The task of creating positive employee experiences can be daunting, especially for smaller companies who have tight budgets. However, delivering an excellent employee experience doesn’t have to translate to pumping lots of money into employee appreciation programs.
If your company has an exceptional hiring and onboarding process, your chances of creating a stellar experience are far greater than those who are rather laissez faire about the entire process. That was the general consensus presented by SHRM, BambooHR and Qualtrics on a recent webinar titled, “5 Stages For Delivering An Excellent Employee Experience.”
Before we dive into those five stages, let’s briefly discuss what makes a candidate choose you. I recently wrote a comprehensive guide on employer branding, and one of the things you’ll learn is the importance of culture when it comes to attracting and retaining quality talent. Like BambooHR’s Director of HR Cassie Whitlock said on the webinar, your company must answer “yes” to the following questions to make a powerful impression on candidates.
Does your brand build your culture? Or does your culture build your brand?
“If you want to make a powerful impression on your potential candidates, both of these need to be true for you,” Whitlock said. “While messaging matters, experience matters more.”
Keeping that quote in mind, here are the five stages to deliver an excellent employee experience (side note: I love the alliteration here).
- Exceptional Hiring
Let’s just cut to the chase. The best candidates:
- Have lots of options in a decent economy;
- Consider more than just a salary and benefits;
- Consider daily work experience;
- Their focus isn’t on peripheral perks such as nap rooms and ice machines; and
- Cross reference your messaging with other reviews.
And all of this happens before they’ve even decided to apply at your company, Whitlock said. So how can we ensure these candidates choose us instead of the other guy? Here are some helpful tips for nailing the interview.
First off, make sure that the relationship between the recruiter and candidate is solid. Hopefully the two have exchanged a few emails and developed a rapport. This will make the interview process less stressful and more “real”. Secondly, always respect the candidates time. One thing that I’ve found refreshing is when an employer asks me what time works best for me for an interview. It shows me that they’re willing to accommodate my schedule even though I know they’re extremely busy.
Another solid tip that Whitlock shared—which they do at BambooHR—is give your prospective client a tour of the building. You want to show them the different departments, especially the ones they will be working in and with. And do this before the interview process starts. Lastly, and perhaps the most critical in my eyes, is the follow-up process.
I’ll just leave you with this bit of wisdom from Whitlock: “After the interview, it’s important to keep candidates informed of the process. If you commit to a timeline, please keep it. If you have to adjust, communicate it. If the process involves further interviews, make sure they know the steps that come next.”
Qualtrics’ Rachel Barker added this bit of wisdom: “Even if a candidate isn’t hired, they’re going out to be an ambassador for your organization. Make sure you make it count and communicate your culture.”
- Exceptional Onboarding
Nailing the onboarding process is crucial, especially since 87% of new hires aren’t fully committed to their jobs during the first six months, according to BambooHR.
“You’re at risk of losing (new hires) if the image you portrayed during the interview process isn’t mirrored,” Whitlock stressed.
To help mitigate the risk of losing the best and brightest candidates, Whitlock recommended building a plan based on the following three pillars.
Prepare: When preparing to onboarding your new hire, make sure you think through where they’re going to sit and why, whether or not they need a mentor and don’t ever put your new hire in a pod of empty cubicles. Make sure your new hire has a desk, all the equipment he or she needs and a detailed agenda for their first day.
Automate: Whitlock recommends using technology to optimize the pre-employment process (i.e. e-signature documents instead of filling out tons of paperwork on the first day). The onboarding process isn’t a day; it’s a longer process and can even drag out to the six month mark, so any automation is helpful for both parties.
Elevate: It’s important to always be sharing team info—and that goes in both directions. Employees and employers should create connections, communicate the why and do more than put out the message and assume new hires understand. It’s also crucial to ask new hires how their training experience is going. Seek to understand if it’s positive or hard, too much or too little, etc. And don’t wait until the training process is over.
When you make onboarding a priority, you create a culture of engaged employees. And it’s much easier to keep an employee engaged from the beginning than it is to try and re-engage, said Qualtrics’ Barker.
- Exceptional Engagement
Piggybacking off the above comment, engagement is crucial to get right in the beginning. That’s why the first two steps of deliver an employee experience are the most important, in my opinion. If you get hiring and onboarding right, the engagement, development and experience all fall into place.
“Engagement is really a feeling of believing in your work,” Barker said. And here’s how Qualtrics’ Engagement Index is measured:
- Pride in the company;
- Motivation to go above and beyond in the role;
- Likelihood to recommend the company as a great place to work; and
- Likelihood to stay.
There are many things that affect employee engagement. Here’s a sampling that Qualtrics’ Barker shared during the webinar:
At viperks, we’ve seen firsthand how important recognition is when it comes to keeping your employees engaged. That’s why we added a rewards and recognition component to our exclusive online shopping and appreciation platform. According to Bain & Company, companies with highly-engaged workers grew revenues 2.5x as much as those with low levels of engagement.
- Exceptional Development
The new workforce, mostly comprised of millennials, “want to develop into better human beings, not just better in their careers,” Barker said.
Here are four things that Qualtrics’ Barker believes work when it comes to training and development:
- Formal professional development seminars;
- Leadership training;
- Lunch N’ Learns; and
- Quarterly goals.
But not all of these have to be work related development. Work doesn’t have to be a place where you’re just focused on getting job skills, Barker said.
“Think about creating an environment in your organization that promotes general development,” she added. For instance, at Evernote, employees will volunteer to teach fellow employees a skill that’s not necessarily related to work (i.e. yoga, pottery). And this is sometimes done over dinner.
I’m a huge fan of this idea because this is what creates a culture of higher purpose. But I also understand the importance of feedback given during leadership training, seminars and lunch n’ learns.
“Feedback is a gift, and we should be treating it that way,” Barker said. It shouldn’t be a punishment, either. It should be presented in a way that’s helpful for development.
- Exceptional Experience
How do you know the employee experience really is exceptional? How do you quantify it?
According to Qualtrics’ Barker, you can measure based on the following assessments:
- As a company, you’ve shortened the ramp time to become a full-contributing member.
- You’ve increase how high someone can go (in terms of output).
- You’ve increased how much higher someone goes over time.
- You’ve lengthened how long someone stays with the company.
Aside from the things you can quantify, there are many other signs that signify that you’ve created an exceptional employee experience. Look for signs of employee happiness. If your employees are fostering friendships at work, showing up early, participating in after-work events and overall, behaving energetically, they’re probably having a good experience. But don’t ever assume! Always be giving and asking for 24/7 feedback. It’s what makes everyone’s work experience better.
I would love to hear how your company nails the employee experience. Please comment below or feel free to reach out to me directly via email at email@example.com. Who knows, maybe you could influence my next blog idea!