Designing an Optimal Employee Experience
written by
Anthony Louis
written by
Anthony Louis
January 21, 2021

Although we're in the early innings of 2021, corporate calendars are already being filled with meetings around technology launches, product roadmaps, revenue goals, and the like. 

But there’s one aspect of corporate planning that if executives don’t nail, they’ll lose out on a 25% spike in profitability (yes, you read correctly). What could that single component be, you ask, hmm? One word (well, two words).

Employee Experience. 

Research shows that when an organization is excellent at employee experience, not only do they see massive profit gains against their peers, they also see double the customer satisfaction and twice the innovation (MIT, 2017). 

At Beacon, a well-thought out approach to employee experience is more than just a laundry list of subsidized perks and benefits. We believe employee experience, similar to any good product or technology, requires intentional design enforced by a strong feedback loop. Imagine you bought a laptop and couldn’t figure out how to turn it on. You look all over the laptop, and you just don’t see the power button. Then you go on the website and try to call customer service, but there’s no number; no chat box or email address either. That probably wouldn’t make for a great experience, right? It’s the same when it comes to employees being able to provide feedback; it should be intuitive and easy to accomplish. 

Modernizing the proverbial suggestion box

In today’s workforce, employee experience is much more multi-dimensional than it was before. In order to ensure great employee experience, you have to have mechanisms in place for capturing ideas, thoughts, and concerns consistently and thoughtfully. Once a year won’t do it so ditch the old suggestion box sitting on your Office Manager’s desk! 

Here are a few ways of collecting employee feedback:

  • Pulse surveys: brief surveys on either a broad or specific topic area, typically anonymous. An effective pulse survey is used to measure engagement levels along with their drivers, understand if action plans are being run effectively, and catch any red flags that require a follow-up from leadership. Remember, these surveys should complement a larger strategic feedback system.
  • Focus groups: usually a group of employees brought together to provide collective feedback on a specific topic or issue. Traditionally, members of a focus group should have some stake in the topic or subject at hand. Also, depending on both the size of your organization and the specificity of the issue, your focus group members may share some commonalities that group them into an organized constituency. 
  • 1:1 meetings: personalized yet casual conversations where employees exchange feedback and ideas. These meetings provide some of the greatest opportunities for deep feedback collection where you’re able to receive as much contextual feedback as possible. The downside is that because it’s only a “data point” of one, depending on the size of your organization, it may not account for a representative sample of your organization. However, 1:1 meetings are a great way to make individual employees feel heard and valued. 

Here are a few questions you’ll want to think about as you design your survey questions and collect feedback:

  • Are the surveys short enough? Contextually relevant? 
  • What cadence makes sense to collect this feedback? Weekly? Daily? Monthly? 
  • Do the timing, tone, and format of the survey make employees feel heard and valued?
  • How will employees know that action has been taken?
  • Can employees trust how their data will be used? 

If you’re less confident about where your organization stands, start with a temperature check by deploying some of the questions above. What’s equally as important, and perhaps quite meta, is that you collect feedback on "how you’re collecting feedback." Do employees feel that the mechanisms for providing and collecting feedback are accessible and transparent? Do employees feel that there is an environment of psychological safety to provide feedback?

By collecting feedback in a consistent and frictionless manner, you’ll be able to improve the employee experience in a way that encourages engagement and productivity. Popular employee experience juggernaut Culture Amp calls this contextual listening. 

Taking a human-centered approach to feedback

What if an employee thinks the company all-hands meeting is too long? What if an employee thinks there aren’t enough bathrooms in their facility? What if an employee doesn’t like the employee benefit options? 

The manner in which feedback is recorded, stored, and processed is just important as collecting the feedback itself. Customer experience platforms (CXPs), like Qualtrics or ServiceNow, can provide the appropriate infrastructure and workflow for managing feedback. After all, feedback is simply data.

A well-designed approach would provide an employee with clarity on where feedback should be submitted. Some pieces of feedback are departmental or team-specific and are escalated to an immediate manager, where some pieces of feedback are collected through a broader survey that’s administered by another team. Look at your current infrastructure to understand where their gaps are. Is most feedback being directed towards direct reports’ managers through word of mouth? If so, is that effective? 

Perhaps, there are too many places and ways, and not enough clarity, on how or where to provide feedback and so folks feel overwhelmed. Is providing feedback considerably time-consuming for employees? If you’re not careful, you can find yourself in a technological “pinball.” Tons of bells and whistles with little understanding of what’s going on. 

To make collecting feedback easier, some organizations segment the employee experience into different stages. For example, an employee’s  can be looked at as its own experience that requires certain feedback surveys to be collected, whereas an employee’s transition or exit from the organization calls for different kinds of feedback collection. 

Perhaps trigger-based feedback, such as a life event (relocation) or employee milestone (promotion), is a good way for you and your company to collect feedback on specific experiences. It really does depend on your organization. 

While the tools, processes, and technology you use greatly depend on your size and business, I would say the way you respond to feedback depends on your culture and values. 

Don’t ask questions you’re not ready to take action on, and only survey as frequently as you can act

As you continue to survey and collect feedback, examine the contrast between the data and your ideal state. It’s important to set expectations with your employees on what is and isn’t possible. Beyond that, be very transparent about the action that is being taken against their feedback. 

Sixty percent of U.S. employees reported having a way to provide feedback about their own employee experience, but only thirty percent said their feedback was acted upon by their employer. In fact, workers who say their employers actually act on their feedback are four times more likely to stay with the company than employees who don’t think their feedback isn’t acted on. 

Parting thoughts

When we think about designing a mechanism for employee experience, it doesn’t differ much from product design. An electric stove has a red button that signals when the surface is hot. When you turn a doorknob the correct way, the lock clicks, and the door opens. The best processes provide feedback and “nudges” immediately and consistently. This should be the same for your employee engagement and experience mechanisms.

The tools, technologies, and processes you employ to collect and act on feedback should complement your culture, business, and work environment quite naturally and intuitively, with the least amount of friction as possible.

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