to be heard, they offer a snapshot of the experience across the entire organization. For this reason, census surveys should be included in any comprehensive attempt to measure the employee experience.

Designing An Employee Experience Model

Measuring the employee experience with surveys provides the data for constructing an employee experience framework—imagining the ideal experience, and then taking the steps needed to make it a reality.

Frequently taking the pulse of employee sentiment via census, pulse, and lifecycle surveys will identify the barriers that stand in the way of employees fully engaging with the organization and their work; removing these barriers to engagement is ultimately how to improve the employee experience. Our view is that engagement is not something that can be “driven” into employees; rather, it is something employees seek out. In the absence of barriers, employees drive their own engagement. The organization’s role is to identify and remove barriers; this in and of itself translates into an improved employee experience. In addition, asking for employee feedback on a regular basis engages employees in a continuous dialogue with the organization—crucial for supporting the culture of continuous improvement that supports a positive employee experience.

This is long-term work. Culture and the employee experience are inextricably intertwined; if the organization has not in the past emphasized the employee experience, the culture will need to be re-oriented, and cultural shifts take time to become normalized. Organizations engaging in the work of improving the employee experience should expect it to be an ongoing project. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a good employee experience. It will take time to address each individual barrier to engagement, and even after the culture shifts, there will always be room for more improvement.

Because employee engagement is the product of a good employee experience, measuring engagement at each of these events in the employee life cycle—the moments that matter to individual employees—offers insight into the quality of the experience throughout the employee journey. These pivotal points are also opportunities for communicating the message to employees that they are being heard and their opinions are valued—which in itself can increase engagement and promote a more positive employee experience.

Are you listening during the moments that matter?

Building engagement requires caring about the things that matter most to your employees, asking how they feel about these important topics and moments, and taking targeted action to improve the employee experience. Paired with surveys tailored to your company’s strategic goals, the Perceptyx platform delivers rich insight into your employees’ perceptions and opinions about important events in their lives.

Contact Perceptyx today and see how we can help you gain the insights you need to improve the employee experience and attain your strategic goals.

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