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Roland Abel


Head of Employee Experience (EX) Solutions Strategy DACH

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Listen and act: how to get employee experience management right

Employee engagement is key to business growth. Here's how to do it right.

As the science behind employee engagement evolves, it’s become clear just how much businesses can gain from a happy and involved workforce. From improved performance, to reduced attrition, increased revenue and even a better customer experience, employee engagement is at the heart of business growth.

Given these benefits, it’s no surprise that the role of HR departments is moving beyond just managing people and towards managing experiences.

Good employee XM isn’t about blasting out surveys — it’s about building true understanding.

With new technologies being used to gather feedback and understand worker needs at an increasingly individual level, the push for employee experience management (XM) is only set to grow.

So how exactly do businesses build an employee XM approach? Here are five considerations to take into account when developing an effective employee XM approach — one that both listens to, and acts upon, employee needs.

1. Employee XM isn’t about bombarding people with surveys

From automated text analysis to key driver evaluation, today’s employee feedback tools offer advanced features to help understand employee moods, ideas and opinions. Given the ready availability of such advanced analysis tools, it can be all too easy for businesses and HR teams to bombard their workforces with feedback surveys.

Good employee XM isn’t about blasting out surveys, however — it’s about building true understanding. That means taking the time to craft a feedback approach that provides maximum insight for the business with minimum effort from the employee. This can involve a much more targeted approach, focusing questions on specific departments or teams, and staying as close to personal experiences as possible. In some cases, this can mean collecting feedback at the very moment an employee has an experience.

2. Be wary of external benchmarks

When attempting to understand their internal processes and employee satisfaction levels, businesses tend to compare themselves against competitors and countrywide benchmarks.

While these benchmarks appear helpful, they can lead companies down a very specific line of questioning — focusing heavily on what’s ‘normal’ rather than exploring the potential of new ideas.

Employees who not only feel that their feedback has been listened to, but are also able to help implement the suggested changes will be more engaged and more committed to the end result.

Rather than asking what your competitors are doing now, it’s far better to examine what your business could be doing in the future. What trends are coming around the corner? What positive changes and future challenges are impacting the working world? Are there new career paths on the horizon? Are there new ways of interacting with digital tools, or new management structures that could be explored?

Understanding how your employee’s attitudes compare to external norms is important, but don’t let your employee XM approach get caught up in asking the same benchmarking questions that everyone else asks. Good employee surveys should measure openness to change, and be used to evaluate the potential of new and previously unexplored ideas. As such, a great employee XM approach should encourage a mixture of some benchmark data and plenty of original, exploratory questions and ideas.

3. Think macro and micro

As discussed, targeted feedback programmes can be a great way to overcome survey fatigue, but they can also ensure higher quality feedback from participants. While it’s easy for those at the top to develop questions around company direction and values, they won’t necessarily reflect the needs of individual employees. At the same time, business leaders pulling people out of work to take part in constant engagement workshops simply isn’t productive. Avalanches of workshops and focus groups take up valuable time but rarely deliver on the actions needed to encourage real change.

Instead of developing employee experience programmes from the top down, businesses should allow national, regional and business line managers to collect feedback on the issues that matter most to their own projects, goals and priorities. Often, it’s these mid-level managers who have the best visibility of current employee concerns and which areas will be the most important to explore.

A good employee XM approach should include both micro concerns (impacting the day-to-day) and high-level macro issues (impacting the business’ future). An effective XM platform will help to bring these different data sets together.

4. Involvement is key

It’s not just middle managers who should be involved in developing and implementing the feedback process. Employees themselves are equally important.

It’s no secret that when people are involved in a decision, they are far less resistant to the resulting changes. Employees who not only feel that their feedback has been listened to, but are also able to help implement the suggested changes will be more engaged and more committed to the end result.

At the same time, it’s vital that businesses find a way to communicate all changes to the workforce — whether through a company intranet, regular workshops or web meetings. Whatever the methods, business leaders must find a way to encourage dialogue and discussion throughout their entire employee XM approach.

5. XM isn’t just about data… it’s about action and communication

When launching an employee XM strategy, it can be all too easy to get wrapped up in the process of data collection and analysis. In reality however, none of this data means anything if it doesn’t lead to clear actions. Nothing is more frustrating for employees than providing feedback and then feeling that it hasn’t been listened to and acted upon.

As such, transparency of actions is vital. A good XM approach should output clear tangible advice for line managers and changes to the employee environment. At the same time, regular reminders, communication about progress achieved, and ‘pulse’ checks are vital to ensure that the proposed action is being taken and the company is moving in the right direction. These regular reviews can help business leaders understand which initiatives are working and which might need a push in the right direction. Greater visibility of this leadership involvement will also stimulate more positive attitudes from employees about the effectiveness of their feedback.

A true employee experience management approach offers much more than simple understanding, it should inspire a culture of openness and enthusiasm for change. Having the right software in place to manage this approach is vital, but simply investing in tools alone isn’t enough. Businesses must first put the work into understanding their own (feedback) cultures, creating an individually tailored approach to suit their unique challenges and priorities. Tools will help with this, but effective change must come from a commitment on the part of corporate leadership to listen and be open to new ideas.

Interested in this topic? Read How to measure and improve your employee experience.

Author Profile Picture
Roland Abel

Head of Employee Experience (EX) Solutions Strategy DACH

Read more from Roland Abel

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