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A New Perspective on Engagement: The Complete Employee Experience

Monday, September 19, 2016
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More than just a buzzword, engagement has long been an area of focus -- and ongoing challenge -- for HR professionals, business leaders and organizations in general. Indeed, 87 percent of today's businesses express concerns about employee engagement, according to research from Bersin by Deloitte. And for good reason, as Gallup finds fewer than a third of employees are engaged in their jobs. What's more, millennials make up the largest generation in the workforce, and they're also the least engaged.

But, despite the vast amount of energy and resources spent trying to improve it, fostering a truly engaged workforce remains elusive for many businesses. Perhaps it's time to change the approach and to look at employee engagement in a different way. Not as simply another annual workplace issue or initiative, but as the outcome of a holistic, carefully crafted experience for people at work.

Viewing Employees in a New Light

Changing the way employees feel about their roles in the workplace, their challenges and contributions, and their organization, starts with shifting our own perspective as the employer. To cultivate truly engaged -- motivated and committed -- employees, organizations must treat them as internal customers, with a goal of genuinely listening to employees throughout their entire lifecycle with the company.

Consider the positive outcomes of listening to customers and providing great service, and the benefits of treating employees like customers become increasingly clear. Just as exceeding expectations for customers can turn them into advocates, employees can become highly effective brand evangelists and ambassadors to drive better business results. A commitment to enhancing the employee experience also stands to improve retention, which impacts the bottom line, given the high price of replacing valuable talent (numerous studies have shown turnover can cost up to three times an employee's salary).

The keyword for organizations today is commitment. Turning the work experience into a person-centric experience takes patience and commitment. It's an investment in people, in developing their leaders, evolving the organization's culture and ensuring the technology provided to employees truly serves them in their work lives.

Developing Managers into Leaders

Improving the employee experience starts with a new imperative for managers: Transforming them into strong people leaders. Because it's managers who set the tone for their teams, inspiring and creating growth opportunities while facilitating collaboration. They're also responsible for coaching their team members, which doesn't come easy to all managers.

Thus, developing managers into leaders is essential for success. Consider the role of a coach who works diligently with the players to improve the team over time and achieve success. For leaders in the organization, assuming the role of coach includes maintaining an open line for two-way communication and feedback, where a once-annual review is replaced with continuous conversations, creating challenges and showing a genuine interest in developing employees year-round.

Creating a Culture of Listening And Acting

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With an ongoing dialogue in place, leaders must not only listen to employees, but also follow through with appropriate and meaningful action. This includes creating a culture built on trust and transparency, providing town hall meetings that turn employees into active participants and using advanced analytics to mine existing data for employee morale. This notion of listening also pertains to performance management to ensure a more interactive process for both leaders and team members, collaborating to set relevant short- and long-term goals that foster employee development and organizational success.

Leveraging Technology to Enhance Work Life

Technology plays a critical role in improving the employee experience, and companies now have the ability to go beyond boosting administrative efficiency by harnessing technology that actually enhances the work life of employees. These solutions combine convenience and personalization to become a kind of virtual "valet" for employees. This includes more interactive and meaningful information for employees. After all, an informed, empowered employee is often an engaged employee.

This functionality even extends to leadership development. Predictive and prescriptive analytics help put the right actions into managers' hands at the right time to proactively counter flight risks, as well as identify and cultivate high performers.

Making a Commitment to People

No matter the industry or organization, employees want to feel they have a voice, are being heard and have the resources and technology that helps them work smarter. Organizations that shift their focus from engagement to delivering a phenomenal employee experience will make life better for their people, and will move a step further toward this cultural evolution.

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