We don’t need to see these statistics to know the importance of employee engagement. It’s a common challenge we all face, and something that takes focused effort each day to make a change over the long run. We implement incentive programs, organize social committees, hold office gatherings and more, all in hopes of raising spirits to translate that into improved retention and increased levels of customer service. In short, that’s the ideal.
Let’s look at this from another perspective and focus on the difference between employee engagement and employee experience. Employee engagement hones in on a more obvious level. For example, most companies have either on-going incentive programs or at least those that run during certain periods of the year. Most would consider these incentives among their employee engagement activities. These programs are necessary, but run the risk of becoming routine and only catering to the same engaged people while missing the disengaged. Indeed, there is strong scientific evidence that suggests their true impact on engagement is marginal at best. Whether due to reward value, type, design or complexity, few incentives actually incent employees, drive performance or have any affect on engagement levels whatsoever.
An employee experience focus takes on the big picture. It objectively, even critically, views business practices, policies and procedures from the employee’s perspective beyond the outer façade of engagement. It does so not just by way of introducing incremental, engaging activities and practices, but also by looking at a multitude of small, individual—and sometimes seemingly insignificant—experiences within the employee lifecycle. It then drives transformative change in these areas to either enhance engagement or eliminate causes of disengagement. In fact, it’s often less about introducing something new than it is about changing something already being done.
To impact total employee experience, we must find more ways to connect to each employee, to humanize the workplace. At our company, this has meant minor to moderate changes of a variety of existing processes, policies and procedures. In other words, a lot of little things rather than a few big ones. By extensively leveraging employee surveys, focus groups and direct observation we have uncovered a wealth of opportunity by simply re-evaluating how we do things. How we do things through the eyes of our employees rather than from the perspective of our own business objectives. In particular, we have enacted changes to the on-boarding process for all of our new employees. Why? Because we were surprised at how exceptionally high engagement levels are for candidates when they first walk through our front doors.
If you believe that engagement levels have the potential to drive business performance, then perhaps it’s time to approach this whole thing differently. Maybe more isn’t the answer. Maybe beyond just focusing our efforts on propping up engagement levels we should start focusing our efforts on eliminating the barriers to engagement inherent in our businesses. The question to ask isn’t “what more can we do?” but rather “what can we do differently?”