Preparing for the Employee Experience Era

This article was published in the Winter 2020 issue

by Brad Rencher, CEO of BambooHR

When I joined BambooHR in the fall of 2019, my main goal was to help the company continue on our mission to set people free to do great work. After spending a decade or so talking about customer experience, we’re seeing a notable shift. I believe that we’ve now entered a period where the employee experience will matter as much, if not more, than the customer experience.

In the modern business world, the predictability of the cycle of relationships between customers, employees, and employers has been disrupted. The SaaS model is expanding to services in industries we’d never have expected a decade ago: online real estate programs help prospective homeowners find their first house, ridesharing apps let people get around without owning a car, and online delivery has extended from durable goods like books to daily needs such as groceries and restaurant meals. Increasingly, providing a great customer experience means shifting from a friendly face behind the counter toward software that just works, to paraphrase Steve Jobs.

The relationship between employers and employees has seen just as much disruption. Remote work technology has expanded the geographic range for employers to find talent and provided employees everywhere with needed flexibility. But many employers now apply the just-in-time model to their personnel needs, resigning themselves to high turnover rates and relying on an increasing number of independent contractors. Basically, it can be all too easy for organizations to stop after “it just works”, failing to add the human side of the employee experience to considerations for their working environment. But employees want more.

So to sum up the conditions of the employee experience era: customers crave stability and growth in the products that just work for them, and employees crave stability and growth from their employment. To provide customers with the long-term experience they expect, you need to give employees an experience that aligns with their values and supports their future.

Employee Experience Can Be the Differentiator

What people miss in the “it just works” principle is the continuing effort that goes into ensuring customers have the same experience months and years down the road. Providing reliability and consistency is a much higher bar to clear than making a sale, and this longevity is what differentiates good companies from great companies. This is especially true in a COVID-19 world where so much of what we took for granted is up in the air.

In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about getting the right people in the right place on the bus. I’d take that a step further: you need to make sure employees are in the seats they want, not just the seats you think they’d be best in. Providing that alignment gives employees the intrinsic motivation that inspires them to bring their whole effort to the moments that count. For Silicon Slopes to continue bringing great talent into the state and holding on to it when it gets here, we really need to focus on the employee experience.

What can we do to improve our employee experience and keep people engaged, even in difficult times? Here are four tenets for optimizing your organization for the employee experience era:

1. Center On Your Mission

Your corporate mission and values—one driver of the employee experience—can be an especially powerful source of stability during times of stress and transition as you consistently apply them. BambooHR has put a lot of thought and promotion into our seven values, so when the pandemic changed the world, we already had a framework for juggling home, life, and work responsibilities.

We’ve found that encouraging Bambooligans to live by our values not only helps all of us become more effective at work, but our values also make us better individuals at home and in our communities. Just to name three: we want Bambooligans to Be Open with their teammates and their families, Assume the Best of their managers and their neighbors, and Enjoy their Quality of Life at home, at work, or even when working from home.

2. Treat Feedback as a Gift

BambooHR recently conducted a survey, which found that 82 percent of employees at companies with recognition programs say they are satisfied or very satisfied. And the more verbal recognition employees receive, the more they report feeling satisfied.

But that’s not enough. Feedback should be two-way—given and received on both sides. We use our employee satisfaction surveys for our employees to provide anonymous, honest feedback, and that helps us know where we stand. Once we’ve used their feedback to set the right long-term course, we tell employees how their feedback shaped our direction. Helping employees feel heard and respected encourages them to continue to be honest with their thoughts.

3. Communicate Consistently

Frequent and open communication is critical for remote work, as employees can easily feel disconnected after months without seeing their co-workers in person. Providing regular touchpoints like weekly video messages from the executive team and virtual company meetings can help people stay connected.

It’s also important to take time to connect as humans. We encourage our teams to have their cameras on during video meetings as a reminder that we’re more than names on a screen. Of course, this means we have the occasional child or pet-based interruption, but we look at those as chances to see more of each other’s lives and to more genuinely connect as humans.

Building your values on a solid foundation of trust and development also frees employees to ask for the assistance they need and encourages everyone to want to help each other. Rather than being afraid to speak up and admit their weaknesses, employees feel empowered to grow.

4. Listen and Learn

Employee engagement is never a one-and-done activity. It’s a constant process, and you should clearly define how managers, leaders, and employees can promote and protect your employee experience.

Use the data available to you: survey results, turnover rates, Glassdoor reviews, and other sources. But don’t get too caught up on single complaints. Step back, look for trends and patterns, and figure out what your employees truly need, so you can give them an incredible employee experience.

Focusing on a great employee experience is how you grow your business. And, increasingly, it’s also how you win in business. Let’s bring humanity back into our businesses and succeed together.

In October 2020, BambooHR commissioned a survey and asked over 300 HR managers and business leaders about employee experience. Download the Employee Experience report here.

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