Empowered by the talent war and emboldened by commercialism, your staff isn’t a population of employees anymore — they’re workplace consumers. In the same way that they demand a superior customer experience from brands, this newly evolved generation of workers also expects similar treatment from their employers.
To design an employee experience that aligns with their evolving expectations, your organization must get crucial benchmarks in the employee lifecycle just right. Here’s what you need to know:
THE 7 STAGES OF THE EMPLOYEE LIFECYCLE:
The employee lifecycle is a visual representation of the most important moments that make up the overall employee experience. Like a bad wire in an electrical circuit, if even one of the following stages produces a poor employee experience, it can cause shortages that may compromise the entire lifecycle.
Stage 1: Recruiting: The unique attributes that make your organization’s culture and career opportunities attractive to top talent.
Stage 2: Hiring: The process by which your organization interviews, offers, negotiates and hires an individual to join the company culture and mission.
Stage 3: Onboarding: What your organization does to ensure a new hire is successfully acclimated to the company culture and trained in their individual role.
Stage 4: Engagement: How your organization energizes the employee experience, connects with its workforce and creates a sense of purpose and pride at the individual level.
Stage 5: Performance: The process by which your organization measures employee productivity and communicates progress at the individual level.
Stage 6: Development: What your organization does to nurture potential, create opportunities for growth and pave a pathway forward (up the corporate ladder) for each employee.
Stage 7: Departure: Your organization’s exit strategy for employees (focused on information gathering, such as why the employee is leaving and what can be improved internally).
To bridge the gap between employee expectations and the employee experience at every critical junction in the employee lifecycle, employers and leadership teams need an informed strategy.
BRIDGING THE GAP: THE 5-STEP APPROACH
Recognize the primary factors that contribute to the employee experience.
Every organization’s strategy will vary depending on numerous factors, but the following attributes are universal and essential to bridging the gap:
- The manager-employee relationship
- Clearly defined job descriptions
- The presence of a respectful, inclusive, trustworthy team
- A physical or virtual environment that meets psychological, social and physical needs
- The prioritization of employee wellbeing.
Prioritize the stages of the employee lifecycle that impact the daily experience.
Engagement, performance and development (in that order) make up the majority of day-to-day employee experiences. As such, they represent the most impactful parts of the employee lifecycle. Before you can enhance performance, employees must feel engaged. Before you can enhance development, employees need to positively experience the impact of their work. The single greatest factor influencing the day-to-day portion of the employee lifecycle is the quality of your management team.
Answer the following:
- What does your organization do to train and support its leaders?
- Do managers exhibit and advocate for the company values, mission and culture?
- How do managers rate their own employee experience?
- What does your organization’s management team need to be successful?
Acknowledge feelings and emotions in the workplace.
Professionalism used to mean keeping one’s personal life out of the workplace. In the 21st century, we know better. Emotions are like embers that fire up productivity and engagement and meld the connection between employees, managers and company values.
If organizations are to bridge the gap between employee expectations and the employee experience, they must exercise empathy and explore what the current experience might feel like at all levels of the company. Furthermore, it’s important to change perceptions about bringing personal matters into the office. Like it or not, an employee’s personal life is omnipresent. Rather than ignore this fact, organizations can learn to view the nuances of each employee’s personal life as an opportunity to connect, inform the employee benefits strategy, and nurture potential.
Deepen your understanding of what employees want in each phase of the employee lifecycle.
Compensation is and will always be a hallmark expectation for employees, but equally important is the quality and breadth of an organization’s benefits package. Ancillary benefits carry more weight than ever in an individual’s decision to join a new company.
More specifically, employees want additional support in the following areas:
- Paid Leave
- Flex Scheduling
- Family Planning
- Pet Care
- Student Loan Debt
- Financial Planning
In the more emotionally aware and culturally driven 21st century, hitting candidates with tough questions isn’t the best hiring approach. Narrowing the list of potential hires involves far more than a candidate’s education and work history. Psychological and behavioral assessments are essential hiring tools that can help HR determine personality and work-style compatibility to identify the best fit for the role and the culture.
Nobody enjoys a sink-or-swim experience. How your organization communicates the responsibilities and expectations of an employee’s role is crucial to onboarding. Equally important is how you help new hires assimilate into the company culture. From defining their chain of command and introducing them to key players on the team to establishing a mentorship program for additional support, there are numerous ways to bring employees into the fold personally and professionally.
Additionally, new hires want organizations to make onboarding easier for them—for example, by simplifying benefits enrollment, which frequently causes stress and frustration.
Higher engagement levels are impossible without a trusted, mutually respectful relationship between managers and employees. Like any other relationship, this bond hinges on communication and a sense of investment in one another’s wellbeing. In other words, a partnership that honors give-and-take because both parties are working toward the same mission and values.
Formal annual reviews will not deliver higher performance levels.
When done fairly and thoughtfully, they can serve as a performance tool, but the more effective approach is to provide routine informal feedback, validation and encouragement. Show employees the impact of their individual contributions, celebrate wins and losses and turn perceived “failures” into teaching moments.
In many organizations, the corporate ladder is missing a few rungs. In the absence of a clear pathway forward (including infrequent raises, sparse promotional opportunities, and rare title changes), employees will eventually reach for that “next rung” with another company.
One way organizations are reconstructing the corporate ladder is by implementing a strong coaching program that listens to the career goals of its employees and actively working to pair goals with opportunities.
It takes a tremendous investment in time and energy to bridge the gap between employee expectations and the employee experience. Why burn it down just because an employee chose to leave? Regardless of the terms, understand that such a decision can be wrought with emotion, including sadness, fear, anxiety and stress. Honor exit interviews and provide employees with a platform to speak about their feelings and experience. Listen carefully to their feedback and leverage the conversation to improve the organization’s strategy moving forward. Former employees can still become advocates and may even return someday.
Step 5: Re-evaluate your organization’s employee benefits administration approach.
Employee benefits enrollment is a significant source of stress for employees and administrators alike. To compartmentalize feelings of overwhelm, the vast majority of employees choose the same benefits each year rather than trying to understand how new options might better support their lifestyles.
Employees are accustomed to digital consumer experiences similar to Netflix or Amazon. However, not just any digital benefits platform will do. When faced with online portals that confuse rather than simplify the enrollment process, employees grow even more frustrated with the situation. To improve the digital benefits experience, HR leaders must embrace digital tools that mimic popular consumer shopping and streaming platforms.
Unfortunately, HR doesn't always have the resources to properly digitize the benefits experience. With the addition of the next digital revolution underway, leveraging benefits to meet employee expectations and improve the overall experience won’t be easy.
Will your benefits administrator become the keystone or the crack in your newly constructed bridge between employee expectations and experience?
Learn more about how your organization can upgrade its administrative approach to lessen the gap between employee expectations and the employee experience.
Get the ultimate guide here.
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“More Harm Than Good: The Truth About Performance Reviews,” Gallup
“Employee Benefits and Perks Statistics - The Ultimate Collection,” Access Perks