What’s your “Employee Experience” Like?
I regularly have conversations with business leaders about employee turnover and the lack of employee “motivation”. It seems that many companies have tried all manner of strategies to curb the flight of talent and get more out of the resources they have. I recently talked with a business owner who said he has spent “thousands and thousands of dollars” on these efforts, with absolutely no gain. I was surprised by this and asked him if I could visit his company and learn more about their concerns. He was more than willing to continue the conversation and potentially find out what they could to address their issues.
I arrived for our scheduled meeting, but could not figure out how to access the building. There was no signage or directions, so by trial and error (and a long walk in the rain), I found a back entrance that was open. No one was around, so I was a bit stranded in the locked vestibule. I called my client via cell phone, which he did not answer. I was marooned.
After 15 minutes of phone calling, someone happened by and let me in. As we made our way through the maze of cubicles and desks, I was amazed by the bunkers of file boxes, tangle of wiring and the very high noise level. My client wasn’t quite ready to meet, so I was asked to wait in the employee break area, which amounted to a dimly lit space with a plastic table and three rickety chairs, all conveniently located next to a restroom and janitorial equipment. All I could think was “problem solved”.
In less than 30 minutes, I got a pretty good picture of what might be contributing to the company’s inability to retain and motivate its staff; simply, it was the experience of working there. Day in and day out, the employees lived in that haphazard, unwelcoming and chaotic environment. All humans take messages from our environment. In this case, the environment was screaming “we don’t care”. Consequently, that sentiment defined the employees’ mindset and behavior.
In my client’s case, it was a pretty simple fix and he was open to making some changes. We met with employees and brainstormed ideas for improving their work environment. The team came up with numerous no- or low-cost ideas that were easy to implement. They went to work on a “clean up day” and my client arranged to clean and paint the work area. He also created a new employee break area, complete with new furniture and kitchen equipment.
One of the most important ideas that the team suggested was a way to improve the interviewing and orientation process. Several employees volunteered to help and I worked with them to put a new process in place for creating an impactful new hire experience. So far, the feedback from candidates and new hires has been excellent. The best part? The team feels a strong sense of ownership in the program, so they enthusiastically invest their own time and effort to maintain its value and impact.
Every time I visit, I see new efforts being made to continuously improve the work experience. Most recently, the team started weekly “jam sessions” at which they share their successes and discuss their challenges as a group. These informal and energetic meetings create open dialogue and a vibrant environment for the exchange of ideas and support. They keep it simple, so it’s easy to sustain these valuable interactions.
What is your work environment “saying” to your employees? What is the “employee experience” really like? How about the candidate experience? What is it like for job prospects to engage with you? Are they walking around your building in the rain?
This is an easy one. Take 15 minutes and do your own assessment of your work environment; not from the boss’ point-of-view, but through the eyes of an employee. What messages are you sending? How can you invest wisely and create an environment that will say “we value you and want you to do your best work”. A few quick fixes can make a huge difference.
Go experience your experience. What messages are you sending?