13 essential actions for creating an extraordinary employee experience

Michel Visser Profile picture for user Michel Visser October 5, 2021
This year, the challenge of retaining employees is more important than ever. How can employers create a working environment that’s so great people simply won’t want to leave? Michel Visser of Unit4 shares practical ideas.

Onboarding training culture employee experience concept © Rawpixel.com - shutterstock
(© Rawpixel.com - shutterstock)

The war for talent is back on. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record four million people quit their jobs in April 2021 compared to 2.6 million in June 2020, starting what's becoming known as The Great Resignation. And a work trend index compiled by Microsoft has found that 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer this year – nearly half of which is fueled by the ability to work remotely.

During the pandemic lockdowns, most people stayed in their jobs; a lot of the usual job turnover simply didn't happen in 2021. Now that pent up churn is being released. A recent summary of job openings and labor turnover in the US reports that job openings are at a record high of over 10 million vacancies.

An alternative way of differentiating

My take on this trend is that, since COVID and the rise of home working, work has become more transactional. You open your laptop at the beginning of the day, close it at the end, and get paid. In this environment, it's harder for employers to compete for talent on anything but pay – and few organizations want to play that game.

Employers have to find an alternative way of differentiating themselves. Of course, they need to make themselves look attractive pre-hire but they also have to find a way to get employees to stick with the relationship.

What employees really value

So, what will attract employees and keep them? According to a talent study among 2,000 knowledge workers and 500 HR directors at large corporations earlier this year, the top three things that employees want are:

  • Flexible options – 88% of knowledge workers say that when searching for a new position, they will look for one that offers complete flexibility in hours and location.
  • Focus on outcomes – 86% of employees say they would prefer to work for a company that prioritizes outcomes over output.
  • Diverse team – 86% of employees assert that a diverse workforce will become even more important as roles, skills, and company requirements change over time

Give employees an extraordinary experience

I believe that giving people an extraordinary employee experience is the glue that binds the employment relationship together. It creates an environment that people simply don't want to leave - one where they enjoy the whole work experience and naturally want to go the extra mile and do their best work. Here are my 13 steps for creating it:

  1. Employee brand fueled by company values – The first step is to create a strong employee brand so that potential candidates know what you stand for and what it'll feel like working for you. 
  2. Cultural screening – HR should screen candidates first for cultural fit, only then should the manager screen them for capabilities.
  3. Pre-boarding – Get the admin out of the way before day one. When Google began onboarding new hires the week before they started, it shaved one month (or 25%) off the time it took to get them up to full productivity.
  4. Buddying – Give new people a close buddy for the first few weeks and stay in touch for the first three months.
  5. Frequent coaching – Frequent 1:1 sessions between managers and employees lets people know you're interested in them. Do it informally several times a week and formally once a month.
  6. Right manager – Promote people to management positions based on their ability to support, empower, coach and engage team members.
  7. Internal mobility – Encourage people to take new roles within your organization, keeping them fresh and engaged, rather than risk them leaving.
  8. Lifelong learning – Establish the programs, platforms and culture that prioritize continual personal development, supporting people to expand and grow.
  9. Flexible working – Give people the choice to work where they want to, when they want to. Let them take holidays and sabbaticals when they want to as well.
  10. Feedback culture – Employees want to feel they're making a difference in their work, that they are heard and valued, and that they belong. It takes a constant process of feedback to build engagement.
  11. Pulsing tools – Technology can help with feedback. Weekly anonymous mini-surveys on the employee's mobile phone of how they feel, what they need, and what they want the organization to change can help support them better and let people feel they're being heard.
  12. Rewarding – First make work easy, enjoyable and meaningful so that it's inherently rewarding. Then use not just pay and holidays, but project opportunities, responsibility and appropriate challenges to reward them.
  13. Recognition – Recognizing people and praising them for their work motivates them to perform better.

Value begets value

The way to counteract the alarming attrition rates in today's hyper-competitive labor market is to create an exceptional employee experience so that people simply won't want to leave.

Ultimately, value begets value – if you genuinely value your people and act accordingly, they'll feel valued and naturally want to create value for your organization and the people it serves.

Download the Unit4 Employee Experience Booster Guide predict how long every hire will stay in your organization or if you could know the value they will bring you?

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