October 22, 2021
Employee experience has never been so high on the corporate agenda; with recent figures finding that over 69 percent of businesses are currently concerned about talent shortages and difficulty hiring. With this in mind, organisations that want to grow must provide a market leading experience in order to remain competitive and attract and retain new talent. Companies that invest in their unique employee experience make four times more profit than those who don’t.
Gartner lists employee experience as the third-highest key initiative critical to achieving corporate objectives and it has become increasingly vital to the success of a team or organisation. The “employee experience” includes everything that people encounter and observe over the course of their tenure at an organisation. A key element of this can be attributed to the community and collective environments of its workplace.
As parts of the world start to head back towards some form of normality, it’s more important than ever to create a workplace environment that individuals actually want to be in, rather than stay working from home. It is absolutely imperative for talent retention and, while employee experience has become a top priority for CIOs and HR leaders alike, it extends way beyond just the physical office environment.
Our ongoing surveys of global heads of real estate show this to be an ongoing challenge, not least in the US were there has been a significant shift in the balance of power between employer and employee. The onus is now on the employer to generate a workspace experience that outweighs the cost and hassle of the commute. For CRE teams this means a significant shift in thinking from “filling” space on a regular basis, to providing environments and accompanying amenities that provide sufficient enticement to return to the physical workplace.
Taking it all in
Remuneration is still a highly important component of employee satisfaction (thus impacting experience), but other more holistic aspects of the employee experience have come into sharp focus. These include flexible working patterns, providing a collaborative and supportive environment and working on innovative and exciting projects to keep employees happy. Even in writing these down, there seems a strong element of common sense attached to each of these drivers, but rarely have CRE teams had the attention of the executive to discuss all of these drivers in the round before.
For most white-collar organisations, employees are essentially the ‘working capital’. Therefore, highly simplistically, the more productive the employees and teams are, the better it is overall for the organisation. Businesses have begun to recognise this, with studies from the University of Warwick estimating that workplace happiness increases productivity up to 12 percent and happy employees stay in their role four times longer.
A number of organisations have even decided to make ‘happiness’ part of their performance culture. McDonalds and Google, for example, have roles allotted for Chief Happiness Officers (CHOs) whose job is specifically dedicated to maintaining and improving employees’ experience and company culture. Happiness (and therefore one could correlate, productivity), can be linked back to workplace experience across 10 identified factors) identified by Morgeson & Humphrey;
- Workplace autonomy and the freedom to decide
- Task variations and scope for creative ideas
- Task significance
- Recognition for work
- Task difficulty
- Professional skills and specialization
- Social support within the workplace
- Feedback from superiors
- Environmental conditions at work
- Business management and networking channels
The role of the workplace
The list is useful to define the current understanding of employee experience, that it’s much more than the physical office space and digital tools that teams utilise. It links significantly behavioural and cultural elements and the impact of human psychology. The list illustrates that experience is a multi-faceted and rather complex system and interplay of systems. One size quite clearly does not fit all and will evolve as the individual, organisation and external environments change.
Employee experience can either be helped or hindered by its physical, digital and social environment
A critical element of this balance is just who within each organisation has the overview to assess and evolve each of these drivers? There would seem to be a sweet spot somewhere between HR, CRE and ops, but a single view is critical and the ability to make rapid changes critical to strategic success.
Employee experience can either be helped or hindered by its physical, digital and social environment. Like the background setting of a painting, it’s not the main element, but can shape and influence the experience.
The human element of workplace design is paramount to its success, whether this is remotely, in the ‘workspace’ or via a hybrid model, offering employees flexibility and suitable connections to their wider team, or enabling managers to organise and manage workflows and delegate effectively throughout the network of the organisation..
The digitisation of the workplace is also continuing to benefit organisations through increased productivity, cost savings and a more mobile and agile workforce across flexible working, communicative and cognitive practices. But one of the challenges organisations still face is the lack of adaptability and flexibility which is required to effectively support a truly digital workplace.
Employees’ experiences are heavily subjective and fluctuate on many levels, which workplace experience can strongly influence. An environment (either physical or digital) which allows the individual to connect to their team(s) and the wider business environment, provides a sense of autonomy and deeper purpose. And, ultimately, this purpose enables the employee to be happy whilst undertaking work will be the differentiator between a good organisation and a great organisation with high talent attraction and retention.
How an organisation handles employee workplace experience is indicative of the organisational culture and impacts employees’ performance and engagement. Organisations are putting greater emphasis on the human elements of workplace, recognising that a great place to work is today’s best opportunity of competitive advantage.
Organisations need to realise this simple equation for the benefit of their people and, ultimately, the corporate organisation. Those that recognise the need to bring together the human, physical, digital and sustainability angles to shape the workplace – determining what their employees really need to enhance their performance – will ultimately be the biggest winners. And in this instance it really feels like there will be winners and losers, as we are all racing to attract the best talent as the choice to return firmly lies with them.