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Employee Experience Best Practices: Is Your Organization a Leader or a Laggard?

Four employee experience leaders smiling and talking around a table

A new employee experience research study, Moving Toward Employee Experience Excellence, conducted by the Medallia Institute in partnership with The Josh Bersin Company, seeks to further understand the link between employee experience best practices and positive people outcomes and to identify key practices by comparing “Leaders” to “Laggards.”

The Great Resignation. The Great Exploration. Striketober.

Given how the pandemic has transformed both the American workplace and workforce, putting employee experience best practices into action has never been more important. Organizations that are not only surviving, but thriving at this tumultuous time, are those creating better experiences for their employees by listening, asking, and acting.  

With that as our current backdrop, the results of a new employee experience research study, Moving Toward Employee Experience Excellence, conducted by the Medallia Institute in partnership with The Josh Bersin Company, come at a crucial moment of transformation. 

As a researcher, the Moving Toward Employee Experience Excellence study is particularly exciting in that the findings yield so much potential for action. With the publication of this study, it is our hope that organizations will be able to evaluate where they are in their adoption of employee experience best practices and identify clear pathways to become a leader.

Providing a clear framework for adopting employee experience best practices, this employee experience research study separates top performers, “Leaders” — those who scored in the top 10th percentile, from those at the bottom, “Laggards” — those in the bottom 10th percentile, by looking at how the organizations performed across three key areas: 

  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee retention
  • Employee perceptions about whether the company is viewed as a great place to work

The new study also demonstrates the direct financial impact of employee experience on organizations. It reveals that employee experience Leaders are 12 times more likely to indicate revenue growth of more than 20% over the last year.  In addition, Leaders are more likely to agree (using a five-point scale) that they met or exceeded their financial targets, reporting a score of 4.22 out of 5, compared to Laggards at 2.89. 

What separates the two? Based upon the study’s findings, the difference between Leaders and Laggards can be boiled down to three employee experience best practices:

#1: Listening: Leaders more frequently capture both direct and indirect employee feedback to build a timely and holistic view of their workforce.

#2: Asking: Leaders proactively ask about rapidly changing and sensitive topics and create an environment in which employees feel safe to share feedback.

#3: Acting: Leaders make employee experience part of their overall strategy, set and communicate enterprise-wide employee experience goals, and involve the entire organization in employee experience initiatives.

Employee Experience Best Practice #1: Leaders Listen

The research study demonstrates the importance of continually listening, especially during rapidly changing, turbulent times. 

Employee Experience Leaders Listen Frequently 

Listening once a year through annual employee engagement surveys is not enough. Organizations that aren’t listening to their employees frequently and consistently, especially when employees want to voice their feedback, run the risk of being surprised by emerging trends or using outdated information to make decisions. At the very least, their actions will be reactive and likely too late to have an impact on satisfaction and retention.

The study found that nearly half of Leaders survey or interview employees monthly, if not more frequently. More than half of Laggards capture employee feedback only once a year or less.

 

Research findings on how often employee surveys and interviews are conducted. Only 11.8% of leaders ask for feedback once a year or less, compared to 54.1% of the laggard group. 43.3% of leaders will ask two to four times a year, compared to the laggards at 36.5%. Additionally, 26.8% of leaders will ask for employee feedback monthly and 18.1% ask weekly or more frequently. Conversely, only 5.9% of the laggard group will survey employees monthly and 3.7% will do so weekly or more frequently. 

 

Tip #1 to Apply Research Findings: It’s important to employ a wider variety of channels such as email, text, paper, video and digital to listen and obtain feedback.  A particular emphasis can be placed on text messaging, as this was the most pronounced difference between Leaders and Laggards. In addition, use unstructured data, like internal community or collaboration platforms and support requests/tickets, to get employee feedback. Learn more about structured and unstructured feedback and signals in this white paper. 

Employee Experience Best Practice #2: Leaders Ask Tough Questions

Employee experience leaders don’t shy away from difficult topics and make employees feel secure sharing honest feedback. 

Employee Experience Leaders Make Sure Employees Feel Like They Can Tell the Truth

Employee experience leaders ask tough questions, inquiring about their employees’ safety and wellbeing, sense of belonging, and perceptions of fairness, inclusion, and diversity. Another critical component of asking is ensuring employees feel safe answering honestly. Critical pain points, emerging issues, and areas for improvement simply can’t be identified without honest feedback. 

On a five-point scale, Leaders scored a 4.37 when asked if they agree that they provide an environment in which employees feel safe sharing feedback. Laggards neither agreed nor disagreed, reporting a 3.06. The study uncovered that Leaders are more likely to ask employees for their thoughts and perspectives on the following topics.

The breakdown of employees who report their thoughts on the following topics, leaders vs laggards: Diversity and inclusion, 52% vs 31%; workplace services or amenities, 40% vs 17%; health and wellness, 64% vs 48%; personal needs or life events, 25% vs 13%; job change or recognition, 31% vs 18%; compensation and benefits, 54% vs 38%; interviewing and hiring process, 39% vs 26%.

Tip #2 to Apply Research Findings:  Don’t shy away from interacting with employees on sensitive topics. You can’t make changes if you don’t know how employees are feeling. Avoiding sensitive topics can further alienate employees and also impacts businesses, operationally and financially, especially during times of seismic shifts. Make sure to get a real-time pulse of employees’ perceptions on topics like health and wellbeing, inclusion, compensation and more. 

Employee Experience Best Practice #3: Leaders Act

An organization can continuously listen and ask the tough questions, but employee experience can’t be elevated without responsive action. 

Employee Experience Leaders Work Collaboratively Across the Organization

Leaders can also take impactful action by having employee experience owned by all organizational departments and functions, not siloed within one department like Human Resources. Why should only one area be responsible for improving employee experience when it’s impacted by all parts of the organization?

The study revealed that 72% of Leaders have direct team leaders and people managers highly involved in enterprise-wide employee experience initiatives, compared to 18% of Laggards. 

72% highly active EX leaders vs. 18% highly active EX laggards

Tip #3 to Apply Research Findings: Make employee experience part of a business’s organizational strategy. Establish a dedicated employee experience team that is highly collaborative and interacts with and involves the entire enterprise. Then, utilize employee experience data to set priorities on a monthly or quarterly basis to take real-time, data-driven action. Demonstrating action is critically important: Medallia Institute research found that more than 75% of frontline employees were extremely likely to recommend their company as a place to work if the company asks for and acts on their feedback (as compared to less than 25% of employees whose companies ask for feedback but don’t act on it.) 

Final Thoughts on Employee Experience Best Practices

The Moving Toward Employee Experience Excellence study demonstrates that when it comes to putting employee experience best practices into action, companies need to listen and learn whenever and however they can — and then adapt as needed. It shows that Leaders actively ask for feedback about job changes, compensation, and other sensitive issues — all relevant topics, especially during times of upheaval and uncertainty. The companies that lead do so by listening, asking, and acting, which elevates employee experience, positions the company as an employer of choice, and increases revenue growth.   

Why lag when you can lead? To uncover more employee experience best practices, download the employee experience research report: Moving Toward Employee Experience Excellence: Key Practices That Differentiate Employee Experience Leaders and Laggards