Employees are the most important resource an organization has — and that’s especially true for those providing direct services through frontline staff. HR teams have sometimes focused a little too much on the “resources” aspect of human resources. Understanding the importance of employee experience, and working to improve it, means rebalancing that emphasis.
In this article, we look at what the employee experience actually is, why it matters, and what you can do to create a positive experience in your organization.
What is employee experience (EX)?
Before we dive into how to create the best employee experience, let’s be really clear about what we mean. The employee experience (EX) is the combined impact of every single experience your employee has within your company along their employee journey.
Everything from their very first impressions reading your job advert, conversations with managers and co-workers, down to the coffee served at company meetings combine to form your staff’s overall employee experience.
Employee experience isn’t the same as employee engagement, but the two are very closely connected. Employee engagement can be thought of as the outcome of your employee experience.
Staff who have a great employee experience feel more engaged, leading to greater productivity and better outcomes for customers or service users. On the flip side, if you’re struggling with poor employee engagement, it’s time to look closely at your overall employee experience as there’s likely work to be done.
Your employee experience will have a direct impact on productivity, satisfaction, and retention — all essential metrics for HR leaders.
Key components of employee experience (EX)
The complete employee experience might include every interaction your team member has with your organization, but not all experiences are created equal. Here are some areas that can have a disproportionate impact on EX.
Company culture has a significant effect on how your employees experience working for you. A toxic workplace culture creates fear, doubt, and insecurity, while a positive culture promotes collaboration, respect, and inclusivity.
It’s important to assess your workplace culture from all angles, top to bottom and outside in. Frontline workers may have a very different impression of the culture of your organization than C-suite executives, for example, and certain departments might have powerful team cultures that override your aims at an organizational level.
Policies, values, and mission statements can help communicate your ideal company culture, but the reality is what happens when employees are together. We mustn’t overlook the everyday expectations, communication habits, and cultural practices that form a larger part of the employee experience.
The working day might have a start and end time, but the employee experience does not. Many staff will have work-related thoughts and feelings outside of designated work hours. They might also need to arrange shifts, check their paystub, and do other work-related tasks when they are officially ‘off the clock’.
This is where having a good work-life balance comes in. If workers feel that their working life is having a detrimental effect on their home life, their overall employee experience will be poor.
A lot of the conversation about work-life balance has focused on how we’re able to accommodate remote or hybrid work for staff who were previously office-based. Frontline workers can often (rightly) feel left out of these discussions.
Finding the right work-life balance for frontline employees means providing flexibility where possible, but also giving them the ability to ‘switch off’ at the end of a shift.
Staff, especially in the caring professions, need to know that their service users are well cared for, especially during periods of annual leave. The ‘caregiver’s dilemma’ can often mean that those in caregiving careers put the needs of their patients and customers above their own.
How easy, and exciting, it is for an employee to progress in their role can also contribute towards the total employee experience.
Many employees have a natural drive toward growth and development. When workers lack learning opportunities, they can often feel as though they are stagnating. The work stops being as challenging and, therefore, as engaging, sending employee engagement rates down and eroding the employee experience.
This can be true for workers in all industries, not just the white-collar professions typically associated with fast growth and financial success. According to one McKinsey survey, 70% of frontline workers had applied for career advancement opportunities, meaning that there’s a hunger for professional development within frontline organizations.
When progression-hungry employees are given training programs, coaching, and mentoring, they can go on to thrive. This creates a win-win situation for both the employee and the employer: the business gets their top performance and retains them for longer, and the employee gets the kind of employee experience that keeps them engaged.
Employee wellbeing is more than just a buzzword. It’s a key driver of a positive employee experience and engagement. It’s also essential for avoiding burnout and the negative consequences of employee presenteeism.
A recent Gallup poll found that poor wellbeing was responsible for between 15% and 20% of total payroll costs due to employee burnout. Frontline employees are also more prone to burnout, exacerbating this problem.
Thankfully, improving employee wellbeing is something that all organizations can achieve. Providing support and mental health resources to employees who are struggling can help turn a negative employee experience into a positive one.
For more guidance on improving employee wellbeing, download our new whitepaper ‘How to get budget and buy-in for frontline employee wellbeing’.
Employee engagement is the outcome of a great employee experience, but engagement can also help contribute to a better experience, creating a positive cycle. Employees who feel a strong sense of connection with the work they’re doing and who are committed to achieving the goals of their organization often feel fulfilled in their roles.
It’s easy to assume that frontline workers are engaged simply through the nature of their work, especially in sectors such as healthcare. It’s essential that we never take frontline workers for granted in this way.
Focusing on employee engagement for frontline workers sets your organization up for success in business outcomes, especially while others are lagging behind.
6 stages of the employee experience
As we’ve already mentioned, the employee experience starts far earlier than you might imagine. The attraction stage of the employee experience is when prospective employees first become aware of your organization.
This stage relies heavily on your employer branding. Your reputation and culture play a huge role in whether potential candidates submit an application — especially for organizations hoping to attract younger workers.
How your current employees view your organization is valuable information for prospective workers during the attraction stage. If your employees are happier at work, they’re more likely to recommend you as an employer.
Once a prospective new employee has applied for a role, they move into the hiring stage of the employee experience. This includes all aspects of the recruitment process, from filling out the application, to interviewing with the team, and how you offer them a position.
Job applications should be simple, user-friendly, and — yes — engaging. This shows your prospective new employee that you understand their position and value their time, creating a positive experience early on.
Communication is arguably the most important aspect of the hiring stage of your employee experience. Candidates want to know how the process is going and when they can expect to be updated (in a timely manner).
Some candidates might not be a great fit right now but could become outstanding employees in the future. Use extra care when ‘rejecting’ candidates to ensure that they feel comfortable applying again when they’re at a different place in their employee journey.
Employees may also move between companies, taking on different roles in and outside of your organization throughout their employee lifecycle. Both Millennials and Gen Z are known as ‘job hoppers’ and it’s important to remember that each iteration through the hiring process will add to their overall employee experience, positively or negatively.
The onboarding stage of the employee experience begins on their very first day of employment (or earlier if you send out training materials in advance of their first day).
Smooth onboarding helps a new employee to feel welcomed and included within your organization. It also builds trust. You’re demonstrating a well-designed process that meets their needs and answers their questions. It’s no surprise that a great onboarding experience will set the tone for the rest of that team member’s employment.
It’s here that workplace technology can help improve the onboarding process and drive employee engagement. Given one onboarding platform or app, new employees are able to find all of the information and guidance they need in one place. If you can get in and add value via technology early, you’re also providing a strong incentive for employees to adopt the rest of your employee experience tools.
Again, it’s worth considering how different the onboarding experience will be for different employees in your business. Desk-based teams will experience onboarding one way, and frontline workers another. Technology is essential for both, but it can arguably facilitate a smoother and more consistent onboarding experience for new frontline hires.
Blink’s employee app can be used to give new hires certainty in information and clarity of communication.
Once your new hire has settled into their new role, you move from the onboarding stage to building engagement. The engagement stage of the employee experience is where you, as an employer, focus on keeping your employees motivated and satisfied during their tenure.
Again, this will often come down to communication. Employee recognition is one of the key drivers of engagement. Employees are engaged when they feel as though their efforts are making a difference to their teams and to their service users.
Recognition can be more difficult for frontline workers than for those based in an office. Senior managers might not witness outstanding performance as often and there are fewer opportunities for casual conversation and praise. This makes the role of the first-line manager all the more important, as a bridge between the frontline and higher-level leaders.
This is also an element of the employee experience that technology can bolster. Given the nature of a frontline worker’s role, they won’t cross paths with their co-workers as often as desk-based teams. Frontline leaders need to provide an alternative, digital, means for peer recognition as well as top-down praise. Doing so can boost individual and team morale and fosters a sense of community and belonging.
The engagement stage of the employee experience overlaps significantly with the next stage: development. Ideally, staff will be given the opportunity to train and develop before they outgrow their previous role.
Employees who remain in a position that they’ve outgrown will begin to lose engagement. Focusing on development takes them to the next level of their career and can serve as an engagement ‘reset’.
Providing opportunities for your valued employees to advance in their careers creates a collaborative, empowering employee experience. In employee development best practice, staff work with management to fulfill their career goals, rather than looking for new opportunities elsewhere.
The final stage of the employee lifecycle comes when your team member is ready to move on. Given that your employee is leaving, it’s easy for managers to mentally ‘check out’ from the relationship. Doing so would be understandable — especially for first-line managers who are busy and in demand. But it’s also a mistake.
Employees in the exit stage of their employee experience still have plenty to offer. They probably aren’t worried about losing their job, which makes it easier to be open about the challenges they have faced while working in your business.
Exit interviews can give you the most honest feedback available. Create opportunities for staff to talk about their employee experience as they’re leaving. This also allows them to feel heard, which makes the leaving experience more empowering.
Creating a positive ending for your team member’s employment can also make it more likely that they come back in the future or recommend working at your organization to the people in your network, boosting your employer branding.
Employee experience strategy: 4 ways to improve employee experience
The chances are that you’re already doing plenty of employee experience management as part of your standard HR efforts. And the good news is that optimizing your employee experience strategy will usually involve a shift in focus or subtle tweaks, rather than radical changes.
1. Create the right work environment
The company culture needs to be positive and supportive for frontline staff to have a healthy employee experience. Frontline and desk-based organizations need to find ways to show support and appreciation, even when employees work as hybrid, remote, or distributed teams.
The physical distance between employees can be turned into an advantage. Taking a moment to recognize and celebrate achievements and milestones becomes even more meaningful when your employees know that you’ve made a special effort.
Showing appreciation doesn’t have to be hard work. Blink’s Kudos feature provides a simple process that’s meaningful and impactful for your frontline employees. Work anniversaries, big team wins, individual contributions, birthdays, and cultural events can all be marked and celebrated with just a few taps on the app.
2. Foster open communication
Open and honest communication is key to all relationships, including the relationship between your organization and your employees. To create positive employee experiences, you need to provide channels for effective two-way conversations.
Employees have to trust that you’ll be proactive in giving them information, especially anything that might impact their day-to-day work. They also need to believe that you’re listening and taking their opinions on board.
Your in-app feed allows you to share important information, such as company updates, goals, and performance. This lets all workers — frontline and in-office — see the difference they’re making to your organization.
The chat function helps to encourage regular check-ins and community-building among employees. Team members feel comfortable connecting and sharing within an intuitive, social media-style environment. They can connect one-to-one in private chats or as groups in separate channels to foster team working and culture.
3. Prioritize employee wellbeing
Employees have a much better experience when they can see that you make their welfare a priority. Most employers will say that they care about employee wellbeing, but actions speak louder than words.
Start by looking at workloads and schedules. Regular workloads need to be realistic, rather than aspirational. Consider the number and range of tasks frontline employees are asked to perform and the time they have to achieve them. Ask yourself and your first-line managers whether this range is sustainable.
During challenging economic times, it’s tempting to push employees to achieve more and take on larger workloads, but this is a false economy. Staff who are overworked will burn out and leave, leaving you faced with greater challenges of labor shortages and recruitment costs.
Even when you set realistic expectations, some staff may struggle with mental health issues and stress. Every organization should provide wellness support, including mental health support and stress management training, to those who need it.
Make this support easy to access, too. Employees who are struggling with stress or mental health issues don’t always feel comfortable asking for help. Try to remove any barriers that make it harder for employees to seek what they need. Success here will include having straightforward systems for booking paid time off — any additional friction in essential administrative tasks can contribute to stress and burnout for any employee.
Blink’s employee super-app integrates with the other tools your employees need for a better employee experience. From wages to wellbeing resources, Blink users can access documents, policies, links, and platforms all from within the app. There’s no need to remember multiple passwords — and no additional stress or friction jumping from one system to another.
4. Gather and act on feedback
We’ve already mentioned that communication is key to a positive employee experience, but businesses need to go beyond just listening. Employees need their organizations to act on the feedback they provide.
Go out of your way to seek additional feedback and suggestions from employees, for example through surveys or digital suggestion boxes. Show that you’re listening to those online conversations by bringing up trends and concerns for full discussion in team or company meetings.
Another important moment to check in with your employees is when a valued team member comes to the end of their employee lifecycle. If a highly experienced employee or a member of a small team leaves, this can have a disproportionate effect on team morale and productivity.
Ask your teams how they’re doing when their team members leave and look out for any potential ripple effects. If appropriate, ask for suggestions for what to look for in a replacement. Be transparent about what you’re doing to ensure that workloads don’t become unmanageable.
Blink Surveys let you take Feed and Chat conversations to the next level. Public conversations can leave managers only hearing and responding to the loudest voices. Blink’s in-app surveys help you evaluate how widespread particular trends and issues are.
Employee surveys see three times the response rates when done through Blink, giving you quick and reliable data to solve pressing issues and do more of what’s working to create an engaging employee experience.
Why is employee experience important?
Retention and talent acquisition
The first advantage of working to improve the employee experience is that happy, fulfilled employees are much more likely to stay with your organization and to recommend you to others.
This means reduced employee turnover rates. Reduced staff turnover provides immediate direct savings. Recruitment costs can easily run to 30% of a new hire’s annual salary or more. Increasing how long staff stay with your organization means lower recruitment budgets.
The indirect benefits of improved retention can be even more significant. Longer-term employees become experts in their jobs and in your organization. They know your systems and customers inside out. Whatever the problem, they know the solution — and experience like that is hard to put a value on.
Productivity and performance
When business leaders focus on the employee experience, they free their employees up to focus on their jobs. Workers who have a positive employee experience arrive at work happier and refreshed. They take the time off they need and look after their mental and physical health.
All of this helps them to give their best during their shifts.
Companies with great employee experience can expect to see improved productivity and better performance from their staff. This can often include reduced absence due to illness and fewer anxiety-induced or human errors.
The relationship between productivity and employee experience can work both ways. When we remove barriers to improved performance and streamline processes, we’re also improving the employee experience. It’s another win-win.
How satisfied your customers are will tell you a lot about the engagement of your staff. If your clients and customers are happy with the service they receive from your frontline staff, your staff are performing well.
Engaged, happy employees who have a great overall employee experience bring positivity and enthusiasm into the workplace. These employees feel motivated to give excellent customer service — and are empowered to do so.
Continuity of care can also have a strong impact on customer satisfaction, especially in a healthcare setting. Low staff turnover lets customers and clients get to know their frontline workers, improving satisfaction. Whether it’s a carer or a cleaner, customers and partners like to see a familiar face.
Employer branding and reputation
The employee experience shapes your employer branding: positive employee experiences produce a positive employer brand.
Prospective employees want to hear what it’s like to work with and for you. Over half of jobseekers prefer to apply to companies they’ve been personally recommended.
Prioritizing employee experience builds your reputation as an employer and creates a competitive advantage in the talent market — and that can be game-changing in frontline sectors suffering labor shortages, like UK manufacturing.
The low staff turnover rates we mentioned earlier also come into play here. Prospective new hires usually won’t ask directly about your staff turnover rates, but they will be curious. Low turnover is a great piece of employer branding, demonstrating that your staff are happy, engaged, and well looked after.
Employee wellbeing and satisfaction
When we talk about the importance of prioritizing the employee experience, we typically focus on the business case. Let’s also recognize that having happy, healthy employees is a good thing in and of itself.
When business leaders focus on the employee experience, they create a company culture that values people and boosts employee wellbeing and satisfaction. The organization thrives because of its people, not despite them.
Providing a healthy employee experience means building the kind of atmosphere and workplace we want to work in, further boosting all of the employee experience benefits we’ve covered so far.
HR leaders are often the ones to make the business case for employee experience transformation. Thankfully, it’s an easy case to make.
A positive employee experience leads to improved financial performance. One study found that organizations with the best employee experience were able to achieve nearly three times the financial return on assets when compared with those with the worst employee experience.
To achieve more for your investments (in people and assets), prioritize the employee experience.
A positive employee experience gives better returns and also cuts costs. Reduced employee turnover represents real savings for your organization in recruitment and retraining.
Providing a great employee experience creates a more resilient and adaptable workforce with a strong foundation of trust and mutual respect. These employees will dig deep and proactively problem-solve to deal with difficult solutions because they know that they’ve valued members of the team.
Blink. And you deliver an engaging employee experience
Shifting focus to prioritize a great employee experience is a powerful way to improve your organization’s key business outcomes, including performance, recruitment, and retention. It also builds a positive place to work alongside highly engaged employees, creating a competitive advantage.
Thinking about how employees experience each stage of their employee journey encourages us to look for ways to improve those experiences, streamlining our processes and responding to feedback and suggestions.
Blink was designed to improve the employee experience, especially for frontline staff. Our frontline super-app improves communication, encourages collaboration, and helps build cohesive teams, no matter where your employees are working. Book a demo today.
Employee Experience FAQs
What are the 6 elements of employee experience?
The 6 stages of the employee experience are: attract, hire, onboard, engage, develop, and exit. Remember, the employee experience starts much earlier than you might expect, so it's crucial to focus on how you can create a positive employee experience throughout all of these stages.
What are examples of employee experience?
Some examples of a strong employee experience include, but are not limited to: fair training and development opportunities, intuitive employee tech systems, good working relationships with colleagues and managers, a positive work-life balance, feeling comfortable in the workplace, and being provided with competitive pay and benefits.
How do you define the employee experience?
The employee experience is defined as the sum of all interactions an employee has with their employer, from attraction through to exit. It includes how employees feel about their job, how they interact with colleagues and managers, and what kind of systems and technology they have access to.
How do you provide good employee experience?
To provide a good employee experience, you should ensure you are prioritizing all the key components of EX. This may include improvements to your workplace culture, work-life balance, career development opportunities, employee wellbeing, and employee engagement efforts.
By targeting these key elements, you can create an environment that encourages employee satisfaction and a positive overall experience.