5 ways to improve the employee experience

There's still plenty that leaders can do to sustain thriving cultures, reveals study

5 ways to improve the employee experience

Deliberate strategies and efforts are making a difference to the employee experience, but more needs to be done to sustain thriving workplaces, according to O.C. Tanner’s 2020 Global Culture Report.

Despite positive changes in corporate culture overall, O.C. Tanner’s annual study revealed new challenges impacting the employee experience, found to be more about the worker’s micro experiences and day-to-day interactions.

The report highlights crucial areas organisations should focus on to ensure culture initiatives remain well-integrated into the employee’s overall experience.

The employee experience
One of O.C. Tanner’s key findings in the report is that 92% of employees describe their employee experience as their everyday personal experiences – both positive and negative. O.C. Tanner found that only 42% of employees rate their overall experience as ‘positive’ or ‘extremely positive’.

An HR strategy banking on once-or-twice-a-year initiatives is thus insufficient to leave a lasting impact on employees. Moreover, the report found that companies are missing the ‘human part’ of the employee experience.

What HR can do instead:

  1. Diagnose if burnout is a problem in the organisation and find the root cause of such cultural issues.
  2. Rethink leadership and encourage a model of shared leadership with their teams.
  3. Build connections with people through regular one-to-one conversations.
  4. Enable teams where employees feel included, supported, and psychologically safe.
  5. Ask for feedback and actively listen to understand employees.

READ MORE: How to embark on a culture transformation

  1. Tackle burnout

With 79% of employees suffering from mild, moderate, or severe burnout, O.C. Tanner reports that employees are now more burned out than ever.

Recently, the World Health Organisation has officially classified burnout as a chronic condition or disease – and it’s an epidemic that affects employees at all levels and across all industries. Observant leaders recognise how it’s a “real and present” threat to the workforce, according to O.C. Tanner.

Even ‘mild burnout’ can result in a 220% decrease in the probability of highly engaged employees, and a drastic decrease in employee experience ratings.

In addition, burned out employees are:

  • 63% more likely to take a sick day
  • 23% more likely to visit the emergency room
  • 2.6 times as likely to leave their current employer

According to O.C. Tanner, burnout is caused by poor workplace cultures. Giving employees more information, support, and control over their work could lower burnout levels.

  1. Rethink leadership

O.C. Tanner’s research has revealed a “crisis in leadership”. Traditional leadership practices are outdated and can negatively impact the organisation.

Employees and teams are “robbed” of the chance to develop critical thinking and leadership skills, plus such leadership increases the risk of ‘decision bias’ and reduces innovation.

Research found that:

  • Less than half of employees feel their leader works to develop them.
  • Only 26% feel their leader encourages collaboration.
  • Only 59% believe their leader values them.
  • One in five say their leader regularly expresses doubts about them.

Companies that maintain traditional leadership approaches have lower scores on employee experience and engagement. Thereby, leading to decreased odds of growing revenue and increased odds of layoffs.

The ideal remedy? Encourage leadership practices that connect employees to purpose, accomplishment and one another.

  1. Invest in one-to-ones

All leaders, including HR, should tap on one-to-one meetings simply for the opportunity to strengthen connections with employees. Regular chats are crucial personal interactions that can leave a huge impact on the employee experience.

When one-to-one meetings are done well, there is a:

  • 432% increase in the odds that an employee has a strong sense of leadership.
  • 226% increase in the odds an employee will highly rate their employee experience.
  • 430% increase in the odds that an employee will be highly engaged.
  • 27% decrease in employee burnout.

According to O.C. Tanner’s research, the best one-to-ones include four parts: constructive feedback, recognition, time to brainstorm new ideas, and opportunity for development.

READ MORE: This can make you a better leader

  1. Enable thriving teams

Team members can affect the daily employee experience just as much as leaders. An employee’s team can impact their well-being, engagement, and likelihood to stay. But O.C. Tanner found that team dynamics are often overlooked in initiatives to improve company culture.

What’s worse, they found that teams are currently not functioning well:

  • Only 26% of employees feel their team works well together
  • Only 28% say teammates are willing to let others lead a project
  • A mere 19% report that credit is given to deserving members

Autonomy and psychological safety are vital to keep teams thriving – O.C. Tanner’s research found that leaders play a pivotal role in cultivating both. Leaders also set the tone and expectations for how teams function.

To build thriving teams, O.C. Tanner recommends that leaders focus on three things:

  • Creating a sense of autonomy in employee
  • Fostering a culture of transparency and openness
  • Utilising peer-to-peer conversations to strengthen bonds
  1. Engage in active listening

Getting feedback from employees has become a ‘check the box’ exercise, rather than an

intentional method to improve culture. O.C. Tanner found that just half of employees are satisfied with the current process of collecting feedback.

What’s worse, only 51% of employees think their organisation is ‘great’ at listening to them. Another 44% feel their leaders are not in touch with what employees need. The typical once-a-year feedback exercise is thus not enough to ensure employee experience remains positive.

To better engage employees, O.C. Tanner believes companies should invest in a multi-method communication strategy that banks on active and frequent listening. Leaders should also quickly work to close feedback loops – ideally taking action within three months.

“HR leaders have been increasingly tasked by CEOs and senior leaders to cultivate a positive workplace culture and improve the employee experience,” said O.C. Tanner. “It’s a daunting task.

“HR teams are implementing different initiatives and programs to try and tackle both successfully. While these unaligned, separate efforts on culture and employee experience have led to some improvement, we still have a long way to go.”

For more employee experience insights, click here to read O.C. Tanner’s 2020 Global Culture Report.

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