The Employee Experience: 8 Moments That Matter
Over the past several decades, there has been an increased 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 impacts on the employee experience. One goal of people analytics is to measure those impacts, using multiple channels and continuous listening strategies, with the goal of moving them in a positive direction. Improvements in the employee experience at these pivotal moments can translate into not only more positive outcomes for employees but also improved business outcomes including higher productivity, lower turnover, and ultimately, higher profits for the business.
From this perspective, the moments that matter in the employee’s experience are also moments that matter in the organization’s lifecycle, and 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 reorganizations, mergers, leadership changes, and more. 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.
What is the Employee Experience?
The employee experience broadly describes what it’s like to work in an organization and how employees feel about their experience within that organization. The employee experience encompasses all aspects of the work experience, including onboarding, manager and peer relationships, teamwork, recognition, training and development, the company culture, and more.
Measuring Important Moments in the Employee Experience
A number of listening methods can capture employee perceptions and opinions about significant milestones on the employee journey. The following types of surveys and listening channels can be used to continuously listen, measure, understand — and improve — the employee experience from start to finish:
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 selection 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. With the "Great Resignation" impacting many organizations, it’s also critical that companies understand what attracts applicants to their organization as well as their Employee Value Proposition. By measuring candidate experiences, organizations can understand how applicants perceive their organization's employment brand and take steps to clarify this message based on candidate feedback.
Onboarding surveys, typically given shortly after the new hire begins the job and at later milestones throughout the first year, capture information about the new hire experience and whether the employee feels welcomed and is thriving in their new role. Onboarding surveys can 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 additional onboarding surveys three months and six months after hire to measure additional experiences such as the employee’s health and well-being, perception of growth opportunities, and clarity of the company’s vision. It’s also important to gauge how well the actual job experience aligns with their initial 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.
For many organizations, onboarding programs are now delivered remotely, creating an added challenge for managers and HR leaders alike. Research conducted last year by Perceptyx revealed that, regardless of location, new hires who started after March 2020 reported a less favorable experience compared to those who onboarded pre-COVID, resulting in:
- Less connection to the organization and its culture,
- Lower well-being across almost every metric, and
- A lack of clarity about what to expect on their first day.
But the real danger? This pandemic cohort reported starkly lower favorability on items relating to pride in the organization and willingness to recommend the company as a good place to work, raising their likelihood to churn by as much as 45%. By listening to employees during this critical period of onboarding, insights can be learned to improve connection and commitment to the organization.
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 management process.
Because performance reviews can impact pay, bonuses, and promotion opportunities, they can also 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.
Training or career development surveys can gauge the effectiveness of training or career development programs and their impact on employee engagement and retention. While measuring effective 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?
For leadership development, 360 and 180 assessments provide valuable feedback into potential blind spots leaders may have, focusing development efforts in response to team, peer, direct manager, and other feedback. Employee ratings on census surveys can also reveal the effectiveness of manager development by examining changes in leader behavior ratings since the previous survey.
The quality of an organization's leaders can also have a significant impact on engagement levels. When OhioHealth identified that sagging engagement scores were concentrated within a few specific teams, it turned to Perceptyx to create a unique ‘boot camp’ for managers focused on reinforcing the behaviors and actions needed to sustain a thriving culture. Read the case study to learn more.
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 within the organization, while at the same time providing insight into the employee’s perceptions about their current 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.
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 becoming even more important 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 even 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.
Organizational change surveys monitor employees’ perceptions about major company-wide changes such as mergers and acquisitions, new leadership, or other big shifts 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.
Beyond quantitative data, crowdsourced feedback is also useful during times of change, inviting employees to co-create actions to address the organization’s top challenges. By asking employees for specific ideas or actions to address a challenge and then allowing them to vote on the suggestions, employees not only provide ideas for acting, but also help prioritize those which they believe are the most useful. This transparent, engaging, inclusive method of listening involves employees in meaningful dialogue during times of turbulence and communicates that employees’ ideas are truly valued.
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.
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 sentiment 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.
Measuring the Employee Experience through Annual Census Surveys
Annual census surveys are not themselves pivotal events for employees, but the depth and breadth of data collected through this listening method is unmatched and one reason why more than 85% of enterprise organizations include annual census surveys in their listening strategies today. Census surveys collect employee perceptions and opinions about a comprehensive range of themes and topics, including engagement and commitment, and should be tailored to measure what matters most to the organization.
In addition to allowing all employees the opportunity to be heard, they offer a point-in-time snapshot of experiences across the entire organization and provide leaders at all levels with data to guide actions for improvement. By integrating perceptions from point-in-time census surveys with other perceptions gathered across critical employee milestones, richer insights can be learned, creating a more complete understanding of the employee experience and targeting actions to what matters most.
For example, Perceptyx’s people analytics platform can investigate how onboarding experiences differed between those who are highly committed to staying compared to those who are considering leaving — were there different experiences as early as the first month of employment that may contribute to later attrition? For these reasons, 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 and other listening channels 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, lifecycle, 360/180, and crowdsourced surveys helps identify the barriers that stand in the way of employees anticipating a successful future for themselves within their job and with the organization; removing these barriers to engagement is ultimately how to improve the 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 even allows for analysis and integration of perceptions across multiple channels and survey types to identify trends and even predict future impacts based on data. (For example, analyzing onboarding survey results, in combination with annual census and engagement data, to identify employee groups or job roles at high risk for attrition based on their favorability scores.)
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.