As office workers groove their way back into their pre-festivities work funk, everyone is looking for a fresh start in 2019. The new year brings a lot of novelty, including new competition in the market, new employee engagement trends, and new market standards, setting new employee expectations around workplace culture. In a world where employee turnover is higher than it has been in the last 10 years, it is important to think about how to attract and retain talent to stay competitive. Make 2019 the year of the employee, and you can’t go wrong.
By now, we have all heard the trope that millennials are shaking up several areas of society, from social movements to the food system, to the way we interact on and offline. Workplace culture is not exempt from these changing tides – McKinsey predicts 75% of the workforce will be comprised of millennials by 2025. In line with this, employers will need to offer an environment and leadership perspective that is in line with their priorities in order to attract and retain the top talent. Here, we outline what you can do to make sure you’re ahead of the curve, turn your employees into your workplace culture ambassadors, and keep both your team and bottom line happy.
A Brief History of Employee Perks
In the latter half of the 20th century, the predominant employee perks centered around pension plans and private health insurance, as workers sought out job security following WW2, but there wasn’t any notion of corporate culture, or at least not how we think of it today (think industrial revolution mindset – cog in a big wheel).
Fast forward to the early noughties – the rise of the tech company. As companies like Google and Facebook grew, they knew they needed to attract the best teams they possibly could. As an innovative brand, you need an innovative team. Google and Facebook realised this, and weren’t afraid to offer out-of-the-box employee perks to attract out-of-the-box talent. It wasn’t long before bean bags, table tennis tables, and other bells and whistles were more common staples in young, techie circles, as well as perks aided by the advent of reliable, widespread, and cheap access to the internet, such as flexible and remote working.
However, we live in a world where novelty wears off in record time, and attention spans are shorter than ever. This forces us to iterate and innovate more and more quickly – and employee engagement is no exception to this rule. What was once exciting and appealing to prospective employees has lost its allure as it becomes normalised and therefore expected.
So what is it all about in 2019? In the ever-changing world of employee satisfaction, what can you do to make sure you’re nailing talent acquisition and talent management to the best of your organisation’s ability?
Well if you’ve heard of the term “employee experience”, congratulations, you’re ahead of the game on that one. If you haven’t heard of it, fear not, that’s what we’re here for. Employee experience (EX) is defined as “the totality of what employees experience while they’re at work. It encompasses the physical environment, cultural environment, and technological environment, all the way from when they are a candidate applying for the job, to becoming an alum of the company,” and it is now basically seen as the determinant of happy employees.
Why should you care about employee experience?
Simply put: because if you don’t, you and your organisation will lose out in the long run. Whereas in the past the only way to get insight into how a company works was to join it, people now have more tools than ever to gain insight into what working at your organisation is really like. Yelp, Glassdoor, Google Reviews – you can bet your candidates will be looking at these sites during their application process to get a sense of how previous employees have fared at your company. If they don’t like what they see, this can massively hurt your talent acquisition efforts, as they will opt for somewhere they’ll be getting more of what is important to them. Plus, your current staff won’t last long if they feel they could be getting it better elsewhere.
Now, of course you cannot possibly tailor your organisation to suit absolutely every talented candidate out there – they’re simply too different from each other in terms of what they’re looking for, what they appreciate, and the environments they work best in. However, there are several reasons you’ll want to invest at least some resource and thought into providing the best employee experience you possibly can for your team.
Firstly, research has shown that employees who feel valued are more committed to an organisation, and experience less withdrawal from their role. They also report improved job satisfaction, mood, and wellbeing.
Secondly, this has a direct and powerful effect on your bottom line. It is in the interest of your company to take care of your people. Jacob Morgan, the author of The Employee Experience Advantage, showed in one study that organisations he classed as “experiential” out-performed their rivals in average profits by a factor of four, had double the average revenues, and improved employee retention by 40%.
“But what do I have to do to get my organisation to be classed as experiential?” we hear you ask. It is quite simple really. The most effective way of motivating employees is remembering that they are just people. Take a human-centric approach to your workplace culture and you can’t really go wrong. For starters, being authentically and genuinely interested in your employees’ health, wellbeing, and personal needs and development are sure-fire ways to put you in their good books and make them fall in love with their workplace. But more on that below.
How to create an amazing employee experience at your company
Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, so let’s cut to the chase! We’ve highlighted 3 key ways you can start boosting your employee experience now below.
1. Culture over strategy
Successful employee experience really comes down to putting culture above strategy. There is a saying in the industry – “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. What that mean is the real determinant in your business’s success isn’t your revenue, it is your team and the culture you create for them.
That might seem counter-intuitive at first, so let us break it down for you.
Companies that invest in their culture above their strategy consistently outperform companies that don’t. To understand why, we need to look at what company culture means to people. Culture lies at the heart of a company. It is what drives people to work, create, or build, to innovate, and drive change in their department, organisation, or industry. And people are much more likely to give something their all if the purpose, principles, and beliefs of the organisation align with their own. This is demonstrated through reduced internal conflict, better product creation, higher employee buy-in, and overall improvements to employee loyalty. Understand who your ideal employee is and what they would be looking for in a culture. Then give it to them.
2. Invest in your employees
When you encourage your employees’ development both in and out of the office, it tells them that you care about their ambitions, goals and priorities, and trust their competency and ability to pursue them. You’re saying “I believe that you can achieve your dreams”.
Ultimately, this helps your business because you will end up with more highly skilled and motivated people, who feel comfortable enough to ask for what they feel they’d need or like to improve a certain skill or gain an industry insight that will be advantageous to them and therefore to you.
In a similar vein, listen to your employees’ needs outwith the work environment. Personal affairs can have a huge knock-on effect to performance at the office. Make your team feel they can confidently come to you with anything that might impact their regular working day or week. Whether that’s a recent bereavement, an ongoing health issue, or simply wishing for more flexible working to be able to spend time with family or engage with another activity that is meaningful to them, listen to their needs and accommodate as much as you can. Not only will this set you apart as an empathetic employer, it will benefit you to have a team that is fulfilled outside of the work sphere, as they’ll be able to give work their all when the time comes.
3. Make communication purposeful
The fact that we are now connected 24/7 and easily accessible from anywhere in the world means switching off can be a challenge for some (even when they’re on the beach in Hawaii!). Now, we’re not saying never message someone after hours or on a weekend – emergencies and urgencies can happen at any time, especially in a young company or startup. However, when these times do arise, the way in which you go about your communication can seriously shape the way your employees feel about the workplace culture they’re a part of.
Make each communication purposeful. It is a valuable tool you have to show your employees you value their input and competence – they are necessary within your organisation. An employee who feels an integral and irreplaceable member of the team is more likely to work harder to achieve, because their pride and reputation are on the line. Therefore, communication is powerful and can actually be an advantage to you as a boss. Just make sure that your requests really can’t wait for Monday.
Listen, listen listen! Listen to what your employees think would make a positive workplace culture, and listen to what the competition is doing and offering. What in their environment do your employees love? What would they like improvements in? What does communication within your company look like and can it be improved? Remember that your ‘workplace brand’ is just as important to your employees as your company brand is to your customers. Give them one to believe in in 2019!