Employee engagement has been a buzzword among businesses for some time, built on the simple understanding that engaged individuals will be more bought in to company culture and values and will do their best to drive enhanced performance.
However, times are changing and it's no longer a matter of businesses being focused on driving higher levels of engagement if they wish to stand out from their competition and attract and retain the best staff. Instead, there must be a concerted effort to create a positive environment in which individuals are supported throughout their time with a business. This should be the platform on which positive employer branding is built.
What is employee experience?
Employee experience should not be viewed as a single entity, but instead is the culmination of all of an individual's interactions with a business from the day they first interview to the time they leave. Understanding and improving the employee experience should therefore be an active process that companies engage in from the very first interaction they have with new candidates.
Rather than focusing narrowly on employee engagement and culture, which many companies have done in the past, it is now essential for forward-thinking businesses to widen the scope of their employee support programs.
According to Deloitte's 2019 Global Human Capital trends, almost 84% of executives believe employee experience is vital, and 28% identify it as one of their most urgent issues facing their organization.
This is therefore a significant challenge for many businesses; however, there are a number of common factors that can drive an improved employee experience for those keen to do so. Understanding and appreciating the pressures that employees face on a daily basis within their role is a positive place to start.
Moreover, Deloitte suggests organizations that work to align individual's personal goals with corporate purpose, help to balance personal and professional life/work demands, and integrate social, community and corporate programs into the employee experience will be best-placed to succeed.
Maximizing employee experience also means listening to feedback from staff, helping individuals to progress in their career, to take on new challenges and to grow as a professional, as well as promoting a culture of creativity and inclusivity that will foster collaboration and make a business simply an enjoyable and fulfilling place to work.
Why is employee experience important?
One of the clearest advantages to be gained from delivering a positive employee experience is stronger staff retention. If people feel happy, motivated and fulfilled in their jobs, they are less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere, which helps the company avoid the operational and financial disruption of replacing departing employees.
It has been estimated that the average cost of replacing an employee is £11,000 ($14,170) in the UK, but that could increase to more than £40,000 for senior staff.
Furthermore, investing in the best possible experience for your workforce helps to ensure people achieve maximum levels of efficiency and productivity. Employees who feel positive at work and like their employer will be much more motivated to do their best and deliver great results for the business.
People who enjoy their jobs and look forward to coming in every day are also less likely to suffer from health problems like stress and anxiety. These two mental health issues alone cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity every year, according to the World Health Organization.
As far as recruitment and talent acquisition are concerned, striving to deliver the best possible employee experience can help you attract highly skilled, experienced professionals who could help to transform the entire organization.
Current staff who enjoy working for you will tell their friends, family and contacts in their professional network. This positive word-of-mouth could help you tap into a vast and hugely valuable pool of passive candidates - people who aren't actively looking for work but would be open to a new career opportunity if the right one came along. These individuals reportedly make up 70% of the global workforce.
What is employer brand?
Having explored employee experience as the reality of what it is like to work for a business, our attention now shifts to the employer brand. Employer brand relates to an employer's reputation as a place to work, the way a company values its employees and how this is demonstrated, as well as the wider values that an organization is perceived to show.
It is important to differentiate employer brand from the more generic brand reputation, as this latter experience is more tailored to the way the consumer views a company, rather than the people who work there.
Employee experience therefore forms a crucial part of this process and is, arguably, now more important than ever, especially given the rise in social media and the popularity of sites like Glassdoor, which provide employees with an outlet to the wider world to share their experiences of working for a business - thereby impacting the employer brand in a much wider realm.
Creating a positive employee experience will help to attract and retain a skilled workforce, which in turn will drive a stronger customer experience and support positive brand reputation, further reinforcing the employer brand. It is therefore a process that should be viewed as a holistic solution by businesses to the issues of driving a positive association for their organization in the wider market.
Understanding the importance of both employee experience and employer branding is something companies will need to do more of in the years to come. The notion that a more engaged workforce simply buying-in to your company culture will lead to the best results is now not enough. As we've seen, organizations must focus on meeting the needs of their employees in order to bolster their own attractiveness within their field; anything else will simply not gain traction in the new zeitgeist of employer branding.
What can companies do to boost their employer branding?
Having a strong employer brand has never been more important, particularly if you operate in a competitive, fast-moving industry where candidates with the most valuable skills are in short supply. Your brand can help you stand out and improve your ability to not only attract, but retain talented workers.
According to business leaders and advisers Ken Banta and Michael Watras, one of the most important steps you can take to improve your brand is having candid discussions with existing employees about what needs to change in the organization.
They recommend avoiding open-ended queries and posing targeted questions designed to get people thinking about specific aspects of how the company functions, such as: "What's the worst aspect of our culture?"
You can also make major strides in your branding efforts by improving your understanding of what modern workers expect from their employers. Conventional wisdom would suggest basic financial provisions like salary and bonuses are the most important considerations, but research has shown many candidates take other factors into account when forming opinions about organizations.
Mercer's 2018 Global Talent Trends report highlighted common employee requirements that some organizations are overlooking, such as workplace flexibility, a commitment to health and wellbeing, and working with a purpose.
Similarly, a survey by US cloud computing company ServiceNow found that 61% of respondents would like to ask their boss for more meaningful work, compared to 34% who would like to ask for a raise.
There are many other non-financial measures you can introduce to strengthen your brand, such as promoting transparency in working methods, from board level all the way down to junior team members, and actively demonstrating to workers that you are heeding and acting on their feedback.
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